For the construction industry, these are fascinating times. Whether grappling with off-site modular construction projects or the sustainable construction and green building movement, contractors are being challenged in bold, new ways. Along with a growing volume of work comes a rising level of risk — from the complexities of constructing a tall skyscraper to deploying drones in the field.
Ironically, this era of innovation has failed to bring about a wholesale embrace of technology — even as takeoff and estimating software, cloud-based systems and mobile apps promise cost savings and efficiencies. In particular, contractors seem less than eager to accept cutting-edge, next-generation technology like advanced data and analytics, drones, automation and robotics — even though they are designed to improve employee productivity.
Slow to Adopt and Accept New Solutions
First, let’s look at a KPMG Global Construction Survey of 200-plus senior executives showing how the industry, as late as 2016, has been slow to adopt new technology solutions. Only 8 percent of survey respondents were categorized as cutting-edge visionaries. Only 20 percent thought they were aggressively disrupting their construction business model with leading technology.
In fact, nearly three-fourths of the respondents said they didn’t use advanced data analytics for project-related estimation and performance monitoring. Think about the reams of data that most firms create — from bids to plans to projects — and the rich value of the information contained in most databases.
Of course, those who do use new takeoff, estimating and production management technology find the benefits are worth it — from omitting duplication of effort to minimizing errors to allowing for quicker communication between the field and the office. Still, many construction executives are being held back by manual processes and multiple systems. Just 20 percent of those surveyed reported having a single, fully integrated project management system.
Weighing Fears and Risks
What’s holding contractors back from stepping outside their technology comfort zone? For starters, the cost of adopting new technology may cause resistance. They’re not sure it is worth the risk when weighed against the benefits of faster, more accurate estimating and real-time data for production management. Ironically, they’re also reluctant to disrupt their business processes to train the very employees who could benefit from these efficiencies.
How bad is it? KPMG found 69 percent are either “followers” or “behind the curve,” according to the study. Inevitably, this hurts when it comes to driving consistency across projects — just 27 percent reported having consistent controls.
For some, the cost of integrating disparate software solutions fuels an unwillingness to take a new product off the shelf unless they can guarantee an immediate ROI. Another issue is a lack of know-how in choosing the right technology. When they do purchase new technology, many construction businesses have a weak implementation process and end up setting up new software to run like a legacy system.
Time to Make Better Decisions
We can all agree that new technology is essential for innovation in the construction industry. Not only can new tools and solutions accelerate contractor productivity and improve accuracy, it can also reduce the increased risk associated with complex building projects.
Ready to disrupt your firm’s technology cycle? The first step is to establish a thorough process for finding the right technology for your construction business. It can be intimidating, but all contractors should learn how to assess the potential rewards of adding new technology. On Center Software can help — read our free eBook, An Estimator’s Guide: Assessing and Picking the Right Software, to get step-by-step advice to determine where your company is and where you need to be going.