The construction industry is facing many uncontrollable challenges. Rising material prices, fuel costs and labour shortages are eroding traditional profit margins – and need to be offset in other business areas. But how?
For most construction companies, data intelligence is key to addressing cost and margin issues.
Better connected project communications empower stakeholders to manage material and labour requirements accurately, reducing overestimation. They give project leaders the confidence to implement quicker, more economic methodologies. And they allow planners, project managers, contractors and subcontractors to collaborate closely in real time, delivering more projects on time and within budget.
However, digital transformation can seem a daunting and expensive investment in an industry where informal communication systems are commonplace. So let’s break down the issue to look at how and where data insights can deliver greater value.
How can better construction data solve business level challenges?
Data sharing is already critical to the delivery of construction projects. But many companies are still relying on systems that can’t realise that data’s full potential.
Excel spreadsheets and informal communications networks give project stakeholders something to work from, but they’re not set up to provide everyone involved with complete visibility over what’s happening in real-time. And without that immediate insight, it’s difficult to make informed decisions.
Already, construction companies are realising the limitations of ‘old world’ ways and are looking at how construction management technologies can extract and share information to increase its value. There’s been a 14% increase in the number of construction companies investing in digital transformation software since 2019 – and these companies are better positioned to solve business level challenges when the market is proving difficult.
Industry research by Deloitte has revealed that digital transformation can cut build costs by 10%, reduce engineering hours by 10-30%, and lower operating costs by up to 20%. Savings which drive higher profit margins – even when material, labour and other external costs are rising.
Better data insight gives construction companies the confidence to make bold decisions and choose more innovative techniques. Like Willmott Dixon, which recently completed work on the University of Warwick’s new Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building – a project where 50% of the building was manufactured off-site.
High quality project data was essential for Willmott Dixon to maintain close relationships with both site and manufacturing stakeholders, to deliver and install the prefabricated elements on schedule. And by using digital software to work differently, the project involved 40% fewer site deliveries and almost half as many workers as traditional developments: streamlining costs as well as being more sustainable.
How can construction companies build dynamic networks to access data insights?
With digital transformation gaining ground in the construction industry, more companies are investing in technologies to run elements of their operation. But this doesn’t guarantee success. Some are investing in systems that do not talk to one another and don’t cater for the hybrid connectivity needs of the industry and this is leading to fragmented or siloed data – making it impossible to understand the impact of every change, or to make holistic commercial decisions.
To truly connect construction projects, companies need to create a dynamic data network that provides access to information, analytics and insights. And this is best achieved through web-based tools like Asta Vision.
Deploying cloud-based software enables every project stakeholder to see, share and use data, even when teams are widely dispersed, for closer collaboration and stronger decision-making.
Not only that, but the decision made can be centrally documented and shared across the company, to drive more efficient and profitable practices. For example, VINCI Construction UK is using cloud-based business intelligence to benchmark and maintain consistent delivery standards – which is no small feat considering the company runs 25-30 projects concurrently at any given time.
Some construction companies are even using data held within 3D models to take their planning and analytics to a new level. Introducing 4D planning to visualise techniques over time and map out cost-effective construction routes.
Being able to access detailed data intelligence is particularly important for complex construction projects. When BAM Construction was awarded the contract to build a three-storey office block as part of the London King’s Cross regeneration scheme, 4D planning was essential to show stakeholders how the project would safely and efficiently navigate construction directly above three Grade II-listed Victorian rail tunnels.
Placing data at the heart of construction’s digital transformation
Understanding the relationship between quality data and running efficient, profitable projects is critical for the construction industry. Companies have been slow off the mark with digital transformation compared to other sectors – but now we have an opportunity to catch up.
Choice of technology is pivotal to how quickly construction companies can accelerate digital transformation. Rather than using technology to solve problems on a case-by-case basis, companies need to focus on end-to-end strategies. Now is the time to replace informal processes and disparate technologies with best of breed software that automatically integrates multiple data streams into a single, easily accessible online dashboard.
Already, we’re seeing industry leaders gaining huge advantages by taking a holistic approach to data intelligence. Australian construction company, Hansen Yuncken, has innovated project management by creating a bespoke dashboard that evaluates performance and estimates cash flow over time.
Hansen Yuncken’s stakeholders are able to understand the knock-on effect of challenges or setbacks in real-time and continuously monitor drawdown; making sure every construction project is completed on time and on budget.
Being able to analyse and interpret large volumes of complex data will become more important as the construction industry embraces more smart solutions. The growth of Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives and autonomous vehicles will create millions more data entry points, all of which give companies an opportunity to improve project processes and increase profitability.
Leveraging reliable data to focus project decision-making
As the examples we’ve shared demonstrate, the construction industry is taking steps towards digital transformation. But most companies are barely scratching the surface when it comes to leveraging the value of the data held within their business.
As market conditions continue to challenge profitability, digital transformation is becoming an imperative for survival, rather than a competitive advantage. Companies need strong data insights to form the mortar in their connected construction strategy; a focussed lens to see the wood from the trees.
Digital transformation can seem like a mammoth task requiring huge time and financial investment. But it doesn’t have to be this daunting.
By taking a data-first approach and investing in cloud-based construction management software, companies can take a low-risk next step towards achieving digital transformation. Providing project stakeholders with the information visibility and accessibility they need to make efficient, cost-driven decisions and explore more collaborative, innovative construction techniques.
Asta Vision by Elecosoft enables construction teams to plan, track and manage projects effectively through workflow controls and access to up-to-date information. Giving everyone involved one point of truth to define critical paths, assign tasks and report progress.