Analysis

Our digital transformation can secure construction’s future

1 September 2016 | By Jason Ruddle, Elecosoft

The sector today is in better shape than ever before to control its destiny, says Jason Ruddle, chief operating officer of Elecosoft.

Whenever there is not so great news about the economy and output figures for the construction sector dip (ref recent ONS figures), it is easy to assume that construction is heading for a downturn.

A recent report by the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group is a case in point: it requests the prime minister to step in and implement a productivity plan to aid the sector.

Yet, in many ways, the sector today is in better shape to control its destiny than ever before.  For this we can partly thank the government’s drive towards digital construction, as embodied by its BIM initiative.

The SEC’s request for more revision of procurement and exploitation of digital technology in a bid for greater efficiency is largely moot, given that the entire goal for the sector under the most recent strategy statements is for its wholescale digital transformation.

Plus, of course, the fact that public sector construction procurement sits smack in the BIM target zone already.  

Certainly, ongoing and greater investment in infrastructure from the government would boost the sector and would be very welcome. The industry also needs to use this opportunity to continue to build on the amazing work it has done to date. Digital change is not just inevitable for the entire sector, it is key to the industry in coming out stronger than ever before.

By fully embracing digital construction, contractors will improve their readiness to cope with whatever the economy throws at them through actions such as:

  • Adopting higher level project management strategies, driving company-wide best practices by selecting tools that can leverage a central project data repository, exchange and share templated process, support collaborative teams of planners and project managers, and deliver multi-project management insight and reporting.
  • Removing the blocks to collaborative working which are created by structural silos inside the business – embracing tools which deliver more integrated views of projects and enable specialists such as cost estimators to work with project planners  to create truly 5D plans.
  • Actively recruiting and developing digital skills everywhere in the business with a multi-stranded approach that spans how apprentices are trained, recruitment of graduates with innate and current understanding of BIM and digital working practices, and developing digital champions in-house through training and development.

Digital transformation is being adopted by industrial sectors not only for the increased efficiencies it brings, but also to provide a protective layer against downturns. We need to act together as an industry so that digital construction becomes firmly embedded in working practices and spreads across the entire sector.

By fully embracing the power of the digital, our world-leading construction industry has a real chance to emerge stronger, leaner and fitter and ready for any challenge. That is something we should all welcome.