Shoestring project identifies top 10 digital priorities for SMEs

The University of Cambridge’s Digital Construction on a Shoestring project has identified the top 10 digital priorities for SMEs.

The project brings together academic experts and construction businesses to develop digital solutions for SMEs. A series of workshops conducted by the project partners last year revealed the following priorities (in descending order of importance):

  • Construction scheduling
  • Process monitoring
  • Unified change management and issue reporting between design and construction operations
  • Digitised employee training
  • Display of construction schedule/work plan
  • 4D virtual project planning (3D rendering)
  • Digitised work instructions and assembly procedures
  • Automated quality inspection
  • Automated completeness checking
  • Project management system (to track the status of schedule time, cost, etc)

Involved in the Shoestring project alongside the University of Cambridge are the Construction Innovation Hub, the Centre for Digital Built Britain, the Manufacturing Technology Centre and UK Research and Innovation.

The project follows the model already deployed by the University on its Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring scheme.

Professor Duncan McFarlane, professor of industrial information engineering at the University of Cambridge and the project lead, said: “Large construction companies often have IT departments and information groups that can lead and support transition to digitalisation. However, many SMEs in construction do not enjoy the same resource, and engaging fully with digital technologies and solutions can appear out of reach for them. The Shoestring Approach can help smaller companies with some digital capabilities to get started using digital tools and solutions. 

“Conscious that digitalisation can be an expensive financial investment, and the end results are not always as expected, the Shoestring team helps smaller organisations to start on the process of exploring digital options by taking a low-risk approach to add digital solutions and capabilities in an incremental manner and supplied support in implementing a solution.”

The project is now into its second of three phases. The workshops that led to the top 10 list above were part of phase one. Phase two, now underway, extends requirements capture to onsite construction and is identifying and building demonstrators and planning outreach work to showcase those demonstrators and how to build solutions. Phase three will pull all the solutions together to formalise the design approach and create a prototype software environment for semi-automated digital solution design. A proposed Shoestring foundation will be expanded to support construction solutions, share knowledge, experience and resources.  

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