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Top trends and challenges facing the construction industry

Callan Mantell (L) and Karthik Venkatasubramanian, Senior Director Data Strategy and Operations at Oracle Construction and Engineering (R).

Inside Construction speaks to Callan Mantell, Area VP for Oracle Construction and Engineering about the trends and challenges facing the construction industry in 2019.

Technology will play a major role in helping the Australian construction industry take advantage of the current infrastructure boom, according to Callan Mantell, Area VP for Oracle Construction & Engineering.

He explains early adoption of new technologies is one of the main reasons Australia’s construction industry has seen productivity gains while many other nations have declined.

However, with an ageing workforce, one of the key challenges the industry is facing is attracting new skilled workers.

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Jobs and Small Business, eight out of nine construction trade occupations assessed in 2018 were found to be in national shortage.

A lack of experience was the main reason 41 per cent of qualified applicants were found to be unsuitable for a role.

Mantell says there is a need for organisations to bring far less experienced people into a construction environment, while also ensuring they have the same positive impact a more experienced person could provide.

“In the past, there were fewer projects, which tended to be smaller in scope. A highly experienced project manager could walk onto a site and sniff out what was going on almost intuitively,” he says.

“Giving the younger generation the tools they need to handle faster exposure to the bigger, hairier end of the project spectrum will not only enable them to operate in more complex circumstances, but also more confidently and quickly.

These tools include drones, AI and 5G internet connectivity and can present exciting new ways of engaging with the construction industry.

Another method of finding talent has been to branch out into adjacent industries. For example, many of the skills for video game development can be applied to construction technology and can bring new ways of solving problems to an organisation.

“In a place like Australia, the construction industry is quite competitive. If someone was looking to go into gaming as a career, there are relatively few opportunities in comparison. Many start off with gaming as a goal and learn that construction technology, with, amongst other things, it’s focus on the use of 3D modelling, is an equally intelligent use of their hard-won skillsets,” Mantell says.

Data is becoming more and more vital to ensure companies are able to operate efficiently, spot problems quicker and look beyond a project to see it as part of the broader picture. New opportunities to capture data are also being developed as advances in mobile technology and next generation mobile networks open up new possibilities.

“It is becoming increasingly possible to capture data and draw not only insight, but make predictions based on multiple sources, which can then be used to streamline or course correct across a project team, allowing for greater productivity gains and the avoidance of costly errors,” he says.

“This data can then show a management team what is actually happening on a project and where to invest more resources. Smart organisations are developing plans around what data they capture and how to properly take advantage of it.”

“There are some extremely powerful things we’ll soon be able to do with the combination of human and machine, but it’s a marathon not a sprint. No organisation can solve every problem at once, so the best thing to do is to identify what needs to be done, make a plan and bite it off in chunks.”

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