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Australia, Opinion, Opinion

Data, trust and digitalisation are key to construction comeback in 2022

The local construction industry grappled with a series of extreme challenges in 2021. These will continue in 2022, but they present an opportunity for the sector to start taking small steps that pave the way to better problem solving.

Data, trust and digitalisation are key to breaking the construction sector out of its reluctance to embrace technological change. New technologies and processes are introduced to the market, but often aren’t used because they’re unfamiliar – and they’re unfamiliar because they don’t get used.

The events of the last two years have pushed the industry to a tipping point. 2022 will be its chance to bite the technology bullet and adopt systems and processes that improve quality and build trust.

The construction industry’s key current challenges are:

  • Quality and safety: Not just of older, poorly built or maintained buildings, but of brand-new structures – because the industry is trying to move faster with tighter timelines and smaller margins. Quality and safety are only measured when teams are actively building, rather than incorporating checks into the full life cycle of the project.
  • Cost of materials: The increase in cost of materials across the industry is largely due to the difficulty of transferring materials. Builders and developers don’t have the mechanisms or supply chains currently to deliver their jobs profitably, and contractors are absorbing the extra costs.
  • New government regulations are placing significant pressure on the preconstruction phase of projects. This requires extra resources to ensure compliance before teams even break ground.
  • Labour shortages: With the international skilled labour pool largely inaccessible due to COVID, construction companies are grappling with out of touch unions demanding unrealistic clauses that present huge business risks.

The solutions forecast for 2022:

  • Data usage: Construction teams know they have data. The industry has decades worth of rich, helpful data. But what use is it if it’s just sitting there? Contractors need to start using their data stockpiles in a smart, accurate way to make better strategic business decisions.
  • Trust: The physical distancing of the industry throughout the pandemic – which initially posed an incredible challenge for teams – required developers, builders and subcontractors to shift to remote working systems integrated platform solutions which have significantly improved collaboration and communication. As stakeholders have realised the benefits of working in partnership, they aren’t holding their cards so close to their chest – which is in turn creating an openness among project teams that is a critical first step to ensure quality in construction and projects finished to the highest standards.
  • Digitalisation: The labour shortage means skilled workers must focus on more important tasks. The industry must start digitising important but mundane processes like inspection test plans (ITPs) and transforming physical processes into digital ones to maximise skill sets and save time and money.

2022 has the potential to be a landmark year for the construction industry. It’s up to the government and sector leaders to continue encouraging collaboration, championing next-gen technology like machine learning and AI and start specifying the use of these solutions.

Alex Fernandez-Soncini, Senior Strategic Construction Technologist, APAC at Procore

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