How are new technologies changing the world of construction?
Over the last few years, the emergence of new devices, software and technological approaches has radically reshaped the way that many industries operate,and the world of construction is no exception to this.
With the pace of innovation showing no signs of slowing down, it's becoming increasingly vital for construction industry professionals to make sure they stay abreast of all the latest developments; after all, it's no secret that a failure to evolve can be fatal in business.
In a recent article for Construction Executive, industry expert Brian Gallagher - director of marketing for US building firm O'Neal - outlined some of the key trends in construction technology that are most likely to have an impact in the near future.
Better access to information
Information is king in the modern world of business, which is why it's no surprise that so many of the latest innovations are focused on providing construction workers with access to the data they need, when they need it.
Many firms are already using mobile devices and apps to access, document, share and edit important project information from wherever they are based, or making use of industry-specific equipment such as barcode scanners and radio-frequency identification readers.
Others are using GPS tracking to monitor their fleets and equipment in real time, or wearable devices to keep tabs on workers' safety and productivity, while also making use of big data and the Internet of Things to analyse and predict industry trends as they develop.
New methods of production
Another way in which construction technology is revolutionising the sector is in the emergence of new ways of directly accelerating the building process itself.
Laser scanning, for example, offers enormous efficiency gains when it comes to assessing sites or field measurements, while building information modelling can provide precise insights into the way a project will proceed, based on historical models and other databases.
These innovations go hand-in-hand with the latest 3D printing technologies and robotic construction tools to make it faster and easier than ever before to create specific components - or even entire buildings - in a fraction of the time it would have once taken.
As these technologies develop, it may be possible to carry out many routine tasks through an almost entirely automated workflow, with very little need for manual input.
Already, drones are being equipped with cameras to collect information in locations humans cannot access, which assists site assessments and inspections, and helps builders to get a better architectural overview of the work as it proceeds.
In future, robotic systems, that are currently being used for demolition, to place bricks, excavate and perform other tasks, will become more sophisticated, allowing construction projects to be completed more quickly and safely - and with less risk of human error - than ever before.
Companies that manage to stay one step ahead of these emerging trends could be set to reap a number of benefits.
Mr Gallagher cited a recent prediction to this effect from the World Economic Forum, which said: "Wherever the new technologies have properly permeated this fragmented industry, the outlook is an almost 20 per cent reduction in total life-cycle costs of a project, as well as substantial improvements in completion time, quality and safety."
Conversely, those businesses that fall behind the curve could end up finding themselves overtaken by more flexible and agile rivals, so it's essential that bosses make sure they keep themselves on the cutting edge, lest they surrender the competitive advantage for good.
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