In recent years, the construction industry has struggled to overcome a variety of challenges that impede success. Labor shortages, worksite injuries, competition with inflation, and project delays negatively impact construction companies, workers, and clients. Finding skilled construction workers, adhering to strict budgets, maintaining project collaborations, and following tight deadlines only adds to the already challenging nature of completing safe, high-quality work.
In the face of these challenges, many construction companies are seeking scalable, sustainable solutions. Construction technology, in its many forms, helps overcome many of the challenges holding back the construction industry.
In this article, we’ll delve into construction technology as a whole, covering what this technology is, the benefits it presents to construction professionals, examples of the technologies in practice, and guidance when it comes to implementing various construction technology solutions.
What is Construction Technology?
Construction technology refers to the advanced technologies and innovative solutions the construction industry uses to enhance workplace efficiency and safety, improve project sustainability, and adopt more cost-effective procedures.
These applications and tools aren’t intended to replace skilled construction workers, rather, they aim to streamline the most difficult and dangerous aspects of construction work. The figurative toolbox for today’s construction professionals includes tools, hardware, and software that each serve a purpose in planning, designing, building, and managing construction projects.
On top of the tools, equipment, and software programs used to supplement construction efforts, construction technology has also simplified the process of pre-construction procedures. By implementing tools for bid management, document organization, and collaborative efforts, construction managers and their teams can begin each step of a project on the right foot.
Among the most impactful additions to the world of construction are mobile apps for project management, smart equipment and tools, digital schematics, autonomous machinery, and 3D printing technology that prefabricates cost-effective yet high-quality building materials.
Enhanced Safety: Construction technology can be used to improve safety for construction sites. For one, construction managers can review construction safety data to enhance safety practices on site. Additionally, construction companies have started using drones to inspect potentially dangerous areas to protect human workers. Other companies have implemented the use of wearable technology to monitor safety (such as carbon monoxide detectors, motion detection, and temperature measurements). In addition, solutions like robotic layout automate the most repetitive and injury-prone aspects of construction layout, proactively removing risk from the job site.
Increased Efficiency: Construction technology simplifies processes and compresses construction schedules. Certain applications like 3D printing create building components more efficiently, while others such as robotic layout printers can print digital building models directly onto the construction site surface. These detailed schematics enable more accurate layout and installation that remove the need for rework, saving time and materials in the process.
Improved Quality: Advanced technologies such as augmented reality (AR) overlay instructions directly into a job site, enabling workers to complete difficult tasks with improved accuracy. In addition, robotic layout prints the coordinated digital model directly on the surface within 1/16” accuracy, ensuring high-quality and accurate work. A tool like this reduces the risk of mistakes and improves the overall quality of construction.
Compliance Adherence: Tools like document management, photo and video storage, and real-time notifications make it easy to record, sign, and send pieces of information to regulatory organizations. Construction teams can ensure that their companies and projects remain compliant with the laws and regulations that govern the work being done.
Better Collaboration: By using cloud-based mobile project management software, managers and team members alike can review real-time updates, communications, and more. A user-friendly project management dashboard ensures that construction professionals are constantly kept up to date on the latest project announcements while in or out of the field. Moreover, fully automated robotic layout prints all trades’ layout from the coordinated model, enabling collaboration and reducing cross-trade conflicts.
Cost Savings: Construction technology helps reduce waste and optimize resources, leading to cost savings for construction companies and clients. For example, 26% of construction executives have increased their company’s use of prefabricated and modular materials thanks to construction technology, which has reduced expenses from 6% to 30%.
What are Some Examples of Construction Technology?
The field of construction technology is expanding at a rapid rate, but let’s explore a few examples of the most commonly used technologies in the construction industry to date.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) Software:BIM software is used to create 3D models of buildings and structures, allowing for more accurate and efficient planning and design. Robotic layout brings coordinated BIM models directly into the field, ensuring the approved designs are exactly what is built. While BIM models are the most advanced, automated layout works with other digital modeling software as well, including CAD models and more.
Drones: Drones are essentially small, remote-controlled planes used to inspect and survey active and potential construction sites. Because they provide aerial views of the locations in question, they create safer, more efficient inspection procedures.
Virtual and Augmented Reality: Virtual and augmented reality technologies are used in construction to provide immersive simulations of buildings and structures. Some technologies use virtual reality headsets to afford construction planners a more in-depth planning landscape. Augmented reality devices, however, enable users to overlay instructions or construction elements onto the real-world environment, illustrating how processes will look once they’re completed.
Automated Layout: Fully automated layout prints the coordinated digital model directly onto the construction site surface providing accurate and detailed instructions for installation. By printing layout for all trades in a single pass, time-consuming and expensive conflicts are eliminated. With the layout completed in a matter of days instead of weeks, installation can start sooner with assurance there will be no need for rework.
This technology compresses construction schedules, reduces errors, and improves accuracy, ultimately leading to increased productivity and cost-efficiency in building projects. Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter is the most advanced automated layout system, printing custom details including complicated curves, enriched line styles, text labels, and more.
Robotics: Robotic technology is used in construction for tasks such as bricklaying, demolition, and excavation. These tools reduce the need for manual labor, enhance efficiency, and improve employee safety (by decreasing the potential for injuries and fatigue). By assigning mundane, repetitive tasks to robots, construction professionals can focus their efforts on less physically-demanding components of the project at hand.
3D Printing: In the construction industry, 3D printing revolutionizes traditional methods by using large-scale printers to create building components and structures. This layer-by-layer printing method provides faster construction timelines, cost savings opportunities, design flexibility, and the ability to construct complex and customized architectural designs using materials such as concrete or composite materials.
Selecting the Best Construction Technology for Your Needs
With the myriad of options available, choosing the best construction technology for your company can be a complicated process for decision-makers.
Fortunately, these guidelines should make it easier to determine the best construction technology for your specific business needs. Consider the following in order to make the most informed decision possible.
Before making any purchase decisions, review the main challenges and setbacks that your construction company struggles with. Identifying these pain points will inform your main objective for this new technology and help guide your tool selection process. Start by asking these questions:
In what area is the company most inefficient?
What typically causes project delays?
Are there cross-trade conflicts during layout?
Is rework consistently a problem?
What does the construction team constantly complain about?
Your Must-Have Features
Now that you understand your team’s key pain points and the objective of your new solution, you need to identify what features will be the most impactful in achieving your goal. Not all features will be important for your team, so it’s necessary to define your must-have features, features you don’t need, and features you’d like to learn more about. Evaluate the offerings each construction tech solution promotes and decide which features best align with your current tech stack and business needs.
Is your team using digital modeling software?
What processes will most benefit from automation?
Will your company benefit from using augmented reality?
Cost plays an important role in adopting new technologies. Research how much money your company can afford to invest, in addition to what costs are being incurred by the pain points you’re looking to resolve.
Additionally, it’s important to understand how billing works for the program you’re considering.
Does the technology require a one-time payment?
Do subscriptions bill annually or monthly?
Are there various package options available?
An innovative piece of technology might not be worth the cost and time investment if your team can’t learn how to use each component of the system. For the best implementation results, you’ll want to choose a piece of technology that’s easy to use and can be picked up quickly. This way, your team will actually be able to use the product without becoming frustrated, wasting time, or bypassing the program altogether.
Does the software integrate with existing tools and programs?
Does this piece of technology come with tutorials, manuals, or demonstrations?
Is the software flexible enough to enable workers at different levels to utilize the features effectively?
For this section of the planning process, involve the team that will be using the technology most often. Learn about what they need, what they know, and how to best accommodate them where they are currently.
Many elements of construction require teams to move between one job site and another. If your team performs a significant amount of fieldwork, you’ll want to adopt technology with mobile functionality. For example, if your team needs to stay connected between job sites, you’ll want to make sure a mobile version of your software is included in your subscription.
If most of the construction professionals you work with operate in remote areas from time to time, it’s a good idea to check whether a service offering you’re thinking about comes with cloud technology and real-time updates.
Are the mobile options for this technology reliable?
Will construction professionals be able to maintain continuous connectivity?
Product Support Options
Should anyone on your team encounter an issue that you can’t navigate, it’s important to have a knowledgeable resource available. Make sure the software or service you aim to purchase comes with customer support. Additionally, it’s beneficial to work with a provider that offers training and onboarding assistance so that you can ensure that your team learns how to take advantage of all the new features available.
Does the provider offer account managers for clients?
Do the representatives seem polite and available?
Do different support options cost extra?
Finally, if you work with sensitive data, it’s important to verify that the technology you utilize is going to keep your information secure. Ask about security options, tech support, and various update-related information. This way, you’ll know which security measures you can take, how the provider aims to keep your software up to date, and what you can do if a data breach occurs.
Does the provider have a dedicated IT team?
Does the provider have protocols in place if a cyber attack occurs?
Does the program allow for special access to certain elements and documents?
Like many industries, manual construction processes are evolving thanks to advances in modern technology. While the idea of learning how to operate new programs and equipment may seem daunting, modernizing construction companies will ultimately increase safety, productivity, and profitability. Many businesses have already taken steps to streamline their business processes with the help of construction technology. To maintain a competitive edge, construction firms and management teams will need to adapt to the growing trends in the industry.
Technology has the potential to take construction companies to new heights. Companies looking to compress construction schedules, improve layout accuracy, reduce installation errors, and calls for rework, should invest in fully automated robotic layout.
Robotic layout is the perfect solution for construction companies seeking easy-to-use, well-rounded technology that fits seamlessly into existing digital modeling tech stacks. While many companies already invest in digital modeling software, the benefits of the coordinated model are lost during manual layout. With fully automated robotic layout, you can bring those benefits directly into the field and maximize your existing investments while reducing risk.
Explore expert tips for choosing an automated layout solution.