Thursday, December 12, 2013

Leveraging Technology in the Construction Industry

The construction industry has not changed dramatically over the last 40 years. As a result, the construction industry has lagged behind other non-farm industries in terms of productivity. From 1964-2012, construction labor productivity (measured by contract dollars of construction work per hourly work hour) has declined at an average rate of -0.32% per year compared to other non-farm industries that have seen an average increase in productivity at a rate of 3.06% per year. [Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics]. The total effect over this time period has been significant.

This lack of productivity can be attributed to the fact that the construction industry is highly fragmented, often with project delivery separating the design and construction processes.  Also, the construction industry is unique in that we produce custom, one-off buildings.  The lack of productivity comes at a direct cost to the client, since they bear all costs of design errors, schedule delays, and operational costs.

Within recent years, Kinsley has looked for new tools or processes that can help increase our productivity in all design and construction-related tasks.  Technology presents new opportunities, processes, and workflows that were not possible 20 years ago. Technology transforms how we interact and do business together, with a goal to design and construct buildings better, faster, and more efficiently.

New CAD/BIM software has sped-up production of drawings and helped to create more efficient designs. BIM provides prefabrication opportunities that previously were not possible. Advances in estimating have been made by using programs such as On-Screen Takeoff (OST) and are moving towards more automated takeoff software for both site work and buildings to reduce the time it takes to develop an estimate. “Go To Meeting” provides for real-time conferencing with the ability to share computer screens.  This technology eliminates travel time and reducing expenses while allowing all project members to take part in a meeting even if they are hundreds of miles away.

Cell phones have already revolutionized the way we communicate, both in our personal and work lives. iPads in the field will take it one step further by changing and change how some of our field personnel work and interact. By providing the ability to quickly view, mark-up and send drawings, to a subcontractor, or run pre-install checklists directly from the field, an iPad provides mobility and speeds communication and decision making,  saving time and money.

Change is hard.  While there will always be hurdles and challenges to overcome, we must always continue to improve ourselves.  Advances in construction technology will allow us to deliver higher quality projects with less risk, shorter schedules, and tighter budgets.  It is an industry in transition, looking for the most cost-effective solutions. Technology is revolutionizing expectations and the way we do business. However, technology is only a tool for us to use, and it does not replace a human’s experience, instincts, and intuition. As much as technology can help, it will never replace the need for face to face meetings and building relationships when working together in-person. As great as technology can be, people are still the key to success

Travis Fischer,
BIM Program Manager