ConTech Conversations: Automated processes will contribute to construction success, says CEO

The construction industry has a reputation for lagging behind in terms of technology adoption.

However, the pandemic forced many contractors to remotely monitor construction progress. Pre-existing problems in the industry worsened as new ones emerged from the pandemic, said Graham Hunter, CEO and founder of 3D laser scanning company GeoSlam. As the work goes on and new projects begin, the contractors consider what practices to use as standard.

UK-based GeoSlam recently launched a platform to monitor projects through generated cloud point data. The Construction Progress platform uses a GeoSlam handheld scanner to collect data, process it and generate a model that shows the changes in the field by date and time.

Construction Dive spoke to Hunter to learn more about his thoughts on the reputation of construction in terms of technology adoption, the issues construction is facing today, and what both will mean in the future.

The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

BAU DIVE: The construction industry has a reputation for lagging behind in technology adoption. Why this?

GRAHAM HUNTER: Construction innovation has a bad rap and is often disregarded as an industry that lags behind others in adopting technology. That feels a little unfair. As a “brick and mortar” industry, it relies heavily on equipment, machinery and practical labor in many ways. In recent years, however, many forward-looking construction companies, certainly spurred on by the effects of the global pandemic, have adapted and deployed innovative solutions to save time and money. However, few companies have taken full advantage of digital technology.

Graham Hunter

Permission granted by GeoSlam

Piloting technology is one thing, but company-wide adoption is another. As construction projects tend to be fragmented, companies face a number of logistical, financial, and physical barriers. However, the pressure on the sector has now increased as the rising population and demand for housing reached a boiling point during the post-pandemic boom.

Construction technology is changing the industry, helping teams both large and small to meet deadlines, keep project costs to a minimum, and keep workers safe in hazardous environments. However, in order to stay ahead of the competition and meet these demands, construction companies around the world must embrace these new innovations rather than invest in their future.

Why is project mapping and documentation important?

The project mapping and documentation during the entire construction is essential in order to maintain an overview, especially with numerous participants, suppliers and customers. And with much of the world either working remotely or using hybrid working models due to the ongoing pandemic, access to live project updates has become even more difficult for the industry.

The ability to see the progress of a project gives management and on-site employees a clear and objective overview of the progress, which is broken down into different phases of the construction process. It helps to avoid missed milestones or costly disputes between contractors and building owners and shows problems early on.

As more companies begin to turn to digital technology, the construction process remains one of the least digitized industries in the world.

The trend towards automated processes must be seen as the future of the industry, as the steadily increasing demand as well as the time and financial pressure continue to grow.

How can smaller contractors building smaller projects take advantage of new technology?

The main advantages of this technology are the simplicity and speed with which tasks can be done. These improvements are invaluable to large contractors as they not only meet project requirements, but can also work effectively with growing teams spread across different networks and locations.

But even more so, it would be vital for smaller firms that, with the manual and traditional tools still available, are unable to deliver the mass production that larger firms can achieve.

The technology offers smaller construction companies more leeway. Easy-to-use hand-held scanners not only reduce costs significantly, they also require no specialist knowledge or experience to perform an accurate and detailed scan. However, companies that rely on terrestrial scanners to map a location would be hampered by the cost implications of outsourcing to an expert.

What are some of the biggest problems of building today?

The world population is projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, other statistics say that two out of three people will live in cities. With this in mind, the demand for better, faster, greener building has never been more evident. In addition, the pandemic has increased the pressure on the construction industry to help “boost” the economy.

But how can construction companies achieve this goal without the technology that can keep up?

Most of the processes used in the industry are still heavily based on manual applications, which are prone to human error and ultimately put companies at risk. In the industry, there is a three in four chance of mega-project completion date being delayed by 40% or more, which means costly delays and expensive overruns are the order of the day for businesses that don’t automate. Well-used technology could solve these problems.

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