Technology, Trends, and How to Not be Swept Away

Ten years ago you couldn’t have imagined a tablet on the jobsite; but now, they are everywhere. Technology is flooding the construction market, there is no doubt. What do you as a contractor need to think about as technology rapidly transforming your business?

First, recognize the trends. Lean construction has taught all of us that we need to get it right the first time and that saves money. So be on the look-out for technology that can transform the process and do the job of construction oversight and administration. Mistakes are costly too, so being able to see how to build it right the first time is invaluable.

Virtual and augmented reality systems are already in the market, plan for them to be ubiquitous soon. Speaking of different viewpoints, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) , aka drones, enable you to cheaply see things from viewpoints you couldn’t before and easily get into places that aren’t made for human habitation; saving you dollars, time, and ensuring better quality. Finally, “there’s an app for that.”

Mobile technology is constantly transforming. Making the common cellphone of yesteryear a pocket super computer, virtual reality device, and data collection tool all in one. Find ways to leverage the tool almost every worker already has in their pocket (and you probably didn’t pay for) to make the job go better, faster, easier for everyone.

Next, be a game changer. What successful contractors do is find ways to do something they wish they could have done 10 years ago, 10 years ago. This means embracing technology, but even more: pushing technology to do things it wasn’t intended to do, but you need it to do. More often than not, the next great technology isn’t something radically new, but instead seeing a want/need and finding a way to do it better. Where are those areas of friction in the construction process? Where are you having the most difficulties? That is where you should expect innovation to come from. And if you come up with the solution, expect to be rewarded handsomely.

Finally, expect change, don’t fight it. Many things will remain constant, but just as many will be altered by new technologies and innovations. Keep a pulse on what is new and what is at the core of the construction business. If you do, now only will you keep up with the times, you won’t be swept away.

Erik Backus is director of construction engineering management program at Clarkson University.

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