Is the Construction Industry Falling Behind in Adopting Technology?

Aug 29, 2023

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it—does this phrase apply to the construction industry or is the industry as a whole falling behind as the world moves forward? If so, what are the latest tools the construction industry is missing out on?

The construction industry is perhaps one of the oldest of all occupations, going back thousands of years to the dawn of humankind. This is 2023 however, so we don’t need to still employ the same technology and methods that were used in 5000 BC.

Materials and tools have certainly improved but over the years, the techniques of the construction industry have largely remained unchanged. 

Electric-powered tools may have radically improved the speed and ease with which construction projects can be completed, yet the latest wave of advanced tools has not been as readily adopted, when compared to other industries that are making the most out of them.

New Era of Construction Tools

Electric-powered tools are yesterday’s news—the first was developed in 1895 by C&E Fein in Germany, basically a hand drill with an electric motor crudely attached to it. 

Power tools themselves date all the way back to the ancient Egyptians with their bow-powered lathe with one person pulling the bow that turned the lathe, with the other person operating the lathe itself. Although it was powered by a person, the force was multiplied by the bow. 

Either way, whichever point in time you choose, power tools are certainly not the “latest thing”. 

We have already moved into a new era of AI-powered tools—analytics, cloud storage and IT solutions. These “tools”, despite their effectiveness, have not been as readily adopted as the latest Maquita drill, however—so, what are the reasons underlying this?

Disadvantages of Current Construction Methods and Late Adoption of Technology

The construction industry is a time-honoured tradition with ingenious methods passed on through the ages. Particularly in the last few years, however, things have started to move on and the construction industry has experienced late adoption, with good reason.

There are some experts in the construction industry who would argue that construction workers have an ”inherent aversion to technology” although this is not strictly true as underlined in the previous example—the latest cordless power drill would be greeted with open arms.

What construction workers do have an aversion to, more specifically, is IT-based technology and complicated systems they do not know how to operate and in some cases, fear will replace their job entirely.

If a construction manager knows that they do not have the staff who are trained to operate the software, the decision to adopt this technology will be understandably less likely.

To this end, a lot of work on construction projects still involves clipboards with bits of paper attached, A3 drawings and Excel spreadsheets. According to JB Knowledge, subcontractor dependence on spreadsheets decreased only 1% from 2018–2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the uptake of technology from this point although the construction industry is faced with several challenges and adoption has been comparatively slow.

For example, according to FMI, 30% of engineering and construction companies use applications that don’t integrate. This means that separate one-time solutions are used to complete the work leading to gaps in the data, projects not being completed on schedule or within the budget, and an overall reduction in control and visibility across the projects.

What are the Latest Tools the Construction Industry is Missing Out on?

Some E&C firms are already way ahead of the curve in terms of technology, adopting state-of-the-art solutions and advancing their businesses to a whole new level.

What are the late adopters missing?

Artificial intelligence—AI-powered tools have revolutionised the construction process for those who have adopted the technology. Floor plans can be optimised automatically, long-winded technical documents and schematics can be crafted within minutes. With only a few simple prompts, AI image generation tools can create photorealistic images of buildings that don’t even exist or have not been built yet.

Of course, rather than presenting some kind of sketch to a client, a realistic 3D image of the vision of the concept will be much more slick and easier for the end client to understand what the firm hopes to achieve.

Construction analytics—through analytics construction firms can essentially predict what is likely to happen in the future. This means they can:

  • Anticipate delays
  • Avoid project failures and cost overruns
  • Visualise entire projects before construction begins
  • Perform effective risk analysis 
  • Manage their equipment better and identify faults and lack of performance
  • Streamline workflows
  • Reduce human error
  • Have better oversight over quality control

Develop a clear picture of subcontractor performance in terms of adherence to the schedule and budget - whilst being able to incentivise contractors to hit key targets

Cloud storage solutions with remote desktops—construction firms adopting this combination of technology can mitigate all the issues associated with data loss, fragmented working and the necessity of having certain hardware or software available on-site.

With cloud solutions, there is unlimited storage for big data and it can come from any source. With desktops as a service (DaaS)and workstations as service (WaaS), contractors, engineers and managers can access any of the data, software or even hardware they need—from any remote location and device.

All they need is one simple and easy-to-use interface that acts as a virtual desktop with everything connected and seamlessly integrated into their existing systems.

Furthermore, construction firms can scale up operations within seconds. If they need to add workspaces for 100 new contractors on a particular project, there’s no extra hardware or infrastructure needed—they can simply add 100 more virtual desktops and give the workers the required levels of access. What could take weeks can be accomplished within seconds so it is clear that this will provide a competitive edge to those who adopt the technology to their advantage.

Contact Lyon

Find more detailed information on any of these construction technologies here or contact our expert analysts at Lyon to find out which systems would benefit your business and how they could integrate with your existing processes.