New technology is having a major impact on construction and the younger generations are the ones to lead this tech revolution
More now than ever before, experienced industry leaders are relying on the younger generations to use their intuitive knowledge of technology to guide important strategic decisions.
The majority of generation X construction leaders have conceded to the fact that generation Y joining the industry have a greater instinctive ability to grasp new technology. Construction businesses can now use this understanding and awareness of the latest technologies to bring significant benefits to traditional and outdated construction processes.
The major challenge construction firms face is creating an open and creative culture to embrace technology innovation in an industry that is so heavily reliant on programme deadlines and tight budget controls.
Companies can achieve this by empowering those innovating with the responsibility to drive those technology innovations across the business. Senior board level buy in is essential to add credibility and provide ongoing support to those with a passion for the technology.
There are several technology innovations that are having a significant impact on construction today.
Mobile and wearable technology have exploded in the consumer market over the last decade and is now becoming commonplace on construction sites all over the country.
The industry has accepted digital platforms outweigh the familiarity and ease of paper. Digital records that include GPS locations, annotated photographs and digital signatures that are all stored in a cloud server provide benefits across all disciplines and sectors.
The industry will start to see a shift from tablet computing to wearable hardware in the form of smart watches, AR (Augmented Reality) enabled helmets and sensor embedded PPE.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are already achieving huge efficiency and safety benefits for multiple companies in construction. The Oil & Gas sector has realised huge savings through the use of UAVs or drones as they are more commonly known, to carry out condition monitoring surveys of difficult to reach assets.
Large linear sites such as rail and highway projects can use a process called photogrammetry which stiches together photographs taken by drone to create a complete survey of the sites. Site surveys can now be completed in hours instead of days.
3D Printing is being used on all scales in construction from small printed resin models to large-scale concrete printing.
3D printing brings complex CAD models to life, allowing people to handle and understand models that might have been previously hard to grasp on a screen. Research institutes are partnering with major contractors to evaluate large-scale concrete printing and the printing of structural elements.
New technology is having a major impact on construction and the younger generations are the ones to lead this tech revolution.
The construction industry requires 87,000 engineers with a degree level (including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate) qualification to fulfil the projected work. There will also be demand for around 69,000 people qualified at advanced apprenticeship or equivalent level each year.
Currently the UK produces only 46,000 engineering graduates each year and only around 27,000 UK apprentices a year currently qualify at the appropriate level.
There is a significant skill gap that needs filling and with uncertainties in overseas employment due to Brexit, the employers within construction must exert extra effort to encourage the iGen or generation Z towards construction.
This is the generation that is learning how to operate an iPad before their first words. Children are learning how to code at primary school and will have a technical competence that could reinvent the construction industry of the future. It’s our responsibility to attract this generation into construction by showing them an industry that is so much more than just bricks and mortar.
Harrison O’Hara is the Mobile Technology Manager for Costain Group Plc, leading the implementation and adoption of mobile technology across the business. The business is investing in various mobile systems to improve on site data collection, streamline processes and optimise on-site work. Mobile technology includes the use of mobile phones, tablet computing, virtual and augmented reality and more recently wearable technology.
Harrison is also undertaking an Engineering Doctorate at Loughborough University focusing his research on mobile IT in construction. The research has assessed the health and safety implications of mobile IT, improvements to quality assurance and the evaluation of smart helmet technology.
Harrison is the Graduate and Apprentice Chair for Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT (COMIT) which is an organisation passionate about technology adoption in Construction. Harrison feeds his research into this organisation and encourages the next generation of innovators to participate in the several community days and conferences throughout the year.