by Pete Schermerhorn
It’s hard to believe that 2018 is coming to a close and a new year is upon us. The construction industry continues to face a unique mix of obstacles and opportunities as steady backlogs, innovative new technologies, and the ongoing skilled labor shortage challenge contractors to consider the way they do business.
The market landscape continues to shift, and yet one thing remains constant: the proliferation of jobsite technology. In 2018, tech moved from a competitive advantage to an operational necessity. Across jobsites, conference rooms, and industry events, there is a tangible movement to embrace digital solutions that go far beyond software or tablets onsite.
Heading into 2019, the industry is poised for digital maturation with new players continuing to enter the market on both sides of the equation. (Proof point: Outside investment in construction technology companies hit $1.05 billion in the first six months of 2018 — a 30% increase from the 2017 total.[i]) Both producers and consumers of technology will continue to attack industry challenges — worker safety, labor productivity, equipment utilization, site security and more — from different angles, prompting new applications and use cases across the project life cycle.
And as consumer tech continues to shape business sectors worldwide — even traditionally low-tech sectors like construction — more and more companies will question why what is possible in their personal lives (e.g., remote visibility, instant communication, the ability to quantify activity automatically with smart devices) is not readily available in their professional lives. Faced with a skilled labor shortage and mounting client expectations, project leaders will increasingly ask what else a solution can do.
The underlying driver of all of this is the need to collect and analyze data. As one individual recently put it: “I have so few skilled guys to do the task at hand, I can’t have them devoting hours to entering data into a computer. I need ways to automatically capture what’s happening in the field.”
Over the next 12 months and beyond, the most exciting challenge for the industry will be not only deciding what to measure and how to measure it, but what the results of this data and analysis mean. How can contractors leverage technology and data to ensure action, helping to bring predictability to the chaotic construction process?
For contractors, it starts with bringing different stakeholders to the table to identify key business challenges and set quantifiable goals for new technology. Technology is only as good as the people and processes that support it, and construction firms will need to invest in internal resources to map out and build tools and processes for exploiting these new solutions. Whether that’s developing new roles (e.g., data scientists, construction technologists) or bringing in tech/data experts from other industries, companies of all sizes are going to need to create their own rules of engagement within a rapidly evolving marketplace of solutions. For their part, technology providers — like Triax — will need to continue advancing the scale and usability of their solutions to enrich the quantity and types of data available for analysis.
If 2018 was the year when the connected jobsite moved from a vision to the reality, 2019 will be the year when the connected jobsite enables a smarter, safer jobsite. This will not be possible, however, without contractors, solutions providers, and other industry partners working together to deploy and develop intelligent solutions, make sense of the data, and act upon the data. The time is right, and the opportunity is here; it’s up to us to make the most of this moment and capitalize on the innovation happening within the industry today.
- “Construction tech is the new investment darling for VC funds,” 2018, Building Design & Construction.
Pete Schermerhorn is president and CEO of Triax Technologies and an active member of the Construction Institute, University of Hartford.