The construction industry has been integrating technology at a growing rate over the past decade. In 2020, like many other industries, the adoption of technology was significantly accelerated on construction job sites, and some of the changes are here to stay. The benefits of cloud-based job site technology are constantly growing and will continue to shape the way we work for many years to come.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, years of technological change were compressed into months. While some contractors were able to adapt quickly to the vastly altered landscape in 2020 because they had already been using cloud-based software, others were held back by drastic changes in operation. Now that this shift has taken place, tech firms anticipate the trend to continue.
COVID-19 has standardized the remote work environment, and made it a must-have to be in the cloud. Although the pandemic was disruptive for the current clients of ERP developer Acumatica, it was not crippling. “They were able to ask their employees to basically, ‘Take your laptop and work from home starting tomorrow,’” vice-president of Platform Strategy at Acumatica.
At the same time, many of those who lacked the proper tech resources were able to easily move from their legacy systems to platforms such as Acumatica to keep their job sites going and dialed in by their remote employees.
Similar adoption patterns were seen by construction management software provider InEight as the need to communicate remotely bumped up.
The chief product officer of InEight said that the pandemic intensified what had been a “creeping” movement towards digitization in construction.
About a year into the pandemic – and at least a few months until an operating environment resembling normal starts to re-emerge, the tech tools contractors and those in construction implemented have already been embraced, making it very unlikely for them to return to their pre-pandemic methods of operation.
More specialized segments of the tech market have also seen rapid uptake during the pandemic.
With few areas requiring as much attention as health and safety, the co-founder and CEO of SafetyTek says the company has more users and daily app interactions than ever. The firm’s paperless safety management platform helps contractors collect data from the field, allowing health and safety managers to create custom forms to meet disparate reporting requirements in different jurisdictions.
Along with diverting the process to the cloud to minimize staff on-site, SafetyTek’s solution helped tackle one of the novel health challenges COVID brought to the surface.
Like their counterparts in other operational roles, health and safety managers were acting from a reactionary position in 2020. In the coming months, he expects to see that change.
In addition to logging mandatory safety forms and related information, SafetyTek is also coaching clients on how to make the best of their data. With metrics such as incidents and near misses on-hand, contractors can glean insight on how to better manage their safety programs.
Likewise, InEight is looking to help the industry utilize the stores of information now at its disposal.
Driven in part by the pandemic, digital transformation throughout construction has likely now moved past its halfway point. The industry’s use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase productivity on job sites, on the other hand, remains in its infancy.
Using both industry and company-specific benchmarking to optimize job sites will keep tech firms growing throughout construction in 2021 and beyond. This more nuanced approach to data will also help construction overcome a number of the barriers contributing to its so-called “productivity gap.”
Builders should also integrate the lessons learned during 2020 into their post-pandemic plans. In particular, as AI and other new tools like sensors and robotics filter into construction, contractors need to be willing to act quickly.
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