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How to Effectively Plan a Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry

How to Effectively Plan a Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry

Advice for contractorHow to Effectively Plan a Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry

In a world that’s constantly evolving, digital transformation has become a massive strategic issue for companies. It’s a process that involves digital technologies throughout all organization divisions. This approach necessitates business process restructuring, a cultural change, and optimal information integration. Learn how to plan and execute flawlessly a digital transformation, the goals behind such a venture, and current trends.

Digital Transformation: What Does It Mean for a Construction Company?

two men in front of a computer on a construction site

To execute a digital transformation, you can lean on the following: 

  • Management software

  • Building information modeling (BIM)

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)

Working with management software allows you to digitize your projects to consolidate all data and render it accessible to all stakeholders. As such, it ensures effective communication channels between worksites and corporate offices, with real-time control over all stages of the construction process. 

Mastering building information modeling (BIM) means working with digital mockups and digital twins to simulate activities within the building in question. That way, any interference between trade work is detected.

Integrating AI not only digitizes processes and analyzes the digital development of a project but, above all else, processes all data to suggest solutions aimed at limiting delays and optimizing resources.  

Yet, digital transformation in the construction industry isn’t limited to using the previously mentioned software. As we already detailed in another article, 3D concrete printing is a technology that allows for building residential property walls in under 24 hours. It represents a 95% gain, time-wise. 

However, digital transformation comes at a cost. 

What are digital transformation goals to consider?

  • Growth

  • Adapting and streamlining in the face of competition

  • Improving operational efficiency

  • Increasing productivity 

  • Promoting worksite and corporate office collaboration and communication

  • Increasing customer satisfaction 

All these roads lead to the most important: the competitive factor throughout.

What are the 3 pillars of a digital transformation?

three person watching something on a tablet 

Digital Strategy

There is more than just one digital strategy to establish. The reality of the matter is that every business must analyze its functioning accurately and choose one or more of the following solutions: 

  • BIM

  • AI

  • Management software

  • Virtual or augmented reality

  • Drones and other robots 

How to Implement BIM in a Business 

a man in his tablet in front of a construction machine

BIM can be implemented by knowing precisely what each and every company employee does, day-to-day. In real-time use, everyone is "digitized" based on the functions they carry out. 

BIM works in steps, such as: 

  • Planning 

  • Execution

  • Building 

To map out the processes, you need to have a certain level of standardization. Implementing BIM successfully means assigning one person within the realm of the company to do it. Albeit, keep in mind that implementing BIM requires roughly three years of work. Why? Because you have to match the assimilation pace unique to the business ecosystem that’s already established.

To do so under the best possible conditions, you need to have an internal roadmap that’s an extension of the government’s roadmap. 

BIM will then become the way to do things; a way of working that may narrow down processes from a two-month timeline to a two-week delay. Any sort of feedback related to experiences allows, for example, to state that there will be fewer errors regarding: 

  • Equipment safety 

  • Service deployment 

BIM allows for limiting conflicts that weren’t spotted beforehand, in ventilation ducts, for example. As such, there are fewer errors and do-overs, which means fewer material losses. Therefore, one in two companies that have started using BIM have noticed the following: 

  • Costs are cut in two (50% lower)

  • Project timelines are 50% faster 

Once implemented, BIM ensures the following: 

  • Less paperwork

  • More control

  • Enhanced simplicity 

While the upfront investment might seem like a lot, long term, the return on such a venture is much greater. The goal is for BIM to be used throughout the industry. Neglecting to do so would be equivalent to, in time, extracting your company from the business ecosystem, and thus distancing yourself increasingly from construction projects. BIM does, without a doubt, increase the amount of time spent in the office, preparing the construction worksite, but this time is well-spent and later recouped when it comes to project execution.

Evolution Process

Regarding the digitization deployed throughout the construction industry, the McKinsey study done in Quebec in 2015, proved that the industry in question is barely more digitized than the agricultural sector.

Therefore, a progressive transformation is mandatory to face challenges down the line: 

  • Labour shortage

  • Sustainable development

  • National and international competition 

As such, BIM is intended for mastering a lot of information at once during a construction project, to process it faster and with greater ease. 

Prior to fully implementing building information modeling, you can very well implement much simpler changes. For example, the use of mobile technologies, which groups smartphones, tablets, or laptops, can be paired with recording and automated data-processing devices.

As for worksite-used AI, it helps improve three key areas: 

  • Safety

  • Efficiency

  • Accuracy 

Once used company-wide, AI is an integral component in designing construction blueprints and building infrastructures. Down the line, the evolution process of construction company digitization promises MEPF system improvements, which stands for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection. With AI, the possibility of including water and power lines, as well as air conditioning ducts, will be feasible, while bypassing any issues relating to other stages of the construction process. 

Skills and Innovations

Developing BIM software for business purposes and remaining open-minded with AI-led solutions results in further awareness when it comes to training future employees. As such, cutting-edge practices are currently being deployed in training and educational services.  

Training programs dedicated to implementing BIM software within companies are offered already by several colleges, such as the Cégep du Vieux Montréal and Cégep Limoilou.

Innovation-wise, digital transformation and the emergence of artificial intelligence in the construction industry are often seen as risks in terms of job security. However, the truth of the matter is that the goal behind digital transformation in the industry is to replace mundane and redundant tasks that have very little added value.

In other words, artificial intelligence would bring labourers back to the heart of the trade in question, that of construction work.  

Tech Tools Benefiting the Construction Industry

a man and a woman in front of a computer on a construction site  

Companies operating within the construction industry mainly focused their efforts on acquiring cutting-edge materials, such as the following: 

  • Virtual or augmented reality

  • Robotization 

Virtual and Augmented Reality Are Aiding the Construction Industry

Virtual reality is used during all steps of a construction project. At first, it’s used to create and swiftly visualize, at any given time, the project’s design. As such, it serves both the company and the customer. In the end, VR is used to assist construction teams during the actual building phase of the project. 

Therefore, virtual reality is used in conjunction to achieve the following project outcomes: 

  • Improving design comprehension

  • Improving buildability

  • Limiting suspended or postponed work

  • Visiting the worksite virtually and recurringly 

Augmented reality adds an additional dose of realism. How? By combining virtual reality with remote presence. Meaning augmented reality combines the real world with a virtual one.

In other words, you're on a future project work site. Construction hasn’t even started yet; it’s bare land. With augmented reality, you can already see the transformation’s impact. Your project is virtually deployed on-site courtesy of digital work that adds virtual objects or buildings. Naturally, this all takes place inside a VR headset.

Virtual reality is also making headway in training the next generation of construction workers. As such, the National Electric Trade Council (NETCO), was granted 4.5 million dollars in funding to develop virtual electricity-related training. 

The Use of Robots on Construction Worksites

Robots are mainly used on worksites for the following purposes:  

  • Carry out repetitive tasks

  • Lift heavy loads

  • Provide a bird’s-eye view

  • Maneuver with accuracy in restricted spaces 

We have an entire article detailing the presence of robots on worksites. Here's a rundown of a few mentioned: 

  • Data-collecting robotic dogs

  • Brick-laying or masonry robots

  • Demolition or drilling robots 

  • 3D printers

  • Others 

There are dozens, capable of carrying out all your worksite-related needs. But, this is where you need to tread carefully. Robots aren’t cheap, and they might not come in handy as often as you'd like.

The use of such an investment will depend on recurring needs for similar worksites throughout a work year. In other words, when it comes to digital transformation, assess your needs and set yourself some goals before purchasing expensive equipment to measure up to competitors.  

The Different Software

three man in front of a laptop on a construction site 

Earlier in the article, we mentioned several different management software that were a vital component of a digital transition. Among these, one finds the following software:

  • Project management

  • Human resources

  • Payroll

  • Others

You could even add a content management system (CMS), in-house communication tools (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Lark, etc.), and company websites or platforms. Basically, everything that could streamline and simplify your pathway to meeting goals, customer management, material purchases, or your company’s trajectory.

In this realm, the Procore software is the perfect example. It’s compatible with both computers and mobile devices, and allows for the following actions: 

  • Issue or respond to RFPs

  •  Design 2D and 3D plans

  • Draw up quotes, contracts, timelines, etc.

  • Compare budgets, income statements, etc.

  • Provide estimates

  • Create charts

  • Highlight standards and regulations (150 countries)

  • And more

The above-listed features are solely what Procore can do in the pre-project stage. After said stage, the software can also do the following:  

  • Update all documents in real-time (emails, daily logs, etc.)

  • Standardize processes between all parties involved 

  • Manage expenses

  • Productivity overview  

Should it remind you of BIM software benefits, it’s simply because Procore can help guide your digital transformation toward this type of management and organization. 

If we wanted to focus solely on a digital transformation that targeted construction sites specifically, we would have mentioned the following software: Fusion 360, OpenSpace.ai, PlanSwift, and most especially, ConstructN.ai.

The latter allows you to wander throughout a construction worksite when connected to a 360° camera. It tracks the work and links the progression directly to the calendar, enabling those involved to stay on track while working on-site. And it doesn’t end here, this software can also calculate the differences between the plan and the construction itself, in real time.

What are the construction stakes and challenges in Quebec in a digital era?

a man and a woman in front of a computer talking 

The stake is clear: remain competitive. 

In Ottawa, the government dished out 40 million dollars toward artificial intelligence for the construction industry alone. In Quebec, 700 million dollars were invested into AI by the government between 2017 and 2023.

As of today, 45,000 AI professionals are from Quebec, and of those, 2,200 are considered highly specialized. So much so that, today, having bypassed 5% of companies using AI, the province of Quebec is considered the most advanced in the country.

Now, the primary hurdle is to train more BIM software and AI specialists to lead digital transformations for as many organizations as possible. From retail to construction, by way of mobile devices and online shopping platforms, the innovation-centric culture must extend to all sectors. 

Which is what led to the development of ICQ 4.0.  

The IQC 4.0: A Digital Transition’s Key Player

Why IQC 4.0? (Initiative Québécoise pour la construction—Quebec-based construction initiative) The construction industry is facing a massive hurdle for every construction project undertaken: managing incoming information from all parties involved. By management, what’s meant above all is that necessary information is communicated to every party involved with the project.

Digitizing all information not only allows for real-time, or nearly so, decision-making but also for certain computerized decisions. To do so, IQC 4.0 relies on several different technologies: 

  • Automation (task automation or cobots) 

  • Drones

  • RFID tags

  • 3D printing

  • Artificial intelligence

  • Augmented materials

  • Predictive monitoring tools

  • Virtual reality

  • 3D laser scanning

  • Exoskeletons

  • Mobile technology (smartphones, tablets, etc.)

Parties involved with the construction industry have also witnessed the McKinsey study and laid eyes on reports from both Atkins and KPMG. What have they come to understand? In a few year’s time, business opportunities from public actors will always consider the following three components:

  • Total cost

  • Sustainability

  • Ecology 

To maintain its competitive edge, the industry must transition toward a digital transformation, so much so that IQC 4.0 is hoping for a “large-scale building information modeling deployment.” 

The situation is rather clear-cut:

  • Increase performances, industry-wide

  • Increase productivity

  • Sustain its business model

  • Improve competitivity 

Limitations to Digital Transformation

Still, one shouldn’t overestimate the impact made by digital transformation, thinking that the digital route is the answer to all problems. AI, too, has its set of drawbacks.

To operate AI, companies will have to recruit qualified AI engineers with some degree of construction industry experience. The law of supply and demand risks increasing the wage bill beyond belief. 

Last, but certainly not least, of all problems are the risks of cyberattacks targeting companies, aiming to disrupt their operations by falsifying data or using ransomware to encrypt data. Therefore, proper practices may not exclude controlling AI-led decisions to prevent any sort of catastrophic outcome related to malicious actions that could result in major construction project defects.

Digital Transformation: To Innovate Is to Prosper 

A well-executed digital transformation requires a strategic approach, one that is implemented in anticipation of future trends. This entails choosing reliable technologies and using digital solutions that improve operational efficiency and customer experience. Moreover, communication transparency, and all-around stakeholder involvement, guarantee a widespread system adoption and limit aversion to change. By implementing these strategies, businesses can helm the waters of a never-ending global evolution. Therefore, a digital transformation may not solely be a trend, but a worthwhile strategy to remain significant and prosper in today’s global economy.


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Last modified 2024-05-22

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