As the Construction industry gradually progresses toward digitisation, the COVID-19 crisis highlights the need for this transition. These days, it is crucial that CDOs and CIOs emerging in the Construction industry address the issue of digitisation. It is simply a matter of engaging their organisations in the construction sector’s digital transformation.
In an industry that aims to increase its margins and capture new markets, digital tools serve as drivers awaiting activation. Nevertheless, it is clear that this approach remains unstructured and continues to lack vision. The Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) emerging in this sector today must address the issue of digitisation. It is simply a matter of engaging their organisations in a structured digital transformation, which must be integrated into the internal processes over the long term to enable companies to meet new construction challenges.
An increasingly challenging cost/quality/time equation
Construction is a fairly resilient field that typically weathers crises quite well. The projects begun before the pandemic will have to be completed and the construction industry’s range of activity is sufficiently varied to offset any postponements. Still, in the current context, where activity has been slowing for several months and sites often lack personnel, every delay and every minute saved affect the company’s margin positively or negatively.
The cost/quality/time trifecta that governs all construction projects is becoming increasingly difficult to square. It is estimated that a given site delivers a rate of return of only 2%. And all it takes is a delay in delivery or a quality issue, however minor, for this margin to decrease or slip into negative territory.
Envisioning the 21st century site
The processes in force on construction sites have changed very little in the last century. Paper reports, for example, are still widely used. While digitising the entire production chain is unthinkable, the building trades must be able to capitalise on the contribution of new technologies to save time and ensure quality.
The current health crisis has brought into focus the "black box" dimension of sites, which are moving ahead on closed circuit. The real-time transfer of consolidated information to all stakeholders (head-office managers, site workers, subcontractors, etc.) is inefficient and, since confinement is once again a reality, visiting a construction site in person to monitor progress will further exacerbate the problem. Therefore, companies must not hesitate to seize upon the agile and responsive collaborative tools available to them in order to facilitate these exchanges, even remotely.
Prepare today to meet the challenges of tomorrow
Beyond addressing a problem at time T, digital solutions will enable construction companies to embrace the challenges of tomorrow, such as sustainable building and the development of smart cities.
Contractors are increasingly pressuring builders to modernise. Some public tenders already require the use of digital tools. There is also a proliferation of construction game-style sites, wherein the elements of a structure are designed offsite before being assembled. This organisational approach, which aims to increase project productivity, also helps limit waste and reduce CO2 emissions in urban areas.
Circulating and reporting the right information and ensuring sites are monitored remotely in real-time are becoming definitive practices. Ultimately, smart collaborative platforms will make it possible to recover data as projects progress, allowing companies to capitalise on the expertise acquired on previous builds, rather than starting from scratch with each new project. It is a time saver and performance enhancer that should not be overlooked.
Defining a real digital transformation strategy
More and more CDOs and CIOs are collaborating and even integrating their construction companies. But their role is too often limited to deploying technologies on a case-by-case basis, without any real medium- or long-term vision of the expected benefits. In this respect, they must adopt a more strategic approach, structured around performance indicators.
It is imperative that they embrace the issue, promote a digital culture within their organisations, and support the assimilation and use of these new tools. For that, they must build a global, coherent digital strategy that takes into account the business challenges, constraints, and strengths of their companies.
By providing concrete, innovative responses, in addition to productivity and profitability factors, CDOs and CIOs will actively take part in the transformation of their sectors and propel it toward the future.