By Luc Le Maire, Vice President Positioning Solutions Business Unit EMEA at Topcon Positioning Group
Keeping projects in the black is, as we all know, the only thing that truly matters when it comes to building profitable and successful businesses. This is of vital importance in construction, where competition is fierce, the stakes are high and the balance sheets are sizeable.
Construction is also an industry that has been slow to embrace new technologies – which is somewhat surprising considering the nature of the business. Lack of new tech on sites should not be confused with a lack of precision or due care, but it has certainly impacted on attempts to improve profitability.
According to research from McKinsey and Company, the construction sector is stuck in a time warp when it comes to productivity. In 2017, the industry averaged an annual growth of just one per cent in productivity over the last two decades, compared to a growth of 3.6 per cent in manufacturing.
Technology in construction has vast potential to improve not just productivity, but also quality of work and profitability, helping everyone from the site manager to the CFO see a good result.
Why tech must be adopted
The construction industry is, on the whole, very traditional in nature. That, coupled with a global shortage of skilled workers, creates an urgent need for modernisation. Technology and digitalisation are the clear route forward for this market if we’re to meet global infrastructure demands and keep up with population growth – while remaining profitable and financially viable.
How tech can improve the sector’s performance
The main source of financial distress in construction can be traced back to a lack of accuracy. Inaccurate measurements, digging locations, material assembly and machine use can all cost big, often requiring a re-do of all or part of the job. This is, unsurprisingly, enormously costly –not to mention the considerable reputational impact.
Technology has the power to halt inaccuracies in their tracks. Geopositioning solutions, for example, can pinpoint a construction location to within a millimeter, eradicating the risk of wrongly built foundations and ensuring that elevations are completely precise. Meanwhile, harnessing the power of real-time, accurate data is key to creating a quality workflow and all the efficiencies this brings.
In harnessing the power of technology and digitalisation, construction businesses stand to overhaul their processes, making them more effective and more lucrative.
The new technologies that are changing construction
There are numerous new technologies at play when we talk about the adoption of tech in construction, each working to drive efficiencies on site and ensure the highest quality build.
Some of the key Topcon systems in use today include:
- Machine control systems, used to automate digging, paving and so on, making this laborious process quicker and more accurate. Not a replacement for real-life jobs, machine control is an aid to help workers operate with precision.
- Construction verification solutions that minimise errors and ensure projects are executed correctly the first time, in accordance with design, thus vastly reducing the risk of a re-do.
- Project and data management software which boosts productivity by providing complete project workflows and enabling real-time communication of data between all stakeholders.
All three of these areas of automation have the potential to boost turnover and profitability – and combined, they are formidable. Of course, the adoption of technology and increased digitalisation aren’t limited to construction; the principles behind tech such as this is applicable to countless industries. By using technology to work more precisely, businesses can improve their productivity and, in turn, their bottom line.
Putting tech into practice
You don’t need to be a fan of motorsport to know the name Silverstone. This cornerstone of British car racing represents the pinnacle of the sport in the UK – and it needs a premium quality road surface to deliver on its reputation as the ultimate race circuit (as Lewis Hamilton himself proclaimed it to be).
Lead contractor Tarmac and Italian racetrack specialist Dromo were appointed to deliver a complex resurfacing project to ensure the track’s road was of the highest quality. Working with Topcon Positioning Group and its SmoothRide machine control technology, together they ensured that there would, quite literally, be no bumps along the road. The team also sought to alter the camber of the road to optimise water run-off. SmoothRide 3D analysis hadn’t previously been used on a racetrack, but it was deployed with such precision that the result was one of the smoothest milled surfaces ever to be seen on a circuit.
Tech can be found at construction sites around the world, from airports to highways, skyscrapers to hospitals – the key point now is to ramp up the adoption of technology to further aid commercial success. Tech works best when it spans multiple contractors; the ideal world has businesses working together with a single digital scheme to deliver the best end result – both in terms of the project quality and their own balance sheets.
The future of construction
Technology such as this has the potential to revolutionise the traditional construction industry, saving vast amounts of money and time on building and infrastructure projects. The widespread implementation of such technologies has enormous consequences for the pace and quality of future global development.
Technology adoption brings with it improvements in productivity, without loss of manpower or jobs. This is not about replacing real people with machines. Rather, it’s about providing people with the best tools available so that they can deliver an exceptional job and – crucially – develop a financially viable business.
Construction is far from the only sector that would benefit from increased accuracy in order to boost profits. In our modern world, technology advances rapidly and being an early adopter of tech can be a golden bullet when it comes to advancing a company’s fortunes. Business leaders would be well advised to keep abreast of developments both in their own field and beyond in order to maximise the potential returns.
For more information about Topcon, visit topconpositioning.com.