Digital Innovation: Critical for Business or Unnecessary Spend?

Many construction firms are holding back from investing in digital innovation despite being aware of its benefits. These are some of their challenges, and the solutions needed.

When it comes to digital innovation, many construction firms recognise its potential but are shying away from investments needed to realise its benefits.

When global market intelligence firm IDC and software conglomerate Autodesk surveyed 835 construction businesses worldwide recently, 72 percent said that digital transformation is a priority for them to improve their operations, but 59 percent of them were spending five percent or less of their annual turnover on digital technologies.

Despite acknowledging that digital solutions can improve their workers’ health and safety, cut costs and waste and increase their profitability, 95 percent of them were using such tools in just 50 percent or less of their projects, and about half were deploying the tools in fewer than one-in-five projects.

Construction firms have pointed out some of the obstacles they face in digitalisation. With projects varying greatly in scope and design, some companies struggle to develop tools and methods that they can apply repeatedly. The multitude of technologies available can also be a drawback, if businesses and their contractors and suppliers end up using incompatible ones.

To encourage more firms to embrace digital innovation, some external help may be needed. To increase the use of building information modelling (BIM) systems for greater efficiency and provide a level playing field, some nations have mandated it for different projects. Singapore has made BIM submissions compulsory for building projects with gross floor areas over 5,000 square metres, while the United Kingdom requires BIM use for public sector projects.

Common standards for technologies and interoperable software would also motivate more  businesses in the built environment industry to use them. Currently, architects may tap on software that can deliver quick renderings to show their clients, but firms that specialise in mechanical and electrical services, and do not require such functionality, may use other software that is incompatible.

Singapore is solving this problem by establishing industry-wide Common Data Environment Standards. These standards will support the integration of complex work processes across the value chain through interoperable digital platforms. It is supplementing this effort by securing commitments from industry leaders to promote the use of pre-qualified digital platforms that are in line with the data standards.

Expanding the availability of training programmes for digital tools is crucial too. Many schools have incorporated modules on such innovations in their built environment courses, but older professionals may need targeted training to familiarise themselves with the tools and keep abreast of the latest advances. Ensuring that continuous training is available and affordable is key to making digital innovation a way of life for all in the built environment sector.

At BEX Asia 2021, which will be held virtually from September 6 to 10 and complemented with a three-week complimentary technical webinar from September 1 to 16, attendees can find out more about the digital solutions that they can deploy to transform their operations and businesses. Now is the time for firms to start on their digital innovation journey.

 

To find out more about BEX Asia 2021 and register for the event, click here.

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