The Digital Future of the Construction Sector: Upskilling and Industry Context.
The construction industry has the potential to be transformed by digital technology but is currently impeded by a lack of skills in the area. The UK CITB have just released a full report on titled “Unlocking construction’s digital future: A skills plan for industry.” The report shows a range of underdeveloped skills in the construction sector with a core focus on the digital space. Just like the UK, Ireland must also progress digitally in the area of construction. The UK’s CITB is now aiming to as described by Radley, “accelerate modernisation” and to “demystify digitalisation” through upgraded skills and delivering on the industry’s ever evolving needs.
The reports main findings found that:
“Digital Construction is understood to mean different things by different people”
One of the biggest issues in progressing the construction sector efficiently into the digital era is a lack of understanding around the technology and skills. There are often frustrations between advocates of digital transformation who understand that digital skills can positively impact on site productivity vs those who believe this technology will impact their jobs, create adverse change and impede their ability to progress if they decide against upskilling over the coming years.
“Much tech that is being used is not at the cutting edge of what is available”
Truly innovative technology that promises to increase efficiency on construction sites is not quite here yet. Innovative technology such as drones and 3D printing to name a few are well known but not currently widely utilised. The promise of one day being on a construction site and needing a tool that can be printed instead of heading to the hardware store is still a while away. Despite these reservations, it is important to discuss sharing best practice by learning about these technologies in advance of their arrival on construction sites both at home and abroad.
“Data and its effective collection, communication and management are central to digital transformation”
Data collection and management is utilised widely across a variety of sectors. In marketing for example, it can be used to drive business decisions around user experiences on websites and drive the decisions that create effective product launches. Data is not used to the same extent in the construction industry. The collection of data that helps solve onsite problems as well as the opportunity for various sites sharing problem solving data could have hugely positive impacts on efficiency and productivity.
“Tech-specific skills aren’t the problem – but broader skills and competencies at various levels need to be addressed”
The report finds that cultural shifts are paramount in implementing means of training the construction sector in these skills. It highlights that managers and leaders in the field also need to work on their problem solving and digital skills in order to create industry wide change. Impacting the digital savviness of everyone from managers down to on site workers would bring about not only a culture shift into better acceptance of digital tools and technology but also improve top-down and bottom-up communication during change within construction companies.
Clearly the research shows that digital technology doesn’t only speed up processes onsite by using the latest technology such as 3D printing, but also has the opportunity to increase productivity, transform efficiency and generate a new wave of interest from the next generation into the sector as it evolves. It brings with it the promise of revolutionising the construction sector; but first we will need industry funding, influence and a unified approach to bringing about digital change the sector.