7 Ways Technology Can Improve Productivity In Construction

7 Ways Technology Can Improve Productivity In Construction

In a world where technology is advancing rapidly, and there’s a mobile app for pretty much anything – why are we so slow to adopt new technology in construction? 

The construction industry is developing some incredible software and hardware to increase productivity and make our lives easier. We could incorporate many of these into our working lives, making us more productive and reducing the number of construction projects that overrun. 

With 70% of construction projects still go over budget – isn’t it time for a change? We’ve had a look at what technology and modern methods of construction are available and how they can be used to improve construction productivity – find out what we discovered. 

 

1. BIM – Building Information Modelling

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a more efficient way of managing, building and working. It combines digital technology, project management, design and architecture, making it easier to build, manage and maintain buildings.

BIM software, like Tekla by Trimble and Revit and BIM 360 from Autodesk, makes it possible to design in 3D and sort out many of the common problems that you find on-site in the design office rather than on a construction site. 

This method of design is suited to new build, refurbishments, and extension projects. It can be used with other site technologies like laser scanning, to map the structure of an existing building or a site. The data is imported into the software to create a common data environment for engineers, architects and constructions companies to work from.

BIM technology enables collaboration between the client, architect, engineer and construction company. The software creates a platform and opportunities for all parts of the construction industry to work together. 

BIM software brings together – architecture, sustainability and site trades including, M&E (Mechanical and Electrical), Plumbing, Quantity Surveying and Site Management.

By having all the elements of a building in one piece of software and making it available as one cloud-based drawing, allows the managers from all trades to visualise the project and collaborate in real-time. 

Integrating all the trades drawings into one building model makes things like clash detection easy so that any potential issues are identified and fixed before construction starts. This clash detection and fault tracking features save time and avoid the delays and frustrations of having to re-do work during the construction phase of the project. 

 

2. VR & AR

Artificial Intelligence and BIM software combined can provide real-time analysis using VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) technology. The combination of these technologies tracks the progress of the projects and ensures the accuracy of the live site to the approved drawings and specs and reduces the risk of human error.

Virtual Reality is also a great way to help a client to visualise the finished building, something that architects find incredibly helpful when designing new builds. The ability to show someone the finished design before work or procurement of materials starts also helps to save time and money.   

 

3. Off-Site Manufacturing

Off-site manufacturing has been around for many years, with precast concrete being one of the biggest, some of the critical advantages of using off-site products in a construction project are: 

  • Reduces construction time
  • Better quality control
  • Increases site labour productivity 
  • More accurate pricing 
  • Less waste and more environmentally friendly 

We can use BIM and 3D designs to precast building elements in specialist factories. Off-site manufacturing can include all significant construction materials like steel, concrete, timber, glass and can consist of complete pods and structures. 

Precasting or prefabricating parts off-site for a construction project will reduce the size of your site teams make them more productive. It will also help construction companies to become more cost-efficient, profitable and sustainable.  

 

4. Modular Construction

Modular construction can be completed on average 50% faster than traditional construction methods. 

Modular buildings, for example, are bespoke and made to order, so there’s very little waste in comparison to on-site builds. Site teams can be digging foundations and installing services at the same time as the main structure being manufactured off-site, with no concern of delays due to poor weather.

Conventional building and construction methods make it harder to keep control of quality and costs, and inevitably end up being more expensive and taking longer to build than planned. Even using project management software and setting realistic goals for completion can go over and result in an unhappy customer. 

Using modular sections in a project will increase construction rates and make your team members more efficient. 

 

5. Plant/Site Equipment

Building sites are often hectic, and access can be tight, making it challenging to manoeuvre big machines around. Over the last ten-years, manufacturers have been working hard to improve site equipment to make them more multifunctional, so it can now do the same job as two or more pieces of plant.  

A lorry loader or Hiab is a perfect example of this. Building materials – like precast retaining walls, can be loaded onto a trailer at a factory and delivered to site. Rather than needing a crane or a second vehicle on-site to unload the lorry and an additional team to install the sections, the vehicle-mounted crane can easily lift and move the products into position. 

Our installation team – Modular Cubed, use this type of vehicle to great effect. Using our vehicle-mounted crane with a hydraulic grab, we can pinch, lift and rotate each section off the back of the lorry and place it into position in minutes. This method of installation requires only the driver/crane operator and an additional one-two team members on the ground to give direction and help with placement. This method of installation is swift, with up to 100m of retaining wall being installed by a three-person team in one day.

  

6. 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing is also known as 3D printing, where a computer controls the layering of products to create a three-dimensional structure. The application of 3D printing within construction is predominantly in the modelling phases at the moment, but it is used in modular building manufacture. 

A mixture of cement, sand, fibres, water, and additives are mixed and pumped into the printing machine. The machine prints layer upon layer to create the desired structures such as walls which are then transported and assembled on site. Future applications are still being researched if there is a way of printing on-site. 

Robotic building for construction is a technology being developed worldwide. The idea is that robots can build with high precision, work 24 hours seven days a week, eliminate human error, and build in all weathers. 

 

7. Wearable Exoskeleton

The first bionic exoskeletons were designed and built in the 1960s, but there’s some dispute between America and Serbia for who came up with the concept first.

Current exoskeletons are available as full-body suits or for specific areas – upper body, lower body or back braces. The idea of using exoskeletons in construction is to minimise pressure on the body when doing repetitive or heavy lifting work, which will reduce the risk of injury and increase lifting capacity. 

Exoskeleton supports are being used in the automotive, shipbuilding, and construction industries. They can reduce strain on the body by up to 80% and weigh anywhere from 2kg to 12kg each.

Most exoskeletons on the market are made using carbon fibre, making them 40% lighter than previous models and can be fire retardant and some even waterproof. 

The lifting mechanisms of the suits can be passive or active. Passive suits use mainly springs for movement – and are most common within the construction industry – while active suits use a motor and batteries or electricity to power them. 

Some studies have suggested that without the need to rest due to muscle fatigue, users were able to complete a day’s worth of work in just over an hour! 

With the potential of labour productivity being that high, exoskeletons could become commonplace throughout the construction industry. As with most technology, the biggest thing holding back change will be the money. With the average upper body support costing between £3,000 – £5,000 each, it’s a sizeable investment for any company.

 

What can we learn from this? 

Construction projects overrun and go over budget all the time and unless we change the way we work, this will remain the same. We also have a lack of resource and skilled labour in the UK, which will slow down the rate of construction with jobs on site not being filled. 

However, if we adopt modern methods of construction and embrace new technology, we have the potential to build faster, cheaper, safer and in a more sustainable way than ever before. 

Using precast concrete products on a project can be up to 70% quicker than building in situ and 50% cheaper. It will use fewer labour resources and reduce delays on site.

Precast concrete manufacturers can help to make construction companies more productive and profitable, and become long term partners to construction workers. Our innovative problem solving and ability to design and build using BIM technology mean we’re ready for a new age of digital construction – are you?