A CATALYST FOR CHANGE: EMBRACING DIGITAL CONSTRUCTION IN LIGHT OF COVID-19

Matt Wiseman at RMD Kwikform explains how digital construction can help reduce project revisions and why now’s the time for transformative changes to the industry’s working practices

Catalyst

From worksite lockdowns and supply chain disruptions to delayed and suspended projects, there’s no denying that Covid-19 has hit the global construction industry hard – and Ireland has been no exception. Last year, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) launched a scathing attack on the country’s partial lockdown of construction on the industry, its employees, clients and the wider economy. Citing an independent economic report commissioned by Construction Information Services, the CIF stated that the industry can operate at full capacity without contributing to the spread of Covid-19.

While workers began returning to work on residential, early learning and childcare sites as Covid-19 restrictions eased, there was still frustration within the industry that building work in the remaining parts of the sector could not resume. Indeed, the CIF argued that Ireland was the only country in Europe where the construction industry had been partially shut down.

Catalyst

Accelerating innovation
Nevertheless, for many within the industry, the global pandemic has accelerated innovation. Long before Covid-19, many construction businesses’ processes, operations and procedures were considered to be outdated, with the global pandemic further bringing this to light. One McKinsey report predicted big changes should be expected across the construction industry over the next decade, adding that the bulk of short- and long-term pandemic-driven issues will be solved with technology. It reports that the mandate for change and technological adoption in construction has never been stronger, with the Covid-19 pandemic “only serving to provide additional urgency to the pre-existing productivity and data-visibility issues facing construction companies.” And while contractors, architects, engineers and suppliers have shifted to working and collaborating digitally over the past year, the pandemic has also triggered a painful shakeout, with many contractors seeing “shrinking backlogs and more competitive bidding environments.”

Now more than ever, digital engineering represents a key opportunity to help businesses in the industry remain competitive and innovative. Many believe that in years to come, this period will be viewed as a pivotal time that acted as a catalyst for change, leading the construction industry into a stronger and more robust future. With the ‘new normal’ now the norm, digitalisation is playing a key role in helping get projects back up and running again.

Indeed, in PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, even before the disruption of Covid-19, 77% of engineering and construction CEOs were already planning for more 4IR operational efficiencies to drive growth. Today, digital engineering capabilities are set to become even more of a key differentiator for those seeking efficiency gains, while helping the industry navigate disruptions and mitigate risks.

Seizing digital opportunities
One key benefit to digital engineering tools is how seamlessly they can help everyone involved view, interrogate and communicate information and questions about a project. The latest digital engineering tools also offer high quality and realistic 3D visualisations of temporary works on a build, helping to break down any communication barriers and ensure transparency across the supply chain for any specified systems. The outcome is reduced risks, as any potential issues can be quickly raised and remedied by contractors when seeing a temporary works solution in-situ. Digital solutions also streamline work processes, as the systems and product details can be viewed in an accessible and easily digestible format.

Furthermore, digital technology not only helps to improve productivity and streamline decisions across the supply chain but can also play a crucial role in helping contractors win tenders for important projects. Early collaboration at the pre-tender stage can reap real rewards. By using digital engineering technology, recommendations on project structures and construction phases, not to mention the ability to identify any potential challenges, can be ascertained.

During the design phase, digital construction technologies can also help reduce revisions, eliminate redundant conversations between parties, and ensure any errors are quickly identified. Improved health and safety standards and better workforce planning are possible too. BIM, for instance, models all components of the construction process. This includes tools, people, resources, materials and so on, throughout a building’s lifecycle.

In addition, digital tools can help illustrate to users how to best assemble, manoeuvre and dismantle equipment ahead of delivery, ensuring site operatives stay in line with social distancing measures at all times, or even map out areas of work so that touchpoints can be better controlled.

Embracing change
In response to evolving working practices in the industry, RMD Kwikform has created LocusHUB; a ‘one-stop’ hub for all its digital innovations and resources.

Available at https://locushub.rmdkwikform.com, LocusHUB brings together all RMD Kwikform’s digital assets, including apps, product videos, CAD resources and technical data.

Designed and developed to meet the changing needs of the construction industry, LocusHUB offers users an evolving library of digital tools to help optimise working processes and improve productivity levels. Tools on LocusHUB include LocusEye, RMD Kwikform’s innovative 3D visualisation software, which offers high quality interactive 3D models of temporary work schemes. RMD Kwikform’s entire catalogue of material handling and guidance notes for its products is stored on LocusHUB, too.

There is no denying the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the construction industry, but the sector should also try and see this as an opportunity to embrace digital construction, smarter project management and better health and safety procedures. In a way, the global pandemic may serve as a catalyst for change. Not only do digital engineering tools help hugely with collaboration, but they provide vital opportunities to manage and control costs, while also preventing waste and better controlling risks.

Ultimately, we must now embrace the opportunities that digitalisation offers, which will help drive substantial operational improvements and add real value for those in the industry.

To find out more about LocusHUB from RMD Kwikform, visit https://locushub.rmdkwikform.com

Matt Wiseman is Divisional Digital Innovation Manager at RMD Kwikform

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Denise Maguire   Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine

Email: denise@mcdmedia.ie      WWW.MCDMEDIA.IE