The year is 2022: the cellular networks are expanding their 5G capabilities, Mark Zuckerberg is creating the ‘Metaverse’, and business to business relationships are almost completely remote in most parts of the country. What does that mean for the construction industry? Construction has lagged behind the rest of the world with the adoption of technology but we are rapidly approaching a ‘tipping point’ where the rest of the world is getting so far ahead that business is being conducted in two different languages and causing all sorts of miscommunication.
The pandemic caused a massive shift in how a typical company conducts business. Employees can wake up, hop on their laptop and start working, eliminating an hour or more of getting ready, commuting to the office and sitting down at their desk. Meetings are almost entirely done via Microsoft Teams or Zoom calls, no more driving to other offices and checking in at the front desk to sit down at a conference room table. But a standard job site is not awarded these luxuries. The product is a tangible, immovable entity and requires the project team to be on site tackling different issues that arise while the project progresses. What we are now seeing is a lack of an on site presence from the Project Team (architect’s, engineer’s, clients and property manager’s) who would rather stay at their place of work and hop on a call to discuss the latest project updates, rather than meet on site to review everything and get a better understanding of what we are physically building on site. This results in miscommunications and unclear direction that can be costly and waste a lot of time.
Through the use of AutoCAD, BIM and other digital 3D modeling, there is a future in construction where the Project Team can work completely remotely while also not missing a beat of the day to day progress of the job site. But making this a reality creates more work for those on site. It will require the on site team (Project Superintendent, Project Engineer and Foremen) to utilize these technologies and 3D cameras to update the rest of the off site team. So although it could streamline and make one half of the teams job easier, it takes a lot of time for the other half to continually update the project’s status, time that could be spent actually moving the job along. Not to mention, the cost associated with BIM and other software’s is a huge factor depending on the size of the project.
Long story short? We need to stop leaning on technology to “make jobs easier” and make the effort to be on site with the entire Project Team, at least once in a while. On the other side, construction companies should be putting an emphasis on adopting some of these new technologies and encouraging their on site team to learn how to utilize them in an efficient manner. But the ends need to justify the means, and until it makes economic sense, contractor’s are not going to be spending money just so they can have the new cool toy.
Maybe one day we can put on a headset and walk through a job site virtually, but we are not there yet.