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Challenges faced by the construction industry that technology-enabled general contractors can help overcome

Saturday, May 11, 2019

By Mr Satya Vyas
CEO & Co-Founder, Tornado

Major events that occurred in the Indian construction industry like Real Estate Regulation & Development Act (RERA) and Goods and Services Tax (GST) have enforced the industry to become more transparent and process driven.

Apart from the policy changes, the construction industry has been constantly dealing with severe and long-lasting problems. These challenges restrain the growth projections of the construction industry in India at large. To give these unending issues a way forward, there have been multiple technological advancements in the industry. Lately, new technologies in construction are being adopted in India, however, many companies are slow to adopt new tech. These technologies have made sites safer and increased efficiency of the workers. Thus, enabling us in amplifying productivity, collaborations, and deal with complex assignments.

Few challenges and new age solutions in the construction industry have been enlisted below:

Offsite Construction
This type of construction is typically used in projects with repetitive floor plans or layouts in designs such as apartment buildings, hotels, hospitals, schools. Offsite construction is of two forms: modular and prefabricated. In the modular form, entire rooms can be built complete with MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing), finishes, and fixtures already installed. This works in rooms as small as bathrooms or modules and can be combined to create larger spaces like apartment units. The modular units are transported to the construction site and then have to be attached to the structural frame.

With prefabricated construction, components are built offsite and then assembled once they have been transported to the construction site. Categories like framing, internal and external wall panels, door and window assemblies and multi-trade racks, which are panels with all the ductwork, wiring and plumbing bound together are included in prefabricated building components.

AI & Machine Learning
Construction firms are now using AI on data to make better decisions, increase productivity, improve site safety and lessen risks. AI helps in improving worker productivity by reducing the amount of time wasted moving about the construction site to find tools, materials, and equipment to perform certain tasks. Workers can also be tracked throughout the day.

Sensors installed track how everything is moving about in the construction site. Once enough data sets are collected, AI can analyse how workers move about and interact with the site to come up with solutions to alter the placement of tools and materials to make them more accessible to workers and reduce downtime.

AI can recognize a building component based on its shape, size and location even if only a portion of the component is visible.

Safety & Training
As technology adoption continues to elevate our industry, one aspect getting a lot of attention is safety. Technology solutions are making it easier to properly train and monitor workers to prevent accidents and reduce the rate of worker deaths.

a) Wearables
Wearables are being used to monitor workers and their environment to make the job site safer. Wearable tech in construction is being embedded into apparel and is already common on construction sites like gloves, safety vests and work boots.

Construction wearables are being outfitted with biometrics and they use GPS and other sensors to monitor workers’ movements, etc.

Smart clothing or e-textiles help keep a watchful eye on workers and also help predict an accident before it occurs.

b) Site Sensors
Site sensors used across a construction site to monitor things like temperature, noise levels can be used to reduce exposure to workers.
The sensors are spread throughout the construction site and can alert workers immediately when they are at the risk of permissible exposure levels being reached.

4. Developments and Hazards
Drones can be used to quickly conduct inspections and identify potential hazards. Drones are being used to take photos as work progresses to keep everyone informed of the changing work conditions.

Drones are also being used to tackle more risky jobs, like bridge and vacated building inspections. This won’t eliminate the need for workers, but it will mean that workers will need to be trained on how to use the technology instead of having to perform the tedious and risky tasks.

5. Mobile Technology
Smartphone apps have made communication on projects easier. Instead of driving to the office for impromptu meetings, firms can use mobile technology to facilitate a meeting without interrupting their schedules or wasting travel time.

Construction firms are increasing tech adoption. Companies that are researching and implementing technology are reaping various rewards like increased productivity, better collaboration, and completing projects on time and under budget, which ultimately results in higher profit margins.

6. Productivity
As every construction site is dissimilar with a different set of challenges and risks, streamlining processes and enhancing productivity becomes difficult. In such scenarios, the introduction of software & mobile Apps help manage every aspect of a construction project such as project management, field reporting, preconstruction, scheduling and back office activities. There is a software solution to help streamline processes and improve productivity.

As most of these software solutions are cloud-based, amendments and updates to documents and schedules allow better communication and teamwork. Cloud-based solutions enable on-site employees to submit timecards, expense reports, RFIs, work records, and other verified documentation thereby saving hundreds of hours per year in data entry. This helps in automatically organizing critical files, and saves time in shuffling through files looking for old reports.

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