The construction industry is notorious for being late adopters of advanced technology and new trends. While still a relatively new thing, the construction industry has some of the world’s most impressive innovations including wearable safety vests that include airbags to keep the wearer safe from a fall or impact as well as helmets that store solar energy to power this tech.
In 2020 and even into early 2021, you can expect to see some of the below tech and innovations really skyrocket as the industry catches up. It is becoming ever-present that construction companies are struggling to keep costs down and on the flip side maintain a solid workforce as quality, skilled labour is becoming more and more difficult to find. The 5 top construction industry trends for 2020 are:
- Efficiency improving technology
- Mobile technology (apps and connectivity)
- Modular and prefab construction
- Green construction
- Better safety equipment
These 5 construction industry trends each serve the purpose of making the construction industry a more productive, cost-effective, innovative and safe industry to work in. Take a look at what you can expect to see on more construction sites around Australia in the coming months.
1. Efficiency Improving Technology
Long gone are the days of paper plans and diaries featuring the project timeline and plan. Not only are these technologies improving efficiency on the worksite but some of the software programs available improve safety and training options as well as help decrease costs and monitor machine progress.
As the name suggests, there are a number of programs available that enable a contracting company to generate, send, monitor and have the delegated authority to sign off full construction projects on their tablet, mobile, laptop or desktop. Around 60% of all contracts within the construction industry are already digitised with the remaining 40% still struggling with the change and still pushing paper contracts. What are the benefits of using digital contracts? It’s instant. After the initial discussion, contracts can be prepared and sent within minutes with the signature of approval following not long after that. Paper contracts run the risk of getting lost or damaged when on-site and often becomes a low priority, therefore taking a lengthy period for final approval to come through.
Augmented Reality offers an innovative and efficient way to train workers without them needing to leave the site or without the expensive mobilisation costs of on machine training. Not to mention the construction fly-throughs and renderings that can be provided to clients that enables them to have a holistic view of the project in its entirety, which mitigates approval times.
iSeekplant has long been using machine telematics to bring the real-time locations of our suppliers machines to our plant hire searchers. Not only do these help searchers find available plant hire, but allows plant hire suppliers to take stock on their machines and monitor the actual work hours they are performing. Secondary to this, telematics provides a security option with real-time GPS availability becoming a deterrent for would-be thieves.
Remote Control of Construction Machines
Ever wanted to operate your construction machine from the comfort of your own living room? Well, some of the world’s largest machine manufacturers have now made that dream a reality. From CAT to Komatsu, you now have the ability to easily, safely and effectively remote into your machine from miles away and conduct your work. Not only does this improve working conditions, it also alleviates travel expenses and a need to send workers away for a long period. Another benefit includes the 24/7 operation of the machine with operators being able to remote in from other countries in their own time zones.
Drones have been hanging around for a while however, in the last year have become a must-have on job sites around Australia. These little devices compute a huge amount of information about a job site for the project manager in a relatively short amount of time, with minimal resources needed and money spent. From mapping project progression as well as potential safety hazards and surveying potential job sites, the humble drone has come a long way in a short time with the only requirement being ability to fly the drone.
2. Mobile Technology (apps and connectivity)
It’s official, we are more connected to our mobile devices then we have ever been before, with 1 in 3 people worldwide owning a smartphone. It is only natural that the workplace and construction site moves to a more mobile-friendly landscape and this includes mobile apps that are specifically designed for use on the worksite.
Project management apps such as Asana are leading the way with a full project outline of what project tasks are starting when as well as keeping sub-contractors and trades accountable for their own timelines.
Communication on construction worksites is imperative to the fluid running of the project and ensures everyone is on the same page. Communication apps such as Slack enable anyone on the construction site access to the project communication channel. This instant messaging tool allows each individual involved in the project the opportunity to communicate through the designated channels.
If a vote of the construction industry was taken today, they would vote that paper pushing and admin tasks are the worst part of being onsite. It’s laborious, boring, difficult and more often than not either lost at some point or completed incorrectly.
An app that we are monitoring closely is the FingerCAD app. This app enables you to make technical CAD drawings (with the help of the program) of your design while you are onsite.
Another great app you should be aware of if you aren’t already is the iSeekplant app. It’s inevitable that you are going to need construction machinery on your site. In the palm of your hand, you can get quotes and book your rollers, excavators, ADTs, skid steers, graders, water carts and more from the app. Machine broken down and need a replacement yesterday? The iSeekplant app has everything you need and can connect you with local suppliers with real-time data on machine availability.
Invoicing is a nightmare, especially for owner-operators who are on the job site all the time managing the books as well as getting their hands dirty. Xero and MYOB both have apps you can download as a client that gives you the ability to create and send invoices from your mobile device. There are other apps on the market as well that give you this same function including apps such as Invoicely and Invoice Mini which are both free to use.
3. Modular & Prefab construction
The residential market is booming and more than ever we are seeing modular houses and prefab construction being used for a number of reasons, number one being ease and efficiency of construction.
Modular homes or buildings are created not too dissimilar to an Ikea flat pack. The home is built in a factory or warehouse and is then transported to the permanent site where it is put together and finalised. This process is also known as pre-fabrication.
There are not many companies and contractors that provide this in Australia just yet however this sector of the industry is expanding as more demand for trendy and innovative homes at a fraction of the cost becomes a hot commodity. Some Australian companies that are currently leading the way include:
4. Green Construction
Green Construction isn’t quite as easy as planting a couple of shrubs on the side of a building. The whole Green Construction movement is about creating a more sustainable form of construction that not only withstands the test of time and is a quality product, but is beneficial for the environment and minimises the carbon footprint both during and after construction.
Green construction or eco-friendly construction includes product selections of materials that are sustainably and locally sourced or made as well as implementing technology such as solar energy, using treated timber frames and merging design with functionality.
5. Better Safety Equipment
Safety is always a high priority at any workplace and with a heavy focus on how we can ensure the safety and longevity of workers on any construction site, companies are always coming up with new ways to move safety equipment forward into the future.
Exoskeletons are robotic extensions that are worn by a worker that enables them to lift and carry, without overexertion, weights that are otherwise unsafe to lift alone. Some Exoskeleton manufacturers have been able to produce a variant that allows workers to easily lift 90kgs.
Site Sensors identify toxins in the air
Unfortunately, toxic gases and substances are a common occurrence on construction sites, especially older buildings that were built with materials comprising of asbestos. As this is such an issue for workplace health and safety, toxic chemical detectors have been developed that help aid in the safekeeping of workplace employees. These toxic detectors come in a few variations including handheld devices and more permanent detection stations.
Machine sensors that detect surroundings and implement emergency
Safety on the worksite is really where the true innovation lies and just like the new advanced features we are seeing in new model cars these days, plant hire machines are also deploying collision avoidance systems and autonomous braking solutions. A real leader in this space in Australia is Conplant. Not only do they provide high-quality plant hire machines to purchase but they have taken it one step further and developed the Intelligent Integrated Collision Avoidance System. This system is as high tech as it sounds and uses a True 3D Smart Camera with intelligent functions to detect potential collisions and then implement the correct measures to avoid these collisions. We all know construction sites can be a crowded and busy place and with systems like this in place, the workplace has become just that little bit safer.
Virtual Reality Training
Ever had to travel to multiple worksites and training venues just to be safety inducted or complete training for your high-risk work license? Well, not anymore thanks to Virtual Reality Training. Not only does this form of training merge the need for both theory and practical training but it does it all under one roof. Gain practical knowledge and experience through virtual reality goggles that enable you to practice how to safely work at heights through realistic simulations as well as implementing check and apply knowledge as an example.
Smart Wearable Devices
From helmets that include GPS tracking, heat detection and chemical exposure to safety vests that have airbags and motion detectors that tell you when you are too close to machines. Smart Wearable safety devices are and have been part of the industry for quite some time however they have taken a while to be adopted by companies and their employees. The main issue is workers are worried that companies will use these devices as productivity monitors and as a way to spy on their workers instead what they are intended for - safety and worker protection. While still dealing with some teething issues, smart wearable safety devices will be abundant on worksites across Australia in the very near future.
The construction industry is ripe for the picking in terms of space to innovate. Those trends have plenty more growing to do and what we believe will skyrocket and become common industry practice is the use of prefab or modular homes, green construction and smart wearable safety devices. Another way the industry is innovating is through the materials used to perform daily tasks. Check out this post about how a humble bolt is changing the face of the form hire industry.