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Slow adoption of digital technology in the construction industry

Tom-Erik von Krogh-Martinsen
January 8, 2015

Slow adoption of digital technology in the construction industry

The featured image illustrates the project manager getting new tasks and assignments from the contractor (notice only the contractor has a secretary, he does not give the "commands" in written format, the plans are on paper and there are workers everywhere...)

Digital technology and the numerous innovations in software programming are adopted by almost every industry as they bring transparency, increase managerial oversight, and in general, bring huge benefits to every company. However, some businesses are still slow to adopt the digital technologies of recent years – especially the construction industry.

It is easy to understand why this might be the case. Such rapid changes are inconsistent with smooth adoption of technology. Think about it: every time Microsoft Word releases a new version of their Office products, you feel uncomfortable with the update. You’d rather stick with the older version, even though the new one has many helpful features and will save you a lot of time in the long turn. The same is true for the whole technology sector.

There is another key factor, as well. A survey conducted on workers in the construction industry produced an interesting response - people didn’t believe that older managers (over 50 years of age) would be as excited and likely to embrace digital technology, as a younger person might be. These results suggest that they might be a perception, deep rooted in older people that would be difficult to challenge and change. And very often they are the decision makers (tollgate) when it comes to implementing new technology. The younger people in the field are used to communicate and distribute images, videos etc. efficiently using their smartphone. But when the managers keep on calling, sending sms and bringing paper drawings to the construction site the enthusiastic younger workers loose interest and they find other work where their "way of living" is more appreciated. So the construction industry loose the "early adopters" and keep the ones that don´t care so much if things move forward or not...

The problem is that the construction industry is actually the slowest one to adopt digital technology. According to research, around 30% of the cost of construction is wasted due to errors, labor inefficiencies and other problems which could be fixed with the help of technology. The reason for this might be in the variability in this sector – it is hard to get all participating parties (engineers, subcontracting firms, designers, and general contractors) to embrace the digital technology at once. This highly fragmented state of the construction industry might explain why it is so challenging for this sector to adopt the benefits of digital technology.

ipad-paper-walkietalkie

Photo: www.equipmentworld.com

Skrevet av Tom-Erik von Krogh-Martinsen

Som forenklingsevangelist og daglig leder i CHECKD, drives Tom-Erik av å gjøre hverdagen enklere og bedre for ansatte i byggebransjen.

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