What is Digital Transformation in Construction
20 November 2023
Digital transformation within the construction industry refers to the comprehensive integration of digital tools, process automation, and digital communication methods. This multifaceted approach has brought about significant benefits by reducing costs, enhancing efficiency, and improving project outcomes.
Why pursue Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry?
The implementation of digital transformation has yielded notable advantages, including cost reduction and streamlined construction timelines. The utilisation of digital planning and design tools empowers project teams to identify and resolve potential issues before construction commencement, resulting in cost and time savings. Furthermore, digital transformation has facilitated task automation, minimising errors and expediting task completion.
Examples of Digital Advancements in Construction
Numerous digital tools have been adopted across architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) disciplines, ranging from commonplace applications to cutting-edge technologies. Here's an overview of these digital construction tools, encompassing both familiar programs and innovative solutions:
- Cloud-based software applications and data storage systems enable project teams to input, coordinate, and access information within digital environments known as Common Data Environments (CDEs). A notable example is Building Information Modelling (BIM) software, which leverages CDEs to automatically disseminate plan updates to all subscribers. This process surpasses the speed and efficiency of traditional paper-based document sharing.
- Mobile technology serves as a prevalent asset that simplifies communication and reduces the need for physical travel. Mobile devices enable instantaneous project updates and crucial safety alerts. These devices can operate offline, which is valuable for remote project sites with limited or no network connectivity. Information can be collected onsite, stored, and then uploaded to cloud servers when a connection becomes available.
- The Internet of Things (IoT), smart sensors, and wireless networks provide real-time insights through remote sensors, often integrated into BIM systems. IoT systems monitor material and asset movements, optimising logistics, inventory management, and theft prevention. On-site workers can wear sensors to enhance safety, triggering alerts in hazardous zones or near dangerous substances.
- Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, offer rapid data collection capabilities. UAVs conduct swift surveys, generating topographic maps at a fraction of the time and cost compared to traditional methods. They also create 3D site maps and perform visual inspections of inaccessible areas, facilitating early problem detection.
- Machine learning AI and Big Data analytics enhance accuracy in forecasting resources like finances, labour, equipment, and materials. Over time, machine learning refines forecasts based on historical project data and real-time inputs from on-site workers, IoT devices, and UAVs. These insights inform estimations for project timelines, equipment utilisation, materials usage and productivity.
- Digital twins, virtual representations of physical components or ongoing operations, play a pivotal role in monitoring progress and identifying potential issues. Continuously updated digital twins enable prompt issue detection and resolution. For instance, construction equipment digital twins can be monitored to ensure optimal performance. Additionally, digital twins serve external purposes, validating the functionality of installed systems for future monitoring.
Achieving a comprehensive digital transformation necessitates a systematic approach that engages all stakeholders, equipping them with essential information, tools, and knowledge for successful implementation.