“Today is the slowest rate of change that you will ever experience…” Quote by Danish Physicist from the middle of the 20th Century.
Note on the below article: The content of this article was developed from a presentation given by Joule Groups’ David Black – Middle East Director, held at the Safety Design in Buildings event held by the Kuwait Fire Protection Association on March 5th 2019. To hear more about some of these ideas and what Joule Group is doing to innovate, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
Having been in the construction sector for over 10 years I suppose I have not had a deep amount of experience of other sectors. Listening to my colleague David Black speak about how the industry is ripe for a swift change towards practices seen in much more innovative industries was a breath of fresh air.
In fact in the next 10 years we will see more changes in digital technology than we have seen in the past 80 years and the construction industry is going to be at the forefront of that shift. In industries such as automotive and healthcare, the adoption of digital practices has been key to companies staying ahead of their competition. Construction on the other hand is an environment where throwing large numbers of laborer’s at projects has, up until now, allowed for outdated practices to continue.
Part of the problem is that while there are processes and systems that can be repetitive, every construction project could be argued to be unique. Be they different topographic conditions, hydrological, temperature or material considerations, a new building, road or development has its own peculiar concerns restricting a ‘one size fits all’ approach. That is, until now.
Digital Disruption – a Whole New World in Construction
Just as in the automotive industry, outdated approaches rendered firms that didn’t adapt redundant in a matter of a few years. Take electric vehicles, automated and driverless cars and even the eventual phasing out of the friendly taxi driver, the leaders of the construction industry will have to adapt, or decline.
Transformational Change – the Digital Revolution
In a time of transformational change where the pace of change is so rapid it is sometime hard to keep up. Just as the small business owner in the industrial revolution had to radically change everything, from labour practices to the use of technology, so too do we all have to embrace the digital revolution – sometimes also called the Third Industrial Revolution.
Looking at how this revolution affects other parts of society and industries, we too now have to look at how our industry can and will change and what that means for our future roles.
We have to ‘get out in front’ to stay ahead of the curve. It is time therefore to move beyond incremental fixes to an era of transformational change in how we design, engineer, and deliver buildings.
In order to achieve this transformational change in the industry we require exponential thinking which is a completely different thought process to a local and linear scale which the industry has traditionally adopted. This is not to say that techniques used in the industry will altogether disappear but that leaders must adopt a different mindset, one that appreciates that in order to stay ahead, traditional methods will need to be examined and dissected for their relevance and applicability in a digital world.
The IT Industry and Moore’s Law: The performance of computers doubles every 18 – 24 months
Take the IT industry, Gordon Moore – Co-founder of Intel and author of the book Moore’s Law understood that it is a given that ever-more powerful personal computers for less and less money will happen. Only those companies who could keep up would survive.
- a personal computer that cost $3,000 in 1990, $1,500 in 1992, and $750 in 1994 would now cost about $5
- approximately every two years personal computers and other electronic devices can do twice as many new, innovative, and unexpected things than before
Therefore, it is a virtual certainty that two, four or six or more years from now, we’ll be doing more things we didn’t expect to do with electronic devices. Some of those things will be absolutely new, without any traditional precedents. The construction industry will face similar gargantuan leaps in the coming years.
Who will Disrupt the Engineering Industry? A Case Study – Katerra.
Already we are seeing massive investment in the construction industry from technology investment funds and technology companies. A great example of a disruptor is Katerra. They call themselves “a technology-driven offsite vertically integrated construction company who are providing end-to-end building services as a single partner, with robust technology systems connecting everything together.”
Katerra unashamedly wants to become the Starbucks of construction, churning out apartments like lattes. The firm is a one-stop shop for companies that are looking to construct new buildings and provide the whole service (rather than multiple suppliers as the industry currently utilises) from design to construction and all utilising technology to make the process fast, repetitive and of a high quality.
Huge Opportunities Exist for Those Willing to Take the Leap
While the changes that have hit other industries can be a daunting prospect, for those willing to invest in innovation and technology, the rewards will be immense. Here are just a few of the areas companies need to consider innovating in:
- Cloud & Mobile Applications facilitate Stakeholder Collaboration and Communication
- BIM (Building Information Modelling) has resulted in the lines between digital and physical being much less defined.
- Virtual Reality – Creating the ability to provide fully interactive and immersive experiences.
- Augmented Reality – Using Tablet or Mobile Devices, Interacting with Real World Components Through a Screen.
- Predictive Data Analytics – Analyzing Risk Factors based on historical data
By embracing just a few of these examples, anyone in the industry will be ‘out in front’ but the window will close quickly for those who stick to outdated practices. Joule Group too is investing in a range of innovative solutions to help our clients get ahead. That’s for another article though. Stay tuned.
By Michael Brown