Innovative technologies redefining the construction industry

ANDAbout 15 years ago, one of my companies acquired its largest managed IT services outsourcing client, a regional construction player hiring in Barbados and St. Vincent. At that time, work in construction plants consisted primarily of establishing small office networks providing basic services. The expectations and possibilities of integrating smartphone technology were not as common as they are today.

Regardless, construction technology was one of the more difficult but interesting topics for me. Until recently, with the exception of computer-aided design (CAD) and basic productivity tools, innovation in construction was not as dynamic as in extra-regional jurisdictions. Our regional experience was labor-centric and, to this day, labor- and material-intensive, more so than in other industries.

However, there are a few specialized areas where we are at the forefront of innovation and the use of newer technologies. For example, the use of prefabricated concrete structures by local industry leader Preconco. When we acquired a construction client, it inspired us to create a prototype platform called Pivotal Stone where industry partners could share updates and details. We have provided direct links to suppliers such as Carters and Harris Paints for purchasing solutions in the near future. Although the system was not implemented, it highlighted the potential of technology integration in construction. When thinking about this, I wanted to see where the industry was around the world and what local construction industry players might adopt.

Modern technology is significantly shaping the construction industry in several ways. A review of my industry has allowed me to identify three general areas where most construction companies could benefit significantly from short, medium and long-term investments if they have not already been implemented:

  1. Drones and aerial imaging: short-term investment (days – weeks)

Within days, companies can use drones to perform thorough site surveys and rapid building inspections, enabling precise mapping and measurement of construction sites. Drones provide the added benefit of facilitating long-term maintenance inspections, particularly for tall buildings where routine inspections can pose significant risks to life. They enable real-time progress tracking, providing up-to-date visual data to project managers and stakeholders.

  1. Construction project management (CPM): medium term (weeks – months)

With modern CPM software, companies can sign up in a matter of days or weeks, depending on how the software integrates with their workflow and meets their needs. These companies can effectively create and manage project schedules with real-time updates using reliable digital tools. As cloud-based platforms, these tools enable seamless collaboration with third parties, including subcontractors and clients. This facilitates comprehensive project planning and management, ensuring tasks are assigned, tracked and completed on time. With an intuitive interface, teams can stay informed and aligned, leading to smoother project execution and higher productivity.

  1. Robotics and automation: (Long-term investment – ​​from a month to years)

Robotics and automation, while still emerging and expensive, have come a long way and represent solid feasibility for long-term investments. Technologies such as FBR Ltd’s Hadrian-X robot can significantly increase efficiency and precision in tasks such as masonry and concrete pouring. These innovations reduce labor costs and minimize human error while increasing safety by performing hazardous tasks, thereby protecting workers and improving overall project performance.

Whenever the discussion centers around the automation of tasks, it often leads to concerns about changing the workplace, such as masonry and the use of current technologies such as precast concrete, which integrate infrastructure elements such as plumbing and electrical installations during the construction process. However, the potential to create new jobs needs to be recognised. Focusing on redundancy can cause us to miss the many opportunities this advancement presents.

Here are some potential new jobs created by these new technologies:

  • Construction data analyst: Analyzes data from project management software to optimize project schedules, budgets, and resource allocation.
  • Aviation research specialist: Analyzes aerial imagery and data to provide accurate location assessment and mapping.
  • Specialist in the integration of construction technologies: Integrates various smart devices and smart sensors into the overall construction project management system to increase efficiency and safety.

The construction industry, like many others, is on the cusp of a technological revolution, driven by innovations such as drones, construction project management software and robotics. These improvements promise to increase efficiency, precision and safety in various aspects of construction. While there are legitimate concerns about job relocation, it is important to recognize that these technologies also create new opportunities for employment and skills development. Roles such as construction data analyst, aerospace survey specialist and construction technology integration specialist are examples of the new job market emerging thanks to these innovations.

By leveraging these changes and investing in both short and long-term technology solutions, the construction industry can not only improve its processes, but also pave the way for a more efficient, safe and dynamic future.

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