Constructech is a fantastic resource that offers some news, but also intuitive information that catches attention and provides valuable insight to the construction industry. The blog can also come in the form of a magazine, which is preferable to some.
Quite candidly, something we don’t talk about enough in the construction industry—or any industry for that matter—is how to combat distracted driving. So many people are primarily concerned about what our teens are doing, but the fact of the matter is this epidemic is spreading fast and furious across all areas, and it is something construction companies need to be aware of among drivers and develop strategies to combat. (Although our own Peggy Smedley makes an effort every April to tackle the crises on her podcast in the hopes of raising greatest awareness).
The facts are scary. Every day, at least nine Americas die in distracted-driving crashes. Here’s where it gets interesting. In commercial vehicle fleets, distraction (related to cellphone use, eating, or general inattention) is the second leading driver-related cause of fatal truck crashes.
Lytx recently completed a survey that digs into risky driving among commercial vehicles. Here’s what it finds. Risky behaviors behind the wheel tend to cluster, meaning drivers who engage in one potentially risky behavior are often found engaging in other risky behaviors at the same time. For example, drivers who eat while driving also tend to drive unbelted or follow the vehicle in front of them too closely. The scary fact is it found that 23% of all its scored events included a driver engaging in multiple risky behaviors.
While the amount of hands-free use has gone up significantly (from 27% in 2016 to 65% in 2018), it still found a 13% increase in the overall volume of risky driving behavior involving handheld cellphones during the same timeframe. Further, there was a 10% increase in the overall volume of events in which drivers using hands-free devices engaged in one or more other potentially risky distractions as well.
Stay with me for a minute because this is where the numbers get really frightening. A multi-tasking driver engaged in multiple potentially risky distracting behaviors has a 100% increase in risk over a driver engaged in one potentially risky, distracting behavior. Also, driver cellphone use occurs most frequently at 65 miles per hour.
It is important to recognize the reality—and risk—of driving distracted. Too often, we are starting to take it as a societal norm, but the reality is it increases risks of businesses—significantly.
Here’s what your company can do today to combat this:
Recognize the risk exists. Acknowledge it. Share the information with colleagues. Talk about it regularly.
Create training programs and educational sessions that help workers recognize the risks.
Leverage technology. It can actually be a tool to help here. Technology can help capture risky driving events, giving manager real information about what is happening behind the wheel, in order to help prevent it in the future.
Only by talking about it and taking the steps to address it will we begin to solve the distracted-driving epidemic among businesses. Safety is such a top priority, and this is one area that needs to be addressed in construction today and in the future.
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We are entering the era of robotics and AI (artificial intelligence), where machines can help make decisions about work being done on construction jobsites, while also taking some of the back-breaking tasks off workers. A historically labor-intensive industry, robotics offer an opportunity to help automate projects and heighten productivity.
New research points to growth in construction robotics specifically. Tractica suggests that the market will reach $226 million worldwide by 2025, with a growing number of construction companies leveraging robots to solve labor shortages and speed up construction tasks. The largest market in terms of unit shipments will be for robot assistants used on construction sites, followed by infrastructure robots, structure robots, and finishing robots.
Naturally, one of the most obvious opportunities for robotics in construction is using machines to do labor-intensive work. Think bricklaying machines, which already exist today. However, Tractica forecasts that more than 7,000 construction robots will be deployed to address a variety of construction and demolition tasks by 2025.
Here’s one example: AMP Robotics recently launched a dual-robot system focused on material recovery in a number of spaces including construction and demolition. It is guided by the AMP Neuron AI platform and uses robots to sort, pick, and place materials. Leveraging computer vision and machine learning, it can direct the robots to pick and place targeted materials.
For a robot to be truly effective, it needs the intelligence to help guide it. In many cases, early adopter construction companies are already recognizing this and are implementing AI to monitor projects. Such is the case with Fluor Corp., which announced late last year that it is using an AI-based system to predict, monitor, and measure the status of EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) megaprojects. The technology helps to form the foundation for analytics to help predict critical project outcomes and provide early insights into the health of the projects.
While it isn’t necessarily using robotics, the AI is foundational for any large, complex capital project that has a huge amount of data that needs to be managed. Being able to harness the data in a way that can be easily understood is critical to moving infrastructure projects forward.
As more projects begin to tap into AI—and soon robotics—construction companies will have an opportunity to improve productivity on jobsites. It is only a matter of time before machines start performing tasks. In fact, if Tractica predictions are true, it is only a matter of six years before there are 7,000 robots on jobsites, performing tasks. Get ready. The age of robotics and AI for construction is coming.
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Down South, the Growing the Gulf initiative is leading to a lot of new projects. For example, recently, ExxonMobile announced a $2 billion Baytown Chemical Expansion project, which was originally developed in 1919 and is located on about 3,400 acres along the Houston Ship Channel, about 25 miles east of Houston. The facility includes a refinery, chemical plant, olefins plant, plastics plant, and global technology center.
The expansion, which will start in 2022, will include a new Vistamaxx performance polymer unit, which develops products that offer higher levels of elasticity, softness, and flexibility. The project will also enable the company to enter the linear alpha olefins market, which are used in a number of applications including high-performing engine and industrial oils.
The Baytown facility is one of the largest integrated petrochemical complexes in the United States and is one of the most technologically advanced refining and petrochemical complexes in the world. It will create 2,000 jobs during construction and will contribute about 15% return the company expects from its chemical investments.
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From retail, to hospitals, and everything in between, new projects are emerging across the country, with a focus on renovating public spaces. Such is the case with the Hampton Inn Jacksonville Downtown I-95 Central, which is a 118-room inn, with a major renovation of its exterior building structure and guest rooms.
Here’s what is inside the $1.5 million renovation: exterior structural improvement to building, LED (light-emitting diode) lighting around the new rooftop, and new LED exterior signage. Further, updates to the interior include wall vinyl throughout, as well as new contemporary furniture in the common areas and guest room.
Guest rooms also feature the ability to work, with well-lit work desk, ergonomic chair, and high-speed wireless Internet access throughout the hotel. This is one example of how new projects are bringing renovation to spaces.
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Digital transformation is essential for the construction industry—but the disruption to business process can be challenging. In particular, ERP (enterprise-resource planning) software offers an integrated approach to business processes ranging from sales to accounting, CRM (customer-relationship management), and beyond.
By implementing an ERP solution, businesses can boost efficiency and productivity by streamlining processes; they may also cut costs. Many enterprises are employing ERP and other solutions as part of their digital transformations and increasing focus on the IoT (Internet of Things).
The global ERP software market is expected to reach nearly $42 billion by 2020, according to Allied Market Research, and this growth is due in part to business’ need to enhance operational efficiency and transparency within their organizations. The value placed on efficiency and transparency has grown, because data can now be made available for so many aspects of business and life.
While ERP adoption and implementation as part of enterprises’ digital transformations is on the rise, challenges still exist. A new study by Third Stage Consulting Group takes a look at results organizations that have recently completed digital transformation initiatives are experiencing and outlines various hurdles they faced in implementing ERP and HCM (human-capital management) solutions.
What does implementation actually look like for most companies? The Third Stage “2019 Digital Transformation, HCM, and ERP Report” found that for midsize companies ($50 million to $1 billion in annual revenue), most implementations require 14-16 months and require 3-5% of annual revenue. For large companies ($1+ billion in annual revenue), most implementations take 31-34 months and require 2-3% of annual revenue. Factors that had the most impact on implementation and costs include the magnitude of change within an organization, the complexity of operations, and the level of software customization.
The research also examined the level of operational disruption organizations undergo after a digital transformation. More than half of companies involved in Third Stage’s 2019 study experienced a “material operational disruption” at go-live, which may include major issues such as not being able to ship product. These disruptions, which lasted anywhere from weeks to months, had devastating impacts on the cost of implementations, in some cases increasing initial implementation costs by up to 300 times.
To avoid these disruptions, organizations pursuing digital transformations, including ERP implementations, should pursue an ironclad plan of attack with as much buy-in as possible from as many stakeholders as possible. Third Stage found that organizations that spent more time defining clear business processes in the beginning were less likely to experience a disruption, as did higher rates of alignment among people within organizations. In other words, everyone should be on the same page. Higher levels of investment in organizational change and training also decreased the likelihood of disruptions, and thorough process and system testing before go-live helped too.
The business case for IoT is getting stronger, but organizational change isn’t easy. Following best practices may not be enough to ensure businesses have a clear path ahead. The more defined future business processes are, the more aligned C-suite and project teams are, and the more gung-ho employees are about the change, the more likely businesses are to minimize implementation time.
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I always pause when I hear about new emerging technologies—because quite candidly, technology only brings value if it solves a critical business problem.
Things like AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), drones, robots, AI (artificial intelligence), and more are only as good as the process improvement it provides. That is why I am always excited when I see the opportunity for emerging technology to answer a real business need.
Let’s look at one example today: augmented reality. This technology quite simply superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world. Think Pokémon Go.
While AR is often associated with gaming, there is a real opportunity for it to impact construction, and some technology providers recognize this. For instance, Trimble has launched a mobile AR tool designed specifically for technicians in the field.
The objective is to connect field service technicians with support experts. Here’s how it works: The tool provides remote users with a shared, live view using the camera on a smartphone. Both individuals can digitally annotate the screen and provide realtime assistance to conduct maintenance and repairs.
The benefits here are vast. Technicians no longer rely on paper manuals and are able to quickly complete time-critical jobs by collecting key information. Further, it increases collaboration and knowledge sharing across the workforce—something highly needed today, as experienced workers need to share knowledge with new workers, as the workforce begins to change. Also, workers are able to easily capture, record, and replay information or support sessions as needed.
This is one example. I do believe there are real benefits for emerging technologies such as AR, VR, drones, robots, AI, and more—but only if we first recognize the business needs and respond with the technology where it fits best.
What are you seeing? What technologies offer the biggest opportunities for the construction industry today? What business problems exist that can potentially be solved with technology? And what needs to happen next in order for us to reach the place where the new technology is in place, and solving those needs?
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A decade ago, construction was near the bottom of the list of industries that had adopted technology in a significant way. It was a bad rap for the industry, but it also effectively threw down the gauntlet. There’s been a huge shift in the industry as construction companies realize that technology needs to be a core part of their business.
The companies I talk to say they need to reduce risk and build more predictability into their projects. If they can do that, they can be more productive and achieve better margins. Adopting construction-management technology is the first step toward managing risk. When all project-related documents are captured digitally—including things like change orders, RFIs (requests for information), submittals, and issue reports—significant information is amassed and grows with each new project. Machine-learning tools can automate the process, helping find the root causes of persistent problems. From quality issues to safety risks, companies can use big data to identify construction trends and drive better outcomes on future projects.
Adopting construction technology doesn’t stop at automating construction management. Contractors are looking to technology to help deliver better outcomes across the board for their employees, their companies, and their clients. It’s possible to amass enough information in just one to three years to predict the risk factors and make changes to improve performance on future projects.
If contractors use machine learning to benchmark KPIs (key performance indicators) for quality and safety and set goals with a net-positive impact on the business, margins will improve. Ultimately, profits will improve, too. Quality and safety are two of the biggest factors that impact productivity on the jobsite and, therefore, profitability. Anything a general contractor can do to reduce risk, to make sure workers leave the jobsite safely every day, will have a huge impact on its bottom line.
When multiple companies and project teams come together to execute a complex project, there is potential for multiple points of failure. These issues can originate at the design stage and propagate through on-site construction, where they may not be discovered until it’s too late to fix.
Whether it’s a design error that has to be corrected or construction that has to be reworked, mistakes pose real safety concerns on the jobsite. Quality affects safety, and safety affects quality. The challenge is to prevent issues from occurring in the first place.
The solution is identifying the root causes using the abundant data captured by construction technology. Machine-learning tools can predict, flag, and prioritize quality and safety issues that need to be addressed, preventing problems on future projects. Any construction company will tell you that it needs to reduce risk and make projects less complex and more predictable. Technology is the way to do that—preventing frustrating holding patterns and getting the business on a safer and faster flight path.
Construction isn’t just about the manual labor and equipment on the jobsite; technology is a valuable tool in a firm’s toolbox. That’s the mind-set that wins jobs, drives productivity, and delivers better projects. It’s also the attitude the construction industry will need to adopt to meet the tremendous demand for buildings and infrastructure through 2040.
Jim Lynch is vice president and general manager of Autodesk Construction Solutions, where he leads Autodesk’s efforts to create and deliver products and services, which provide the foundation for a digital construction workflow.
Safety is perhaps one of the biggest initiatives and tenants for construction companies across the country, and many have safety programs. Here’s a closer look at one.
As part of the initiative, Shawmut Design and Construction has promoted Shaun Carvalho to vice president of safety, who is launching new task forces and software platforms that identify and document hazards, allowing teams to immediately address any issues and prevent incidents.
The company has rolled out new technologies, such as SmartVid.io, which reduces risks by leveraging AI (artificial intelligence) to detect safety performance in jobsite photos, while also measuring trends, providing workflow analysis, and allowing the teams to spot PPE (personal protective equipment) compliance, environmental hazards, and fall protection, among other hazards.
Further, ConstructSecure, a safety-monitoring app, allows project teams and safety managers to make informed decisions to improve performance based on data. It facilitates site inspections and tracks incidents. Finally, it is also piloting the use of a wearable device that automatically connects to a network when workers arrive on site, tracking workforce location by floor and zone. This helps detect falls and improve injury response time by 91%.
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ERP (enterprise-resource planning) continues to come to the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry, with more companies signing on to use enterprise software and solutions for project-based businesses.
One recent example is architecture and interior design firm Zebra is now using Deltek. The architecture company, with offices in Dubai, London, and Phoenix, and a team of 120 architects, prides itself on working closely with its clients to understand their vision and ensure each design delivers an immersive customer and guest experience.
Leveraging ERP, Zebra is able to have realtime visibility and control of projects including financial, client, and resource management. The technology enables it to manage the end-to-end workflow of its company, with functions for business development, project and resource planning, reporting and dashboards, and financial management. The system is also modular, allowing it to easily change functions and scale as the business continues to grow.
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Constructech Technology Days 2019 is a two-day conference focusing on the global issues facing the construction industry and building the cities of the future all while overcoming infrastructure and urbanization challenges with the use of innovative and technology solutions.
What: With a two-days of sessions and two tracks, one focusing on the U.S. and the other on global, the Constructech Technology Days Conference will look how to build sustainable cities of tomorrow, leverage innovative technology, construct future infrastructure, and gather insights into reducing the labor shortage.
Who: The conference is open to project managers, builders, GCs, trades, IT directors, directors of transportation, data manager, village managers, and more—anyone who is in the construction industry and is interested in learning more about technology.
When: August 21 – August 22, 2019.
Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago – Arlington Heights, Ill.
Why: With an aging infrastructure, a skilled labor gap, and myriad of other challenges facing the construction industry today, Constructech Technology Days 2019 provides attendees with the opportunity to identify ways to effectively use technology to be most efficient in the office and at the jobsite.