A MEConstructionNewsANALYSIS by Andrew Skudder, CEO. CCS, Guest Author, warning construction firms of the risks of not digitising operations, posted on April 25, 2019, is republished here for its obvious benefits to the MENA’s development.
With the Middle East construction sector under growing pressure as a result of a tightening economy, construction companies should be looking at ways to streamline their business processes, improve cash flow management and tighten risk management. Those that sharpen internal processes and systems today will be best positioned for an upswing in government and private sector investment in the years to come.
The sector faces numerous challenges – challenging economic growth, shrinking margins, skills shortages, rising resource and labour costs – which means it’s under pressure to start innovating.
Investment in tech is behind the curve
The challenges the industry faces are compounded by the fact that many construction groups have not digitised operations such as cost-consulting. This means they lack visibility into – and control over – the many variables, changes, people and equipment involved in any construction project.
Middle Eastern construction companies should be looking for ways to use technology to drive higher productivity, achieve cost-savings and improve project management to weather a tumultuous time for the industry. However, the lean years of late, have seen IT spending in the construction industry stagnate, despite the accelerating pace of innovation around the world.
For example, adoption of wearables, 3D printing, driverless heavy vehicles, drones and building information modelling is rising in the global construction sector. To take full advantage of these advanced technologies, many local construction companies will first need to modernise their core back-office systems.
They should be looking towards tried and tested solutions for estimating, project control, enterprise accounting and operational costing. These solutions will enable them to drive down the costs of maintaining legacy applications, help them to become more agile and give them clearer real-time visibility into business performance.
Breaking down silos
Construction performance and progress cannot be monitored on financial data alone; engineering information is just as critical. Engineering control includes generating and managing allowable and actual quantities of resources, wastages, manhours of labour, production of equipment and time for construction activities.
Without digitisation, an organisation has no clear indication of the status of the contract because it doesn’t have real-time visibility into these factors. Today’s business solutions can break down the silos, enabling estimators and accountants to produce real time-reporting, and yet continue to work in the language that is meaningful to them.
Integrated back-office systems spanning procurement, project control, cost estimation, sub-contractor management and accounting give construction companies one source and view of the truth, enabling them to manage an entire project with real-time visibility into costs and performance.
Using this data can help construction firms make better strategic and operational decisions. Data-driven insights can enable them to better manage cashflow and project risks, so they can better predict and mitigate payment delays, rising costs and other challenges. It can also help companies to drive higher levels of profitability through better project planning.
Building a foundation for the future
Looking to the future, a robust business solution is also a foundation upon which construction companies can layer drones, robots, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced digital technologies. Such solutions enable construction companies to manage and analyse big data produced by sensors, devices and workers so they can drive productivity and innovation – AI, for example, can help them rapidly process the data to find key insights.
Construction companies should embrace digital transformation to drive higher productivity, improve efficiency and gain a competitive advantage. Transforming their core business with a proven solution will help them prepare for the future, with a possibility that infrastructure spending will show signs of life again in the near future. Now is the time to lay the foundation for the next wave of growth.
I can still recall my surprise when a book by evolutionary biologist Peter Lawrence entitled “The making of a fly” came to be priced on Amazon at $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping). While my colleagues around the world must have become rather depressed that an academic book could achieve such a feat, the steep price was actually the result of algorithms feeding off each other and spiralling out of control. It turns out, it wasn’t just sales staff being creative: algorithms were calling the shots.
This eye-catching example was spotted and corrected. But what if such algorithmic interference happens all the time, including in ways we don’t even notice? If our reality is becoming increasingly constructed by algorithms, where does this leave us humans?
Inspired by such examples, my colleague Prof Allen Lee and I recently set out to explore the deeper effects of algorithmic technology in a paper in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems. Our exploration led us to the conclusion that, over time, the roles of information technology and humans have been reversed. In the past, we humans used technology as a tool. Now, technology has advanced to the point where it is using and even controlling us.
We humans are not merely cut off from the decisions that machines are making for us but deeply affected by them in unpredictable ways. Instead of being central to the system of decisions that affects us, we are cast out in to its environment. We have progressively restricted our own decision-making capacity and allowed algorithms to take over. We have become artificial humans, or human artefacts, that are created, shaped and used by the technology.
Examples abound. In law, legal analysts are gradually being replaced by artificial intelligence, meaning the successful defence or prosecution of a case can rely partly on algorithms. Software has even been allowed to predict future criminals, ultimately controlling human freedom by shaping how parole is denied or granted to prisoners. In this way, the minds of judges are being shaped by decision-making mechanisms they cannot understand because of how complex the process is and how much data it involves.
In the job market, excessive reliance on technology has led some of the world’s biggest companies to filter CVs through software, meaning human recruiters will never even glance at some potential candidates’ details. Not only does this put people’s livelihoods at the mercy of machines, it can also build in hiring biases that the company had no desire to implement, as happened with Amazon.
In news, what’s known as automated sentiment analysis analyses positive and negative opinions about companies based on different web sources. In turn, these are being used by trading algorithms that make automated financial decisions, without humans having to actually read the news.
In fact, algorithms operating without human intervention now play a significant role in financial markets. For example, 85% of all trading in the foreign exchange markets is conducted by algorithms alone. The growing algorithmic arms race to develop ever more complex systems to compete in these markets means huge sums of money are being allocated according to the decisions of machines.
On a small scale, the people and companies that create these algorithms are able to affect what they do and how they do it. But because much of artificial intelligence involves programming software to figure out how to complete a task by itself, we often don’t know exactly what is behind the decision-making. As with all technology, this can lead to unintended consequences that may go far beyond anything the designers ever envisaged.
But the algorithms that amplified the initial problems didn’t make a mistake. There wasn’t a bug in the programming. The behaviour emerged from the interaction of millions of algorithmic decisions playing off each other in unpredictable ways, following their own logic in a way that created a downward spiral for the market.
The conditions that made this possible occurred because, over the years, the people running the trading system had come to see human decisions as an obstacle to market efficiency. Back in 1987 when the US stock market fell by 22.61%, some Wall Street brokers simply stopped picking up their phones to avoid receiving their customers’ orders to sell stocks. This started a process that, as author Michael Lewis put it in his book Flash Boys, “has ended with computers entirely replacing the people”.
The financial world has invested millions in superfast cables and microwave communications to shave just milliseconds off the rate at which algorithms can transmit their instructions. When speed is so important, a human being that requires a massive 215 milliseconds to click a button is almost completely redundant. Our only remaining purpose is to reconfigure the algorithms each time the system of technological decisions fails.
As new boundaries are carved between humans and technology, we need to think carefully about where our extreme reliance on software is taking us. As human decisions are substituted by algorithmic ones, and we become tools whose lives are shaped by machines and their unintended consequences, we are setting ourselves up for technological domination. We need to decide, while we still can, what this means for us both as individuals and as a society.
Global research and advisory firm Gartner has highlighted the top strategic technology trends that organizations need to explore in 2019 in its special report titled “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019”.
Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.
Cearley: The Intelligent Digital Mesh continues as a major driver through 2019
“The Intelligent Digital Mesh has been a consistent theme for the past two years and continues as a major driver through 2019. Trends under each of these three themes are a key ingredient in driving a continuous innovation process as part of a Continuous NEXT strategy,” said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow.
“For example, artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of automated things and augmented intelligence is being used together with IoT, edge computing and digital twins to deliver highly integrated smart spaces. This combinatorial effect of multiple trends coalescing to produce new opportunities and drive new disruption is a hallmark of the Gartner top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019.”
The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019 are:
Autonomous things, such as robots, drones and autonomous vehicles, use AI to automate functions previously performed by humans. Their automation goes beyond the automation provided by rigid programming models and they exploit AI to deliver advanced behaviours that interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people.
“As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things, with multiple devices working together, either independently of people or with human input,” said Cearley.
“For example, if a drone examined a large field and found that it was ready for harvesting, it could dispatch an “autonomous harvester.” Or in the delivery market, the most effective solution may be to use an autonomous vehicle to move packages to the target area. Robots and drones on board the vehicle could then ensure final delivery of the package.
Augmented analytics focuses on a specific area of augmented intelligence, using machine learning (ML) to transform how analytics content is developed, consumed and shared. Augmented analytics capabilities will advance rapidly to mainstream adoption, as a key feature of data preparation, data management, modern analytics, business process management, process mining and data science platforms.
Automated insights from augmented analytics will also be embedded in enterprise applications — for example, those of the HR, finance, sales, marketing, customer service, procurement and asset management departments — to optimize the decisions and actions of all employees within their context, not just those of analysts and data scientists. Augmented analytics automates the process of data preparation, insight generation and insight visualization, eliminating the need for professional data scientists in many situations.
“This will lead to citizen data science, an emerging set of capabilities and practices that enables users whose main job is outside the field of statistics and analytics to extract predictive and prescriptive insights from data,” said Cearley. “Through 2020, the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of expert data scientists. Organizations can use citizen data scientists to fill the data science and machine learning talent gap caused by the shortage and high cost of data scientists.”
The market is rapidly shifting from an approach in which professional data scientists must partner with application developers to create most AI-enhanced solutions to a model in which the professional developer can operate alone using predefined models delivered as a service.
This provides the developer with an ecosystem of AI algorithms and models, as well as development tools tailored to integrating AI capabilities and models into a solution. Another level of opportunity for professional application development arises as AI is applied to the development process itself to automate various data science, application development and testing functions. By 2022, at least 40 percent of new application development projects will have AI co-developers on their team.
“Ultimately, highly advanced AI-powered development environments automating both functional and nonfunctional aspects of applications will give rise to a new age of the ‘citizen application developer’ where nonprofessionals will be able to use AI-driven tools to automatically generate new solutions. Tools that enable nonprofessionals to generate applications without coding are not new, but we expect that AI-powered systems will drive a new level of flexibility,” said Cearley.
A digital twin refers to the digital representation of a real-world entity or system. By 2020, Gartner estimates there will be more than 20 billion connected sensors and endpoints and digital twins will exist for potentially billions of things. Organizations will implement digital twins simply at first. They will evolve them over time, improving their ability to collect and visualize the right data, apply the right analytics and rules, and respond effectively to business objectives.
“One aspect of the digital twin evolution that moves beyond IoT will be enterprises implementing digital twins of their organizations (DTOs). A DTO is a dynamic software model that relies on operational or other data to understand how an organization operationalizes its business model, connects with its current state, deploys resources and responds to changes to deliver expected customer value,” said Cearley. “DTOs help drive efficiencies in business processes, as well as create more flexible, dynamic and responsive processes that can potentially react to changing conditions automatically.”
The edge refers to endpoint devices used by people or embedded in the world around us. Edge computing describes a computing topology in which information processing, and content collection and delivery, are placed closer to these endpoints. It tries to keep the traffic and processing local, with the goal being to reduce traffic and latency.
In the near term, edge is being driven by IoT and the need keep the processing close to the end rather than on a centralized cloud server. However, rather than create a new architecture, cloud computing and edge computing will evolve as complementary models with cloud services being managed as a centralized service executing, not only on centralized servers, but in distributed servers on-premises and on the edge devices themselves.
Over the next five years, specialized AI chips, along with greater processing power, storage and other advanced capabilities, will be added to a wider array of edge devices. The extreme heterogeneity of this embedded IoT world and the long life cycles of assets such as industrial systems will create significant management challenges. Longer term, as 5G matures, the expanding edge computing environment will have more robust communication back to centralized services. 5G provides lower latency, higher bandwidth, and (very importantly for edge) a dramatic increase in the number of nodes (edge endoints) per square km.
Conversational platforms are changing the way in which people interact with the digital world. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) are changing the way in which people perceive the digital world. This combined shift in perception and interaction models leads to the future immersive user experience.
“Over time, we will shift from thinking about individual devices and fragmented user interface (UI) technologies to a multichannel and multimodal experience. The multimodal experience will connect people with the digital world across hundreds of edge devices that surround them, including traditional computing devices, wearables, automobiles, environmental sensors and consumer appliances,” said Cearley.
“The multichannel experience will use all human senses as well as advanced computer senses (such as heat, humidity and radar) across these multimodal devices. This multiexperience environment will create an ambient experience in which the spaces that surround us define “the computer” rather than the individual devices. In effect, the environment is the computer.”
Blockchain, a type of distributed ledger, promises to reshape industries by enabling trust, providing transparency and reducing friction across business ecosystems potentially lowering costs, reducing transaction settlement times and improving cash flow.
Today, trust is placed in banks, clearinghouses, governments and many other institutions as central authorities with the “single version of the truth” maintained securely in their databases. The centralized trust model adds delays and friction costs (commissions, fees and the time value of money) to transactions. Blockchain provides an alternative trust mode and removes the need for central authorities in arbitrating transactions.
”Current blockchain technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations. This is particularly so with the complex elements that support more sophisticated scenarios,” said Cearley. “Despite the challenges, the significant potential for disruption means CIOs and IT leaders should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don’t aggressively adopt the technologies in the next few years.”
Many blockchain initiatives today do not implement all of the attributes of blockchain — for example, a highly distributed database. These blockchain-inspired solutions are positioned as a means to achieve operational efficiency by automating business processes, or by digitizing records. They have the potential to enhance sharing of information among known entities, as well as improving opportunities for tracking and tracing physical and digital assets. However, these approaches miss the value of true blockchain disruption and may increase vendor lock-in. Organizations choosing this option should understand the limitations and be prepared to move to complete blockchain solutions over time and that the same outcomes may be achieved with more efficient and tuned use of existing nonblockchain technologies.
A smart space is a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems. Multiple elements —including people, processes, services and things — come together in a smart space to create a more immersive, interactive and automated experience for a target set of people and industry scenarios.
“This trend has been coalescing for some time around elements such as smart cities, digital workplaces, smart homes and connected factories. We believe the market is entering a period of accelerated delivery of robust smart spaces with technology becoming an integral part of our daily lives, whether as employees, customers, consumers, community members or citizens,” said Cearley.
Digital Ethics and Privacy
Digital ethics and privacy is a growing concern for individuals, organizations and governments. People are increasingly concerned about how their personal information is being used by organizations in both the public and private sector, and the backlash will only increase for organizations that are not proactively addressing these concerns.
“Any discussion on privacy must be grounded in the broader topic of digital ethics and the trust of your customers, constituents and employees. While privacy and security are foundational components in building trust, trust is actually about more than just these components,” said Cearley. “Trust is the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation. Ultimately an organization’s position on privacy must be driven by its broader position on ethics and trust. Shifting from privacy to ethics moves the conversation beyond ‘are we compliant’ toward ‘are we doing the right thing.’”
Quantum computing (QC) is a type of nonclassical computing that operates on the quantum state of subatomic particles (for example, electrons and ions) that represent information as elements denoted as quantum bits (qubits). The parallel execution and exponential scalability of quantum computers means they excel with problems too complex for a traditional approach or where traditional algorithms would take too long to find a solution.
Industries such as automotive, financial, insurance, pharmaceuticals, military and research organizations have the most to gain from the advancements in QC. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, QC could be used to model molecular interactions at atomic levels to accelerate time to market for new cancer-treating drugs or QC could accelerate and more accurately predict the interaction of proteins leading to new pharmaceutical methodologies.
“CIOs and IT leaders should start planning for QC by increasing understanding and how it can apply to real-world business problems. Learn while the technology is still in the emerging state. Identify real-world problems where QC has potential and consider the possible impact on security,” said Cearley. “But don’t believe the hype that it will revolutionize things in the next few years. Most organizations should learn about and monitor QC through 2022 and perhaps exploit it from 2023 or 2025.”
Analysts will explore top industry trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2018 running from March 4 to 6, 2019 in Dubai, UAE.
Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and senior IT leaders, uniting a global community of CIOs with the tools and strategies to help them lead the next generation of IT and achieve business outcomes. More than 25,000 CIOs, senior business and IT leaders worldwide will gather for the insights they need to ensure that their IT initiatives are key contributors to, and drivers of, their enterprise’s success.
Audiovisual Heritage of the UN News came up with this call to action for all to try and ‘bring to life’ any audio-visual recordings of their life, be it private or public, all presumably for posterity’s sake.
Old, grainy film and video footage from years gone by, not only stirs powerful memories – it’s also a vital resource for future generations, the United Nations cultural agency has highlighted, urging everyone to safeguard audio-visual heritage and make archives more accessible.
These images and sounds recorded on film, video and audio tape, “feed into our collective memory and establish links between generations”, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in her message marking the official World Day for Audio-visual Heritage.
“[However,] this memory, which has remained alive and is essential to historians, scientists and ordinary citizens seeking knowledge of their past, is nonetheless fragile,” she added, noting the increasing neglect of archives which are made up of what is now obsolete analogue media, like LP records and quarter-inch audio tape.
Focusing this year on the theme, “Your Story is Moving,” UNESCO, in partnership with the Coordinating Council of Audio-visual Archives Associations (CCAAA), is calling on everyone to showcase personal and family archives.
“Bringing them out of lofts and cellars, sharing slices of life, moments captured on film or videotape, can bring alive, with emotion, an existence that has become a thing of the past,” continued Ms. Azoulay in her message.
“Heritage is not an inanimate object; it is full of meaning, significance and all the emotions that have accompanied the lives of past generations,” she added.
Alongside events globally to mark the World Day, UNESCO is also appealing on everyone to share their stories with the hashtag #AudioVisualheritage to bring their own “moving stories” to the world.
Preserving world history at the UN
In this special video, take a peek into the work of our expert UN archivists, as they protect tens of thousands of records documenting the history of diplomacy from the last century, preserving them for future generations.
Marked annually, on 27 October, the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage aims to raise awareness of the importance of audio-visual documents, redouble efforts to safeguard them and promote greater access to archives.
The World Day is a commemoration of the adoption, in 1980, of the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images by the 21st UNESCO General Conference.
“It is safe to say that there is no sector or industry that has not been impacted by the ongoing digital transformation and the innovative technologies” said Ali Al Jassim, CEO, Etihad ESCO in an article of TECHNICAL REVIEW MIDDLE EAST on Monday, 24 September 2018.
Ali Al Jassim is the CEO of Etihad ESCO. (Image source: Etihad)
The advent of smartphones, social media, intelligent manufacturing and automation are set to transform the future of industries, including electric power systems. The electricity sector is poised to take advantage of the rapid digital transformation, with US$1.3 trillion of value estimated to be captured globally between the year 2016 and 2025.
Be it renewable energy, non-renewable energy or any other source of energy at generation – it doesn’t matter – power system is still going to play a pivotal role in future. Being an integral part in transmission and distribution (T&D) and with continuous growth in energy demand, power system has to be smart and robust to support sustainability.
With the introduction of smart automation, artificial intelligence and continuous monitoring a lot can be achieved. These can help in estimation of future loads, seasonal requirements on grid accordingly generation can be planned using sum of renewables and non-renewables source. Smart power systems can help in minimising T&D losses, also it can help in better maintenance, power quality, sustainability.
The disruptive convergence of digital technology advancements is marked by its customer-centric nature; on-demand, tailored consumption; and a decentralised infrastructure. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to the World Economic Forum, ‘builds on the digital revolution and combines multiple technologies that are leading to unprecedented paradigm shifts in the economy, business, society, and individually,’ we need to ensure that the growth of electric power systems is in the right direction.
As energy efficiency and sustainability continue to be the biggest challenges we face today, the electric power industry is witnessing a period of sustained growth to cater to the rising energy needs. Modernisation initiatives such as the deployment of smart grid solutions will support the continuing growth of the sector’s infrastructure, as new facilities get added to the existing network and incorporated with the installed base. Grid intelligence will aid planners and operators in successfully navigating the increasing complexity of safe and reliable power supply and delivery.
Even as renewable power generation technologies expand to contribute to reducing the total amount of energy consumed, yet they cannot completely displace the necessity for new baseload generation. Fossil generation sources that provide cleaner and lower emissions will continue to be the mainstay of power generation additions. As the industry envisions its future, nuclear power is expected to grow in significance, but this will also give rise to challenges for industrialised countries.
Demand reduction and the need for new generation additions can be attained through conservation and efficiency improvements to an extent. For the installation of new substations in thickly populated urban areas with intense load densities, compact designs with reduced footprints will be imperative.
An ideal mix of power generation resources will encompass central station power, supported by renewable energy sources including wind and solar technologies, and eco-friendly distributed generation complemented by consumer demand side response programs. The right mix of these resources will lead to the creation of an efficient and feasible energy market with balance. A central and distributed generation capability will also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since renewable energy can be effectively used to serve load based on resource availability, in response to consumer demand.
The problems plaguing the current electric power system include aging infrastructure, unreliability, weather-related outages and security concerns. Energy loss during transmission, another major drawback of the existing power system, happens during the transmission of energy from large power plants to the consumers through extensive networks over long distances. Electricity transmission and distribution losses average about five per cent of the electricity being transmitted and distributed annually in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Despite the current challenges faced by the electric power industry, the opportunities for improvement are numerous. If integrated under appropriate interconnection standards, in microgrids, or in automated distribution systems, distributed resources can help improve grid reliability and resilience for customers who seek uninterrupted service.
There is no doubt that the need of the hour is a modern power system that is capable of supporting the development and deployment of increasingly clean energy and energy-efficiency technologies. Such systems will have certain essential features as identified now and may need more of them that will become apparent over time. Further development and implementation of a regulatory framework and business models that provide incentives for power generators, system operators and utilities that focus on reducing or eliminating pollution and other environmental damages, is the most essential feature. System reliability, protection of physical and virtual assets from malicious or accidental damages, enhancement of grid infrastructure, and safeguarding consumers from unfair pricing and other pitfalls must also be focus areas. An ideal electric power system will be the one that creates sustainable business models for firms in the power sector, while also achieving these goals.
The automation of distribution has immense potential in optimising the reliability and performance of distribution systems. As the industry aims to capitalize on the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems, major investments in new distribution automation and distribution management systems can be expected in the near future. The potential of digital technologies in accelerating the sector’s modernisation and growth is immense and can add exceptional shareholder, customer and environmental value. This is exactly what makes these times both exciting and challenging for our industry.
As we turn to leveraging the fundamentals of digitisation to increase the life cycle of energy infrastructure and to optimize electricity network flows, Energy Service companies are set to play an increasingly important role in regulating the electric power system to ensure the efficient use of energy by providing valuable data on energy losses in the system to customers and helping them resolve these issues.
AMEInfo published this Expert opinion on how, on August 28, 2018, the Middle East construction looks bad on paper as narrated by Stephan Degenhart, Managing Director at Drees & Sommer Middle East, a leading European consulting, planning and project management enterprise .
“One of the main causes of poor efficiency in the construction industry is a majority of industry players still depend upon paper documentation, such as supply-chain orders, design drawings and daily progress reports to keep track of current processes and deliverables.”
Without digitization, significant delays can be incurred when sharing information.
Relying on paper trails to share documents increases the risk of data being exposed to human error when being captured and analyzed. It is important this is properly managed as detailed performance analytics can help avoid future issues.
Due to the vast amount of information that is processed throughout the duration of a project and the time it takes for a document to change hands, paper trails are notorious for slowing down and hindering the efficiency of processes. This leads to disagreements between clients, developers, and contractors, highlighting an impending need for digitized project-management and solutions to aid collaboration and mobility. A greater uptake of digitization will lead to project management in the construction industry having increased access to mobile-enabled field supervision, digital project planning, digital budgeting and the efficient management of documents across the entire scope of a project.
Digitisation in project management allows for smoother and more efficient processes on site, resulting in significant time and financial savings. For example, a recent study by the consulting firm, Roland Berger, found construction workers only devote 30% of the time to their principal activity. The remaining 70% is consumed by other errands such as looking for materials, transporting materials to complete a job and cleaning up on-site. Introducing digital tools can help streamline these processes and mitigate the loss of both time and financial resources onsite and throughout the construction process. Materials and equipment can be tracked at the click of a button and manpower allocated where and when they are needed.
Software has been developed to ease processes such as the delivery of building materials to the site, ensuring they arrive precisely when they are needed. Storage needs can be significantly reduced as a result. Smart, connected construction machinery can help optimize the utilization of workers and construction vehicles, ensuring certain jobs are not over-allocated with human or technical resource – another common issue digitization has helped many developers overcome.
To support digitization as a growing trend in modern construction, certain technology has already been developed to help locate products and materials. This enables construction workers to devote more time to their principal activity rather than engaging in time-wasting activities that can cause delays to the entire project. Products fitted with RFID2 technology can be identified using magnetic fields. These products can also be registered and scanned, which creates transparency regarding the whereabouts of machinery and human resources on site.
Recent research by McKinsey & Company found construction is currently one of the Middle East’s least digitized industries. The sector stands to achieve significant benefits by adopting technologies that increase productivity as digital collaboration tools, which could raise productivity by as much as 15% and reduce project costs by up to 45%.
Of course, an important tool being used by many in the digitization of the construction industry is Building Information Modeling (BIM). The main benefits presented by using BIM include: minimized planning errors, timely calculation, quantified extra costs and alternative strategies. BIM also provides a digital simulation of the entire project before the first brick is even laid. Due to rapid technological advances and the rate at which the global construction industry is becoming digitally orientated, the absence of digitization is very likely to result in companies falling far behind their more digitally-inclined competitors. Tools such as BIM include all parties involved in the project, from the initial planning phase of the construction process through to completion. This makes processes and responsibilities transparent and comprehensible for everyone, contributing to the efficient implementation of the entire construction process.
The McKinsey & Company study also found 75% of those companies adopting BIM reported a positive return on their investment. The same report found companies who had adopted BIM reported shorter project life cycles and savings on paperwork and material costs. Given these benefits, a number of governments, including those in Britain, Finland, and Singapore mandate the use of BIM for public infrastructure projects.
As the UAE transitions towards a knowledge-based economy, the construction industry is also evolving, so projects can be executed smarter and more efficiently than ever before. By implementing digital methods in project management, construction companies will be able to gain an edge, boosting productivity and efficiency. Conversely, companies that prefer to stick to older more traditional methods are likely to be overtaken due to lower quality of projects they are able to deliver, as well as the inevitable delays to match the standards set by their competition.
UAE companies that choose to adopt and implement these approaches will have to initiate a major shift in their internal planning, design, procurement and construction processes. Investments will need to be made into automation and an effective supply-chain system to ensure streamlined and on-time transportation of materials to the construction site. Companies that decide to integrate their supply chains will also have to plan for other manufacturing-related investments to stay ahead of the curve.
BIM is already much more than a software: as it changes the way people collaborate and the coordination processes, the digital revolution encompasses so much more than software and programmes. Digitisation means digitally enhancing everything that can be improved or optimized. It is easy to use digital tools to manage people and track customer relationships, but the real challenge is changing the way people work. In order for the Middle East’s construction industry to keep pace with international markets, digitization needs to start from the inside, processes need to be revolutionized step-by-step, people need to be trained and there needs to be a shift in thinking towards a more digitized future. This will pave the way for a more productive, cost-efficient, profitable and technologically-driven regional construction industry.