The construction industry used to be known as the world where new technology and technological advances were not welcome. Generations of construction workers trusted in the old ways of doing things, and the industry itself was not interested in adopting technology unless it was mandated by new laws.
However, as a newer generation starts to take over the operation of the construction industry, new technology is being embraced at every level of the construction process. Construction company owners are seeing a significant increase in productivity because of the way they have been adopting technology, and it looks like we are only seeing the beginning of what engineering can do to make construction safer, more efficient, and more profitable.
Technology Is Improving Safety And Productivity
One of the ways technology is changing things is through augmented reality. Augmented reality is the ability to project data onto certain points and collect real-time information that can help to improve working conditions. For example, augmented reality put into a new safety vest would be able to measure all of the vital signs of a worker as they went through the process of doing their job. This data can be used to determine where workers are experiencing real strain on their bodies and help to develop more efficient and safer ways to get those jobs done.
Another fascinating use for augmented reality can be found in special glasses that can project images onto a job site and give a project manager the chance to see digital representations of various stages of a project before the project even begins. These glasses can also be used to collect 3D images of the progress of a project to let site supervisors determine if the work is on schedule, and see any imperfections in the work that needs to be corrected before the project can continue.
Site supervisors can also use 3D images to determine if there are any discrepancies between the design on paper and the real project as it is being constructed. This can help engineers to determine issues with designs before it gets too expensive to make corrections. Engineers can also determine if the current state of the project creates any safety hazards that must be corrected before work can continue.
Changing The Way Projects Are Done
Technology is not only giving construction companies the ability to see projects from angles they could never see before, but it is also changing the way construction is being carried out. Drones are becoming very popular for monitoring ongoing project progress and getting data that could never be gathered before. Now construction companies can see true progress as a project is in production, and they can utilize drone 3D imaging to create tangible progress reports for clients that will show the actual progress of a constructed building, instead of just offering pictures and written reports.
Construction companies are significantly cutting back on construction costs using 3D printing technology to open up a whole new world of possibilities for affordable housing. It is now possible for a computer to print a home using a 3D printer in 24 hours. While it sounds like something from a science fiction movie, it is very much a reality and it is technology that can bring affordable housing to inner cities and even third world countries.
Improving The Dynamic Between Company And Worker
While construction companies are extremely happy about how new technology can lower costs and increase job site safety, technology has another effect that many companies were not expecting. In order to truly develop new technology that works, construction companies and technology developers need to get input from the people in the field who need and will use that technology. This synergy between company and worker that helps to create new technology is helping companies to improve teamwork and, by association, reduce turnover and accidents.
Advanced construction companies such as Skanska USA are reaching out to their field workers to find ways that technology can improve workflow. Workers make recommendations on what needs to be developed, and the management team gets to work bringing those ideas to life. The process requires constant interaction between management and workers to make sure that the ideas being exchanged are accurate and precise.
When new technology is developed, the company develops training materials that help to bring the entire workforce up to speed on how to use the technology that was developed. Over the course of time, the field personnel and management work together to refine training materials for the new technology and make updates to make the technology even more efficient.
Companies like Skanska USA are embracing this entire process as an opportunity to get the field personnel personally invested in the success of the company. Not only is this method helping to create new technology that makes the workers’ jobs easier, but it is also helping to cut down on costs for the company.
The Internet Of Things
The ability for the construction industry to be open to adopting technology is now allowing the industry to take advantage of what is know as the Internet of Things. Internet-enabled construction equipment is becoming more and more popular, and the purpose of enabling equipment to connect to the Internet is more than just a desire to make equipment as independent as possible.
Engineers are working on ways to connect everything from jackhammers to hard hats to the Internet in an attempt to collect valuable information that can significantly affect a company’s bottom line. For example, a jackhammer connected to the Internet can reveal the actual power of each impact and how those impacts affect the life of the machine. Instead of guessing when a jackhammer may need service, an Internet-enabled device would be able to alert the company to when it needs service. This cuts down on how long the jackhammer would be out of commission and lets the company understand how to make its equipment last longer.
A hard hat that is connected to the Internet can collect worker vital signs, wind speed information for parts of a project that are at higher elevations, and information indicating how the structure moves in the wind at various speeds. All of this information can be used to create better safety policies, allow companies to more closely monitor workers in dangerous conditions, and keep a close eye on weather conditions that could significantly affect the project’s progress.
The Future Of Construction Looks Bright
There was a time when the construction industry was absolutely not interested in adopting technology for any reason. Many of the methods used in construction had been developed over centuries, and the purists refused to put centuries of innovation to the side for slick and cold technology. However, as younger engineers and entrepreneurs start to infiltrate the construction industry, new technology is finding a home in almost everything a construction company does. Some companies are even allowing technology to build the buildings in record time, and that is opening up whole new worlds of possibilities for the future.
With construction companies now taking the lead in developing new technology, the sky is the limit for the future. In the years to come, we could see exoskeletons that allow workers to carry steel beams without cranes and completely digital progress reports for project owners. Now that the construction industry has opened its doors to technology, the future is exciting for this proud and iconic field.