Construction industry professionals to get access to technology. Source: Shutterstock

Construction industry professionals to get access to technology. Source: Shutterstock

Singapore’s construction industry takes a huge step towards digitization

TECHNOLOGY has been slow to disrupt the construction industry, but the benefits offered by cutting-edge innovations can no longer be ignored.

In Singapore, the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU) has signed an agreement with infrastructure consultancy company Surbana Jurong to train 630 staff on digital construction techniques.

According to Surbana Jurong, the commitment was sealed through an MoU signed in the presence of the National Trades Union Congress Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng, to form a Company Training Committee (CTC) as the key vehicle to drive further upskilling efforts in the company.

The initiative is in line with the Construction Industry Transformation Map created by the Singapore government’s Building and Construction Authority.

Through the CTC, employees will be equipped with advanced industry-specific technology skills in the areas of design, construction, and site inspection, which they will immediately apply in current or near-term projects.

The company also said that training places will be set aside for new employees as well to help them understand the technologies that the company is set to deploy.

Although the initial agreement is to train 630 employees, the company has 3,600 employees in Singapore and expects to expand its digital training program to help more employees embrace and adopt tools that will enable more productive and safer work environments.

It’s interesting to note that the company also set up a Digital Management Office in 2016 which has been experimenting with end to end Building Information Modelling (BIM), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and drone technology, among other things.

According to the training program Surbana Jurong shared, all of these technologies are going to make their way into the field in the coming months — paving the way for other companies in the region keen on exploring the use of intelligent solutions but holding back for one reason or another.

McKinsey, the global consulting giant, works with some of the biggest construction companies in the world. Recently, the think tank issued a whitepaper that lays out five tips for companies going ahead with digitization:

# 1 | Focus on fixing pain points, not installing IT solutions

Too many digital transformations fail because companies look at solutions and invest in what is most exciting or interesting.

Often, these investments don’t yield the best results because they neither fit into the organization’s ordinary workflow or gain the support of employees who have to go out of their way to use the digital tool. In order for construction companies to succeed with digital projects, the best route is to find pain points and tackle those using IT.

Two of the biggest pain points are documentation and asset management — and digital solutions in this space can be quite useful in most cases.

# 2 | Implement digital use cases that promote collaboration

Construction companies typically employ large groups of workers and have a strong cadre of engineers and managers who run different parts of the project on different sites.

Given the number of vendors, clients, government bodies, and third parties that each site has to deal with, managers need tools that can not only simplify the capture the specific communications but also promote collaboration so that operations run smoothly and seamlessly.

# 3 | Reskill and restructure engineering teams

Engineering teams often need a little help adapting to new technology, especially to tools such as BIM that they might not have any experience with.

Once they get up to speed, they are likely to turn into advocates of technology applications in the civil engineering and construction space — given how much time it saves them and the value it brings.

Further, in some cases, it’s a good idea to add IT executives to engineering teams in order to help engineers take their IT deployments to the next stage and possibly use a bit of custom programming for projects.

# 4 | Adjust project baselines to capture value

When using technology, some cadres of construction staff can potentially save a lot of time thanks to automation and other advanced technologies.

In order to truly measure the return on investments, construction companies must re-work their baselines for all projects across workflows, tasks, and cadres, to measure savings and value.

# 5 | Connect projects to unlock impact across the enterprise

When companies invest in technology, irrespective of industry, they do so piecemeal. As a result, technology solutions aren’t necessarily integrated.

In the construction industry, companies often adopt different technology solutions that suit different projects based on location, team structure, and strength, or other factors.

However, in order to really get the most out of technology investments, companies need to find ways to connect projects to unlock any hidden synergies.