Building success: Top 3 construction productivity solutions
The architecture, engineering, construction, and owner-operated (AECO) industry is one of the world’s largest, being expected to reach a value of $12.26 trillion by the end of this year. Despite being such a key player in global economics, it has been slow to embrace digitization and has not reached the sophistication of similar-sized industries like logistics, agriculture, and manufacturing.
Various factors are at play that make it difficult for AECO companies to embrace technology, including relatively low IT budgets and a widespread ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude towards analog processes. It is also a highly fragmented and decentralized industry involving engineers, architects, suppliers, contractors, project managers, and government organizations. While this makes it difficult to digitally connect dispersed stakeholders, it also makes it all the more necessary. The diverse roles and responsibilities in AECO projects underscore the need for efficient digital collaboration.
In October 2018, industry experts applauded the AECO industry for finally embracing digital technologies. Companies were motivated to replace physical blueprints with 3D digital models when cost and efficiency savings became apparent. The exact figure for those savings was put at an estimated $1.6 trillion.
The technology that marked the turning point was Building Information Modelling (BIM) software. Since it hit the mainstream in the late 1980s, BIM has become the standard tool for the initial phases of a project, providing a comprehensive digital representation of a building’s design and acting as a focus for collaborative decision-making. However, it is limited when it comes to construction and deconstruction, and there are certainly strides to be taken.
There are a number of emerging technologies that could work alongside, or replace entirely, BIM programs in AECO companies. Digital twins are replicas of a building that, unlike BIM diagrams, enable virtual interaction and draw real time data from multiple sources. While the term first emerged in 2002, twins are now constructed by an increasing number of AECO companies using IoT sensors and data analytics tools alongside their existing BIM software.
AI will also undoubtedly play a large part in future AECO technologies, for example, determining which drawings belong to which project and matching them to 3D models, reducing the need for human input. They can also be used for predictive maintenance of infrastructure and buildings, helping to detect potential issues before they become critical.
Similarly, design automation and parametric modeling – where design parameters are algorithmically manipulated to generate various design iterations – are getting more advanced. Tools like digital twins allow enable architects and engineers to explore many complex design possibilities rapidly and efficiently in a set of defined criteria.
VR and AR are also likely to play a part in forthcoming AECO technologies. They can allow virtual walkthroughs of buildings and overlay information on the real-world view of a site, helping communicate ideas between disparate teams of designers, engineers, and builders.
But with all these high-end solutions threatening to disrupt the AECO industry, it is important not to forget about simpler tools overdue an upgrade. The results of a survey of almost 200 construction professionals revealed that productivity software was the most significant construction technology going into 2023. This helps on-site teams communicate with those in the back office and ensures the completion of work packages through job ticketing, materials, and equipment tracking, and time and productivity reporting.
Indeed, the global construction management software market is expected to reach $16.6 billion by 2028. Upgrades to existing tools that can be easily swapped in are more likely to be accepted and used by teams than cutting-edge technologies but even point upgrades still positively impact efficiency. Research has found that 77 percent of high-performing projects use project management software, and 62.9 percent of high-performing companies use real-time document editing and file version control features.
Here are three suppliers of construction productivity software that have caught our eye here at Tech Wire Asia:
Bluebeam provides leading PDF management, collaboration, and editing tools, and partners with AECO companies in the long-term to improve standardization and communication across global teams through design, build, and handover. Project partners can mark up and comment simultaneously in real-time, helping to enhance efficiency through the project lifecycle. All files are managed through a centralized project database, making searching for specific documents or text easy.
The suite of products enables users to measure distances, areas, and volumes on digital documents and drawings so they can accurately construct designs and estimate costs. They are also designed to integrate seamlessly with other existing software, including ProjectWise, Revit, AutoCAD, Microsoft Office, and SharePoint, allowing teams to effectively work together wherever they are based and with their preferred tools.
Bluebeam Revu and Bluebeam Cloud – desktop-based and web/mobile versions, respectively – provide a solution to document markup that is more secure and efficient than manual processes on paper and more accessible than even more advanced BIM and design authoring tools.
What makes Bluebeam stand out is its focus on ongoing training and support of customers. The company is dedicated to helping AECO companies with their digital transformations by ensuring the products are used to their full potential through workflow-specific education sessions.
Bluebeam now has three subscription plans to be mixed and matched to fit the team’s size and specific needs. Its efficacy is demonstrated through how, after over two decades on the market, three million professionals use the tools in 165 countries worldwide.
In the next few weeks we’ll be publishing a full feature on the Bluebeam platform, so watch this space.
Contractor Foreman is a comprehensive construction management software solution tailored for AECO professionals and firms of all sizes. With it in place, there is no longer a need for paper-based estimates, schedules, change orders, time tracking, and similar documentation.
Its standout features are its project tracking and scheduling capabilities, which allow users to create and manage detailed project schedules, allocate resources, and track progress in real-time. This ensures that projects stay on time and within budget, reducing the risk of costly delays and overruns.
The Contractor Foreman product, which is accessible on desktop and mobile, also includes robust financial management features, enabling users to track expenses, generate invoices, and manage budgets. Similarly to Bluebeam, the platform integrates with existing software like QuickBooks, which supports a smooth flow of financial data and reduces the need for manual data entry. However, it also reduces the need for an unwieldy tech stack filled with different apps by, for example, enabling users to do time sheets while in the field.
Autodesk BIM 360 is a design and construction management platform that forms part of the Autodesk Construction Cloud and integrates with over 70 external applications. It is more specialized than Constructor Foreman and is designed for instances where AECO teams need to work up detailed 2D and 3D drawings.
On top of typical document collaboration features, it provides advanced project analytics and reporting tools, allowing PMs to gain valuable insights into project performance. These insights can help identify trends and make data-driven decisions to optimize processes and enhance project efficiency.
BIM 360 offers robust document management capabilities with version control and document linking, but what makes it unique is its ability to handle 2D and 3D documents, including DWG files, directly within the platform. The app also allows teams to access 3D models in the field, which is invaluable for tasks like clash detection and quality control. However, if you’re looking for a broader project management solution that can handle non-design-related activities and doesn’t have a particularly steep learning curve, this may not be the one for you.
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