Construction industry is going digital. It’s not at a pace you would like it to be, but the movement is gaining traction . Some companies are leading this digital trend, while some are catching up with the fear of being left behind. The industry has been slow to adopt processes and technology innovations and there are reasons to it. A recent report by McKinsey said that Construction productivity has actually declined in some markets since the 1990s; financial returns for contractors are relatively low — and volatile. It would be prudent to see what are the challenges faced by many of these companies and examine the hurdles that prevent these companies from going completely digital.
Problems in the industry:
- Uncoordinated planning among site office staff and field staff
- The complexity in the digital tools, the steep learning curves and high dependability of a dedicated tool-specialist for performing the task.
- Inability to see long term benefits, more often due to immediate short term crunches in companies and thus undervaluing long-term benefits of innovative technologies
- Very high emphasis on paper for every process and for documentation from owners
- Project over-runs and delays (a common aspect across almost all asian projects) don’t allow managements to think differently but only to focus on getting the work done
- Added to this the complex relations between companies, management, the team, supervisors and laborers and you have got a system that has a lot to worry about past and present challenges before even starting to think about tomorrow’s change and innovation.
Now let’s imagine if companies do consider innovation and try to adopt technologies that help them to increase efficiency and productivity, what are the various options they have?
A lot of advanced futuristic machinery and tools are being marketed which help them speed up their physical work rate, like robots and exoskeletons or the notion that Virtual Reality (VR) can change the way how designer design buildings. However, actually very few are really available, none are actually practical to apply immediately, This is something that is central to many of the problems the industry faces. Future technology cannot solve today’s problems and instead of hope they offer fear to the construction crew that their jobs will be taken over by a robot and also make companies make misdirected decisions that lead to almost back to where they came from or worse. This is a good topic for a debate, but definitely depicting the reality.
A study shows that more than 70% of companies still use excel and outlook to manage their projects. This means having to enter data into endless systems, migrating from one to another, creating numerous files to track logs, reaching out to different people through different channels like email WhatsApp and not having a central point of information that is available to everyone at any given time. Unreliable sub-contractors make matters even worse. The time it takes to continuously track and pursue their progress makes it difficult to manage huge projects. The problems are plenty. A lot of time and effort is wasted in these non-value added work pulling down productivity as a whole. A smart software tool that helps one to plan, schedule, collaborate and manage all your construction related data becomes a basic need to solve today’s challenges. In reference to the image below, from the report from McKinsey, Digital collaboration tools and advanced planning tools are the tools that companies should and must adopt before incorporating new technologies. Improved processes, and better collaboration will create avenues and paves the way to incorporating newer technologies and better preparing for the future.
LEAN Construction is gaining traction and wider acceptance across companies globally. It is all about cutting wastes and improving productivity. Sounds amazing, right? These LEAN methods immediately sound daunting to adopt when heard about it for the first time and further, practicing with discipline — comes with a steeper learning curve for companies to adopt such LEAN practices. The lack of awareness and knowledge about the same is also a matter of concern. These challenges are often the biggest hurdles that needs to be minimized before LEAN construction becomes accepted by the industry. It does have transformational capability, but these barriers needs to be low for easier entry.
An important thing everyone considers before adopting a new technology is its cost-effectiveness. The companies often invest a lot of money, but give things up halfway through due to the complexity in adoption or they find that their organization is not ready for such big a change.
Lean PlanDo was built with a purpose to address these entry barriers for companies to adopt LEAN. It enable the companies to adopt easily, highly impactful tools that help them to scale adoption across their projects. It incorporates lean construction methods and a process that helps the companies to easily incorporate without any hassle whatsoever. This is not a LEAN-lite tool that some pretenders often market which only automates the sticky notes process through a kan-ban board, but it’s a full fledged one-stop tool that provides interfaces and flow all the way from master schedule to phase schedule to look ahead schedule for effective practise of pull planning process with a patented constraint management system. It also provides ability to tracking commitments complemented by data analysis and reporting powered by collaboration in real-time with mobile apps for a dynamic and intuitive experience by all the stakeholders across the value chain — starting from the developers to main contractors to subcontractors to suppliers and consultants.
It is the only cloud based tool that is practical and the most easiest to adopt to go LEAN, with minimal investment. It will be a big value addition for any construction project.
The World Economic Forum report on the future of construction stresses about this point as seen in the below image.
Other technologies like Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR / VR), Sensors and Wearables, Internet of Things (IoT) etc all look sexy when you hear about them but will practically not add any immediate value to existing processes — It does not make it practical and adoptable. Let’s not talk about the initial expenses and the return on investments to adopt them, that’s a topic for another day.
At this juncture of economic uncertainty, it becomes all the more essential on what companies will invest in — which tools and technologies make true sense to invest in? What do they truly offer and how quickly can one can scale with it. It’s critical to realize and identify the waste first before one can eliminate and minimize them and thus maximizing value. This is where low investment and high-impact tools and technologies like Lean PlanDo become prominent.
Go LEAN with Lean PlanDo, it’s built as a tool for a builder, also to make one smarter and efficient.