2020: The Tipping Point for Digitalisation in Highways Contracting

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Globally, construction sector labour-productivity growth averaged 1% a year over the past two decades, compared with 2.8% for the total world economy, according to research carried out by McKinsey in 2017. This equates to a $1.6 trillion opportunity. McKinsey’s research highlights a lack of digitisation in contracting and on-site working as major contributors to poor productivity.

New research from Causeway, in partnership with the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CHIT), reveals that adoption of digital technology is across the industry is spurring growth in productivity, reductions in costs, and creating new career opportunities.

The majority (80%) of senior highways construction professionals believe that 2020 will be the tipping point for digitalisation in highways contracting as the industry fights to resolve a severe lack of growth in productivity.

State of play today

More than eight in every 10 (83%) highways construction professionals believe it is very or extremely important to apply digitalisation principles and technology. The most widely adopted are: Digital modelling and simulation technologies (67%); data analysis (58%); mobile working (56%); cloud computing (48%); and BIM Level 2 (42%). The top three benefits of digitalisation are believed to be: Reduction of costs (75%); increased productivity (71%); and better planning (70%).

“We see investment in digital technology and skills as important as ethical values of being a sustainable business. Profound changes to our industry are coming. Vehicles are becoming more intelligent pressure is mounting for carbon neutrality and we have to do things differently. We simply have to invest in technology to move forward and to communicate better.” says Scott Wardrop, Chief Executive Officer, Eurovia.

“Whilst organisations are clearly aware of digitilisation, there seems to be a reticence to fully engage, maybe this is down to a perception of cost. Our role is to highlight and quantify the benefits that these technologies can deliver and ensure that savings are realised” says James Atkinson, EVP Causeway.

There are also political challenges to applying digitalisation, Stelios Rodoulis Chair of the Technology and Innovation Panel says: “It is a hard sell to convince politicians of the technological concept”. Wardrop believes that the industry “needs a single voice that talks to Government on highways”. At present he believes there are “too many smaller voices and too much disparity of views on what needs to be done.”

Mind the gap

The majority (86%) of highways professionals believe that digitisation will change the skills needed in the sector, however, under a third (32%) believe that the industry is prepared for the shift required. Training and a lack of consistency were frequently cited as reasons the industry is not ready to fully embrace digitalisation.

“Successful transformation will require new talent and sustained investment in upskilling the existing workforce” says Sue Percy, Chief Executive of CIHT. “Training, qualifications, and the industry overall will need a broader set of skills to deliver our future infrastructure.”

Looking to the future, Percy says “The industry can and should do better at highlighting the many exciting career opportunities that exist within it. Being better at raising awareness is not the only factor; we also need to improve the wellbeing, diversity and inclusion of the workforce and provide secure and meaningful jobs.”

Download the full report here.

To find out more about how Causeway’s digital solutions can help improve productivity and commercial performance for your business get in touch.

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