Despite being at the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) and advancements in computer chip technology, the UK still lags behind many of its G20 partners in the adoption of digitisation across businesses, including within the construction sector, as a recent market research report – compiled for Causeway Technologies – has shown.
As our previous article on the ‘Beyond the Basics’ report revealed, the majority of respondents acknowledged that they had achieved between 25 and 50% integration of systems.
One key shortfall, however, centres on the amount of time employees spend moving information between disparate solutions: exemplifying the lack of streamlining. Coupled with the almost inevitable need to customise systems to cope with business-specific operations, this leads to greatly increased costs for maintenance and periodic updates.
Lack of digitalisation with supply chain
Given that computer aided 3-D design has been a feature of construction projects since the early 90s, other parts of the sector’s management structures have been slow to embrace a digital future.
Over a third of respondents to our survey said that administrative tasks – specifically paperwork – remains their organisation’s biggest challenge. A similar proportion of contractors and larger sub-contractors also bemoan the lack of digitalisation within their supply chains.
Manual spreadsheets remain the norm, with 94% of organisations taking part in the survey admitting to still using them. In addition, nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) of those surveyed said inconsistent processes represent a challenge to their businesses’ effective performance.
This is in part due to a lack of ownership amongst relevant stakeholders across organisations, with 35% saying that there is a lack of buy-in, while a similar percentage cite a shortage of staff with the appropriate skillsets. 37% of those interviewed said the lack the time or resources to implement necessary solutions is a problem.
Need for a cultural shift
Understandably, the adoption of industry specific software solutions cannot be guaranteed to deliver maturity for the construction if it is not accompanied by cultural change. The goals can only be achieved when the appropriate technologies are fully integrated into a business structure, and their value is felt throughout that organisation. Our research indicated that construction is embracing digitalisation, but that its full adoption and consequential benefits are some years off.
Unsurprisingly, everyone surveyed believes that, ultimately, digitalisation will bring broad benefits to the industry. This includes almost half (49%) who think it will generate improved productivity and employee job satisfaction (47%), while 42% think it will enable better communication with management. Almost a third (30%) also think reduced employee fatigue will be positive outcome.
These perceptions are illustrated by the comments of our panel of industry experts. Barry Desmond, Finance Director at John Cradock Limited said: “Certainly, for me, the top benefit would be improved communication with management: the ability to share high level data with both management and clients is important.”
Advocating full integration, EKFB’s Head of Finance, Rob Christie, commented: “I’d argue that it’s only truly digital if all inputs and processes behind the raw data and the collection of data are also digital. For example, if your teams are manually inputting data from paper into an Excel file and uploading this file to create a power BI Dashboard – in my opinion this isn’t digital. It’s only when you understand the source of the data, and its inputs that you can be confident that controls and processes are in place to allow the digital thread to flow through.”
Appetite for digital adoption
Encouragingly, there is conclusive evidence from our research that the appetite exists for far greater adoption and integration of digitalisation across the construction industry, though it is going to require the investment of further resources and greater involvement of employees at all levels throughout the industry. Causeway Technologies will meanwhile work to not only refine and update the sector specific software it offers, but also to support industry professionals at all levels to help them gain the optimum results from the systems.
Get your copy of "Beyond the Basics – How UK Construction is Using Digital Solutions to Achieve Efficiency, Integration, and Sustainability”
To explore the full research findings and read the commentary from our panel of industry experts, download the full report.