The digital transformation is present today, to a greater or lesser measure, in all industries and productive sectors. This transformation impacts on two levels: innovation in business models, creating new products and services enabled by digitalisation, and an improvement in operational processes, increasing efficiency and results thanks to technology.
In the architecture, engineering and construction industry (AEC), although some changes in the business model are also taking place, for example as a result of the implementation of BIM and related technologies, this transformation is mainly focused on improving operations. However, the peculiarities of the sector and the challenges faced by the managers and directors of these companies greatly condition the correct development and successful implementation of digitalisation initiatives.
Digital transformation in construction
Within the AEC sector, the design and engineering areas are undoubtedly the most advanced in terms of the implementation of digital solutions. However, despite the appearance of multiple technologies, such as the use of drones, robots, intelligent tools, etc., physical construction has assimilated a few changes and remains mainly an analogue process.
This means that, in practice, the construction sector remains one of the least digitised in the world. This is largely due to the particularities of the industry, such as the involvement of multiple subcontractors and suppliers, often with low technological skills and little interest in incorporating new working methods in the short period of a project. This is not to mention the enormous variety within the projects themselves, which makes it extremely difficult to develop tools and methods that can be applied in a standardised way.
On the other hand, AEC companies tend to have rather limited R+D+I budgets, which ultimately leaves little room for the digital transformation.
Some of the main technologies that can help the transformation of the sector and increase its efficiency and productivity could be:
- The implementation of the BIM methodology, advancing in the implementation of all its dimensions, until reaching the BIM 7D, focused on the subsequent management of the buildings, or even higher levels focused on the efficiency of the operations to contribute added value to the maintenance of the buildings and facilities.
- Tools for digital collaboration and mobility that help to overcome problems in the relationship between the different actors in the projects, both internal and external.
- Quality control systems and management of safety and regulatory processes.
- Applications to improve real-time information flows and interoperability with other systems.
- Process automation systems.
- The use of the Internet of Things (IoT).
- Advanced data analysis.
The implementation of these technologies is intended to improve aspects such as efficiency, sustainability or costs, which are vital to ensure a return on investment and a significant improvement in the results of the organizations.
Challenges of digitisation in the ACS sector
One of the main challenges of digitisation in any company, and particularly in those in the AEC sector, is to achieve a clear definition of the objectives of the transformation project and how these changes will create value for the company. During the development of the projects, it is vital to focus as much or more on the operational and business processes as on the technology itself.
Some of the main challenges we have already mentioned have to do with aspects such as the fragmentation and dispersion of teams, the participation of multiple subcontractors and suppliers, the scarce digital training of professionals or the lack of standardisation in the sector. Some initiatives, such as the implementation of the BIM methodology, try to overcome some of these barriers, but in most aspects, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Possibly improving collaboration between the different actors in the process, from design to construction and maintenance, is one of the most critical aspects to be addressed. Think for example of a construction site where there are multiple defects in the materials and products sent by a certain supplier, but which are not communicated at the same time, producing quality problems, delays and cost overruns. Using BIM models in a common data environment (CDE), and providing access to it for all actors, allows workers to label defective products and the supplier to receive such notices in real-time. This allows you to diagnose and reduce defects before making new deliveries so that both the project and all parties can benefit.
How to approach the digital transformation in AEC
The most innovative construction companies rely on technology partners who provide tools that each team member can use to collaborate more effectively, allowing projects to stay on schedule and within budget.
The use of these tools allows companies to improve their competitiveness, increasing their revenues and improving results and profits for companies, owners, investors, subcontractors and workers.
When choosing the right IT solutions, it is important however to keep the focus on solving real business problems and challenges, so that technology is a means to solve them and not an end in itself. Some of these challenges may be:
- Finish on time and more efficiently. Time and customer expectations are getting shorter and shorter.
- Provide greater added value for building maintenance
- Improve control and safety and regulatory processes.
- Problems in the relationship between parties (internal or subcontracted) that need to improve collaboration.
- Shortcomings in real-time information flow.
- Increased standardisation and automation.
Retain for the digital transformation of AEC companies
Retain EAM’s asset management tools provide solutions across the entire asset lifecycle, from the design phase through to maintenance, including solutions for the legalisation of assets, which are vital in an increasingly regulated and regulatory environment.
Consult one of our specialists to receive information without obligation about our solutions for the AEC sector.