From cloud services, big data, drones and mobile apps, it’s impossible to deny that technology is putting strain on the traditional infrastructure of the construction industry.
China is now capable of 3D printing ten full-sized houses a day; there are cranes that have the technological capabilities to self-build and drones that are capable of weaving cord into bridges. Whether the construction industry is ready for it or not; technology is certainly pressing its dominance over the traditionally ‘hands-on’ industry.
Will technology improve the industry?
The construction industry is a large contributor towards the UK’s economy and one of eight sectors addressed in the still relevant Government’s First Growth review in 2011.
The review envisages dramatic improvements in performance by the industry through to 2025 – including a 33% reduction in both the initial construction cost and the whole life cost of built assets; 50% faster delivery of construction projects; 50% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and a 50% reduction in the current £6 billion trade gap between construction imports and exports.
It sees these developments being fortified by the evolution of a more technologically advanced industry including:
- Efficient and technological advances, with a highly skilled and diverse workforce
- World-leading export performance in green technologies and materials
- The UK’s share of global construction markets expanding substantially
Could technology replace construction workers?
The vision is one that suggests that the construction industry will be able to embrace technological conversion and innovation. It implies that whether the developments stem from an adaptation of existing technologies relating to a spontaneous revolution or the innovation and development of new technologies, it allows the construction industry to invite technological conversion and innovation to its labouring.
This obnoxiously optimistic view is likely to provide more questions than answers to the UK’s construction force. We must first address that stereotypically the average construction worker is bound by traditional methods and is certainly more likely to value his durable Nokia 3310 over a fragile smartphone. After all, the Nokia doesn’t pose a threat to replace the hard-earned skill set that the construction force has worked, sometimes decades, to earn.
This has not deterred software providers who are continuing to produce mobile apps, file sharing capabilities and connection improvements. These technological advancements are more likely to become a widespread asset to the construction workforce as they are designed assist it and not replace it. However, those within the industry who are faithful to the 3310 may struggle to download the latest apps…
Is technology the answer?
The Construction Task Force in its report on the scope for improving quality and efficiency in UK construction did not conclude that technology can independently provide the capabilities to encourage greater productivity and quality in construction:
“The Task Force does not consider that technology on its own can provide the answer to the need for greater efficiency and quality in construction.”
Whilst the report acknowledges that there have been celebrated examples of new technologies used to “reinforce outdated and wasteful processes” they also conclude that “it does not work.”
The report states:
“The advice offered to construction by leading manufacturing industries is to approach change by first sorting out the culture, then defining and improving processes and finally applying technology as a tool to support these cultural and process improvements.”
Do you think that technology will replace the need for construction workers by 2025? Let us know in the comments section below.