Construction firms’ productivity hampered by poor use of technology

October 3, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
Construction firms’ productivity hampered by poor use of technology

The productivity of UK construction firms is being held back by a lack of accurate and timely information on the jobsite. According to a new survey, two-thirds of construction firms point to preventable problems like rework and overruns as a serious drain on resources.

Almost half (42%) of firms surveyed say misinformation is the most significant factor limiting their performance, according to the new Digital Foundations report from construction productivity software provider PlanGrid.

The survey of 235 industry professionals explores the factors impacting the productivity of construction firms, including their use of technology and opportunities for improvement.

Inaccurate and outdated information is causing firms to spend time and money fixing mistakes on projects; 68% of businesses surveyed in the Digital Foundations report say that dealing with rework is the biggest source of wasted time. Other curbs on performance include lack of resources (46%), too much focus on administrative tasks (37%) and scheduling errors (33%).

Lack of technology is a key limitation in construction, particularly when it comes to how drawings and specifications are shared on-site. Nearly a quarter (22%) of firms still rely entirely on paper-based drawings, while 32% run less than a quarter of their projects without paper.

Meanwhile, 10% of all firms say they make only minimal use of technology on their projects.

The continued use of paper drawings may be a key hindrance to accurate information sharing, as 8% of firms say ensuring everyone has the latest version of plans has the biggest positive impact on their productivity.

Productivity in the UK construction industry did not improve in the 20 years prior to 2015, in contrast to the manufacturing sector where it almost doubled. Construction industry professionals point to squeezed access to labour (38%), reduced government spending (21%) and increasing wage demands (18%) as the biggest challenges over the next 12 months, indicating productivity challenges could once again intensify.

According to survey results, construction firms are taking initial steps forward in the adoption of technology. Over half of businesses make use of file-sharing tools (52%), while 12% have begun to use Building Information Modelling (12%). A small portion are also supporting workers on-site by utilising drone technology (two%) and collision detection software (1%).

“With Brexit just around the corner, it is more important than ever for UK firms to improve their productivity and strengthen their businesses,” said Tracy Young, CEO of PlanGrid. “The research shows that taking notes by hand or sharing plans on paper results in delays, mistakes and ultimately poor margins on construction jobs. By adopting easy-to-use mobile technology, construction teams have an incredibly exciting opportunity to improve their performance, attract vital talent, and make the industry and UK economy future-ready.”

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