Best Practices

New Construction Technology Worth Contractors’ Attention

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In an effort to improve operations, efficiency and productivity on jobsites, more contractors than ever are trying out cutting-edge technology. According to the JBKnowledge 2017 Construction Technology Report, 62.2 percent of companies are experimenting with emerging technology such as drones, augmented reality and smart tools. That’s nearly a 20 percent increase from last year, a big improvement that indicates contractors are looking for new ways to tackle jobsite challenges.

A wide array of emerging technologies exists, and more are making their way into the construction industry every year. Which ones are most popular and hold the most promise? And what does all this tech investment say about our evolving industry? The answers are worth exploring and suggest there are some things to be optimistic about.

The Future Available Now

Perhaps not surprisingly, drones are the most common new technology used by contractors. In 2017, 37.8 percent of construction companies tried drone technology, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Construction is also one of the top three uses of commercial drones. These high adoption numbers suggest drones might have moved beyond the descriptor “emerging” and are becoming an essential tool on the jobsite.

Drones in construction have multiple uses. They’re helping designers who need to survey an area and visualize structures, since images from drones can help with the creation of building information models (BIM). Drone images are also helping contractors monitor progress on projects. It’s also worth noting that drones are a more cost-effective method of seeing the jobsite than planes or helicopters. And in some cases, they increase safety, since people don’t need to enter potentially hazardous areas around a site to see how things are going.

Up-and-Coming Technology Adoption

Drones aren’t the only technology growing in popularity with contractors. The JBKnowledge Report found that many technologies are becoming more prevalent:

  • Prefabrication/modularization
  • 360-degree video/photography
  • 3D scanners
  • Smart tools
  • Virtual and augmented reality

These technologies serve a variety of purposes. Smart tools, for example, use GPS tracking to prevent tool loss. Augmented reality is enabling field measurements and visualization of models. Virtual reality, meanwhile, helps with both worker training and real-time design.

While these technologies have different functions, they all serve the larger goal of streamlining processes and improving productivity, which are key for any investment in construction. For decades, the construction industry as a whole had been slow to adopt new technologies. However, over the past few years, things have changed with technology-minded construction professionals not just adapting to new technologies, but playing an active role in driving their development and demand.

Looking to the Future

Today there is a host of emerging technologies for contractors to explore. But what about the next wave? What should contractors have an eye toward implementing down the road?

The ConTech Report discusses the potential of 3D printing for the construction industry—including 3D-printed building materials like bricks. Despite a handful of contractors already utilizing this technology, it hasn’t been widely adopted in construction yet. As the cost of 3D printing decreases, however, we may see more contractors exploring this technology further.

While tool tracking is becoming increasingly common for contractors, strong demand already exists for employee tracking software and technologies, but implementation of existing tools has been slow. More than half of the contractors who participated in the JBKnowledge Report indicated they might consider enhanced employee tracking programs in the future. These tools could help contractors monitor worksite productivity, streamline labor and payroll and much more.

Regardless of the specific types of technology being adopted, the growing interest in exploring new solutions is a positive sign for the construction industry. Contractors are open to new ideas and methods for improvement. For an industry that’s historically lagged when it comes to productivity, this is good news.

If you’re a contractor interested in how technology can boost productivity, explore Viewpoint’s software solutions, which streamline processes, improve collaboration and provide tools to better understand and control projects. These integrated construction software solutions improve productivity, mitigate risks and increase profitability.