What are the most effective technology purchases in construction?

By Neil Gerrard01 June 2023

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A 3D line drawing image of a construction site Image: adimas via AdobeStock - stock.adobe.com

Project management software has proven to be the most effective technology purchase in construction.

That’s according to a free new white paper examining construction professionals’ attitudes to construction technology.

The wide-ranging report probed around 100 contractors, consultants, equipment manufacturers and others on their priorities for technology, their appetite for investment, the challenges in adopting technology, and the benefits they hope to realise.

Some 18% of respondents reported that project management software (other than BIM) was their most effective technology purchase, followed by 16% for BIM, 12% for autonomy or remote control, and 11% for machine control.

Despite the fact that they capture a considerable share of the headlines when it comes to construction technology, robotics, 3D-printing and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology were much further down the list.

This also demonstrated the fact that such technologies, although potentially transformative in the future, are still in their infancy and more expensive to implement.

However, respondents did show an interest in those technologies for the future. When it came to robotics, 10% of respondents said they were potentially interested in investing in the future. For 3D-printing, that figure was 6%, but for AR and VR it was just 2%. Those areas where respondents reported the most interest were in machine control (11%) and project management software (11%).

The figures come as construction professionals show a greater appetite and readiness to invest in technology.

More than two thirds of respondents (68.1%) said their budget for technology would be either the same as last year or increase. Nearly a quarter (22%) said the budget would be slightly higher, while 10% said it would be much higher.

Investment drivers

Meanwhile construction professionals picked out four clear drivers for construction businesses to invest in digital technology.

They are:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced on-site risk and safety improvements
  • Bottom line
  • Winning projects

Perhaps surprisingly though, they placed environmental social governance (ESG) last on their list of drivers for investment in technology. Carbon reduction also scored relatively low marks.

It wasn’t clear if this was because of an unwillingness on the part of the construction industry to shoulder its climate change responsibilities, or the construction technology industry failing to send clear messages about the capacity of its solutions to help reduce emissions.

Recruiting tech specialists remains a challenge

Among the challenges facing construction companies interested in scaling up their use of technology was finding staff with the required skills and background.

Nearly two thirds (61%) of respondents reported this to be a problem, compared to 26% who said they weren’t having difficulty and 13% who didn’t know.

The white paper attributed this to options for training or re-training in new technologies failing to keep pace with the rate of technology adoption.

It also suggested that people may still be unaware of technology-based career opportunities within the industry.

Commenting on the launch of the white paper, Construction Technology magazine editor Andy Brown said, “This lends credence to the widely held view that interest in investing in digital technology is growing.

“While interest in project management software and machine control largely matches the responses received in last year’s survey, the growth in interest for robotics was something of a surprise, along with growing interest in digital twins.

“In an industry still being termed ‘traditional’ it would seem from this survey that the adoption of digital technology is well underway.”

The 19-page white paper also explores: the rate of technology uptake, investment intentions, what technology is of most interest for the future, and obstacles to the adoption of new technology.

Click here to access a full copy of the Attitudes to Construction Technology white paper for free.

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