It is easy to have the perception that the construction industry is not hi-tech. Most construction sites you drive by probably don’t appear to be any different than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Tasks like pouring concrete or installing drywall seem to be done the same way as they always have been.
Outside of architects who use CAD or the usual office and accounting software that most businesses use, the construction industry would seem to use little or no high-tech.
But that would be a misconception. With the growing popularity of mobile devices, collaborative software and of all things, gaming technology, the construction industry is more high-tech than ever.
Tablet devices are great for construction companies to increase productivity and several vendors have stepped up to leverage software. Access to building plans through a tablet means that management can discuss the project and make notes without having to use paper. Any changes made to plans get sent out to other team members without them having to leave the site for a meeting or use outdated fax machines. It keeps everyone in sync and minimizes wasted time.
Construction software not only deals with editing and collaborating on plans but numerous other aspects of building. Being able to look at open project issues at a glance makes it much easier to manage them and stay on schedule.
Scheduling itself should be flexible to accommodate all users, integrating with common apps like Microsoft Project or Primavera and allowing users with no scheduling software to at least view schedules.
Archiving and versioning of documents is another critical feature that this kind of software typically provides. Plans and drawings can change frequently and so can documents related to the job. Being able to track these documents and call them up efficiently saves time and is much less error-prone than paper filing systems. It allows changes in documents or plans to be rolled back when needed.
Another area in which construction is going hi-tech is in safety training and the best way to learn through experience without getting injured is through training games. Serious Games International and ForgeFX have developed construction simulators that place users in situations they’ll have to deal with on a job site. They perform tasks like laying plywood on a roof and learn how to do the job safely. If any task is performed improperly, the simulated construction worker suffers a (simulated) serious injury, serving as a bold reminder of what can happen when safety procedures are not followed.
Simulators are a great preventive measure to educate employees on job site safety, but accidents can still happen in spite of training. What if there was a way to monitor conditions in real-time and avoid accidents as they were about to happen?
Developments in wearable technology hope to accomplish that shortly. Students from Virginia Tech are researching technology that would alert workers of high carbon monoxide levels when working with gas-powered tools in enclosed spaces. Wearable sensors can also be used to prevent falls, electrocution and accidents from employees being struck by vehicles.
Almost any industry can be improved by technology and the construction industry is no different. Software that leverages mobile devices, realistic training simulators and upcoming wearable technology are only a few of the many ways the industry is advancing.