IT for Construction: Understanding Unique Challenges

The construction industry faces unique problems when it comes to adopting technology. It gains many benefits from going through a digital transformation, but the challenges lead to changes taking longer than they do in other industries.

Common Technology Problems in Construction

One of the biggest barriers to technology adoption and scaling is that every job site has its own characteristics that require different solutions. It’s not as simple as using a standardized setup every time you begin a new project.

The systems that you do have in place may be disconnected from each other, which makes it difficult to share plans, documents and other files. Workers at the job site may refer to hard copies that are outdated and don’t incorporate the latest changes.

Your workforce may struggle with using the new tools available. Mobile apps are a great addition for people out in the field, but it doesn’t amount to anything if they don’t feel confident using it. The construction industry’s high turnover rates also make it difficult to keep everyone up to date on new systems.

The upfront costs of investing in new solutions can also be a concern. If you have a limited IT budget for your firm, you may find it difficult to branch out into new technology.

Change management requires overcoming people who prefer to keep things “the way that they are.” Digital transformation brings in new workflows and changes the ones that are not efficient. The resistance to change can slow down technology adoption.

How to Solve These Issues

The construction industry may have a lot of technology challenges, but there are IT solutions that specifically address these. Here are several solutions that solve technical issues and help you grow your construction firm.

Enterprise File Sync and Share

EFSS solutions go a long way to eliminating communication problems in your construction firm. You have many different parts of the company spread throughout the office and at job sites. Trying to manage consistent communication requires a robust platform that can accommodate problems like poor Internet connections.

Everyone can connect to the same platform to share documents, plans, blueprints and other critical files. You don’t deal with multiple communication channels and changes getting lost. EFSS systems can accommodate very large files and ensure that the latest version of a document is the one that people access.

Connected Equipment

The Internet of Things has made it possible to connect countless types of equipment to the Internet or your business network. Everything from small sensors that monitor your heavy machinery to wearables that track worker activity can improve productivity.

Since this connectivity is implemented in equipment that’s familiar to workers, such as smart helmets, it’s easy to introduce out in the field. The IoT market is continuing to grow and mature, so the capabilities of these devices can make it possible to achieve a competitive advantage.

Reliable IT Infrastructure

If your systems go down, then work slows down to a crawl. Your office workforce may not be able to do any of their job duties without access to vital systems, and the workers at your job site will miss out on changes to the plan. A reliable IT infrastructure is a must for a construction firm.

Cloud and Software as a Service-based solutions give you a way to create a more productive and scalable infrastructure without a large capital investment. These systems are provided and maintained by a third-party company. The hardware and software needed to keep it running is at their location and under their control. All your construction firm needs to do is to log on to the service through an Internet connected device.

This solution also increases the mobility of your workforce. Everyone at a job site can access cloud-based resources as though they’re back at the office. While it does require Internet connectivity, some construction specific platforms have offline features.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Consistency in work processes and training are difficult to manage in the construction industry. Your job site crews can look entirely different from week to week. One way to help your workforce be better trained and safer out in the field is to use VR and AR training solutions.

VR puts a trainee in the shoes of an experienced worker. They see what that person sees during the training, and they get a digital “hands-on” experience that prepares them for the work they’re doing at the job site. AR solutions use the worker’s mobile device to overlay information, such as tool and material names.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Platforms using AI and ML technologies are capable of guiding your firm’s decision-making process through data analysis. You have access to substantial data sets and these solutions give you a way to derive the most value from them. Since these applications learn as they process data, they can make predictions for the outcomes of upcoming contracts, optimize job site setups, and reduce the safety hazards for your workforce. AI and ML features are excellent for creating smart platforms that augment your firm’s capabilities.

These innovations paint a productive picture for the construction industry. As developers bring out more construction platforms and connected equipment, you’ll be able to achieve far more and scale your operations.

Cyber Security

One of the biggest IT risks that construction firms face is cyber attacks. With cyber attacks increasing and the costs associated with such breaches are so great that today’s businesses are finding cybersecurity plans an absolute necessity.

For construction firms who are interested in bidding on Department of Defense projects, you have to show a certain level of cybersecurity and secure communications. The requirements for these contracts are covered in the DFARS regulation and the cybersecurity framework that is used is NIST SP 800-171.

How We Can Help

If you are a general contractor in Illinois interested in taking a closer look at how a Managed IT Service Company can help your construction firm overcome these unique challenges, contact us to meet our team or visit our IT Services for Construction page to learn more. We have extensive knowledge and experience helping general contractors and construction firms overcome their difficulty in adopting new technologies that can help them succeed.