Last week I attended the AGC Georgia Annual Convention at Amelia Island. I had the honor to join James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge, Inc. and Co-Present with him on his “Construction Technology Forecast: Harnessing Integration, Mobile, Sensors and Augmented Reality”. The presentation focused on the results of Mr. Benham’s survey of over 1,000 construction professionals in 2014. The survey asked companies about their use of technology on construction projects.

A few of the topic highlights from the presentation were:

– History of technology in construction.

– The need to adopt technology by construction firms.

– Types of software needed by construction firms.

– The use case of wearables in construction.

History of Technology in Construction

Mr. Benham reminded the crowd about previous construction projects that did not use modern technology to build them such as the Giza Pyramids, the Empire State Building, and Hoover Dam. It is very interesting to think about the fact that none of these projects were built with a computer. The marvels of craftsmanship were constructed by hand and very basic tools by modern standards.

The Need for Adoption of Technology

Mr. Benham asked the audience “Why Do We Bother”? More to the point, “What is the point of using technology on construction projects today?” He stated that, “The point of technology is to solve pain points in companies.” Most often, pain points include lost profits, claims from defects and injured employees.

One of the more interesting points that Mr. Benham brought up was the fact that many Construction firms look at technology as a “necessary evil” or even a drain on profits. Inside his report there is a stat that reveals most Construction firms spend around 1% of profit each year on technology for their business.

He then asked “What is the next great piece of technology that can change your business?” The point he was trying to make is this, “Technology is not the competitive edge, it is being first to have it and leverage it!” In fact it is the adoption of tech that is the sustainable competitive advantage.

Mr. Benham encouraged the attendees to adopt technology for 3 reasons…

1. Make more money…

Construction companies can make money by using technology! There are several examples of companies savings money by switching to digital plans from paper plans. The first savings is realized from paying for less paper. The second savings manifest itself as lower defect costs, by providing all teams members with up date plans in real time there is less chance of installing work incorrectly.

2. Develop a competitive edge…

In today’s economy projects are becoming more and more complex. The margins on hard bid projects are very low and extremely competitive. Why would you want to manage a set of 11,000 plans using plan carts? Why would you use a light table for clash detection? The use of new apps and hardware can help companies create a competitive edge over other companies.

3. Improve safety…

Technology can save lives on construction projects. Back when the Giza Pyramids, the Empire State Building, and Hoover Dam were built safety was an unknown concept. The safety plan was a long line of replacement workers outside the gate. Through advancements in technology very soon workers will be protected by innovative new ways.

What if the safety vest workers wear could track their vital signs? What if through a smartphone app and a series of ibeacons safety managers could track the location of workers and be alerted if workers entered an unsafe area they were not authorized to enter? What if new employees could “walk through” a site safety orientation wearing a headset?

The Future of Wearables

Mr. Benham asked the audience if anyone had a Fitbit or smart watch. He went on to describe a future in which Employees will wear safety glasses that can take photos on auto throughout the day and sync to cloud. The next day the project team can review those photos to determine the “As-Built” Conditions. One wearable devie Mr. Benham is excited about is the…

Microsoft Hololens

The Hololens headset provides a mixed-reality experience for users. It offers a unique combination of  hardware, input, and machine learning so you can bring the 3D world alive through Augmented Reality..

  • It is fully integrated with Windows 10
  • It will be integrated with Trimble products such as SketchUp and Trimble Connect.
  • Workflows redefined: You will look at an issue, talk to Hololens and create an issue.

Want to see a video about Hololens? (CLICK HERE)

In closing, Mr. Benham reminded the crowd that “The only constant… is CHANGE!” He encouraged the crowd to “improve, not sit still, and get better.” One of Mr. Benham’s clients recently told him “We do not want to be WAY ahead, just one year ahead” of most companies.

If you would like to see Mr. Benham’s presentation in the future join him for the Annual AGC IT Forum this summer on July 30 and 31 in Chicago. (CLICK HERE for more information).