- ELECTRONIC TENDERING IS BECOMING THE STANDARD
Calls for tender are already circulated electronically for 80 to 90% of public construction projects. The UK and Italy boast a figure of 100% for contracts with volumes in excess of EUR 90,000. Standards to ensure that tenders can be submitted securely and in compliance with formal requirements are already in place. At many construction companies, however, one gets the impression that phones, fax machines and paper are still the most widely used tools. That has to change. Not as an end in itself, but because electronic calls for tender are on the advance.
The EU, for example, insists on digital calls for tender for public construction projects, because this channel ensures that contract award processes are more transparent and efficient. Players keen to win public contracts who nevertheless refuse to wave goodbye to phones and fax machines will therefore very soon find themselves left behind.
Product specification too is increasingly going digital. In this whole area, digitization has the added advantage that electronic calls for tender reduce costs while increasing efficiency.
For construction suppliers, the ability to contribute all products to planning processes via digital channels – through a CAD library, for example – will be a critical success factor. At the same time, digital platforms are growing in significance for building material traders.
- DIGITAL PROCUREMENT PLATFORMS SAVE TIME AND MONEY
Procurement and materials account for a large chunk of total costs in the construction industry. Digital platforms help keep these costs down.
Electronic procurement permits savings of around 5% for catalog-based purchases and around 10% in the case of online auctions, for example. Swedish construction outfit Skanska does things differently, though, and already handles about half of its material sourcing via a digital platform.
Tool manufacturer Hilti has outsourced all its indirect procurement processes and now commissions an external procurement management team to trawl through catalogs, online shops and other electronic platforms in search of the most attractive prices and offerings.
- SMART BUILDING SITE LOGISTICS HOLDS OUT POTENTIAL FOR OPTIMIZATION
This is where digital technology can help. Supply software, for example, can be used to ensure that materials are delivered to the site just in time, i.e. precisely when they are needed.
Storage and rearrangement work can be minimized as a result. Similarly, smart, connected construction machinery helps optimize capacity utilization for workers and construction vehicles alike. Via the internet of things, excavators can call a free truck whenever one is required. In return, the truck can inquire when and where what material is needed.
Construction workers have fewer journeys to make and less coordination work, so less time is spent traveling and looking for things. Conversely this scenario can only work if digital devices are standard issue on the building site.
- DRONES AND ROBOTS MOVE OUT OF SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS AND INTO THE FUTURE OF CONSTRUCTION
Construction projects are becoming ever more complex. Equally, cost and time pressures are rising and quality expectations increasing. In response, the industry must find ways to reduce complexity and costs raise productivity and guarantee quality.
3D laser technology opens up new possibilities in this context. 3D lasers not only survey the land, but also very quickly identify water pipes, sewers, phone lines, fiber optic cables and power lines. They capture all this data and feed it into digital planning tools that are immediately available to the project manager.
Drones are likewise already in operation in the construction industry. They survey the land, monitor large building sites and track the progress of construction projects. Where buildings have been completed, they also measure energy dissipation.
Mobile cloud solutions are growing increasingly important in the building trade. Studies show that communication occupies as much as 90% of construction project managers’ time. When problems arise – if different players don’t have the same information or can’t access the data, for instance – the entire process can quickly grind to a halt.
As things stand, most building firms still use project management programs that are installed on desktop PCs. Yet cloud-based and mobile solutions have the tremendous advantage of being available wherever you happen to be working. Here again, it becomes apparent how much sense it makes to work on site with mobile devices.
“Hadrian”, the brainchild of Australian enterprise Fastbrick Robotics, showcases what construction robots are already capable of doing. Buildings that would have taken human brick layers several weeks to erect can now be completed by Hadrian in 48 hours. The robot is “fed” with 3D construction plans, in accordance with which it trims, processes and lays each brick. The benefits of this technology are obvious: Costs fall while the quality of the “workmanship” increases.
3D printers are another digital innovation with a bearing on the construction industry. One company in China has already seized the opportunity: Following the specifications of a 3D construction plan, it “prints out” building parts that are made from a mix of rapid hardening cement, industrial waste, rubble and glass. The printing process takes two days for a three-story building, slashing construction time by as much as 70% and manual labor by as much as 80%, as well as saving up to 60% of materials. Since the process produces virtually no waste and reuses existing waste, it is also kind to the environment.
To service a major order for more than 20,000 houses in Egypt, the Chinese firm plans to use a sand-based mix. Its innovation thus takes account of regional considerations, which further improves efficiency. This development will also have repercussions for building suppliers and building material traders as it creates demand for the development and production of innovative materials – and innovative trading companies.
- BUILDING SUPPLIERS ARE LOOKING TO DIGITIZE PRODUCTION
The movement of products can be traced everywhere and at all times thanks to integrated RFID chips. The production facility – and hence the logistics center too – is supplied by autonomous vehicles. A high-level system controls and monitors the entire value chain. This, then, is yet another area where construction industry players are recognizing the potential of digital production (“Production 4.0”).
BY: QS OLUSEGUN AJANLEKOKO