BIM (building information modeling) provides a lot of information for construction and maintenance of structures. Computer aided design or CAD has been a major tool in “loading” a BIM project’s database. Now, other tools are being integrated with BIM for increased digital transformation of the industry.

We are familiar with the concept of AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) as applied to robotics, often in a “coming in the future” format. But the future is coming sooner than expected if companies like Volvo have a say. And an enabler will be the growth of 5G communications.

The Volvo Construction Equipment division has demonstrated a fully autonomous, battery-electric prototype, the LX03, of what they claim is the first real-world example of a self-learning concept wheel loader with the brains to make decisions, perform tasks, and interact with humans. It is also the first time ever a LEGO Technic model has been turned into a real machine. While not commercially available, engineers expect that valuable insights from the LX03 will feed into applications for today and tomorrow.

The application of digital technology—computers, smart phones, Internet of Things, the cloud, etc.—has had a great impact on construction over the past decade. This digitalization has even spawned a term: Construction 4.0. But it has also generated a degree of concern that too much reliance on technology is a bad thing.

Then came COVID-19. And the growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental issues. And disruption of the supply chain due to tariffs and shortages of the basic material needed for building.

We are constantly reminded of the importance of the cloud in contemporary computing. This is especially important in construction because many processes in construction are fragmented, resulting in lost productivity, rework, and a lack of transparency. The construction industry lags behind many others with only 1% productivity growth over the last 20 years. This is significantly lower than the 2.8% experienced for the total economy.

One of the significant emerging disruptions that will drive change in construction is the digitization of products and processes. The ability to link technologies, tasks, processes, and multiple stakeholders—such as general contractors, subcontractors, designers, engineers, and owners—across the construction project workflow can transform and significantly improve productivity, quality, safety, transparency, and sustainability.

Construction companies have become aware of and concerned about the potential attacks—digital, physical, and natural—on infrastructure, especially utilities, both while they are under construction and while operating. If you are responsible for the security of the site before, during or after construction, that can weigh heavily on your decisions.

Architecture, engineering, and construction is increasingly becoming a data-driven field and BIM (building information modeling) is at the heart of that transformation. How architects, engineers, and contractors deploy BIM and how they leverage the data from models and processes to improve decision-making, and how they can effectively power integrated digital workflows among project team members are the critical questions? A report from Dodge Data and Analytics, in cooperation with Autodesk, entitled Accelerating Digital Transformation Through BIM, offers some insight.

One of the most important findings of the study is the correlation between the depth of engagement with data-driven BIM processes, the intensity of BIM use (the share of projects on which BIM is used), and the degree to which the benefits of using BIM are experienced.

As construction companies employ advanced technologies using the cloud and internet, connecting offices and jobsites becomes more important. Communications, in other words. To better streamline communication channels across the construction value chain, Koch Industries partnered with High Alpha Innovation to create PLOT, a startup construction-focused communications platform, and most recently led the startup’s pre-seed round.

PLOT is led by Cofounder and CEO Chris Callen, an experienced construction-tech founder who has spent decades observing the processes — and shortfalls — of how construction teams interact. “Construction technologies, whether built from internal or external perspectives, have often focused too much on documents and processes rather than teams and the people within them,” notes Callen. “In building PLOT, we’ve expanded our focus to the lifeblood of a construction site — the workers and their teams — who have never had a software built to fully address their communication needs.”

Many software functions work better in the cloud, where the data is always current and can be accessed from anywhere. Construction companies that depend on Corecon Technologies, cloud-based construction estimating, project management, and job-cost software suite will now have added ability to capture information from all aspects of a construction project’s lifecycle, with new data views and APIs offering access to information across the entire system.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit every industry hard, including construction. Although most construction work continued as an essential occupation, office workers and those who could work remotely were often sent home during the early days. As the cautious approach enabled companies to continue, if at a slower pace, the employee demographic was changing. Valued skills were being lost along with valued workers as illness took its toll.

Now that most offices are open and workers are back in their seats, companies are reassessing the way they do business going forward. Construction is now facing a global labor shortage, with contractors struggling to find skilled workers in many trades. This makes it critical to efficiently manage existing workforces.

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