In the beginning, there was time sharing of computer resources. An IBM mainframe computer, located in an environmentally controlled room—somewhere—and multiple “green screen” monitors in restricted areas of the client company. Later there was client-server, a similar format but with the computer onsite, not miles away. Then the desktop PC came along and the buzzword was “networking.”
Cables on the floor, on the ceiling, hanging from the rafters, all indicating the company was networked. If the cables didn’t go between the right computers, however, the option was “sneaker net,” where floppy discs were run—literally run in some cases—between computers by users or, if the user was lucky, interns. Hub and Spoke networking was the next boom, using a soon to be common central routing approach—if the protocols were followed properly. Ah, then came WiFi and the Internet and the company was really connected. All in all, data flowing everywhere and every way possible, all the time.
The ability to share digital data effectively is a critical factor that impacts the success of digital transformation in every industry, including design and construction. This includes both the ability to share data within different departments in the same company or across multiple companies involved in the same project. New research from Dodge Construction Network, together with Trimble, reveals that owners, architects, engineers, general contractors and specialty trades are utilizing digital workflows to share project information.
The Connected Construction SmartMarket Brief series shows that internal connections are far more common than external ones, with nearly half of all respondents (48%) sharing 50% or more of their project data internally using digital workflows, and nearly one quarter (24%) doing so with other stakeholders on their projects. Teams and projects utilizing digital workflows saw a substantial increase in project quality, supported by faster delivery and decreased delays related to rework.
The study explores the various processes for which digital workflows are employed and the benefits of using them. To fully capture the details, five new reports were created. Four of them focus on the design and construction practitioners: architects, engineers, general contractors, and specialty trade contractors. The fifth provides an overall look at all the respondents to the study, and it examines in detail the difference in response between those who are already highly engaged in these processes and those who have more limited engagement.
The reports are:
- Connected Construction: Perspectives Across the Project Team SmartMarket Brief
- Connected Construction: The Architects’ Perspective SmartMarket Brief
- Connected Construction: The Engineers’ Perspective SmartMarket Brief
- Connected Construction: The General Contractors’ Perspective SmartMarket Brief
- Connected Construction: The Specialty Trade Contractors’ Perspective SmartMarket Brief
Findings from each of these individual reports describe different personas and types of organizations:
- Architects lead the industry in their use of multicompany digital workflows, with one third deploying them.
- Engineers are deepening their engagement with workflows for specific design practices with 83% of users planning additional investments in digital workflows.
- General contractors that focus on vertical (building) construction are utilizing more digital workflows for their construction operation processes and getting greater benefits than those who largely engage in civil construction.
- Specialty trade contractors are currently utilizing digital workflows most frequently for administrative tasks, but their biggest planned investments are for utilizing workflows that will help them with construction operations and crew management.
Despite the differences in their degree of use and how they engage with digital workflows, owners, architects, engineers, general contractors, and specialty trade contractors all report the same key benefits from their use:
- Both companies and projects gain more informed decision making and increased efficiency of internal processes.
- The primary benefits for improved project outcomes are higher quality and faster delivery.
An expected benefit revealed in the findings is that those using digital workflows have much more insight into how those processes impact their projects than those who do not use them. This finding was made clear in the close examination of the use of digital workflows for many common administrative, planning and construction operations processes that the respondents perform. These findings suggest that the digital transformation of the industry may be able to finally help the industry achieve the productivity gains that have proved so elusive over the years.
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