Whether you’ve ever flown a drone over a construction site or you still have a vice-like grip on your colored pencils and slide rules, 2018 should be the year to embrace technology like never before.

Why? Productivity. Productivity. Productivity. The McKinsey Global Institute reports that construction productivity is stuck at the same level as it was 80 years ago. With contractors routinely blowing their schedule by 20 percent and their budget by 80 percent, the industry is poised to embrace new tools and solutions like never before. Not only can new technology accelerate productivity and improve accuracy, it can also reduce the risk associated with complex building projects.

Poised for Disruption

How big is the potential upside? Experts agree that the construction industry could boost productivity by as much as 60 percent by embracing digital technology. A 2016 Boston Consulting Group study points to data-driven planning, surveillance and maintenance technology that could save up to 21 percent in the design, engineering and construction phases of nonresidential construction, or as much as $21 billion a year globally. 

In fact, the potential is so strong that construction tech firms snagged up to $10 billion in investment funding from 2011 through early 2017. For example, the rise of building information modeling has brought an increase in prefab, offsite, and modular construction. When construction moves off-site, contractors can tighten their delivery timeline and mitigate weather days. Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) offers the chance for project stakeholders to collaborate more effectively before building ever begins. Letting managers and workers view job site conditions in real-time and detect errors in advance is starting to have a major impact on the future of estimating and construction.

What’s Holding Contractors Back?

All indications point to a construction industry that is ripe for technological disruption. Even though the demand is there, there is still resistance. In fact, a KPMG Global Construction Survey of 200-plus senior executives revealed that as late as 2016, only 8 percent of survey respondents could be categorized as cutting-edge visionaries. Only 20 percent thought they were aggressively disrupting their construction business model with leading technology. Nearly three-fourths of the respondents said they didn’t use advanced data analytics for project-related estimation and performance monitoring. 

In addition, just 20 percent of those surveyed by KPMG said they have a single, fully integrated project management system. They also found 69 percent are either “followers” or “behind the curve,” according to the study. This hurts when it comes to driving consistency across projects—just 27 percent reported having consistent controls.

In fact, many construction executives are being held back by manual processes and continue to resist new takeoff, estimating, and production management technology. Ironically, these tools could help to omit duplication of effort and minimize errors and allow for quicker communication between the field and the office.  

Dive into the Future

With next-generation innovations like advanced data and analytics, drones, automation and robotics already becoming a reality, there is a lot for contractors to look forward to in 2018. Much of the buzz surrounds the potential use of modeling and analytics to pinpoint design problems early. 

Even with all this futuristic anticipation, some contractors will only be ready to dip their toe in the water in the coming year. Whether you are simply implementing new takeoff and estimating software for the first time or trying something as revolutionary as stepping inside a blueprint courtesy of VR/AR, the key is to carefully evaluate the potential upside of integrating new technology into your business.  

Still struggling to take the leap toward construction software? On Center Software can help—read our free eBook, An Estimator’s Guide: Assessing and Picking the Right Software, to get step-by-step advice to determine where your company is and where you should be headed.