Embracing mobile solutions to improve construction productivity

4 April 2018 | By Ryan Asdourian

Ryan Asdourian says powerful mobile devices, combined with software advances, are essential if the construction industry is to become more collaborative – and productive.

Ryan Asdourian

It should come as no surprise that the UK is currently facing a productivity crisis, with the Office for Budget Responsibility recently deciding to downgrade its growth forecast for the medium term as a result of persistently weak productivity growth.

As businesses and government grapple with the challenge of increasing the nation's productivity, initiatives such as the government’s new Industrial Strategy will be key.

This initiative, which aims to solve the UK’s “productivity puzzle” by boosting the economy and embracing the opportunities brought by technology, identifies construction as vital to the UK economy – contributing nearly £90bn to the UK economy and filling 2.9 million jobs.

Through the Industrial Strategy, the government has committed to investing £170m to transform the construction industry, helping to create affordable housing and support innovation and skills in the sector.

This will enable the industry to capitalise on significant opportunities, with organisations in the construction sector expected to see productivity gains of up to 15% if they invest in the right technology for their business.

Embracing the road ahead

This all sounds simple enough, but the road to productivity is not an easy one.

A theme that comes up frequently in debates on how to boost productivity levels in the construction sector is collaboration. Moves to increase this are needed throughout the entire process, from the initial contractual stages through to the design phase and completion.

Digital collaboration and mobility tools can empower companies to better track progress, work together in real time and remove any physical barriers.

Take Trimble Connect, for example, which helps users to combine 3D models into one collaborative environment where you can view and manage the models offline, or even share comments with colleagues via the cloud.

A similar tool, Bluebeam Revu, streamlines workflows from preconstruction to handover by supporting team members that are not in the same location to create, test and review designs by collaborating on the same PDFs in real time. 

BIM enables architects, engineers and designers alike to work on a single project from anywhere in the world – a true collaborative solution. It has pioneered a new way of working where information modelling and information management is conducted in a team environment.

Naturally, BIM software requires a powerful device, but also one that is mobile and allows professionals to work remotely without compromising on speed, battery life or processing power. This is why it is so vital to invest in the right tools and provide employees with devices that not only promote remote working, but also have the capacity to run such challenging software.

Not that long ago, it was almost impossible to imagine CAD or BIM work being done outside the office. Today, recent innovations in mobile and hardware technology offer fully featured and highly portable mobile solutions that enable technical and detail work to be done on location at jobsites and shared in real time with teams in the office.

This has huge benefits for those working on projects, providing the flexibility and creativity they need to deliver great work more efficiently. Mobile devices allowed potential issues to be solved without having to leave the site, as team members have all the information they need at their fingertips, wherever they are.

Ultimately, this enables project teams to work better together, establish transparency in the design process, cutting costs and thereby increasing productivity.

Future opportunities

There is much opportunity for the construction sector to raise its productivity levels and become more digitised through embracing cloud-based software solutions, and through using BIM and CAD with mobile hardware.

By harnessing this combination of industry-leading software and powerful devices, construction companies can reduce silos and help cut costs, as well as change traditional ways of working.

Over time, this approach can solve the construction sector’s productivity puzzle and enable organisations to compete on a global scale.

Ryan Asdourian is business lead at Microsoft UK

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