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The construction industry needs to increase productivity whilst reducing error and wastage – on-machine technology can provide the gains contractors need

The technologies building the future of New Zealand, and beyond – By Dan Barry

New Zealand’s construction industry will continue to expand until 2020 thanks to investments in infrastructure, public sector facilities and housing, which are driving growth. In fact, by 2020 construction will account for $4.15 billion of New Zealand’s GDP, making it a key driver of growth and prosperity in the market.

It’s an exciting time for construction professionals. In addition to enjoying high demand, construction teams are able to leverage new technologies that deliver a competitive edge and enable them to snap up their slice of the ‘construction boom pie’. So, just what do these technologies look like?

Here are the technologies that are building the future of the construction industry as we head into 2019.

The rise of automatics

With 80% of construction jobs running into overtime, the industry needs to find different methods to increase productivity whilst reducing error and wastage on the job site. Increasing on-machine technology can provide the gains contractors need – e.g. with automatics.

Automatics has gained popularity thanks to its ability to be used in conjunction with large machines, like excavators, for operators to achieve grade at a very consistent rate, without needing to slow down to avoid over or undercutting. This added functionality improves excavation efficiency over guidance-only machine control systems and traditional methods that rely on stakes and grade checkers.

Augmented reality on the job site

Whilst virtual reality gets all the buzz, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) offer more benefits for those who work in the construction industry. As construction becomes more data-focused, AR and MR enhance the building and planning phases of a project, providing the next logical step in design and construction.

AR and MR merge virtual reality and the real world through immersive technology, allowing users to see the real environment overlaid with holographic data from a constructible 3D model. Both AR and MR are considered revolutionary trends in construction because they allow project owners to visualise their sites before they even break ground.

The rise of data

When it comes to project management software, it’s all about real-time team collaboration to optimise performance on construction projects. From the project manager and the engineer to the superintendent and subcontractors, working in real time means more efficiency, transparency and accountability in construction.

In an industry where 95% of data is thrown away or not collected at all, project management software enables data-driven decision-making which can help prevent budget overruns (which occur in 80% of jobs) and low efficiency rates (which occur 30% of the time). In addition, better data management will improve job costing, scheduling and payments within the construction industry.

Increase in safety innovations

Safety has always been a concern for the construction industry, but this is changing thanks to the arrival of new technologies – such as drones – which remove people from the ‘danger zone’ of the job site.

Most often used in mapping a construction site, drones utilise aerial surveys to collect data and evaluate a given job site. This saves businesses the time and expense associated with land surveyors doing it by foot. Most importantly, drones allow construction companies to monitor and inspect job sites, report project updates, and track any disruptions – without risk to their people.

At the same time, this rapidly advancing technology provides more accuracy and precision data and images than ever before. According to Goldman Sachs’ estimates, the drone industry is expected to grow to $11.2 billion in 2021.

Greater control technologies

The continued shortage of skilled workers, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, alongside the pressure on the industry to meet today’s growing infrastructure requirements, means it’s only a matter of time before technology on the construction site considerably evolves.

As many experienced operators near retirement, contractors are beginning to realise the potential of grade control solutions to help fill this skills gap. New grade control systems are much more intuitive and easier to use, which makes them more attractive to new operators.

This, combined with the automatics functionality mentioned above, allows operators of all skill levels to be much more accurate at the first pass and create smooth, flat or sloped surfaces more easily. They can also achieve finished grade to millimetre accuracy with fewer passes. This frees up more experienced operators for complex jobs and lets newer operators hone their skills.

Dan Barry is the Australasia regional manager for Trimble, a leading provider of advanced location-based solutions that maximise productivity and enhance profitability trimble.com

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