The Role of Digital Transformation in the Jobsite Revolution

The concept of digital transformation in the construction industry is receiving a great deal of attention, particularly due to research conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, which reveals its potential for boosting productivity by 14 to 15 percent and reducing costs by four to six percent. However, many construction business owners mistakenly believe that digital transformation is a lengthy and expensive process suitable only for large firms. Moreover, they tend to perceive it as a one-time overhaul. In reality, digital transformation in construction is an ongoing commitment to replacing outdated processes with technology and continuously improving companies of all sizes. Rather than considering it a massive undertaking, digital transformation should be viewed as an incremental and continuous process that drives progress in the construction industry.

To maximize return on investment (ROI) within a short timeframe, the process of digital transformation should commence at the construction jobsite, as it is the core revenue-generating area for construction companies. For instance, let’s examine the sign-in process for workers, subcontractors, and visitors at jobsites. Many sites still rely on paper-based sign-in sheets or require supervisors or field engineers to manually enter the data. Another example is the daily reporting practice, which often involves hastily jotting down information at the end of a shift when details are no longer fresh, and these reports are rarely revisited unless an incident or accident occurs.

When incidents do arise, the process of reconstructing what happened is time-consuming, expensive, and prone to human error. By implementing digital tools for tasks such as sign-in procedures and daily reporting, construction companies can streamline and automate these processes while ensuring accuracy in tracking who was present at the jobsite and what transpired.

There are several other jobsite functions that can experience rapid improvements through the utilization of digital tools. These include safety inspections, training and compliance record keeping, equipment and asset tracking, surveying and estimating, and cloud-based collaboration through tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM) that connect the field with the office. Digital tools specifically designed for these functions can save hundreds of lost hours on the jobsite in two fundamental ways:

– Labor savings through automation: By automating processes that were previously reliant on paper, such as sign-ins, site surveys, and daily logs, digital tools can save significant time. This includes the time workers spent signing in at the trailer, supervisors managing paperwork and data entry in the field, and headquarters’ filing processes.

– Jobsite management using data: Through digital transformation, contractors can leverage real-time data for decision-making, collaboration, issue identification, and risk mitigation. For example, being able to quickly produce reports that detail the certifications, skills, and vaccination status of every crew member provides supervisors with valuable information to make better and faster decisions. This empowers supervisors to take action on the jobsite without having to wait for approvals from the office.

To ensure a positive ROI on digital transformation initiatives, there are three key requirements:

– Identify processes and teams that will benefit the most from automation and digital tools, and start with a small-scale project. It is crucial to invest in tools that benefit the majority of stakeholders.

– Acquire new technologies that integrate with existing solutions widely used throughout the company. This integration allows for the consolidation of information from various sources, enabling better decision-making based on a comprehensive view of operations.

– Minimize the learning curve. Given the increasing technical proficiency resulting from the prevalence of smartphones, employees should be able to quickly adapt to new technologies without extensive training or reliance on professional services for installation and maintenance.

Despite the potential benefits, digital transformation in construction is still in its early stages, primarily due to slow adoption at the jobsite. As digital tools become more common on jobsites, there is a risk of a digital divide forming, separating firms that embrace these technologies and enjoy increased productivity from those that continue to rely on outdated business processes.