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Using technology to improve productivity and sustainability in the construction sector

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This week we were delighted to participate in the virtual launch event for UN75: Sustainable Engineering in Action, a new publication from Institution of Civil Engineers and UNESCO to mark the latter’s 75th anniversary. As part of our role as an official partner, Mat Kellett, National Sales Manager at Topcon, took to the mic to discuss the obstacles to productivity and sustainability in the construction sector and how technology can be to overcome them. Here’s what he had to say.

Challenges in the construction industry

At present, 20% of construction expense is caused by mistakes, with a substantial amount of waste generated due to poor planning. The use of wrong materials, excess materials, and poor communication between contractors and subcontractors are all leading to extra costs from rework caused by errors.

On top of this, further pressure is applied by the projected increases in global population, which is set to grow from its current 7.7 billion to 11 billion by the end of the century. In order to meet the construction and infrastructure demands of this larger population, the industry needs to grow at a similar rate. However, the cost to achieve this is much higher than current productivity and financial capabilities will allow – causing an expected ‘construction gap’ of around $36 trillion globally.

Boosting productivity and meeting industry demand

So, what can be done to address these challenges? At Topcon, we believe that the solution has to come from innovation in digital construction technology, which improves workflows and collaboration on site. This in turn boosts efficiencies, keeps projects on track, and accelerates economic growth.

The trend towards dematerialization in hardware, whereby different technologies are combined into a single device, is also key to becoming more productive. The uptake of this combined approach is currently more common in applications involving machine control, like Topcon’s X-53x Auto Excavator, which has been proven to increase productivity on site by 30% Using precise in-built GPS positioning technology, modern 3D machine control devices are used to not only increase machine accuracy, but also the proficiencies of the operator. This digital enhancement on site is helping to streamline projects and keep expenses and waste to a minimum.

Developments in software

It is not just developments in hardware that are making a difference to productivity on site. The use of cloud computing project management software is giving the construction sector immediate availability of 3D design data, making the data easier to measure and manage, and workflows faster and more efficient, as non-experts can visualize projects easier and in real-time.

The use of digital twins is also benefitting project productivity enormously, as it enables project managers to monitor progress and compare work to the actual design. Continuous verification ensures that potential errors are highlighted before they happen – reducing costly and environmentally detrimental reworks on projects. At the same time, the digital twin technology is further helping to tackle waste issues in the industry. Through the use of real data instead of assumed information, project managers can minimize the transfer of materials from one location to another, and instead reuse materials close by, cutting down on transport and logistics costs as well as improving sustainability on projects.

Increasing the adoption of digital construction technology

Despite the benefits of digital construction technology being widely acknowledged, the construction industry remains one of the least automated industries in the world, and is yet to move away from traditional work practices and embrace digital solutions at the rate that other sectors have. Nevertheless, changes in the sector are slowly being made, and through increasing the adoption of automation and new technologies, the industry can begin to increase its productivity and address the challenges brought on by the demands of a growing population, while doing so sustainably.

Click here to find out how to accelerate productivity on your projects.

Want to watch the launch event of UN75: Sustainable Engineering in Action? View it here

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