It’s fair to say that the construction industry has fallen behind other sectors when it comes to productivity over the years, particularly manufacturing and agriculture where automation and digital technologies have been embraced.
There are factors that must be taken into consideration when looking at why these levels have dropped. For example, the number of hours that can be worked on sites have been reduced and methods of working have become more restrictive in line with health and safety laws. Like manufacturing and agriculture, the adoption of digital technologies is helping to boost levels of productivity across the construction industry, but is there more that can be done?
A new report from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has been commissioned to investigate and address the reasons for low levels of productivity in the sector, and to identify recommendations on how they can be improved.
While there are many points raised in the report, the recommendations that the industry should work with education and training bodies to upskill the sector on modern construction methods and digital innovations, and ensuring that education and training programmes are equipped with the best technology and resources to attract fresh talent into the industry stood out the most.
At Topcon Positioning Ireland, this is something that has been at the forefront of our strategy to help improve the industry for a number of years. We’re committed to ensuring resources are available for construction professionals to expand their knowledge and skill, so we give teams access to training and firmware and software updates via myTopcon, our premium support solution.
Most recently, during the COVID-19 outbreak, we hosted a free webinar series as well as giving professionals discounts on the training available via myTopcon. Delivered by a range of Topcon experts, the webinars focused on a variety of topics, such as how to improve productivity with the use of digital construction workflows, overcoming barriers to technology adoption, and practical how-to sessions for customers and dealers on Topcon solutions. In doing this, we’ve helped the industry continue to upskill from home to ensure we don’t lose the progress that has been made towards a productive future.
We also work closely with education providers across Ireland, including the Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) to inspire and develop the next generation. Barry Evans, a lecturer in the Department of the Built Environment at DKIT, introduced a teaching module that included more practical learning and teamed up with local authorities to allow students access to local projects. To ensure the students had the equipment needed to help on the projects, Topcon Positioning Ireland donated survey instruments and provided technical support, before the DKIT made the decision to purchase them using the college’s funding.
The partnership has continued and now, for a full week ahead of lectures starting, DKIT students are given the opportunity to use Topcon surveying equipment on local authority projects, with the data they capture then being processed and used as part of their design work for the rest of the semester.
By working with education providers such as the DKIT, we’re able to give students practical experience with the latest digital technologies to prepare them for the career ahead of them. To ensure we continue to improve productivity across the construction sector, it’s imperative that we work with schools and colleges to ensure the engineers and surveyors of the future have the knowledge and skills required to use the instruments, systems and workflows that they will encounter as they move into the workplace.
Barry said: “We can’t thank Topcon Positioning Ireland enough for its continued support and assistance to our various programmes at DKIT. The rapid development in technology and application of geospatial instruments, for us in the academic side of the industry, is fantastic to witness but presents us with the detrimental issues associated with the procurement of multiple, or even single systems because of the costs, shrinking budgets and speed of advancement in the technologies. To have the support of a supplier like Topcon Positioning Ireland cannot be understated in terms of both education and the temporary supply of resources.”
We’ve made incredible progress towards digital transformation in the construction industry, and this in turn has allowed us to boost levels of efficiency and productivity. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak especially, it’s vital that we continue to help the industry upskill by providing training, and working with education providers to ensure the next generation of professionals have the knowledge and skills needed to work with the latest technologies and construction methods. By doing these, we can have the confidence that the industry is equipped with the expertise needed to ensure we continue to increase productivity, and catch up to the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
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