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In our latest guest blog, our corporate partners, FlowForma, discuss process automation for construction companies.
Digital transformation for businesses in almost all industries has accelerated in the past few years. The pressures of remote work, plus a need for new competitive technologies, has organizations turning toward mobile-first technologies, AI-powered tools, collaborative platforms, and – crucially – automation technology.
One industry, however, has struggled to keep up with this trend. While other sectors are accelerating their digital transformation journeys, many construction firms are yet to begin. For an industry that has so many moving parts, processes, and people, it’s vital that new technologies, like automation, are embraced for businesses to stay competitive.
Automation in construction is designed to produce higher production rates, improve project delivery times, create better health and safety measures, and reduce overheads on projects. The construction industry faces many unique challenges, such as overruns, spiralling costs, and severe project delays due to supply shortages. Many of these problems are created by manual outdated methods for completing processes and can be solved with new technologies like process automation.
For construction businesses to stay competitive, automation is necessary.
Why has automation in construction been so slow?
According to McKinsey, external market factors (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), fragmented industry dynamics, and an aversion to risk has made adopting new technologies difficult and slow.
While other industries were accelerating their digitization efforts during the pandemic, the construction industry came to a halt. In early 2020, construction work was put on hold globally, returning five months later – but this was enough to set the industry back.
Even before the pandemic, the construction industry had been slow to change. For the past 20 years, its annual productivity growth has only been a third of economy averages. And digitization has been lower than in nearly any other industry. Profit margins are typically low, and customer satisfaction is often poor. Time and budget overruns have, in this industry, become too common.
Why process automation in construction?
Construction projects are usually complex with bespoke specifications for each one. This makes projects difficult to iterate and outcomes hard to predict. However, there are ways to streamline the processes within a construction project, as well as mitigate health and safety risks, eliminate outdated methods (for example, Excel sheets), and limit overruns.
Process automation is an effective way to streamline workflows in a construction project, including material requisition, permit to dig, health and safety checks, risk assessment, and the onboarding of contractors and subcontractors. For many construction firms, these processes are performed via outdated manual methods. However, outdated approaches will hamper productivity, create overruns (and overheads), and cause project delays.
Requisition for materials is a process often completed via emails, which can be missed, misinterpreted, and cause broken links in communication. By using a process automation tool, site managers are required to fill out a set form, with accurate data entry fields, which then prompts the requisition team. This ensures that data is relayed accurately, in a standardized way, and means that important information doesn’t get overlooked.
What are the benefits of automation in construction?
The benefits of automation in construction are far-reaching. Since construction projects often have bespoke requirements, automation of processes can positively impact very niche areas of a business. However, using construction process automation software will also deliver predictable business outcomes:
- Increase productivity: process automation in construction removes manual processes for a business, replacing these with streamlined workflows. If a construction company automates a significant amount of its processes, it will see a boost in worker engagement, seamless contractor onboarding, and an acceleration toward project delivery.
- Deliver an ROI: business leaders who automate construction see an immediate return on investment. With FlowForma’s process automation tool, construction firms have in some cases saved $80,000 per significant process. If a firm automates enough of its processes, it will cut overheads by a considerable amount.
- Beat out competition: process automation in construction is still a novel technology and has not been adopted across the industry. This means that firms that automate construction will have a market advantage.
- Gain data visibility: automate construction and gain access to a wealth of data. With process automation platforms, like FlowForma’s tool, construction firms can oversee and report on project data. This improves decision-making in the long term and ensures that challenges with processes (bottlenecks, missed steps, etc.) can be quickly refined.
- Become agile: for an industry that relies on so many processes and people, as well as the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, agility is key. Process automation in construction helps construction teams to connect and collaborate more quickly. A connected construction platform like FlowForma’s will ensure that employees can remain agile as they navigate complex projects.
- Mitigate risk: The construction industry is heavily regulated. Despite this, construction firms still rely on traditional methods (e.g. Excel spreadsheets) for creating audits and reports. If mistakes are made (data not recorded accurately, etc.) there can be serious health and safety implications. With process automation, online forms with exact data entry fields can mitigate risk. For an industry marked by lawsuits, it’s important that construction businesses take preventative measures.
With process automation, construction firms see an ROI within six weeks.
Though the industry has been slow to mobilize, there is a budding race toward digitization. Those firms which automate construction sooner will see themselves ahead in the digitization game. In a competitive landscape, with knocks from the pandemic and rising costs for materials, it’s important to adopt and set in motion new technologies. Those construction firms that don’t automate their processes now will be playing catch-up down the line.
Drive rapid digitization and see a six-week ROI with FlowForma’s Intelligent Construction Software.