WHAT IS HOLDING BACK SMALL CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES ?
WHAT IS HOLDING BACK SMALL CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES ?
The construction industry is one of the largest industries in the world and still operates on long-established techniques. The amount of effort in the field of R&D has been relatively low compared to other sectors. Industries in various sectors have dramatically improved through the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use. However, the use of ICT has been slightly different and has not kept pace within the construction industry. Constant research needs to be carried out to succeed in the construction sector. Moreover, it has been observed that innovation is adopted very slowly in the construction industry. The traditional methods are still used over modern techniques. Currently, the construction industry lacks the expertise to adopt the new technological advances that are primarily due to uncertainty, fear and lack of awareness. The construction industry is considered a backward industry in comparison to other industries since it is the one that fails to innovate.
CAUSES FOR LACK OF TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES:
The investment made in construction technology in a small scale industry is far less than satisfactory for several reasons. The main reasons stated are:
- Too much significance has been placed on solutions that focus on peripheral issues (such as resource scheduling systems) instead of main processes.
- There is not enough balance amongst the three main organizational problems- technology, people, and process.
- The two of the most frequently blamed elements for deficiency in technology usage are building codes and unions. They further add up by saying that building codes regulate construction technology, and often delay technological change in construction.
- Another major reason is the fear of initiating new technology in the market. The designer often tends to follow the ongoing construction practices in the design and avoids setting up new designs which may benefit the project. The obvious consequences of these practices are that the designer is reluctant to introduce new materials and methods of construction, fearing that contractors refrain from offering higher prices. Thus, it is quite evident that designers restrict product innovation due to the prevailing construction process in small companies.
- Another reason for the absence of technological advances in small scale companies is the owner. In small to medium scale companies, every decision is made by the owner themselves and their demands dictate innovation. Their conservative force influences the whole process whereby the implementation of a new idea is difficult in construction.
- Moreover, the small scale industries are typically behind the big scale industries in terms of adopting innovation and technological advances. Besides, timely access to valuable information is essential for these companies to gain a strategic advantage in the search for innovation. Thus, most of the small scale companies have still not adopted BIM as a solution to their problem.
Owing to the above problems, Lean Production, the new production model, has not been successfully introduced in the construction sector.
SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM:
There are various solutions to this problem of technological adoption in the small scale construction industry. A few of these solutions are explained below:
- Building Information Modelling (BIM): It can be defined as the process of managing and generating building data during the life cycle of the project. Furthermore, this approach is not just about software or the use of a tool but also a process and helps to enhance the accuracy and productivity in the design and construction of the project. Moreover, BIM enables us to maintain better coordination between different disciplines resulting in fewer errors. The owners from small scale companies can benefit by using BIM processes and tools to streamline the delivery of better performing and higher-quality buildings. BIM design and construction technologies such as energy analysis , model generation tools, 4D and design coordination would enable the owners to have a more efficient and reliable delivery process that would reduce cost and project time. In addition, 3D modelling and simulation of models with the BIM would quickly allow designers to establish changes that would impact the project by optimizing the design in coordination with others. The benefits of BIM can be availed using our services.
- IT-enabled Construction: The Information Technology (IT) enabled model-based approach can be summarized as a means of sharing information about the project through a shared conceptual model. In small scale industries, there is a small exchange of information and knowledge between the phases of the life cycle of the project. IT is the main element that allows the transparent exchange of information between the stages of the life cycle. Apart from that, the communication between the parts of the building is mainly based on drawings and specifications. Visualization, on the other hand, makes communication more effective and accessible. Visualization can also be in the form of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) . Using CDE as a medium of information to collect, manage and disseminate documentation, a model which would enable collaboration between members in the project and help to avoid any mistakes and duplication. Microsoft SharePoint is one of the web-based collaborative tools that can be adopted in small companies.
- Lean-Based Construction: There is little knowledge of Lean in most small scale companies. Construction involves the collaboration of several permanent organizations to form a temporary organization to execute a project. Several Lean projects have been developed based on the increased training efforts aimed at a senior manager responsible for a single project, and then moved to the foreman. Experience suggests that people adopt lean only when they connect with what they see and how it benefits the industry. After becoming aware of lean construction, many companies form their internal teams to perform coaching on future projects. The Last Planner System (LPS) can be implemented by the adoption of cross-functional teams. The LPS is based on making and keeping promises, and all teams must utilize these principles. Many companies establish an internal position related to lean implementation after becoming aware of it. Lean construction requires stakeholders to adopt new beliefs and behaviours that begin significantly from their experience with the traditional construction methods. To change the traditional approach, many efforts have focused on providing training on lean development, methodologies, principles and their benefits. Training should be done until the people know how to swim on their own. This new culture of lean involving stakeholders would allow them to embrace the principle of continuous improvement and respect for people.
- Government: The government has a fundamental role to play in all areas of innovation, including access to human resources, finance and technology, building codes, market connections, availability of research facilities and access to information. The government should develop a centre of research to assist the culture of innovation. The building codes should be updated and reviewed periodically in place of the current requirement of the sector.