Five Technologies Driving Safety and Productivity in Construction
The construction industry is one of the largest employers in the world. As such, it is one of the key drivers of the global economy, and a vital constituent of job creation plans and post-pandemic recovery worldwide. In the US, President Biden’s “Build Back Better” program aims to re-ignite America’s economic throughput with a clear focus on infrastructure. The construction sector will contribute to this significantly.
Does that mean smooth sailing from now on for the construction industry? Absolutely not.
Construction globally is riddled with inefficiency and low productivity levels. An oft-cited report from McKinsey states that, “over a period of 20 years the construction sector had only grown by one percent.” One-third the rate of the world economy, and about one-fourth that of the manufacturing sector. And growth isn’t even the biggest issue the sector is facing.
Safety is a more monumental challenge for construction. Data from OSHA shows that construction sees more “on the job” fatalities than any other sector, with nearly one in five worker deaths. Unfortunately, construction has made its home at the top of this list year over year.
How does this industry overcome such obstacles in productivity and worker safety?
A key answer is technology. This is the age of digital disruption. It is paramount that the construction industry embraces digital change and new technological innovations. Here are five technologies driving digital change to increase safety and productivity in construction, today:
Internet of Things (IoT) – Leveraging smart sensors on the machinery and equipment, construction engineers can get real-time insights into the location and utilization of resources to optimize investments and returns, better plan and schedule maintenance tasks and personnel schedules, and to enable smarter equipment purchasing, maintenance and renewal decisions.
IoT sensors can relay crucial information on environmental conditions in hazardous terrains like tunnels or high-altitude sites. By providing data on oxygen levels, pressure, and temperature parameters in real-time, locating hazardous chemicals, and tracking site conditions IoT drives safe work decisions. Construction companies can also track the interplay between workers and machines for proximity alerts, near-misses, or other possible collision concerns for greater safety.
Smart Wearables – Wearable technologies are devices, tags, or equipment worn by workers while they complete their duties. For example, smart glasses or watches can help relay employee location data to remote control centers, that can then marry that data with wider information about the site. Two-way communication capabilities, such as those available with our smart hardhat, allow employees to be connected, furthering collaboration, and providing the remote team the ability to supply guidance for critical tasks without the wait for an expert to arrive, accelerating repairs and saving on costs. Wearables can even monitor employee biometric signs, making sure elements such as temperature, heart rate, and even fatigue levels are within safe limits or safe in relation to external factors.
Analytics – The ability to track this data needs to be followed by harnessing it to improve safety and productivity. With data analytics companies can reveal trends about specific situations or correlated circumstances with potential for danger and drive timely, preventative actions. It can show which tasks slow production and help pinpoint the root cause. Smart insights help construction supervisors forecast manpower requirements, cost, project timelines, and much, much more.
Worker Management Platforms – Worker management platforms help construction companies better organize, schedule, and control their workforce. Comprehensive data about worker assignments and schedules can help create plans that allow for social distancing and enable more comprehensive contact tracking should the need arise.
Integrated Training – Wearables integrated with AR/VR tech help employees acquire skills to address their tasks faster and more effectively via virtual or integrated training sessions. For example, using smart glasses trainees have been provided better training, reduced error rates and are able to follow precise instructions hands-free, and remotely. These solutions promote contextual learning and have been proven to enhance employee retention and better equip them to safely deliver high performance.
Construction will always be a pillar of the global economy and it is with that responsibility that stakeholders and decision-makers in this industry must light the way towards a digitized future. Protecting their workers while simultaneously enhancing their productivity by accelerating the adoption of technologies that can make the path forward even safer.