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There is a misconception that the construction industry is behind the times. While there are always opportunities to improve adoption and functionalities, as a whole, there are many exciting examples of innovation happening in construction right now. 

The coming year is set to be a big one for technology trends, especially when it comes to doing more with less in the wake of labor shortages and demand surges. While there may be a wave of new, out-of-the-box innovations for construction, expect to see technology fill a more strategic, day-to-day role as companies move away from outdated methods of data collection and documentation.

2020 Construction Technology Trends

Because of the constant development of construction technology, there are many trends expected to impact the industry. However, there are three that will likely be the most significant:

  1. Drones. The construction industry is one of the earliest adopters of drones and has one of the largest use cases for the technology’s success. Currently, drones are being used for tasks such as site surveying, assessing structural damage and collecting data via earthworks management, since they provide a safer and more efficient option than sending a worker out on foot. Take Haskell, for example. Over the last couple of years, the AEC company has implemented drone-captured images to survey projects and track progress via bird’s eye view. While this technology has already made a major impact on the industry, Gartner predicts drone shipments will increase by 50% in 2020. Increasing drone usage rates is one of the many ways the construction industry is looking to minimize the risk of worker injury and maximize project efficiency.
  2. Machine Learning. AI certainly has a great deal of innovation potential when it comes to robots and autonomous vehicles, but the biggest trend in 2020 will likely be using data mining and machine learning to accomplish everyday tasks. The reality is that no one in construction has the time to sift through the massive amounts of data that come in every hour, minute or second. Machine learning’s most valuable role in construction is to help extract meaningful insight from this data and organize it in a way that can be easily analyzed. In an Autodesk video on the subject, Pat Keaney, director of BIM 360 Enterprise Products, put it best by saying, “If our customers have a thousand quality issues on a construction jobsite, no human being could – or would want to – read them every single day.” 
  3. Cloud-Based Technology. Arguably the greatest opportunity for construction technology investment in 2020 is in streamlining everyday processes and workflows. Cloud-based technology provides staff with easier access to data and constant communication among all project stakeholders. In addition, using this tech to document all processes helps mitigate risk in the event of litigation by reducing contract disputes. Diligent tracking via technology can also minimize the potentially disastrous impact of these disputes. For example, earlier this year Granite Construction announced poor financial results. James Roberts, CEO of Granite Construction, stated that contract disputes played a significant factor in this loss. Managing risks remains the number one focus area for construction companies to strive, cloud-based technology plays a major role in managing this challenge.

In 2020, the greatest tech trends likely won’t be those that aim to revolutionize or disrupt the industry; the most prevalent ones will be those that help GCs invest in their infrastructure through data collection, analyzation, collaboration and documentation.

2020 Outlook: Investing in Technology Is Investing in the Workforce 

The worker shortage is an issue that has impacted the construction industry for many years, and it appears to only be increasing. In 2018, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the construction industry had almost 300,000 vacant jobs. 

Although Baby Boomers currently make up a large portion of the construction industry, they are beginning to leave as they get older, which is why construction businesses should work to cater the work environment to younger individuals. In order to attract younger workers, such as millennials and Gen Z, construction industry leaders will have to adopt technology into everyday practices. As technology natives, younger generations expect to have it naturally integrated into the workplace and some may not be willing to work in an environment that lacks the tools they feel they need to work most efficiently and effectively. Construction professionals who do not meet these generations’ desires for a better-equipped workplace are missing out on valuable candidates. 

Not only will the investment in technology help attract new workers to the field, but it will also help address the many struggles construction companies encounter during business development, billing and other behind-the-scenes essentials. Due to the shortage of workers in the construction industry, it is vital that in tandem with using technology to attract new generations, construction professionals also learn to use these developments to fill the void of having fewer workers. To efficiently use resources, technology will have to be incorporated to improve communication, analysis and transparency on projects. 

Technology in the construction industry is continuing to grow and 2020 will be no exception. As the industry continues to innovate, construction professionals should work to figure out which solutions work best for them. Technology is not a one-size-fits-all plan; instead, industry professionals should work to customize options to fit their needs and desires. 


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