Five steps to moving forward along the road to digitalization
True digital transformation is a long-term commitment that affects every business sector: from recruitment and day-to-day operations to managing assets and employees. Unfortunately, there is evidence that many organizations aren’t actually taking advantage of digital solutions and processes, and few construction companies have fully digitized their operations.
Before a company can evolve in this digital world, they must first understand the differences in terminology:
- digitization: converting the business from analog to digital;
- digitalization: using digital technologies and data in business; and
- digital transformation: making people-centric organizational changes, leveraging technologies to empower employees.
Construction companies of any size can take advantage of digitalization and, in turn, improve the old standards set by the industry’s paper-based operational and financial processes. For day-to-day operations such as invoicing, time management and inventory control, some in the construction industry have been slow to adopt digital tools to improve processes. In addition to an overwhelming marketplace full of promising solutions, the daunting task of digital transformation has heightened due to a global pandemic.
Companies must understand what the construction industry will look like in this post-pandemic world, especially considering construction and heavy materials continue to play a vital role in the recovery of the economy and community. Thankfully, strategies exist to help businesses select the right tool and create more efficient business practices.
STEP 1: FOCUS ON THE PAIN POINTS
Effective transformation requires thoughtful planning, with software and hardware acquisitions catered to the organization’s specific needs. Simply put, no two transformations are alike.
With that in mind, it’s worth thinking about a company’s pain points and how digital tools and technology can help, while focusing on outcomes first. For example, contractors need to find a way to transform paper documents into digital in a more remote-work setting. At the same time, distributors may want to limit the physical interactions of their entire e-commerce. Digital solutions can help businesses struggling with complex invoicing by implementing a computerized method that aids by issuing payment reminders, integrating with existing accounting software, and sending immediate email requests for payment.
STEP 2: BE FLEXIBLE AND TRANSPARENT
Ernst & Young emphasizes the importance of being nimble as companies adopt digital tools, understanding there is no end, and that in a continuously changing world of technology, businesses are capable of adapting.
Additionally, innovation and digital transformation in the construction sector must be nurtured internally and throughout the organization. Businesses should:
- invest in their culture and the skills of their employees;
- remain honest and open with employees and contractors about any implemented technology; and
- continue to listen to feedback, comments and concerns as new technologies are adopted.
With digital and connected solutions, a true 360-degree view of in-process projects is delivered to the construction industry, increasing transparency and accountability.
STEP 3: STRENGTHEN SUPPLY CHAINS
The construction industry requires collaboration by a myriad of segmented people operating in distributed channels to deliver on projects. These projects engage a complex network of people and involve numerous relationships, vast materials, volumes of information and thousands of participants.
This complex, fragmented supply-chain web means companies can potentially face challenges controlling and managing construction from a project-based orientation. Furthermore, this fragmentation has caused construction companies to fall behind in successfully implementing digital technologies.
Digitalization is a very appealing approach to fix the challenges of creating a collaborative and integrated supply chain.
According to PWC, a digital supply chain consists of certain key elements including:
- integrated planning and execution;
- logistics visibility;
- Industry 4.0;
- autonomous and B2C logistics; and
- prescriptive supply chain analytics.
Companies that can put together these pieces into a coherent and fully transparent whole gain huge advantages in customer service, flexibility, efficiency and cost reduction. After all, from building inventory to consolidating distribution channels to recruiting labourers, digital solutions create more vertical alignment of the value chain which, in turn, benefits productivity.
STEP 4: IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK REMOTELY
On the best of days, monitoring each person and project on a construction site is a challenge. In today’s new normal, quality remote management tools allow foremen and supervisors to track trucks, log hours and study onsite progress in real time. By streamlining much of the process, these digital solutions increase the opportunities for construction team members to work remotely.
But what about labourers who can’t work remotely? There are obvious aspects of construction that require an in-person presence on a jobsite.
From putting design information and live markups into the hands of managers to remote site monitoring and personnel location tracking, creating digitalized—and ultimately connected—jobsites help improve project execution, benefitting companies in the age of physical distancing.
Even after the current crisis ends, implementing remote tech solutions removes the hassle and confusion needed to manage multiple teams and tasks, ensuring everyone involved is on the same page and can execute accordingly without a physical person standing next to them.
STEP 5: REMEMBER THE “WHY”
Businesses that are adopting digital tools do so because they want to improve their operating procedures—be that in productivity or improving back office tasks. It’s essential to keep those motivations front-and-center as companies embark upon transformative changes.
It’s also vital that training on new tools and software is regularly offered, allowing employees to become better prepared for a more substantial digital modernization, ensuring operational efficiency and the long-term success of the industry.
Companies that want to win more work and deliver projects more efficiently need powerful solutions. Digitalization is a solution to help improve project planning and execution efficiencies as well as margins. Construction companies should invest in and leverage technology to provide innovative solutions and real-time insights to formulate and achieve the desired project outcomes—increased productivity, reduced costs and safeguards against hazards.
By Noah Dolgoy, as featured in Construction Executive.
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