New Technological Disruption in Construction
Technology has been disrupting the way we live in a multitude of ways. Most notably, we have seen technology disrupt the transport (Uber and Grab), retail (e-commerce) and the energy industry (solar and other renewables).
However, behind the scenes, other industries are also changing rapidly. The construction industry, for example, has been rapidly transformed by robot technology and the use of drone inspections.
Building a skyscraper used to be a tedious affair, with construction usually taking years to complete. However, last year The Guardian featured a video showing how a 57-storey building was completed in a mere 19 days.
This is a remarkable achievement by any counts. So how has technology made construction so much faster and safer?
Automation has taken the world by storm. Many complex procedures like surgeries, accounting, driving and now construction are being automated. What used to take months or years to be completed can now be achieved in just a few days.
Previously, surveyors spent hours assessing site specifications such as soil, vegetation and surface space. Amazingly, this can now be done with drones that capture wide areas and send them straight to a computer. A drone can also capture close-up images of the site to reveal important information that investigators would sometimes miss on personal site visits. As such, the total time taken for the process has been cut in half.
Robots and 3D printing technology have also allowed the construction of bridges and other structures to be completely unmanned, reducing the risk of hazards and accidents.
Construction taking place in factories
Many aspects of the construction process can now be completed off-site in factories. Even in Singapore, construction companies are encouraged by the government to make use of technology to improve safety and efficacy of construction.
Nanyang Technological University’s North Hill residential halls, for example, was built partially using the Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) method. This involved building aspects of the building in the safety of factories before transporting them to the final construction site.
The technology also allows companies to mass produce other elements such as walls and steel beams to be later transported to the final building site for installation (think Lego).
Singapore Government encouraging technology shift
Adopting new technology can be challenging and costly for construction companies who are used to certain methods of operation. This inertia can be tough to overcome, which is why the Singapore government has put in place means to encourage the industry as a whole to improve themselves with new technologies.
Already about half of the Singapore Government Land Sale sites require developers to use the PPVC method. The Housing Development Board has also announced that it would adopt concrete PPVC in 35% of its projects over the next two years.
Companies that are unable to adapt to the new changes might be left behind in the future. This is especially so for companies that are operating in Singapore, where more government projects are being reserved for companies that can adopt the new technologies and improve their construction efficiency overall.
The Foolish bottom line
Technological disruptions can affect any industry. Therefore, companies need to be constantly on their toes to adapt to the changing world. As investors, we should look out for companies that are able to maintain a competitive edge in a very dynamic business world.