The headline above may be more hopeful than truthful. Many in the construction space agree that the sector needs to embrace technology much more than it has in the past. The wheels of progress, however, turn slowly.
With privately-owned 84 Lumber’s hiring of its first ever chief information officer (CIO), perhaps things are changing when it comes to the relationship between construction and technology.
Paper And Pencil Anyone?
JBKnowledge, an IT consulting firm, reported that in 2016 the number of U.S. construction firms spending 1% or less of annuals sales on IT was 70%. In 2015 it was 45%. Overall, JBKnowledge estimates that the construction industry “underspends cross-industry averages in regards to technology by upward of 60% to 70%.”
As for what construction firms use instead of technology, that’s the really embarrassing part. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s Strategy&, some of them “are still using paper-based processes that can only be described as archaic.”
Change Is Coming On The Work Site
The news isn’t all bad – at least not on the actual work site. Several processes and techniques are slowly making their way into the building trades. One is called Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM replaces traditional blueprints with interactive 3D models. Importantly, BIM can bring all of a building’s important information into one creative space.
Another, True-View Welding Mask Technology is turning welding helmets through state of the art optical lens technology. One important benefit is the ability to see through the mask without having to lift it up to check work.
Many construction companies are now using drones to replace traditional methods, including the use of aircraft, to survey land areas. Cost savings are only a tiny part of the advantage of using drones. There are also time savings, increased health and safety factors and security enhancements.
Robots Replacing WorkersDepending on what part of construction you occupy, the technological use of robots to lay bricks could be a good thing or a bad thing. A new brick-laying robot called SAM (Semi-Automated Mason) can put bricks in place 6 times faster than a human.
In terms of workload, SAM can lay 3,000 bricks per day, versus a human worker who can lay about 500 bricks during a shift. The robot is not cheap at $500K a pop. Experts don’t expect fully automated construction sites anytime soon. When they do happen, hopefully humans will be running the robots, designing them and improving them.
Related: TRUMP INFRASTRUCTURE PLANS UNCERTAIN
Top Construction Stocks
Automation and the use of technology, as it arrives in the construction space will be a cost and time saver, a huge benefit to stockholders in public companies. Investors may want to keep a watch on companies that are leading the charge when it comes to the use of technology. Of course, there is the technology itself. Companies creating construction tech will stand to benefit from what many hope is renewed interest in infrastructure spending by the new administration in Washington.
Among top construction companies that stand to gain – with or without technology – are Fluor Corp. (NYSE:FLRC), Jacobs Engineering Group (NYSE:JECC), KBR (NYSE:KBRC), AECOM (NYSE:AEMC) and EMCOR Group (NYSE:EMEC).