Construction digitization: Building the right technology for an industry driven by humans

Presented by Procore

Despite consistently achieving incredible feats of ingenuity — such as building state-of-the-art hospitals, sustainable office buildings, and the infrastructure that powers and brings these structures to life — the construction industry is often talked about as if it’s “behind.” I have worked in this industry my entire life, and I know the “construction doesn’t want to change” diatribe misses the point entirely.

This industry is no stranger to technology or innovation, and it regularly navigates complex, high-risk, and ever-changing environments. The industry has found ways to build two 2,000,000 sq. ft. office towers over active rail lines in New York City. In another case, it managed to continue construction on a desperately needed children’s hospital wing — and to do so on schedule, even amid a global pandemic.

Today, incredible technological innovations are employed across the construction sector every day, from robotics, to 3-D printing, to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Big firms have been investing in cutting-edge technology for decades. In fact, McKinsey reports that venture capital investment growth in construction tech has far outpaced venture capital investment overall, and that investment in construction tech has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

Why then, hasn’t the construction industry seen the same productivity gains as other sectors?

Connecting the people who build the world

The construction industry has its roots in handshake deals and relationships. Its success will forever depend on how well its people are able to connect and communicate. No building is built twice — meaning every project is essentially a prototype. Different teams are assembled for each project, so it’s likely they’re working together for the first time. Even so, they’re dependent on each other and ultimately share project risks.

What sounds like a vast network of decentralized work and unpredictable stakeholder dynamics is actually the markings of an industry that’s ripe with opportunities for innovation. While many technology solutions have helped solve pieces of the puzzle, few have focused on the foundational challenge of bringing everyone together, so they can work off the same sheet of music. Large construction firms often have upwards of 10 disparate digital tools for managing specific aspects of construction — one for project management, another for financials, and yet another for managing the schedule, just to name a few.

The problem, in other words, is not that construction is “behind.” The “problem” is that construction projects hinge on human connection, and most technology has not provided a single source of truth or adequate tools to connect teams. Not only does this inhibit communication and access to information which contributes to rework, it also prevents teams from harnessing the power of data.

Leveraging the power of data

The multi-stakeholder nature of construction creates a common scenario where no single company has easy access to, or control over, all the available data for any given project. Owners, general contractors, and specialty contractors each have their systems of record, which are often proprietary.

The construction industry generates massive amounts of data every day. And yet, 96% of that data goes unused, largely because it is stuck in siloed solutions. Leveraging this wealth of data can provide value for individual businesses, the construction industry, and the global economy, since construction is the third largest sector. Bringing all people, systems, and data into one place is where the real progress and productivity gains come from.

The Procore platform is designed to be a single source of truth for the construction industry. By building a data environment that bridges the gap between design and construction and connects all stakeholders in this massive industry, Procore empowers teams with actionable data and insights. Construction companies already generate an impressive amount of data from their projects — Procore connects that data and puts it to work.

To put the sheer volume of information into context: in 2020 alone, Procore customers uploaded or created over 90 million documents, 121 million photos, and 92 million inspection items. On average, our customers are adding over 224 terabytes of data to the Procore platform every month. Every single one of these uploads is data that can be leveraged to transform construction into a connected, data-driven industry.

We use artificial intelligence to help construction firms forecast effectively, track and manage productivity, reduce risk, and more. We can give construction project managers a new level of situational awareness — providing jobsites with real-time intelligence and enhancing jobsite safety, efficiency, and accountability. This data is not only valuable to individual companies, but to the industry at large. We are able to draw insights based on thousands of Procore projects and share trends around project starts, worker hours, and more.

In 2020, we saw an even greater interest in technology across the industry, as construction businesses adapted to the demands and challenges of COVID-19. The pandemic acted as a catalyst for the industry’s digitization, as remote work increased and staying connected became vital. As the industry further digitizes, we will likely see continued investment and growth in the construction space. The industry is poised for incredible success in the years and decades to come — the key will be to keep connection at the forefront of innovation.

Tooey Courtemanche is CEO of Procore.

Learn more about how Procore helps turn project data into business intelligence.

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