The construction industry is slightly further along in its workplace transformation when compared with other industries, indicates a new study on digital transformation in the workplace.
Telus Business recently released construction findings as part of its Workplace Transformation Study: Aligning People, Process and Technology in the Digital Era. The report, developed in partnership with International Data Corporation (IDC), provides insight on the pace of workplace transformation and implementing change in construction and other industries.
“The construction industry has historically been ‘data-light’ relative to other industries, but a growing number of transformational solutions are changing the nature of construction while helping businesses solve a variety of needs,” states the report.
The findings are part of a comprehensive report looking to understand and solve issues impacting the success of Canada’s medium-sized businesses. The research indicates half of the 203 Canadian organizations surveyed, 30 of which were in construction, are implementing digital solutions.
“The biggest thing for us is it’s incredibly valuable to be able to dive in to the specifics of each industry and really understand at a granular level where they are in their digital transformation journey,” said Craig Thornton, vice-president at Telus Business.
The Workplace Transformation Model shows that businesses fall into four distinct stages: skeptics, who are unaware of the level of workplace transformation taking place today and the advantages; beginners, who are just starting their transformation journey and might be readying to implement one or more digital solutions; implementers, who understand the need to transform their workplace and had already implemented one or more solutions; and leaders who have integrated multiple digital solutions and prioritize automation and cloud-enabled solutions to improve collaboration.
IoT is one of the key areas of focus and we see leaders really investing in this,
— Craig Thornton
According to the model, 10 per cent of medium-sized construction businesses surveyed fall into skeptics, compared to the national average of 17 per cent. Thirty per cent are classified as beginners, compared to 28 per cent nationally. Thirty-seven per cent of firms surveyed are considered implementers, compared to the 34 per cent national average and 23 per cent are considered leaders, compared to 21 per cent nationally.
The report points to three workplace transformation pillars: people, process and technology.
In the people category, the findings indicate 37 per cent of construction respondents report facing a skills shortage compared with other industries.
“In both construction and transportation, 37 per cent of respondents cited that skill gaps were a concern for them, yet both of those industries are lobbying quite extensively at both the federal and provincial level to grow and protect the pool of trades and drivers,” explained Thornton. “That signals potentially a greater skills challenge looming in the future.”
When it comes to investing in expertise, construction organizations are just as likely to have made major investments in IT professional services as other industries with 47 per cent doing so compared to 44 per cent nationally.
“Construction businesses have recognized that IT is not their core competency and they’re increasingly turning to trusted partners to manage this aspect of their organization,” said Thornton.
In terms of process, the study found construction businesses are more likely than businesses in other industries to invest in physical automation by 67 per cent, versus the national average of 56 per cent. Construction primarily invests in automation to drive productivity with less interest in reducing labour costs or improving quality, the findings indicate.
As for enabling work in mobile environments, 70 per cent of respondents have created or are creating collaborative areas within their workplace, compared with 72 per cent of businesses nationally and 67 per cent of construction organizations have or are implementing a work from home policy or are researching its value, which is also above the national average.
“We’re already seeing the construction industry allowing their employees to step outside the usual confines of the work environment and collaborate in different ways,” Thornton noted.
In technology, construction companies are ahead of the national average in connecting their workforce and investing in smart buildings. Leading construction firms are investing in the Internet of Things (IoT), states the report.
“When I look at the construction industry what jumped out is the leaders are able to connect operations, assets and people together,” Thornton said. “How do you do that? IoT is one of the key areas of focus and we see leaders really investing in this.”
Thornton said IoT transcends a few different aspects of the business in construction.
Telemetry lets management keep track of their assets and tools, improves utilization and reduces shrinkage and costs. Smart buildings, whether they build or own them, can also create efficiencies and save money.
The study also suggests that the construction industry is not as far along as others in terms of security and it should be more top of mind, especially with breaches occurring more frequently.