Report roundtable discussion: Digitisation in the Belgian construction industry


Report roundtable discussion: Digitisation in the Belgian construction industry

The construction industry is on the eve of a major wave of digitisation and the number of applications/solutions that are flooding into the sector is expanding rapidly. RecoMatics participated in a digital meeting, led by Debouw.Online and together with construction companies, software suppliers and the WTCB, to discuss the challenges for the sector. In this blog we summarise some important observations for you.

To what extent has the Belgian construction industry already been digitised?

On average, the construction industry lags behind other sectors in terms of digitisation and the budget spent on it. This is mainly due to the complexity of the sector. The processes with many moving parts, people, wharfs, vehicles, weather conditions, ... make it more difficult to fully structure and plan them. Figures also show that an average of 1.3% of operational expenditure is spent on digitisation, while in other sectors it is easily three times as much.

In recent years, however, awareness of digitisation has grown. As more and more construction companies acquire and share experience in digitisation, so does trust. In addition, the number of applications and solutions that are introduced to the sector is growing rapidly.

What are the basic requirements to get started with digitisation?

The most important requirement is to define a digital strategy. In doing so, avoid separate initiatives but focus on a broader framework. Think big, start small and act fast!

analysis

A motivated team is the next criterion. It's not always easy to get everyone on board and change deep-rooted habits. So it is important to make it clear that digitisation is staff-supportive.

It is also important to use certain criteria when selecting software. Analyse where people spend most of their time, where the frustrations lie or where most routine work is done and find the right application for it. Start small by solving small painpoints with simple software that is compatible and can integrate with other software in the long term.

Which factors/causes are (still) holding back the step towards digitisation?

Making the ROI (Return On Investment) tangible would help many companies in the construction sector to see the concrete benefits of digitisation. Furthermore, in recent years, digitisation has also grown more out of necessity than out of a conscious choice regarding efficiency and profit. Hence the choice for single point solutions that are good in one task but do not always offer great integrations, which is important to really move forward. Digitisation via platforms will be the big game changer for the construction sector. There will be consolidation, with room for links to small, local solutions.

What impact and benefits can digitisation offer?

Saving time is one of the most important benefits. For both large and small companies, the amount of administrative tasks can be minimised. For example, the job of site and project managers has become very complex. Today they have to be financially and legally literate, report, communicate, ... Digitisation saves time and allows them to focus on their core tasks.

Moreover, you can do more work with the same number of people and it is also more qualitative. In many cases, this leads to a better product and a better service. Digitising also makes your company more interesting for (young) employees because you can offer them the right tools.

Another important advantage of digitisation is that you always have the correct and most up-to-date information at your disposal, wherever you are. Construction is a sector in which many different parties have to work together to realise a project.

construction-engineer

People are often on the road, project leaders have several construction sites under their care. It is not always possible to go and see everything on site. The digital provision of information and communication about problems is essential in construction, more so than in other sectors. It ensures fewer mistakes, fewer discussions and a higher ROI.

Thanks to digitisation, continually making small process improvements will have the greatest impact. The leverage you can achieve through digitisation is gigantic. Companies will therefore have to embrace it to remain competitive. Certainly when you consider that in 5 to 10 years’ time the average wharf will be fully managed by an underlying BIM ecosystem. If everything is connected digitally, the productivity gains will be gigantic. It does, however, require a bond of trust between companies, which is not so evident today in the construction sector.

What can we expect from (new) digital solutions in the future?

A lot of work is still done on paper, which often leads to double (or triple) work. The technology to solve this, however, has been around for years. Yet everything depends on effective integration into the organisation. The success of digitisation is also determined by the possibilities for integration with suppliers, subcontractors, etc.

Applications therefore need to be very inventive, interact quickly and deal qualitatively with the data and information that is entered or read out.

In conclusion

In the second half of 2020, a leap in digitisation was made that would otherwise take two years. Companies (including those in the construction industry) realise that steps need to be taken to adapt to a world in which people work differently. Digitisation is not IT, but an essential part of the business. For companies in the construction industry there are therefore many opportunities in the pipeline that will help them to work faster, more efficiently and better.

What can we do for you?

Get in touch.