3 Key Messages From Digital Construction Week

7 People Sat On Stage As A Panel During A Event At Digital Construction Week 2021

After its postponement in 2020, Digital Construction Week came to London’s ExCel on 24-25 November 2021.

The event promised to showcase the latest digital products and host discussions with industry experts on topics from Digital Twins to the culture of digitalisation.

To keep up with the latest trends and innovations, our Business Development Manger, Mahsa Chadry, made her way down to the capital for the second day of the event. Having listened to ten talks throughout the course of the day, there were so many thought-provoking points raised. Some of which have made us, a software partner in the industry, contemplate how we can help the industry digitise more effectively. But for now, Mahsa shares her top three moments from the event, which provides some food for thought.

Kath Fontana, Managing Director at Mitie Projects.

The “Just enough time to Modernise or Die” panel discussion brought up points raised in the 2016 review of the UK construction labour model by Mark Farmer. During this discussion, the conversation moved to the general digitalisation of the industry, which led to Kath’s comment about the need for investment in digital now in order to save later.

Throughout our time working with the construction industry, we have often come across those who say “if it ain’t broke…”. It is a mindset that can prevent modernisation and the uptake of digital processes. 2020 was a turbulent year for many, and we saw a huge number of contractors try to de-clutter the cabinets on-site and switch to online versions of paper-based processes. These companies who previously thought of digitalisation as a waste of time, have had to implement digital solutions in order to stay afloat, and have now been bitten by the digitalisation bug.

It raises the question, for some, why does it take your hand being forced to modernise working methods? And what will happen to the organisations that flat-out refuse to update their working models to modern methods?

During the “Born Digital! The advantage of construction technology start-ups” talk, Brittany Harris, CEO and Co-Founder of Qualis Flow spoke about how there are many contractors who have created their own solutions to try and digitalise processes. Although their intentions are in the right place, in the long term, the contractor may find that their solution becomes outdated, and they probably will not have the ability to integrate their solution with anything else which can lead to duplicated information.

As important as it is to digitalise processes, it’s perhaps even more important to make sure that it’s done correctly. The point Brittney made is that there are digital specialists out there (like ourselves, or Qualis Flow) who have dedicated their work to understanding a problem that many construction contractors face, and have developed a fully functioning solution. So, why not work with them to create a bespoke system from a model that works, that will be updated and serviced for you. 

Working with digital natives from a start-up or SME may seem risky, but it can’t be denied that bringing fresh perspectives to the industry is needed. I agree with Brittany’s point and believe that contractors receive greater benefits working with a software development agency to deliver digital processes. However, I must point out that there are some agencies out there that may only offer a one-dimensional product and not a service. Like trying to fit a triangle into a square hole, buying a digital product can be the same as not having it at all if it isn’t tailored to your current processes. This is why it’s also important to factor in service and the ability to be flexible when looking for a software development agency to work with.

Every single talk that I attended brought up the need for the industry to address and reduce its carbon footprint. 

According to the UK Green Building Council, the built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. This does include the use of energy within the buildings and infrastructure. (Click here to find out more)

Although Digital Construction Week is primarily to discuss and find the latest technologies, I found it reassuring to hear that sustainability seemed to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. That being said, there didn’t seem to be any further discussion on the matter of going green apart from merely saying that it has become a priority. I would welcome action points or even ideas on how organisations in the built environment are going to consider reducing carbon emissions and increasing their use of renewable resources. 

Though one thing is for certain, digital solutions will play a huge role in ensuring the industry reduces its carbon footprint. Felipe Manzatucci, Director of Digitalisation at Skanska explained that the collection of data has, and will allow them to better inform their decisions going forward. Understanding the current operation is half of the battle towards going green. Once there is a solid understanding of the biggest emitters, backed up by data, there can be well-informed actions to make a positive change.

It’s been fantastic to attend an event filled with people who want to share how they’ve been embracing digital solutions, and also learn how they can better manage their digitisation journey. There are so many exciting, emerging technologies coming into the industry, however, I do think it’s important to start any digitalisation journey with a simple first step.

If you need help taking that first step into developing a digital, paperless process, please get in touch.

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