Process Drives Construction

We are in the middle of a short series on five big trends that are coming in 2021 and beyond. Last week, we looked at inspiring, motivating, and connecting with our workers. If we want to continue the conversation of people, process, and technology, then next we must take a closer look at how our businesses hum.
As the famous Socrates quote goes, “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the construction industry has long been resistant to change. We could create a long list of reasons for this: the aging workforce, the complexity of projects, the fact that there are multiple stakeholders, and dispersed teams—all of this makes change, and thus tech implementation, a large feat in construction. The very notion of a change in ‘business process’ is enough to make many workers cringe.
But if we look closely at what that Socrates quote suggests, we need not fight the old, but rather look to build the new. Case in point: COVID-19 shutdowns. While many contractors still went to work, others in the industries needed to tap into new collaboration tools or tech for social distancing. The way the industry worked changed overnight. The focus was clear: keep everyone safe. And what followed were a number of changes in business processes.
This isn’t new either. Gartner says the typical organization today has undertaken five major firmwide changes in the past three years—and nearly 75% expect to multiply the types of major change initiatives they will undertake in the next three years. It suggests incorporating open-source strategies into organizational change management approaches to help increase employee engagement, discretionary effort, intent to stay, and productivity.
In construction, specifically, we have seen a number of process changes in the past decade. Think BIM (building information modeling). Even though, many use that term synonymously with technology, at the heart of BIM is a change in process. It is a change in a way data is exchanged across a business and across a project.
While some organizations are deep in the trenches with BIM—and have been for some time—others are just getting started. Still, we have to continually look to the future to identify what that next big trend will be that will shape construction.
Those in this industry really can’t ignore the impending reality that industrialized construction will bring. For those of you who attended the Constructech Technology Days event, you know Amy Marks, head of industrialized construction strategy and evangelism at Autodesk, shared that industrialized construction is the application of manufacturing techniques in the built environment. She shared about a design methodology to enable and optimize prefabrication aligned with the circular economy.
With all the change currently occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are beginning to wonder if industrializing construction should come sooner rather than later. Being able to construct in a manufacturing-type setting offers a number of opportunities that result in a safer work environment and a more profitable bottomline. The hurdle is naturally it will require a huge change in business process.
The takeaway here is we are all responsible for change and we need to think bigger. Industrialized construction is one way to do this.
In the next three weeks, we will dig deeper into other topics and trends for the year ahead. Next week, we will look at the growing reliance on emerging technologies, rounding out the conversation on people, process, and technology.
In the last two weeks of the year, we will discuss the drive for smart infrastructure (especially considering we will be getting another ASCE Infrastructure Report Card in 2021; we need to be prepared) and finally we will wrap up the year with a conversation on the need for resilience in the face of change. Join us next week, as we continue to look at what big trends are coming in 2021 and beyond.