July 15, 2024

Advancing Business Excellence

Pioneering Corporate Success

The Next Frontier In Tech: Modernizing The Construction Industry

Alok Chanani, a former U.S. Army captain, is the co-founder and CEO of BuildOps.

The buzz of productivity permeates nearly every industry—finance, healthcare, manufacturing—except one major outlier: construction. While other sectors rapidly modernize, construction relies on the same processes used 50 years ago. But the industry is approaching an inflection point. New technologies, along with innovative leadership, can disrupt construction’s stagnant status quo, unleashing efficiency and sustainability gains.

As someone with experience in complex systems and project execution, both from military service and leading a tech startup, I see massive potential for a construction industry rebuild. The parallels between dynamic military operations and multifaceted construction projects are clear. Both require crystal-clear communication, seamless coordination across teams and synchronization of complex logistical tasks. Technology provides solutions, but transforming an entrenched industry doesn’t happen overnight.

An Industry Primed For Change

The construction industry is the perfect storm of problems waiting to be solved—siloed teams, convoluted workflows, disconnected communication. Most projects involve multiple stakeholders, from owners to architects to tradespeople, but lack efficient tools for collaboration. Document management is often chaotic, with vital information falling through the cracks. And even minor delays cascade into substantial overruns.

But the demand for new and renovated infrastructure worldwide is surging. According to a new report by Global Construction Perspectives, construction spending globally is projected to hit $15 trillion by 2030. As urbanization accelerates and projects increase in scope and complexity, construction must upgrade its toolbox. AI, 3D printing, autonomous equipment, and wearables are no longer pie-in-the-sky innovations; they are practical solutions to persistent challenges.

Lessons From Logistics And Military Infrastructure

In the Army, I was involved in complex infrastructure projects under tight timelines and budgets, overseeing the movement of large amounts of currency around Iraq to fund these initiatives. Success depended on cohesive teamwork, real-time tracking, contingency plans, and timely decisions based on data — enabled by technologies like aerial surveillance, sensors, and collaborative platforms. These capabilities brought complete visibility and agile coordination to multifaceted operations.

I realized the same solutions could enable construction projects to gain unprecedented precision and efficiency. When disparities arise between complex plans and on-site realities, teams without real-time visibility cannot rapidly adapt. Proactive contingency planning also mitigates downstream waste when issues surface. And connecting data between frontline workers, supervisors and back-office staff closes information gaps that allow problems to compound.

Military capabilities offer a blueprint for the innovative tech construction must now embrace—whether augmented reality design simulations, IoT sensors monitoring materials and equipment or integrated command centers coordinating multiple sites and vendors simultaneously. The technologies now exist for construction firms to achieve unprecedented visibility, agility and efficiency through digital transformation—replicating the coordination and precision strategic vision enabled in advanced military operations.

A Culture Shift To Drive Adoption

The shift toward a modern construction industry requires more than just new tools; it demands a cultural revolution, and it starts at the top. Leadership must champion this change, creating environments where technology empowers rather than replaces existing skills.

It’s about integrating solutions that are intuitive, that streamline tasks and provide clear insights, ensuring that the art of construction remains in human hands while elevating the process with operational efficiency. By treating technology as an enhancement of human craft rather than an imposition, construction can overcome stubborn institutional resistance.

Building The Next Generation

We have an opportunity not just to update software or machinery, but to redefine what construction means. By updating training and education, and by broadening our hiring practices, we can attract a diverse, skilled workforce ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

For example, modernizing credentials via apprenticeships and educational partnerships gives next-gen talent and existing workers’ familiarity with the digital tools defining their future. Widening the talent pipeline relieves pressure, as recruiting experts in operations, data and UX optimizes new platform adoption, and reskilling veterans with relevant backgrounds injects invaluable leadership into digital infrastructure initiatives.

Furthermore, spotlighting sustainability and infrastructure’s societal impacts attracts the next generation to commit to construction careers. Initiatives targeting groups underrepresented in the trades expands diversity of perspectives crucial for solving complex problems with innovative solutions. We’re not just constructing buildings; we’re building a future where technology, efficiency and sustainability are woven into every beam placed and every nail driven.

Moving Forward

As an entire industry stands at a crossroads, the path forward is clear. The construction industry must embrace an agile, technology-driven approach to not only meet the growing demands of global infrastructure, but to lead the charge in innovation. This journey may be gradual, but with a focused effort across the entire ecosystem, from increased R&D to comprehensive training programs, we can lay the foundations for a new era in construction.

With the right strategic roadmap, construction can modernize processes, improve sustainability and enhance quality of life. The potential benefits for communities and economies across the globe are immense. We have the tools; it’s time to build.


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