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Construction firms leverage tech to boost competitiveness

South Africa’s construction industry is bursting with opportunities, with the government increasing investment in the supply and rejuvenation of basic infrastructure.


Some of these commitments include:


When tendering for these and other construction projects, competition will be high and, often, the deciding factor comes down to price.


If construction companies want to improve their chances of winning tenders, they need to focus on solving challenges related to productivity, profitability, performance, labour and technology. Yet, if they focus on just one aspect – technology – the rest will solve themselves.


As without, so within


Integrated, cloud-based technology solutions can help construction organisations reduce costs and more accurately manage budgets. This will make their operations more efficient and, therefore, improve their chances of outbidding the competition at tender stage.


Local construction firms are certainly innovative when using technology to present projects to clients and when executing on those projects. They’re increasingly using tools like virtual and augmented reality to give clients an idea of the finished product before they even lay the foundations.


Yet when it comes to their own internal technology and business processes, there’s a lot more that these firms can do to boost their productivity and efficiency.


From disparate to integrated


Visit any construction site and you’ll likely still encounter site clerks manually capturing data. This information then has to be shipped off to head office for recapture in legacy, disparate systems. Not only does this approach waste time, it also disempowers site managers who are forced to base decisions on outdated data. By that time, the opportunity to cut costs or improve efficiency has been missed.


With fully integrated cloud solution offerings from Sage, management teams now have access to real-time Enterprise Planning as well as related HR and Payroll data. This allows them to optimise costing right down to individual job cards and to better manage the safety and productivity of their workforces.


When integrated with a state of the art, proudly South African tendering platform like Lula Build, the business process is further decentralised, giving construction companies the ability to provide transparent, accurate cost estimates for projects. This combats reporting deadlines and reduces the risk of projects running over budget and over time and, therefore, improves their competitiveness.


From a single platform, construction firms can collect data from multiple sources in real-time, manage tender applications, monitor their workforce, and better manage the different elements of their projects, from procurement to expense claims and sub-contracting, to compliance and reporting. These types of technologies now assist business decision makers to make those critical decisions in time, and from one version of the truth.


We’ve only just begun


With this fundamental technology in place, it’s easier for construction firms to adopt the game-changing technology.


Artificial intelligence, 3D printing, the Internet of Things and machine learning are moving the construction industry into an entirely new space. We just need to look at markets like the Middle East, where initiatives like Expo 2020 Dubai are exploring how technology can be used to build the next tallest skyscraper and luxury hotel.


While South Africa is still focused on improving its basic infrastructure, my vision for the future of the local industry is to get to the point where we will also embrace the latest technology to rejuvenate communities and to create inspiring spaces through innovative, construction projects.


Imagine the health and safety implications of having cameras in vehicles that can shut down the machine and alert the foreman if a machine operator is falling asleep behind the controls. Or how RFID tags embedded in an employee’s collars can not only help with things like HR management and access control but can also speed up rescue operations in the event of an accident.


These types of early warning indicators can prevent disasters and lead to massive time and cost savings – a major first step towards increasing efficiency and productivity and, therefore, improving competitiveness.


If we want to be market leaders locally and globally, we need to take the leap of faith and embrace the latest technology. The sooner we can get our basic infrastructure right, the sooner we can evolve our cities into world-class spaces.