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Innovation In Australia

The Key To Driving Growth And Competitive Advantage – Words // Scott Crozier, General Manager, Civil Engineering And Construction Division

According to the Australian Industry Group’s (AI Group) Performance of Construction Index (PCI), the construction sector has experienced a soft patch in the uptake of new work in recent months – and that’s down to a downtrend in residential and commercial projects.

Despite this, the pipeline of public infrastructure works (including transport, wind and solar projects) is strong, with government investment across the country remaining consistent. With this in mind, Australian contractors need to innovate in order to remain competitive and profitable – and I believe that technology holds the key to driving prosperity and growth in the region.

Dealing With The Skills Shortage

The PCI report notes that there are widespread difficulties in recruiting skilled labour, particularly in occupations central to infrastructure activity. The continued shortage of skilled workers, alongside the pressure on the industry to meet today’s growing infrastructure requirements, means it’s only a matter of time before the construction site will need to evolve.

With many experienced operators nearing retirement, contractors are beginning to realise the potential of technology to help fill their skills gap. As an example, new grade control systems are more intuitive and easier to use, which make them more attractive to new or younger operators. This allows operators of all skill levels to be much more accurate at the first pass and create smooth, flat or sloped surfaces more easily. They can also achieve finished grade to millimeter accuracy with fewer passes.

This frees up more experienced operators for complex jobs and lets newer operators hone their skills.

The Role Of Automatics On The Jobsite

With 80 percent of construction jobs running into overtime, the industry also needs to find different methods to increase productivity whilst reducing error and wastage on the job site.

Increasing on-machine technology can provide the gains contractors need to be more successful. Automatics has gained popularity thanks to its ability to be used in conjunction with large machines, like excavators, for operators to achieve grade at a very consistent rate, without needing to slow down to avoid over or under cutting.

As such, automatic is a useful tool for contractors operating under increasing cost pressures, who are taking on larger infrastructure projects (also noted in the PCI report). At the same time, this added functionality improves excavation efficiency over guidance-only machine control systems and traditional methods that rely on stakes and grade checkers – improving compliance and health and safety.

Additional Technologies For The Construction Industry

There are several other technologies that have the power to increase and sustain growth in the Australian construction market. And the time is now for business leaders to consider the positive impact they can have on their organisation.

For example, technologies such as drones have the potential to increase safety on the job site. Most often used in mapping, drones utilize aerial surveys to collect data and evaluate a given job site. This saves businesses the time and expense associated with land surveyors doing it by foot. Most importantly, drones allow construction companies to monitor and inspect job sites, report project updates and track any disruptions – without risk to their people. At the same time, this rapidly advancing technology provides more accuracy and precision data and images than ever before.

In addition, technologies like augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) need to be explored by construction professionals. AR and MR merge virtual reality and the real world through immersive technology, allowing users to see the real environment overlaid with holographic data from a constructible 3D model. These technologies have the potential to enhance the building and planning phases of a project, enabling contractors to better visualize their designs to drive competitive advantage before they even break ground.

Final Comments

To deliver infrastructure on time, on budget and to the benefit of the wider economy, Australia must improve its construction practices. Technology is essential to enhancing existing projects, empowering contractors and delivering significant progress.

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