What does tomorrow’s construction fleet look like?

Driverless cars, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) – all signs the world is changing, and specifically the way we manage construction is changing.

Today’s construction fleet may appear similar to 10, 20 or 30 years ago, and traditionally the industry has been reluctant to adopt new technologies.

However, there’s no denying that change is coming and, over the next several years, there is likely to be more of a shift in the construction fleet than we’ve seen in the past few decades.

According to the World Economic Forum, “unlike other industries, the engineering and construction sector has been slow to adopt new technologies, and has certainly never undergone a major transformation. As a result, productivity has stagnated over the last 40 years, or in some cases, even declined.”1

Take a look around any modern construction site and you’ll probably have a hard time relating the machinery you see to the high-tech world of IoT. However, subtle but significant changes are occurring within construction fleets, which are changing the way construction is managed and implemented. These changes are helping to drive increased efficiency, enhanced safety and lower costs.

The vast majority of advancements in construction fleets over the past several decades have centred around the equipment itself: more efficient engines, more practical and cost-saving adaptations and add-ons, and increased power have improved the productivity of construction equipment over the years. However, the key to the next wave of construction fleet enhancement lies in digitisation.

The IoT is changing the way we do business in almost every conceivable way.2 The construction industry has yet to make a universal shift towards this technology, but where it has been adopted, significant results can be expected.

In their 2016 paper for the World Economic Forum, Castagnino, Rothballer and Gerbert wrote: “Wherever the new technologies have properly permeated this fragmented industry, the outlook is an almost 20 per cent reduction in total life cycle costs of a project, as well as substantial improvements in completion time, quality, and safety.”3

Digitisation of the construction fleet has the potential to affect it throughout its life cycle, from design phase to operation. Here are just a few examples of the way technology has the potential to change tomorrow’s construction fleet:

  • Building information modelling (BIM). As opposed to the traditional two-dimensional drawings upon which construction has traditionally been based, this 3D modelling gives real dimension to the height, width and depth of a site, as well as the elements of time and cost. While this technological revolution isn’t a change to the construction fleet itself, it will significantly impact the ways in which the fleet operates.
  • Digital design. Intelligent software helps to design machinery and equipment more effectively, identifying potential issues before they arise, picking up on potential failures and saving on costly redesign.
  • Tracking and sensing. Machinery, parts, materials and equipment are tracked from pick-up to delivery, and throughout their use on the construction site. This reduces errors, increases accountability and optimises flow throughout the construction process.
  • Monitoring. Sensors and tracking technology allow construction managers to monitor the performance of their construction fleets, identifying potential hazards and risks to productivity, and better managing downtime with needs-based (rather than arbitrary schedule-based) servicing and repairs – effectively reducing downtime and costs on repairs and maintenance.
  • Cloud, software and data. Software and cloud services that integrate with construction fleets can analyse data from sensors and trackers to make an almost limitless number of improvements to the entire construction process. From monitoring the health of workers to reducing the risk of accidents and decreasing downtime; or from effectively identifying potential risks to the schedule to co-ordinating fabrication, delivery and installation of materials on-site to avoid roadblocks, data plays a critical role in the technological advances of tomorrow’s construction fleet.

At first glance, tomorrow’s construction fleet of excavators, wheel loaders and haulers may not appear to change drastically with technological advancement – at least not from the outside. But as digitisation revolutionises the construction landscape, small and almost invisible changes will be made to these machines that dramatically improve the way the construction industry operates.

Source: CJD Equipment

References & further reading
1. Castagnino S, Rothballer C, Gerbert P. What’s the future of the construction industry? World Economic Forum, 4 April, 2016. building-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/
2. Harris M. LX, IoT and the CommBank trade-chain experiment. LX Group, 2018.
3. Castagnino S, Rothballer C, Gerbert P. op.cit.

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