As technology develops, so does just about every industry out there, and construction is no exception. Just because it's been around since the Stone Age doesn't mean it's dropped off in terms of innovation. It's actually the opposite, as the digital era has brought new technologies and methods to the field. Some improve safety, while others address productivity or reduce costs. Others still promote environmentally friendly practices.
So how can you use innovation in your construction business? It can help you stand out, revealing you as a company that's ahead of the curve. If you're lagging, it might be what you need to catch up to the competition. Many technologies and techniques can help improve the operational practices of construction businesses.
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Hardware, software and materials can all be used to improve a construction project. Here are some new ideas that we think are particularly notable in the construction industry.
Digital twins are revolutionary tools that help construction personnel of all types gain useful insights. They can help to improve communication and reduce inefficiencies between departments like design and operation by connecting a variety of information types.
A digital twin uses data from a variety of sources, including drones, sensors and AI algorithms, to create a digital version of a building. With this clone, you can test out various scenarios by running simulations. It uses a cocktail of technologies, from 3D simulation to cloud computing programs, to do its work.
Some of the uses for a digital twin include:
A digital twin helps managers after the building is constructed by giving them real-time information about its performance. A test may predict a problem with the water or electrical system that they can address, potentially saving thousands of dollars on repairs. Other tests that a digital twin can perform include assistance for specific occupants. For retailers, the twin can identify the best spot for queues to be placed or the ideal temperature for sales. In healthcare facility construction, digital twins can be used to place exam rooms and identify staffing needs.
Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have many uses before, during and after the build. Drones make survey technology much more accessible to construction companies and can offer methods like light detection and ranging (LIDAR), GPS positioning and ground-penetrating radar.
UAVs are excellent for improving worker safety during surveys and other monitoring activities since they enable access to hard-to-reach areas that may be unsafe for a human being. This factor also makes them useful for maintenance checks such as visual and thermal monitoring. As technology evolves, we may even see drones being able to carry more weight and help in lifting materials to new heights.
Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) involves creating projects with manufacturing and assembly as a priority, to reduce costs and complexity. An approach that uses DfMA may include:
The idea here is to decrease the number of tasks that get performed on-site and make them easier to do. This method can reduce costs and help you use concurrent engineering practices.
We've seen virtual reality with the rise of apps and gaming platforms, but instead of placing the user in a completely virtual world, augmented reality (AR) complements the real world in front of them. With AR, virtual features are overlayed on real items. As a worker approaches a work area, they may see information about the task, safety warnings and other informative alerts pop up in a heads-up display. They could also view details that they would otherwise be unable to see, such as electrical conduits running behind a wall. By "seeing" through the wall, the worker knows more about the site and can act more safely.
Tablets, smart glasses and even hard hats are outfitted with the technology to view these additions. Another use of AR is training modules, which put the worker in a realistic environment without safety hazards.
Another feature that "smart" hardhats can have is the ability to identify the physiological status of a worker as well as potential hazards. They may be able to detect:
These smart hardhats can also provide actionable responses if any of the above is detected. If a serious fall occurs, the hats can alert nearby workers and the appropriate medical personnel. They can also offer remote guiding to get workers out of any places in which they may be stuck, like mines or complex structures. The hats can even help enforce proper permissions. They can identify if a worker tries to use a machine for which he or she is not certified and send warnings to the worker and alerts to management if someone attempts to access a restricted area.
New building materials come to light every once in a while, and making the most of them can offer unique advantages to a construction business. Some interesting ones include:
While we might be pretty far off from autonomous robots creating our buildings, robotics can assist with several construction-related tasks.
Robotic exoskeletons offer additional support for construction and manufacturing. The metal framework can help increase the strength of the wearer, reducing the effort needed to move objects and the impact that doing so places on joints and muscles.
Caterpillar has been at the forefront of construction innovation since its inception. To help you bring your construction company to the next level, Cat® machines offer top-of-the-line design and efficiency, and The Cat Rental Store provides the flexibility to use these machines, plus equipment from over 70 other manufacturers, as your projects demand. Impress your clients and improve your worksite efficiency with the tools to get the job done right.
Find one of our more than 1,300 locations today, and let us help you add a little innovation to your operations.