Productivity in UK construction firms is being held back by the same challenges as 12 months ago, as efforts remain slow to adopt digital technology for the jobsite. According to Digital Groundwork: Closing the Productivity Gap, a new report from Autodesk Construction Solutions, half of businesses say that dealing with mistakes remains the most unnecessary resource drain on the business. The survey of 251 construction professionals in the UK follows on from 2018 research by PlanGrid, exploring how firms’ efforts to improve productivity have progressed.
As in 2018, issues with information-sharing on the jobsite are causing delays and wider operational challenges. Survey responses revealed three in ten firms are being hindered by a lack of accurate and timely information (28%), with half of professionals pointing to inefficient processes across the business (55%). Misinformation leads to businesses spending time and money fixing mistakes; half of the firms surveyed day that rework is the single biggest time-waster in the organisation, with errors alone costing the UK industry £21bn a year.
Construction firms are still struggling to collaborate effectively, without a source of shared and reliable information; 60% of businesses say that a lack of trust between contractors and subcontractors often impacts their performance. All of this comes at a time when using labour productively has never been more important, as professionals highlight that a lack of skills (40%) and talent shortages (39%) are major barriers to their organisation.
These challenges reflect the slow adoption of digital technology by UK firms. The majority of construction businesses continue to use paper drawings and documentation, as only 13% use digital technology for three quarters of their projects or more. A fifth say all of their projects are entirely paper-based (19%) – a figure that remained consistent since 2018 (22%).
There has been progress in adopting some technologies, such as file-sharing tools like Dropbox to access drawings (74%); however, these tools don’t appear to be making it into the hands of people on-site.
“Twelve months ago, we saw that sharing key project information on paper was leading to delays, costly mistakes and even conflict at UK construction firms. Unfortunately, these issues continue to hamper productivity,” said Matt Keen, Construction Industry Strategist with Autodesk Construction Solutions (ACS). “Construction businesses are slow to adopt digital technology where the work is actually done, on live projects. At a time when talent is scarce it’s more important than ever to ensure time – and people – are used productively, not addressing issues or looking for project data.”
There are even signs of a growing digital divide between those construction firms who invest strategically in technology and those who buy technology on an ad-hoc basis, if they do so at all. A quarter of businesses admit to having a complete absence of technology strategy (26%), while most businesses simply buy tools on an impromptu basis (36%). Meanwhile, only 50% of professionals say that improving digital skills will be a focus for the business over the next three years.
“For our customers, adopting technology across their business can improve productivity on every project – but it can also improve the long-term competitiveness of each UK construction firm,” continued Mr Keen. “Businesses can deliver thorough, as-built digital handovers with ease, improve how they work with other stakeholders and even use data in their operations to improve profitability. The global construction industry is being transformed by technology. UK firms can reap the benefits, if they look beyond short-term challenges, address their productivity gaps and lay a digital groundwork for the future.”
The full Digital Groundwork report is available here.