Riding the Cloud: Adopt new technologies to meet challenges of shrinking workforce

June 9, 2015

[1]
A worker uses cloud technology on the jobsite. Photos courtesy of ARC Document Solutions.

By Kerman Kasad
As a country chock-full of natural resources and beauty, Canada has provided the construction industry with ample opportunity—thanks to its success in energy development and travel and tourism, among other sectors. In fact, construction is one of the leading economic drivers in the nation, responsible for about 12 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Today, however, those involved in the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) industry face new challenges, including those associated with a dwindling workforce. It has been estimated 21 per cent[2] of Canada’s construction workers will retire by decade’s end and recent job growth in the industry will slow. To counter this development, the Canadian government is following the AEC industry’s broader lead and is investing in new construction technologies that improve designs, address safety issues, and—most importantly—increase project efficiencies to help eliminate rework, construction delays, costly overruns, and any associated litigation.

The vast amount of documentation—and its vast importance
Technology investment and adoption is particularly crucial in the area of document management, as many construction projects involve professionals from a wide range of private and public firms and agencies. A project may involve not only general contractors, architects, inspectors, engineers, and developers, but also regulators, city planners, estimators, and many others. This is why technologies capable of facilitating and streamlining document management, sharing, and collaboration are a central component in strategies tasked with increasing construction productivity and efficiency to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget. The cost savings can be tremendous—a technological advancement that increases industry productivity by two per cent means an annual savings of $1.8 billion.

For AEC professionals in Canada, documentation distribution presents many challenges to construction project management. This is often because the software tools used for document management are not designed specifically for construction industry purposes. For the most part, many are still using generic, consumer-grade Cloud solutions, which are useful for common applications, but far from sufficient when it comes to construction projects.

Work plans and specifications are a critical part of all industries, but their importance in AEC is paramount. It is imperative during project collaboration people use and act on the same information, and all changes and updates can be viewed in real-time. Otherwise, work inefficiencies and redundancies can hike costs, delay projects, and cause severe headaches to everyone involved. Some of the typical problems involve the use and inconsistency of multiple file formats across different platforms—this can necessitate need for continuous support and training rather than facilitate interactive and real-time collaboration.

For the Canadian construction industry this is increasingly problematic as its workforce is stretched thin, making worker productivity especially important. What AEC professionals need are innovative software tools designed to meet the many challenges that typically come with expansive construction projects. This means immediate access to time-sensitive plans and information, and the ability to distribute and access such information wherever, whenever, and however (i.e. platform and device) it is needed.

Worker's compare documents using Cloud technology[3]
Worker’s share real-time documents using cloud based technology on their tablet.

Cloud-based document management solutions
Among the innovative new technologies finding their way into Canadian construction projects are Cloud-based software tools designed to deliver exactly such results for real-time document capture, distribution, and project collaboration. These construction document information management (CDIM) tools leverage the cloud to capture all documents within the project’s greater ecosystem. They then augment project productivity by ensuring team members—builders, owners, architects, general contractors, subcontractors, and construction managers—are always working from the same and most current project documents. Without this ability, construction projects will be delayed, and people will end up working from outdated documents, leading to potential lengthy and expensive lawsuits and project cost overruns.

On a construction project, its members are now expected to access documents at any time, at any place, and with any device. These Cloud-based CDIM tools are cost-effective, safe and secure, and intuitive, so they can be easily deployed and utilized. They allow team members in multiple geographic locations to seamlessly share and work from current document sets, enabling real-time collaboration. AEC industry professionals can work and collaborate with confidence, knowing the technology they are working from effectively communicates changes, by reducing the scope of work definition dispute.

Mobility is always covered
For firms and contractors in the Canadian AEC industry, where operations are continuing, but manpower is increasingly lacking, these software solutions can be the bridge to the future. As the need for applications to support mobile devices becomes a given, anytime-anywhere CDIM solutions provide disparate construction teams the seamless ability to collaborate in real-time—from the office or the jobsite, a high-rise or a site trailer—using their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or whatever Internet-connected device they prefer or have handy.

The construction industry requires mobile access to data, information, designs, and planning documents more than most industries, as all sorts of contracting and engineering professionals spend time moving from one project to another, and are frequently travelling. This is particularly true for AEC professionals working in Canada where the generally remote landscapes, which presents communication and collaboration challenges. By taking advantage of the Cloud for storage and distribution, users can view, manage, and share documents needed for every aspect of a construction project, as some CDIM tools support more than 100 file types that can be accessed by tablets and mobile devices.

Looking to the future
For Canada’s AEC industry, current CDIM tools will only continue to expand their functionality and applications in efforts to provide even better management solutions leading to greater on-the-job productivity and efficiency. They will continue to zero in on the specific needs of the industry while offering a powerful, cost-effective solution focusing on efficiency and the bottom line concerning all aspects of the construction.

The AEC industry is a vital part of Canada’s economic engine. Although a reduced workforce for future construction projects presents challenges, technologies like CDIM tools will reduce costs, ensure workflow efficiency, and improve employee productivity so the industry not only sustains its present level of success, but also continues to move forward.

KERMAN_KASAD_6512[4]Kerman Kasad is an accomplished information technology communications and marketing professional with over 20 years of comprehensive experience on both the corporate and agency sides. Kasad has understanding in emerging and developed markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and United States. He has managed marketing communications for large and mid-sized enterprises, spanning IT, auto, media, and services industries, and leads technology products marketing at ARC Document Solutions. He can be reached at kerman.kasad@e-arc.com[5].

 

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/GuyRedHat1.jpg
  2. 21 per cent: http://www.buildforce.ca/en/media/press-releases
  3. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Man-using-SKYSITE.jpg
  4. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/KERMAN_KASAD_6512.jpg
  5. kerman.kasad@e-arc.com: mailto:kerman.kasad@e-arc.com

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