Digital transformation of the building industry: the reality or still just sci-fi?

The Czech Construction Forum, held in March 2017 in Clarion Congress Hotel Prague, focused on the external and internal factors affecting the construction market. In the introduction panel, key political representatives of the ruling coalition and opposition discussed the prospects of the construction industry and investments after this year's parliamentary elections. The second part of the Conference was equally interesting, bringing views of experts and top managers on how to set the stagnant industry into motion.

The construction industry 4.0: here and now

The participants agreed that it is necessary to fundamentally raise the reputation of the construction industry. Construction 4.0 is an important opportunity for increasing the attractiveness of the sector and associated digital transformation. This task is not easy – even worldwide construction business is (along with agriculture) on the bottom, lags behind other sectors and it is characterized by a very low degree of digital transformation.

While the availability of technologies does not represent a major barrier to development, the situation in terms of the technological readiness of the State and other public investors, as well as construction companies themselves is far more complicated is. As was mentioned by Miroslav Linhart from Deloitte, resistance to changes in the internal environment of the building companies is still very essential. Many construction companies are struggling with low efficiency of activities and processes, and cannot handle the economic management and controlling. Therefore, it is clear that the journey of construction companies to the digital transformation is a difficult homework.

Investors in the leading role

There is a fundamental need for change in approach of investors, especially those public ones. A great number of participants of the Forum 2017 believed that the way, how to start digitalization in construction leads through Building information modelling (BIM). If the work in this "mode" is required by the investor, things are getting into movement. BIM benefits for investors are clear – it not only offers building information model, but in particular the possibility of documenting and monitoring the quality of delivered works and transparent communication between the supplier and investor. This should be a standard in particular for public procurement and should be included in the new legislation — both of the Building Act, and the Act on public procurement.

How to begin?

The right direction was pointed in the very specific panel discussion focused on "how to transform digitally in terms of fighting for survival?". Representatives of construction companies (Swietelsky, Skanska) and BIM expert Peter Matyas (di5 architects engineers) have indicated the way forward — through pilot projects, creating internal project groups, from small to larger, always with an emphasis on persuasion of not only top management, but of all the company levels. The final success is decided when we can explain that with the digitization we can do things not only faster and cheaper, but also in more comfortable and enjoyable way. It is also a means how to get younger co-workers, that are so hard to look for, especially in competition with other sectors which are situated on higher level of their digital maturity.

Tomáš Krásný, Blue Events (for the SMART magazine)

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