Basic digitization is well established in construction companies. According to a joint survey conducted by the Construction Confederation and Orange Belgium 95% of contractors use mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops to take photographs of building sites, follow up on company mails and gain access to their company network.
Geolocation (better known as "track & trace") is another well-established concept. 45% of respondents track the location of their staff, vehicles or equipment in real time. Serving mainly to calculate mobility allowances, tracking also helps prevent loss or theft and allows for efficient equipment management.
Digital applications are on the rise
The use of other digital applications is far less evident. At the outset of 2017, slightly less than 15% of construction companies used integrated management tools. Currently, the number of contractors using ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is estimated at 20%. In 2017 less than 5% of construction companies were aware of and implemented Building Information Modelling, a number that has risen to an estimated 10% today.
Although numbers are clearly rising, it is also obvious that construction companies still have a long way to go. Only 1 in 4 companies provides a 4G router for on-site mobile connectivity, for instance. Even fewer work with VDSL connections or Wi-Fi Hotspots.
Only a small minority of construction companies deploy and make use of virtual and augmented reality, robots, 3D-scanning, artificial intelligence and drones. The use of drones is admittedly severely limited by the very restrictive legislation.
Robert de Mûelenaere (managing director Confederation): “While the digital transition of our industry might not occur at the same speed for all technologies, it is in full swing. This not only benefits the construction companies and their clients, it also creates new, challenging jobs at all levels, making construction more attractive as an employer. The Confederation considers it vitally important that all construction companies should profit from this evolution. That is why we are organizing the Digital Construction Brussels exhibition on 23 and 24 October, together with the WTCB."
Geolocation solutions as the driving force
Not all contractors tend to see the possibilities of digital solutions. 59% of contractors feel they don’t have enough information about digital solutions and roughly a third think they lack the in-house competence to use them. Expenses are also a factor, although to a slightly lesser degree (16%).
Certainly worth noting is that only 27.5% of construction companies have appointed someone to oversee their digital transformation. None of the above alters the fact that contractors do actually see the benefits, not just with regard to centralizing information (63%) but also with regard to working faster (60%) and avoiding errors (47%).
“Much like any other industry, ‘construction’ also benefits from digital innovations. Take geofencing, for example: the virtual generation of a geographical perimeter by means of GPS, a geolocation solution that makes it possible to monitor what enters and leaves a site. Geofencing is clearly a huge plus for construction companies“, says Werner De Laet, Chief B2B, Wholesale and Innovation Officer with Orange Belgium. “Digitization in some construction companies, it has to be said, is already at a fairly advanced level. However, cybersecurity remains a common concern.”
Afraid of cyberattacks
Contractors are well aware of the dark side of digitization. According to the survey by the Confederation and Orange Belgium, 69% believe that cyberattacks constitute a risk that cannot be ignored. Consequently, a large majority of respondents (84%) have put network protection in place. An even larger group (87%) protects its devices such as laptops and smartphones. Most of the time, online security is outsourced, with 40% choosing an external partner for cyber security.