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The Fourth Industrial Revolution: How Our Industry Can Embrace the Digital Age

In 2018, the lines between physical and digital spheres have become blurred. We live in a time where the rapid adoption and fusion of technologies can disrupt old processes in the blink of an eye.

This age of transformation should be considered the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ according to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

This revolution is ‘forcing companies to re-examine the way they do business’, according to Mr Schwab. We are at a tipping point when it comes to productivity in the construction industry; if industry-wide processes don’t evolve, our built environment will never reach its full potential.

What Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The First Industrial Revolution was characterised by the use of water and steam power for mechanisation, while the Second was all about mass production of electricity. The Third Industrial Revolution began around the middle of the 20th century, and largely related to electronics and the rise of information technology. While previous events have followed a linear pace, the rate of digital growth we have seen recently is exponential. Due to this, we are at a critical juncture in terms of the way our industry explores and adopts technological advance. The possibilities are clear to see, which is why Schwab has labelled this current period the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In general, we have seen the introduction of new technologies that have disrupted supply and demand models. Old industry value chains have become obsolete now that consumers access products and services with an unprecedented level of speed. There are numerous examples of strong businesses quickly perishing due to new consumer demands or technologies completely changing the game.

As was the case with the first three Industrial Revolutions, these advances have significant potential to improve quality of life and income projections globally. The construction industry accounts for 6% of global GDP, so the social and economic implications of a thriving built environment cannot be understated.

Building a Productive Future for the Industry

While other industries have been disrupted by the advent of revolutionary technologies, construction has largely remained stagnant. Among all the digital noise, it can be difficult for construction companies to know what technological pathways are best to follow.

A 2018 World Economic Forum report into the future of construction cited the following 10 technologies as key to the future of our industry. In a built environment where productivity and sustainability will be key, businesses should be taking note of the following advances that can be applied throughout a project lifecycle.


IMAGE SOURCE: World Economic Forum

The most important recommendation provided by the report is that businesses need to be proactive to mitigate future disruption, as existing building processes will become obsolete very quickly. While it is impossible to predict exactly how our industry will change, the following four actions will remain relevant as we move forward:

1. Ensure Talent Acquisition and Upskilling Remains a Focus

Industry-wide processes for building up required skills are largely not in place for construction. The future of the industry will require strong recruitment of people with very different skillsets.

2. Make Collaboration and Data Flow a High Priority

Construction is commonly regarded as an industry with a fragmented value chain and disparate processes. Integration systems are beginning to gain precedence, and it is essential that collaborative potential remains a focus going forward.

3. Support the Widespread Adoption of Advanced Technologies

Manual labour and mechanisation will play a role in construction for the foreseeable future, but many technological processes can be implemented at scale to improve productivity.

4. Implement Data and Digital Models Wherever Possible

Data and digital models in construction have a range of practical applications, including to uncover new business opportunities and facilitate change management. Stakeholders should review existing practices and portfolios to plan for future scenarios.

Choose ConnectX for Project Lifecycle Management

These four concepts for digital implementation represent a safe action plan for those looking to upgrade their processes. Construction managers hoping to boost integration and collaboration at all levels of their project should consider Exactal’s ConnectX platform. ConnectX integrates six major modules for project management and allows users to review, approve and publish complex BIM models.

To learn more about ConnectX, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the Exactal team today.