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Ralph Montague’s Viewpoints on the Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry

The waves of pandemic have imposed several challenges on the construction industry—hikes on prices, shortage of labor, supply chain shortage, poor communication as well as backlog declines—all these problems have affected the landscape of the industry.

To help you keep pace with these growing challenges and survive in the competitive market, we have interviewed a highly qualified architect and director in a renowned BIM Technology Company. This chapter of influencer insights will throw some light on how you can cope with the industry challenges and thrive.

Q&A with Ralph Montague

Who Did We Interview?

Ralph Montague is the Director of a well-known BIM Technology Service Provider Firm and the current chairperson of the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) Technical Mirror Committee for BIM Standards.

With decades of experience, Ralph is dedicated to streamlining workflows of construction professionals by using the smart technology strategically.

Let Us Quickly Dive into Our Expert’s Point Of View

Question 1: In the age of COVID-19, how do you see the construction industry in the year 2022? Do you think this year will be a “digital year” for construction professionals?

You could say that the construction industry has been using “digital” tools since the 1990’s. You can hardly imagine that anyone isn’t using some software, computer or device these days to do their work. But what happens when people have finished doing their work? They print their outputs on paper, or in a static PDF document, to give it to others. That’s the BIG problem.

This has an enormous effect on the efficiency and productivity of the industry, because the continued re-processing of information from “data” to “paper” and back to “data”, at each exchange of information, between parties, adds time, cost, and potential human error. And so, construction is slow, expensive, dangerous, and is not meeting the needs of society.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced people to reevaluate “digital” working, remote working and more. Companies had to learn to use digital tools more, to be agile, resilient, and survive the pandemic. I don’t believe there is any going back to previous practices. The “genie” is out of the bottle. Digital adoption will only continue, as it brings significant productivity benefits for organizations, to remain productive, agile, resilient, competitive and profitable.

Question 2: The construction industry has undergone dynamic changes over the years. What do you consider as the biggest challenge for this industry now?

The biggest challenge for humanity, globally, is infrastructure. There are still many people living in abject poverty, without the necessary infrastructure for shelter, food, water, energy, communications, education, healthcare, etc.

Even in developed countries, the infrastructure is old and out-dated, in need of repair, upgrade or replacement. On top of that, we have the construction industry that is slow, expensive, dangerous, wasteful and making a serious impact on the environment. Construction for instance contributes over 40% to CO2 emissions, 40% of energy use, over 20% use of raw material. The waste factor in construction is over 30%.

Construction, as an industry, excludes a significant portion of the labor market. The biggest “challenge” for the construction industry is to be able to meet the global “challenge” for infrastructure, in a better way than it is at the moment.

Construction needs to become more productive, quicker, cheaper (less wasteful), safer, more inclusive, and more sustainable. That means each individual, each company has to think about how they become all these things. Remember, the “industry” is the individual people who participate in the industry.

Question 3: What potential do you see in the latest construction technology trends? Are they capable of boosting productivity of construction professionals?

The only purpose of “digital” is to deliver “productivity gains”. Communication (or the exchange of information) is core to how things get done. Nothing happens without some instruction, or direction by someone, to someone else.

In many cases, we have machine-to-machine communications, which are significantly reducing the human error and need for manual re-input of data. We are seeing all sorts of exciting technologies beginning to be trialed or used in construction, such as digital collaboration tools, laser scanning, off-site manufacturing, robotics, 3D printing, drones, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc.

And I’m sure we’ll see much more in the coming years. There are some companies that are really moving forward at pace, but unfortunately there are many companies that are being left behind.

Question 4: Where do you see the construction industry in the next five years? Please share your valuable insights with our readers.

“Digital” is here, and here to stay. There is no going back - only forward. People are making the connection between the quality of information, and the outcome on projects.

Good quality information (digital data which is accurate, available, accessible) is making enormous improvements in productivity and outcome, and poor quality information (paper-based, inaccurate, late or inaccessible) is perpetuating slow, expensive, dangerous and unsustainable outcomes.

There is a big focus on “data”, the standards needed for the efficient “exchange” of data, throughout the lifecycle of infrastructure assets. The international community is getting behind standards like ISO19650.

I see an industry that is becoming more attractive to a broader range of “digital” professionals, focused on delivering “value” through safer, more sustainable means, and helping to meet the infrastructure challenges of society or humanity.

Get to Know Our Influencer

In this series of questions, Ralph Montague shares a bit more about himself.

In four words or less, what’s your prediction about the transforming construction industry?

Machine-to-machine Communications

What’s your success mantra?

Take individual responsibility to make a positive contribution, rather than waiting for others to make changes. When you make things better for yourself, and those around you, the world becomes a better place.

More Details

Ralph Montague is an architect and director of a renowned BIM Consulting Company. He is also a member of the National BIM Council of Ireland, board member of CITA (Construction IT Alliance), and current chair of the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) Technical Mirror Committee for BIM Standards.

He is also a part-time lecturer for the post-graduate diploma for Project Management course at Trinity College Dublin. He is cofounder of the aecHive ‘Community of Innovators’ platform and the recently established BIM Coordinators Summit community.