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The construction industry is undergoing an evolution like never before. Digital technologies are proving to be impactful on construction processes and practices. Construction companies are looking for robust software solutions to streamline their internal workflow and attain overall efficiency.
This is why we interviewed a renowned industry expert who can shed some light on the technological change in construction and talk about the dire needs of the hour.
Who Did We Interview?
Samuel Y. Frimpong is a researcher and lecturer who guides construction specialists on management, workplace health, and safety. He started his journey as a technical consultant, offering project management consulting and construction industry research, and training the community to thrive.
While the construction industry as a whole has been relatively slow to innovate, I observe that individual units (e.g., workers and firms) within the industry are eager, now more than ever, to embrace a digital sector. This is partly due to the rude awakening brought about by COVID-19, such as forced remote engagements and the abrupt need to give utmost attention to the integrity of the industry's health and safety systems and practices.
From my point of view, the biggest challenge for the industry now is how to promote and protect the mental health of the entire construction workforce. Poor performance in this area is having adverse effects, such as the industry's inability to attract women, the low well-being of young workers, and the reduced productivity of the industry â€“ stemming from the disproportionately high amount of lost work hours and paid compensations.
This challenge is hampering the industry's contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly number 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and number 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).
The nascent use of AI, particularly ML applications in health and safety, product design, and 3D printing, holds huge industry potential. These technological trends have seen increasing use in IT, manufacturing, and health and have yielded significant positive impacts in these industries.
These technologies are, therefore, capable of promoting the productivity of construction professionals because they have direct implications for improving workers' mental health and safety (this makes it possible to mitigate the loss of productivity due to lost work hours and low work ability associated with poor mental health).
Furthermore, the ability of these technologies to reduce physically demanding tasks and promote precision work will make it possible to cut down on waste and reduce production time.
There is evidence of increasing and sustained collaboration between construction professionals and experts (IT and health) in other industries to increase automation in health and safety. As a result, R&D efforts in this area have shot up significantly within the last decade.
Electronic (e-health) and mobile (m-health) applications are currently being researched, developed, and tested to improve workers' coping with psychosocial hazards.
These technologies look promising because of the current enabling environment made possible by the disruptions of COVID-19, AI/ML, and the high preference for e-applications and m-applications by the younger construction workforce. While we will require more time to achieve optimum performance in these areas, I foresee some of these technologies becoming the industry's mainstay regarding health and safety.
The industry will be positioned to attract more women and young people and make significant progress in ensuring their well-being.
Positive change lies ahead.
The best solutions to the most critical problems can come from anyone or anywhere; cooperation is better than competition.
Samuel Y. Frimpong's previous job responsibilities included general project monitoring - ensuring that contractors and sub-contractors are delivering the project according to the client's technical, financial, and managerial contractual requirements.
He also has experience helping construction professionals identify tomorrow's leaders who participate in the future of the construction industry. This is what has led him to guide construction aspirants in the right direction for the betterment.
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