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Date: March 2021

Technological advancements in the construction equipment industry

Technological advancements in the construction equipment industry

Though the construction equipment industry has benefitted a lot due to the advancements in technology, there is still a long way to go. There is plenty to be gained by focusing on sustainability and quality in the building industry. The construction equipment industry has enormous possibilities for implementing digitization, innovative technologies, and new construction techniques that each company needs to focus on.

New technologies like connected equipment and tools, telematics, smartphone applications, autonomous heavy equipment, drones, robots, AR/VR, and 3D printed buildings are being deployed and used on worksites globally. There will be greater use of technology in building and construction management in the future. It is anticipated to provide more long-term production and cost savings for the companies.

Currently, autonomous heavy equipment is used for job sites in projects that include drilling, grading, and site work by leveraging similar technology for self-driving cars. This type of technology makes it possible for companies to allow operators to work remotely from the machines and do the same work with fewer employees 24x7, all year long. Accurate 3D models of the terrain generated with sensors, drones, and GPS enable these machines to navigate construction sites, determine where they are, and perform the work effectively in a uniform fashion and consistently across the terrain. It uses augmented GPS, a combination of onsite base stations and satellites to geofence the terrain, enabling the machine to self-navigate.

Adopting automated and self-operating technologies, drones, and robots have twofold benefits. First, within the next decade, generation alpha, who have relied solely on tablets and smartphones all their lives, will soon join the workforce. For them, operating these machines will be second nature. Next, irrespective of their profession, younger generation employees will expect technologies to be used in their work. With the arrival of drones in the construction industry, it is now possible to perform inspections at the construction site each day to detect potential hazards more rapidly. They can also be used to track labor during the day to ensure that no one is operating in an unsafe environment. Drones track the work environments and take photographs of work in progress each day to let workers know about their works' advancement.

Although construction industry players aren't entirely clear about the change and new technology drive entails, it is becoming essential for them to build an accurate digital strategy. Many players in the segment have set up innovation labs. They have used them to focus on low-risk pilot and proof of concept work, often through local business units, to test possible options and keep themselves open to more ideas.

Although the requisite digital transformation can be a challenge if not handled properly, it is primarily a land of opportunities, both in terms of cost savings and top-line customer experience enhancement and offers differentiation. If today's leading players don't catch up in time, their market positions and values will be deeply impacted.

Construction companies are now using data to make better decisions, increase efficiency, improve job site safety, and lower risks. Firms may use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems to forecast potential project results using data collected over time. Furthermore, they achieve a strategic edge when it comes to estimating and bidding on construction projects. AI can also boost worker productivity by reducing the time spent scouring the construction site for tools, supplies, and equipment needed to complete specific tasks.

The construction industry is currently being reinvented by digitalization, causing an overall value transfer from the central construction value chain to the engineering and design function and then down to facility management and operations services. A huge amount of data will be generated throughout the construction process and will hold a tremendous value that needs to be captured. With so much technological advancement in the past decade, it will be interesting to see how the construction industry's future will be reshaped by new-age equipment by the end of this decade. We can now build a house in twenty-four hours. Perhaps we can build skyscrapers in twenty-four hours by the end of this decade! Only time has the answer.

Shaju S,  General Manager, and Head - Transportation Business Unit at Tata Elxsi