Construction Industry 2020 Trends and Forecasts [Report Excerpt]

As we begin a new decade, themes of under-digitization persist within the construction industry. While a growing skilled labor shortage continues, drone surveying has matured to finally meet the high expectations of early adopters.

Vertical construction building project with crane.

In the 2020 edition of our industry trends report, we’ll discuss how these three key themes will impact worksites as we start a new year.

  • You’ll learn about how these trends could—or already are—impacting your business. 
  • You’ll understand how technology has caught up to expectation. 
  • You’ll see how tech might be a tool to mitigate the effects of the labor shortage hitting most construction sites in recent years. 
  • Lastly, we’ll discuss industry forecasts. Most notably, the shift towards using software for total worksite management. 

Let’s dive in. 

Continued under-digitization plagues an industry

We discussed in our 2019 Trends Report about the construction industry’s low rate of digitization. It trails nearly every other industry, save agriculture, according to McKinsey. That contributes to a lack of project data costing US construction sites $177B annually

At first glance, these numbers can paint a pessimistic picture. But these metrics also show the vast opportunities to improve productivity in an industry that employs about seven percent of the world’s working-age people. 

Construction industry workers out on site with white pickup truck

McKinsey’s Reinventing construction: A route to higher productivity 2017 report estimates that if the industry caught up to the rest of the world, it would stand to gain $1.6 trillion in value. That is roughly the 2016 GDP of Brazil. 

The route to close that productivity gap is paved in technology. If 2019 was a year of identifying problems like these, 2020 should be the year to take action. 

Currently, it’s still the norm to see a construction site office with paper plans, administration and logistics carried out by hand, and other pervasive non-digital habits. This is costing businesses now and hurting their prospects and returns. 

Over 50% of engineering and construction professionals report one or more underperforming projects in the previous year, while just a quarter of projects came within 10% of their original deadlines in the past three years, according to a KPMG International 2016 report

When we talk to customers today, those trends have not changed. Coming in over time and over budget has become so commonplace in the industry that it’s no longer the expectation, but instead a lofty goal.

It’s time to change the status quo. 

Digitizing your business is easier to start than you imagine

The first step towards getting your slice of that productivity pie is digitizing your business. This can sound daunting. Don’t let the unfamiliarity of this kind of change prevent you from moving forward. There is a ton of low-hanging fruit. 

Still use paper files? Consider a digital document system. Still survey every single thing by hand? Check out using a drone. There are a number of ways to start the process.

Construction foreman on site

A survey data visualization and analytics software platform also fits nicely into a digitization plan. There’s a few programs on the market today, but here we’ll focus on the Propeller Platform

Cloud-based platforms like Propeller serve as a source of truth for all your survey data. Browser-based software operates straight whatever device you want to use. You don’t need any expensive hardware to process your data or access it. 

With drone-captured aerial images and data uploaded and processed, you can visualize your site in three dimensions visually instead of just having numbers on a spreadsheet. 

Further, this kind of 3D map is accurate and measurable. Sometimes likened to a video game, the platform lets you measure features as they are in the real world with a few clicks, rather than doing arithmetic without context. 

Propeller Platform stockpile volume measurement

Putting these capabilities together, you not only digitize your data, but you make it accessible to everyone who needs it. And because drones are easier to use, faster, and more affordable than traditional methods and equipment, your data is more up-to-date than ever.   

It’s a new decade and it’s time to put the trends of sluggish data updates and over-budget projects behind once and for all. 

It’s easier to do than you might imagine: aligning your goals towards the kind of data collection, processing, and visualization described above and you’ve put your business well on its way to the digital future. 

Questions to discuss with your team:

  • What are the easiest ways we can start to digitize?
  • What technology are our competitors using that we might benefit from?
  • What are our biggest data and information silos? 
  • What would improve if everyone could access current site data when they needed answers?
  • How would we implement this kind of technology? How do we get people trained?

Want to learn about all the industry trends?

Construction Trends Report 2020

Keep reading:

Why Reporting and Collaboration Matters on Construction Sites

How 3D Site Maps Add Value to Your Business

How Surveyors are Using Up-to-Date Data to Improve Jobsite Operations

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