How to Boost the Construction Industry

January 31, 2017

Digitalization, product design, lean processes, and high tech systems are transforming aviation, apparel, life science, and other industries at a fast pace, but one sector is lagging notably behind: construction. 

"If the AEC industry would spend more time on product design and lean processes, we could do wonderful things at low cost. We have the technologies, but must connect them with the new processes to reap the benefits,” said Lars Albinsson, CEO at Maestro Management and a specialist in digital innovation who has worked with companies such as Volvo and IKEA.

Speaking at TechniaTranscat's seminar on digitalization and lean construction, Albinsson said, "My father worked with construction of oil rigs in the North Sea in the 1980s. Can you guess what the weight was of the paper documentation of the construction of one rig? 400 metric tonnes!"

Rethink

Nowadays, most documentation is scanned onto hard discs, but paper is still commonly used, which makes it hard to find the right information at the right time and hinders development of digitalized processes. 

"Scanning all of the paper is not the answer. You need to rethink the way you do things. Current processes are complicated and slow," Albinsson said.

As a result, construction projects are often delayed and over budget. 

Albinsson cited a study made by a construction company calculating what a Volvo priced at 760,000 SEK ($90,000) would cost if current construction industry processes were used to make the car. The answer was a staggering: 6,000,000 SEK ($700,000).

"It is not an entirely fair comparison, but it gives you a clear hint that there is huge potential for improvement," Albinsson said. 

A report by The Swedish Association of Plumbing and HVAC Contractors on how plumbers use their work hours showed telling results of inefficiency. On an 8-hour workday, only one hour was spent on actual plumbing, while the rest of the day was spent waiting, unpacking, and planning.

Technologies Exist

The construction sector suffers from lack of standardization and digitalized processes, analysts say. Too much time is spent solving problems during the actual construction rather than planning ahead.

"New technology is providing a wide range of new opportunities and new ways of making things," Albinsson said and pointed to several examples, including: 

  • High rise buildings being made with 3D printers 
  • Wood printed in 3D printers (for instance, window moldings)
  • Factory-made CLT, Cross-Laminated Timber, in various sizes and forms
  • Brick laying robots
  • Robots that move onsite
  • Information systems that provide the right information at the right time

"We have all these technologies, they exist, but if we just throw them in, they will only have marginal effects. We must first introduce a new, integrated, collaborative product design process. Then, a lean manufacturing process will be possible," Albinsson said.

 

Want to know more? Watch our webinar on demand with Lars Albinsson as guest presenter: Innovation in the Construction Industry.

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About Lars Albinsson

Lars is CEO at Maestro Management and a specialist in digital innovation. He has worked with companies such as Volvo, IKEA and Microsoft.

 LinkedIn Profile

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