Torsten Seifert is a senior director market reach and services at Hilti North America, www.hilti.com, Plano, Texas.

How the IoT Drives Productivity in Construction

IoT (Internet of Things) is connective technology that links physical things, such as a power tool, a compressor, or a safety harness, with digital information and processes. By equipping these physical things with sensors and connectivity, data can be automatically captured in the field and fed to software that helps companies to run important business processes. The technologies required to successfully implement IoT are now available at a size, cost, and level of reliability that makes it a viable proposition for the construction industry.

The IoT Brings Productivity to Construction

Compared with many other sectors, productivity gains in construction have been modest in recent decades. Scattered jobsite locations, information gaps—between the office and jobsites or between the design and construction phases—and complex collaboration among different trades have always been challenges for the construction industry. In addition, the current shortage of skilled labor amplifies the importance of productivity. IoT holds the promise to improve productivity issues that result from these challenges.

Connectivity combined with tailor-made implementation and support services is a golden opportunity for the construction industry to enter a new era of increased productivity at the jobsite, warehouse, and back office. For example, that could be helping contractors automate the management of tools and assets and then collecting data from those tools and assets to increase utilization and make more informed decisions.

Connective technology could also optimize preventative maintenance and help contractors intelligently adapt tools to specific jobsite applications. It also is possible to combine tool usage data with other data sources to measure and improve the productivity of entire workflows. There is huge potential to unlock productivity gains in the construction industry with IoT. The industry is faced with increasing cost pressures and early adopters of this technology will gain a significant competitive advantage.

The benefits of IoT go beyond productivity. This connectivity can also help to increase safety on jobsites. For example, digitally linking instructions or application-specific exposure plans to tools helps to manage risks and regulation related to health and safety.

Technology as the Enabler

Technology is only part of the solution. The ability to successfully implement the technology and drive change management within the organization is equally important. Contractors need partners that can support the integration of these new digital solutions via implementation, training, and support services. Digital transformation requires organizational change management and a focus on people. By bringing together the digital and physical worlds, the construction industry can capture significant productivity and safety gains. This digital journey is well underway for many companies in the industry, but we likely have only scratched the surface of what is possible.

The technologies required to successfully implement IoT are now available at a size, cost, and level of reliability that makes it a viable proposition for the construction industry.