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Digital Construction is here, are you ready?

With construction ranking 21st out of 23 industries in terms of investment in digital technology, are we really ready to digitalise the industry to deliver positive changes and real-world rewards? In a webinar hosted by The Big 5, we take a look at some of the ways in which the construction industry is moving from old ways of thinking and working to a more digital mindset of the future.

Mark King, Reality Capture & BIM Segment Manager, Leica Geosystems DMCC

Key takeaways:
  • New technologies aid the digitalisation of processes and workflows in construction
  • There is a need to connect the digital office and the real world to create a ‘digital reality’ to bring new efficiencies for projects
  • The focus should be on the processes that enable the use of that technology in a way that it can deliver the intended digital construction change

Digitalisation in construction is the road to the adoption of new digital technologies that help deliver positive changes and real-world rewards, in terms of profitability and efficiencies, by enabling and adopting these new technologies. Digitalisation is ultimately about doing things in a smarter, better way.

The drive for digitalisation in processes and workflows

When we look at construction and heavy construction in particular, the industry is always looking at ways in which to ensure the safety of its people. The industry also wants to be able to construct on time, or quicker. Similarly, it also wants to be able to build within the budget that has been set, and also to deliver on specification.

So, how then is digitalisation helping construction companies around the world to deliver on those four things? Technologies such as robotics, virtual reality capture, 3D printing, GIS (geographical information systems), offside manufacturing, BIM (building information modeling), the digital twin and machine control all form part of this drive for the digitalisation of processes and workflows. This move allows companies to be more efficient and effective in the way that they deliver projects, now and in the future.

The state of digitalisation in the construction industry

A recent study analysed 23 vital worldwide industries and ranked them on their typical yearly investment in digital technology. Construction came 21st out of 23 in terms of investment in digital technology.

The industry itself should be looking to invest more in digital technology to modernise and digitalise its processes. The key here is to start making changes within the industry, within its businesses and within its projects.

It is vital to make sure that the people involved in using the technology know how to use it and understand what it can deliver. It is also about linking the technology with the people and the process. There needs to be an understanding of where the people fit into the process that allows us to deliver on budget, on time, on specification and safer than ever. All these aspects play a part in this dynamic change that taking place in construction companies around the world.

Digitalisation is also about moving from old ways of thinking and working, an analogue mindset, to a more digital mindset. With digital technology, we can make smart decisions and take information from the construction site and connect this information with the digital office to make ourselves more efficient.

Three technologies connecting the digital office to the real world

In order to help the worker of the future, we need to start joining the dots between the technologies that are already being used today and the digital office that we are now starting to create in the construction world.
There are three categories of technologies that have been around for many years and are being adopted more and more around the world from what were analogue workflows into more efficient, higher-quality deliverables for customers:

1. Achieve up to 75% reduction in time with “moving dirt” technology

This is a technology that we call machine control. On any construction site, you use heavy machines that allow you to move dirt or objects around your site. Up until recently, this was a very labour-intensive workflow. But now, with machine control, we can install guidance systems or sensors inside these machines that show the machines operators what to do and where to dig using 2D and 3D digital data, for example. The sensors ensure that what is constructed onsite meets the design precisely, safely an efficiently.
Using these machine-controlled devices is a huge part of modern heavy construction and is already a billion-dollar-market with a 25% Y.O.Y growth. Machine control is shown to aid in achieving a 75% reduction in time, 35% fewer man-hours, and a 35% reduction in equipment.

2. Complete the project four times faster by setting out

Setting out or staking out is when we have a digital representation of our project, and we want to construct that project in the real world. We need to look at how we take 3D models to the site, for example, to avoid any costly mistakes. Tapes and strings are still commonly used around the world to doing this setting out or staking out process. This is a very labour-intensive process with a high probability of errors. Today, however, we can use Robotic Total Stations - devices that allow you to take digital 3D and 2D information and position things in the real world. For example, we can take data from any CAD or BIM package through to our Robotic Total Station, where it is then read and laid out. If there are any changes, new information can be sent directly onto the site.
With a Robotic Total Station, you will at least be four times more efficient in the way that you are setting out. You will ultimately be able to do your project four times faster. It reduces the chance of human error by digitalising when it a very analogue process.

3. Capturing reality to create a smarter digital construction process

This is when you use technology to create a digital reality, which will connect the real and digital worlds in an intelligent way. You capture reality to make smart decisions to avoid costly mistakes that may occur down the line or to enable you to project-manage your projects more efficiently and intelligently.

Reality capture can be used before the project has started to get a lay of the land, during construction to monitor the progress of your construction site, and near the end of a construction project to validate and create the ‘as-built’ deliverables that customers now demand.

We use sensors like photographic imagery, 3D laser scanning and thermal images, as well as mobile mappers, drones and UAVs to capture 2D or 3D information from the world around us, to make reality machine-readable and create a digital reality in a digital office.

As 60% of today’s buildings will still be in use in 2050, it is vital to be able to capture reality to understand what the real world looks like in 30 years so that we can digitise and create a smarter digital construction process.


Digitalisation in construction is not just about the technology as just buying the technology is one thing. It is more about how you train people on the technology and how you allow them to be motivated about using the technology to be more efficient and safe. It is about making sure the processes that are there enable the use of that technology in a way that it can deliver the intended digital construction change. Hopefully, the construction industry can adopt more digital technologies going into the future, which will connect the real and digital worlds in an efficient and smarter way.