Digital shortage hurting construction sector

Monday, 23 October, 2023

Digital shortage hurting construction sector

A new construction industry report reveals a continued digital shortage is hampering the sector’s quality and safety protocols, with a lack of clarity and audit trail for decision-making processes alongside difficulty in capturing ‘as built’ information identified as the top construction quality and safety issues in Australia.

Launched during National Safe Work Month, the Construction Quality & Safety Report 2023 was developed by Autodesk in partnership with The University of Melbourne. It combines findings from qualitative interviews with construction industry and government leaders with a survey of 75 Australian industry and government experts.

According to the report, 51.9% of Australian respondents are dealing with a lack of clarity and audit trails for decision-making processes, while 50% struggle to capture ‘as built’ information. Difficulty in accessing data (42.3%), difficulty in managing and maintaining data (40.4%) and a lack of due diligence process (36.5%) are among other predominant issues.

“Since early 2015, the conversation about construction quality and safety has centred on compliance and enforcement,” said Sumit Oberoi, Industry Strategy Manager at Autodesk Construction.

“However, the apparent shortcomings detected in Sydney’s Opal Tower and Melbourne’s Docklands Lacrosse Towers highlighted the need to better capture information and audit trails.

“Although clear progress has been made to digitalise construction from design to delivery and operation, there remain concerns about the lack of common approaches across projects to ensure health and safety for onsite construction workers and mitigate faults in builds. This is despite several Australian jurisdictions sharpening their construction quality and safety regimes.”

When asked about challenges in construction quality and safety management, 63.8% of respondents identified lack of information management across stakeholders, with lack of data capture ability (57.4%) and difficulty in logging and verifying site feedback (55.4%) rounding out the top three.

The report shows that a staggering 60% of respondents rely on manual take-off during work-in-progress and defects inspections as methods for verifying ‘as installed’ conditions, with 11% having no measures in place. Only 5% leverage automated detection of difference between 3D laser scans and building information management (BIM), 11% use 3D laser scan and visual comparisons with BIM models, and 13% have regular 360° photogrammetry or lidar scans.

“Technology primes construction companies for risk prevention and establishing safety barriers,” said report author Dominik Holzer, Associate Professor in Digital Architectural Design at The University of Melbourne.

“Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), 4D planning and BIM, alongside other digital tools, help determine the potential for risk at a site, and can automate the detection of potential issues throughout the build process. A number of contractors and TAFEs are also finding value in leveraging VR to simulate scenarios to train workers — particularly apprentices — for hazard identification. These are crucial methods to mitigate strains and sprains right through to serious injuries, and ensure supervisors are aware of potential cases of negligence at sites.”

While 61% of survey respondents agree that technology plays an essential or very important role in helping quality and safety, the remaining 39% regard it as somewhat important (23%), of little relevance (12%) or having no role (4%).

The vast majority of respondents (71%) believe technology helps reduce quality and safety issues, whereas 23% hold a neutral stance, and 6% feel it does so rarely.

“The ability for project teams to capture and process construction quality and safety information, and ensure that data is accessible by all stakeholders, is pivotal,” Oberoi said.

“Singapore’s about-to-be-launched CORENET X submission framework and the currently developed Victorian Government eComply system are promising mechanisms to push the digitalisation of compliance-related processes, but Australia’s construction industry needs to expedite a more integrated way to pre-check projects against codes, and create consistent knowledge transfer across projects. This is where technology delivers value — it tackles the complex dynamics and information flows that not only drive productivity, but govern the quality and safety of Australia’s built environment.”

The report also found:

  • Only 14% of respondents feel their workflows are well aligned; 45% said mostly aligned, with 8% neutral, 21% occasionally aligned and 12% not aligned.
  • Only 14% of respondents use a digital notification system for quality assurance, quality control and safety all of the time; 37% use one most of the time, whereas 25% are neutral, 18% use it rarely and 6% do not leverage one at all.

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