AUTHOR: Kathleen Brown, @KathleenBrownCD
PUBLISHED: Dec. 19, 2018

While it’s more common for large construction companies to be using sophisticated technologies on their jobsites than smaller firms, a new study shows that more than half of contractors (both general and trade contractors) are using an “advanced construction technology.” Included in this category are drones, equipment tagging, wearables, RFID tagging (used to track inventory, equipment and tools), augmented or virtual reality, reality capture, automated equipment/robotics and 3D printing.

Drones are the most widely used among the 54% of contractors who indicated in USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s fourth-quarter Commercial Construction Index survey that they have dabbled with at least one of these tools. Thirty-four percent of respondents are conducting flights over their sites while 39% expect to do so in three years.

The use of each technology is expected to grow, as more contractors responded that they plan to implement them in three years than those who are currently using them. Plus, contractors will likely have more than one advanced tool in their arsenal by 2021 — almost three-quarters said they expect to adopt one or more before then. Drones, equipment tagging, wearable devices and RFID tagging are to be the most widely adopted, the study found, with wearables use increasing by the greatest amount.

The great divide

There is a clear divide between contractor type: 73% of general contractors use at least one advanced technology compared with 21% of trade contractors. This extends to expected technology adoption, as well, with 85% of GCs expecting an increase over three years compared with just 59% of trade contractors.

There’s no better incentive for technology adoption than increased labor productivity, 66% of contractors responded. The labor pain point is most felt by trade contractors, though, 77% of whom chose labor productivity as a top factor compared with 57% of GCs. Next on contractors’ list of top reasons for tech investments are improvements to schedule management (52%), delivery on budget (51%) and safety (51%).

Contractors are most confident in the safety benefits of advanced technology, the report found, with 78% believing technologies like robotics, automated equipment, RFID tagging and especially wearables, will help them on this front. Meanwhile, 77% believed budget management would improve, 76% that their schedules could be better managed and 75% that labor productivity will increase.

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