When you think about tech-driven industries, construction likely isn't the first that comes to mind. The sector has a reputation for being slow to adopt tools from the digital age.
But new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) are breaking ground, so to speak, to make construction more efficient. And data is the backhoe that helps constructors unearth operational insights that would otherwise have stayed buried. One business pioneering IoT tech in construction is EquipmentShare, a company connecting contractors to one another for equipment rentals. Data generated from machine-to-machine communication is the driving force behind EquipmentShare's efforts to streamline contractors' operations. Those impressed with Facebook's daily data production of 600 terabytes might be stunned to learn that connected machinery produces vastly more information. In just 12 hours, a single twin-engine aircraft can create 844 TB of data. So while most construction projects don't call for twin-engine aircrafts, the industry uses heavy machinery that can dig up similar data loads.
Data isn't helpful in a vacuum, though. For EquipmentShare, big data's power is that it enables constant communication between site equipment. With machines able to exchange data with the cloud, contractors can connect their fleets to gain operational efficiencies, reduce time spent on-site, and benefit from decreased maintenance costs.
EquipmentShare's president and co-founder, Willy Schlacks, believes these technologies are key for contractors to make better business decisions. With data insights from the IoT, contractors can use data to realize, for example, they should be tapping into the shared economy to increase asset utilization and boost their ROI and bottom line.
In fact, the IoT is expected to grow the industry even further than it already has. By 2025, connected technology is expected to create $6.2 trillion in economic benefits for construction and other sectors.
How High Tech Helps Construction
IoT has officially entered the nation's construction sites, and two tech trends are already upending the industry's established practices:
1. Telematics: Telematics provide construction companies with in-depth information about their assets' operation data, health, maintenance records, and use. Unfortunately, most current telematics systems focus on location tracking, a minor issue at most for contractors. Until EquipmentShare developed its own platform, ES Track, few choices existed for contractor-specific telematics.
With access to information like fluid levels, pressures, and other data points related to their machines' status, ES Track helps contractors see what's going on with a machine and predict problems before they arise, making maintenance more proactive. Maintenance costs can swell to 5 to 25 percent of a machine's value every year (while they should stay around 1 to 2 percent), so this data can drastically cut constructors' costs.
2. Peer-to-peer rental: Every piece of equipment on a construction site has a price tag. But with some estimates indicating contractors' equipment sits unused 70 percent of the time, construction companies aren't making the most of their assets.
Telematics information can show whether a machine is underused, pointing out areas where a contractor could lower his cost of ownership and put the machine to greater use. But without knowing which assets are underused, contractors can't improve asset utilization.
Peer-to-peer rental can effectively improve asset use, and EquipmentShare built its entire business on the data telematics generate. When contractors connect on ES Track, among other features, they can see which assets are being used and which have been sitting around. Organizations like EquipmentShare give contractors an easy way to reach one another and boost their machines' use.
Tech's Effects on Tomorrow's Constructors
Tech's place in the construction industry doesn't stop at generating telematics and enabling peer-to-peer rentals. In coming years, contractors can look forward to decreasing ownership costs and autonomous machines.
As contractors connect with one another more easily, renting will become less expensive for those needing machines and more profitable for those renting them out. Machines should pay back about 25 percent of their purchase price annually, and tech-enabled rentals make this goal more achievable. Automation, too, has already begun to make its mark on construction. As companies struggle to find skilled hands, organizations like Komatsu have automated dozers, backhoes, and more to cut the need for manual labor and the time it takes to complete projects.
With data improving equipment monitoring, use, and monetization, it looks like tech has found a fresh home in the construction industry.