The built industry ranks a lowly 18 out of 19, beating only agriculture as the least digitally transformed industry in South Africa. This is the first part of a two-part article.
“A shortcoming in the sector, particularly in South Africa, is its ‘tools-for-trades’ approach where all players within a project’s lifecycle are served by particular tools in support of the roles they fulfil. In other words, project managers, architects, estimators and other roleplayers each have their own tools that don’t necessarily talk to each other,” says RIB CCS enterprise sales manager, Quimby Bunce.
There is no shortage of technology used in the built environment. While there are plenty of software programmes and technology used to support projects, this does not mean the industry is digitally transformed. Margins in the industry are between 1% and 5%, lagging behind the rest of the economy.
Bunce says the real essence of digital transformation rests on three factors – people, processes and data – and how they operate together. The use of technology in a ‘tools-for-trades’ fashion leads to failure in all three areas, because data ends up in silos associated with each of those applications, ultimately leading to a breakdown in project processes.
This breakdown is evidenced by industry’s productivity challenges, including its inevitable time and budget overruns, rework, and materials wastage. “A McKinsey survey found that 80% of projects are over budget and most take 20% longer to be completed than initially anticipated, with 30% of work performed being rework. In fact, the industry has almost flatlined in productivity terms for about a quarter of a century, with growth of a mere 1%. This is a third of what the total economy has achieved and, even more damning, scarcely more than a quarter of where a sister industry, manufacturing, sits as a leader in transformation,” adds Bunce.
The missing piece is integration. What is important is how all players on a project interact. For example, once the architects have completed the design phase, how are those outputs passed on to the next people in line?
Every time outputs – in the form of data – move across systems, there is the risk of a loss of fidelity. Data normally loses its richness when it exits one system and enters another. It also loses its fidelity at every point of human intervention, which becomes problematic for the overall project process.