Lessons from Logistics: Embrace Technology to Modernize Construction

Lessons from Logistics: Embrace Technology to Modernize Construction

Logistics and Construction

Logistics and construction go hand in hand and transformation in the former can inform ones in the latter. Illustration courtesy of BigRentz.com

Imagine, if you will, a world where every item you use daily — from the coffee mug in your hands to the smartphone on your desk — tells a story not just of design and manufacturing, but of a journey. 

This journey, often invisible to the end consumer, is made possible by the logistics sector, a complex web of processes ensuring that goods move seamlessly from factories across continents to you. Now, consider the buildings around you. Each one is a testament to the construction industry’s capability to turn visions of steel, glass, and concrete into realities. 

Both these sectors, logistics and construction, form the foundation of our modern lifestyle. Both have also historically been slow to adopt new technologies, leaning on manual processes and professionals, viewing technology with skepticism due to concerns about cost, complexity, or disrupting well-established workflows. However, in recent years, logistics has made significant strides in integrating technology, leveraging tools like robotics, the internet of things (IOT) for real-time tracking, artificial intelligence for route optimization, and platforms that enhance coordination across the supply chain. 

The construction industry now stands on the edge of its own digital era. With rising material costs, labor shortages, and the increasing complexity of projects, construction professionals are beginning to see technology not as a disruptor but as a necessary evolution to meet the demands of the 21st century. 

By emulating logistics in its technological journey, construction can achieve greater efficiency, improved safety, and better project outcomes. Here’s how.

Digital Solutions for Unified Communication

In logistics, as in many industries, fragmented communication methods — from faxes (yes faxes) to phone calls to texts to emails — have historically led to delays, inefficiencies, and increased operational costs. Recognizing these challenges, the sector has turned to new solutions providers that have developed unified digital platforms to streamline communication. These platforms have been shown to help break down silos within supply chains and improve collaboration. The impact has been tangible, with one such solution, Fourkites, suggesting its platform helps customers achieve 15%-20% savings

In the construction industry, the development and widespread deployment of similar digital platforms could significantly improve project management.  

Envision a platform, akin to those in logistics, enabling real-time collaboration among construction managers, engineers, financial planners, and several other parties. Such centralized communication platforms, with features like advanced notification systems and customizable alert capabilities, could significantly reduce time wasted due to delays and miscommunications between critical project components such as design, equipment procurement, and financial management. Real-time, cross-project updates and tailored alerts would ensure all stakeholders are uniformly informed. This approach could lead to better time management, cost savings, and increased productivity.

Embracing Adaptable, Scalable Tech

Leveraging the logistics sector’s approach, where Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things have bridged gaps between disparate operational functions, the construction industry can make similar improvements. For example, in logistics, AI analytics has been widely applied in recent years to predict and preemptively address potential disruptions while IoT’s real-time tracking ensures the smooth flow of goods by continuously gathering information along supply chains such as inventory supply, transportation conditions, and equipment performance.

Translating this to construction, the integration of adaptable technologies like AI and IoT could offer a tailored approach to managing projects of varying sizes and complexities. AI could serve a pivotal role in analyzing vast amounts of project data, tailoring insights to the specific needs of each project, whether it’s a small residential building or a massive infrastructure development. Similarly, IoT devices could be customized to monitor the specific types of materials and equipment used in different construction projects, ensuring precise tracking and allocation of resources. 

Implementing AI and IoT solutions could provide the construction industry with both predictive and responsive strategies meant to avoid or reduce project delays, budget more efficiently, and adjust on the fly to unforeseen issues. 

Welcoming Robots to the Job Site

In logistics, the implementation of robotics has significantly transformed operations, notably in warehouses such as those run by Amazon, where robots sort, pack, and move goods with efficiency and precision. This automation reduces manual labor, accelerates processing times, and minimizes errors, showcasing the benefits of robotics in streamlining supply chain operations.

In construction, this precedent suggests vast potential. Robotics could be more widely adopted for precision tasks like bricklaying and painting, or for handling complex assemblies, improving speed and accuracy. Robots could also replace humans as it relates to dangerous tasks such as handling hazardous materials or working in extreme temperatures. The increased application of robotics could lead to safer work environments, reduce the physical strain on workers, and expedite construction timelines, ultimately driving down costs and improving project delivery outcomes. As the construction industry continues grappling with labor shortages, now is an opportune moment to take a page from logistics and encourage increased investment in and adoption of robotics. 

As construction embraces the dawn of its digital transformation, the urgency for adopting logistics’ technological lessons has never been clearer. Now is the time for construction leaders to champion this evolution. Let’s not just build; let’s build smarter, safer, and more efficiently by making technology the cornerstone of our industry’s growth.

Scott Cannon is the CEO of BigRentz, an online marketplace for heavy equipment rentals

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