Back to the future: why the past holds the key to transforming future construction performance

North America’s construction industry is increasingly turning to its past to help navigate a more certain future. Contractors are facing an environment of volatility and unpredictability around everything from equipment availability to craft skills, costs, and turbulent economic waters with rising inflation, interest rates and a series of banking failures. This is driving many contractors to seek new ways to reduce their risks in an increasingly uncertain environment. Pioneering EPCs are now harnessing connected data and cloud technology to delve into their recent past for insights that can provide a roadmap to future project certainty.

Ongoing turbulence and risk 

Uncertainty and instability have become the norm for North America’s construction industry. Supply chains still reeling from the pandemic have been buffeted by headwinds from extreme weather events such as the California floods and a series of big U.S. banking failures. Projects already facing volatile supply chain costs have been further hit by soaring inflation and interest rates. So much so that organisations in the Americas are the most likely in the world to cite unmanaged or unexpected risks as biggest barriers to project certainty. 

A virtuous circle of data

Some contractors are using Construction 4.0 tech to transform their past data from a paper-based archive into a digital ‘liquid asset’ that can power future construction success. Central to this is digitalising and centralising project documentation through cloud-based platforms capable of transforming data from a raw material into a refined resource. 

Pioneering EPC Wood Group harnessed our cloud-based FusionLive platform to pool all its project data into a single easily auditable information hub. This was linked with its huge project library, creating a universally accessible pool of knowledge from past to present. The company has cloned previous project templates to help replicate past successes and accelerate new project setup. Historic data is used to fuel its project analytics, harnessing smart data to optimise future construction. This creates a virtuous circle linked by connected data where each project grows successively smarter with lessons from the last.  

A recent report found almost half of construction firms are now harnessing historic data and this is dramatically improving project certainty. Many of the current risks from extreme weather events to inflation have been experienced before and past projects hold the secrets to managing these risks. This could range from using substitute materials to reduce onsite labour costs to rerouting logistics chains away from extreme weather-affected areas. 

Creating a feedback loop of information from the past is also fundamental to reducing future project setup costs and timelines. Historic data could even be mined by future machine learning algorithms to generate fully automated templates, forecasts and even project designs for each type of project.  

Recovering institutional memory

Many construction companies are sitting on a ready-made resource to transform project performance in their own accumulated experience. Yet this knowledge is scattered across a patchwork of point solutions, spreadsheets, and even paper-based systems. Ultimately, a broken document trail leaves the industry prone to forgetting valuable lessons from recent experience and effectively navigating an uncertain construction landscape without a map. Connected data and cloud technology can now help companies harness their institutional memory to bring greater predictability to a volatile future environment.

 For more information, read our latest report.

Published on: 11 January 2024

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