Disjointed models leave North America’s construction industry blindsided by risks

Canada and the US have set ambitious targets for clean power, yet the rate of construction is currently falling far behind demand. A trebling of transmission line capacity and a similar increase in renewable energy development is needed to stay on course for net-zero emissions. Yet renewable growth slowed in the US last year and construction projects in North America are the most likely to run late or over budget. 

One of the problems is that North America’s heavy reliance on imported materials, components and skills for renewable energy means its construction projects are acutely exposed to global economic headwinds. This is worsened by data silos which create a fragmented picture of risks across all project stakeholders and stages. Effectively, sluggish digital transformation has left the industry lacking the visibility and agility to respond to an increasingly fluctuating risk landscape. 

Adaptability and collaboration away from data silos are essential to keeping the transition to clean-energy sources on track. So, how can EPCs and capital project partners capitalize on existing cloud-based solutions to shift to more open and collaborative data-sharing models?

Late and over budget

North America’s fledgling renewables industry is heavily reliant on overseas skills and materials which means its construction firms felt the worst effects from supply chain and skills shortages.

And the evidence shows that the region’s poor project performance is also linked to the persistence of siloed data. Non-standardised systems and processes emerge as one of the biggest barriers to project certainty, alongside communications gaps with stakeholders. North America also lags behind other regions when it comes to harnessing historic data (45%) and benchmarks (45%) to boost project performance. 

These problems are all related. Disjointed, disparate systems hinder the connected data needed to collectively monitor and adapt to fluctuating risks, foster multi-party collaboration, and ensure lessons from past projects are collected and passed onto future ones. A fragmented picture of project status leaves contractors repeatedly blindsided by risks. 

A joined-up risk picture

The standardisation of systems and integration of construction data could transform project certainty by enabling holistic risk planning and monitoring, resulting in more resilient and agile projects. Additionally, joining the data dots among all stakeholders would drive more joined-up thinking and collaborative, cohesive risk management. 

The good news is that the technologies we need to achieve both standardisation and a joined-up approach are already here. Cloud-based document management systems built around interoperability and universal accessibility provide visibility of project status among all stakeholders, from suppliers to contractors. Fluctuating costs and risks can now be collectively monitored and managed with digital dashboards offering a project-wide window into everything from supply chain shortages to overdue engineering reviews. And there are automated targeted reminders that can also help automatically keep deliverables on target. 

Connected data also provides a full audit trail to ensure full auditability and accountability for any unexpected delays and costs. This audit trail can also help chart the way to improve future project performance. For example, consulting and engineering giant, Wood Group, integrated Idox’s FusionLive enterprise document management system with its project library to fuel smart project analytics and even cloned successful past project templates for future projects. Future machine learning systems could use this data to autonomously generate project templates, benchmarks, or forecasts. 

Staying on course for the energy transition 

Keeping the energy transition on track amidst a fluctuating risk landscape will require more agile construction and contractors that are constantly alert and adaptable to changing risks. Breaking down data silos will help diverse project partners unite to collectively manage and mitigate risks and help each project improve on the last. The key now is to move from construction models based around secrecy and data silos towards more open, collaborative models joined together by connected data.

If you’d like to learn more about these challenges, check out our latest report.

Published on: 28 December 2023

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