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Maintaining Momentum: Digital Transformation in Asia Pacific Construction Firms

Many construction businesses in Asia Pacific have been at the forefront of technology adoption over the last decade. But right now, there’s pressure to digitally transform faster than ever before.

With flagship sustainable projects such as Brisbane’s Santos Place, clients are amongst the most ambitious and innovative in the world. But with these high standards come greater demands for communication during construction and ownership over project data.

Regulators like the BCA in Singapore are pushing for greater use of technology, to improve the accuracy of builds and support smart facilities management. And of course, businesses are keen to keep improving project productivity – and maintain their position at the forefront of global construction.

Digital tools can help firms to adopt innovative approaches, whether it’s offsite manufacturing during construction or smart building technology for facilities management. And recent experiences have proven how valuable these digital platforms can be for maintaining business continuity during disruption, such as the COVID-19 outbreak.

So where are construction businesses in Asia Pacific up to with digital transformation – and how does that compare to firms worldwide? Together with IDC, we’ve surveyed 835 construction professionals worldwide to explore the Future of Connected Construction.

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An early point in the journey

Construction businesses around the world appreciate the benefits that digital transformation can bring, starting with project performance. One in five say that the top benefit of digital construction solutions is overall project management and performance (20%), followed by control of time and scheduling (13%) and improving health and safety (12%).

Importantly, construction businesses are taking action to realise these benefits by implementing technology. Nearly three quarters say they are prioritising digital transformation (72%). For most firms, the budget for technologies represents 1-3% of their annual turnover (32%).

BIM is playing a growing role in construction. In Asia Pacific, in 7% of construction businesses everyone uses BIM-based workflows in their day to day operations – exactly in line with the average of 7% worldwide.

Nonetheless, construction businesses are at an early point with their transformations. Most are still in stage one or stage two (58%), where digital initiatives are ad hoc or on a project by project basis. Only 13% of businesses are well on their way to success. Worldwide 95% of organisations worldwide use digital construction solutions in just 50% or less of their projects.

Further Reading: Start Your Digital Construction Journey: A Transformation Road Map [Infographic]

The barriers to progress

So what’s holding back construction businesses in Asia Pacific? The most common cause of digital deadlock is the challenge of integrating digital projects across the organisation (44%): in other words, ensuring that new technologies and processes are adopted throughout the business in a consistent way. Creating a strategic roadmap for digital investments (43%) and finding the metrics to measure digital success (42%) are also frequent stumbling blocks.

But businesses in Asia Pacific also have other organisational issues to content with. Operational challenges still loom large, including completing projects on time and on budget (12%) and ensuring workforce safety (11%). A further one in ten are concerned about effectively managing risk (9%).

Country snapshots 

Australia and New Zealand – Construction has grown strongly in recent years, representing 8% of GDP in Australia. New Zealand has predicted that the sector will grow by 20% in 2022, and is establishing the BIM Acceleration Committee to support technology adoption.

China – China has been a leader in the adoption of prefabrication to improve the efficiency of construction, and the government is driving a five-year plan to make BIM business as usual for construction firms.

Japan – Since 2017, BIM adoption has been encouraged by government agencies and technology as a whole is seen as a partial solution to the industry’s labour shortages.

India – Although adoption of BIM is varied amongst Indian construction companies, the Indian BIM Association is promoting the use of the technology and it played a role in the construction of Bangalore Airport and the Delhi Metro Rail.

Singapore – The regulatory body the BCA has mandated the use of BIM and is incentivising firms to use innovation through the regular publication of the Technology Adoption (C) Index.

South Korea – South Korea has been a leading adopter of BIM, with the technology mandatory on public sector projects over US $50m since 2016. In 2019, the government implemented a programme to create BIM-based building design standards.

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Plans for the future

Construction firms around the world are planning to invest in more technology in the future. Importantly, many construction businesses are also planning to establish a digital transformation roadmap, to guide their technology investments. Three in ten firms plan to establish their roadmap in the next 12 months, while 25% are looking at the next 12-24 months.

Digital capabilities will be improved in several areas across the business. Nearly half of firms plan to prioritise operational excellence with their digital investments (48%), which will be valuable for those firms in Asia Pacific focused on completing work on time and on budget.

For others, it will be about creating strong customer relationships on projects (44%) and capitalising on the data in the business (39%). A fifth will also focus on digital skills and talent (21%), which will be important for gaining the full benefits of new technology – and tackling skills shortages in markets where labour is in short supply, like Japan.

The route to connected construction

Digital transformation is far from straightforward, but there are steps that firms in Asia-Pacific and beyond can take to secure success:

  1.  Think ahead and create a strategic digital roadmap, that’s integrated into the overall business plan. Consider how digital technology can work as a competitive differentiator, by boosting productivity, improving client relationships or delivering exceptional builds.
  2. Choose digital tools that integrate easily, whether it’s linking the site to the office or different stakeholders in the building lifecycle.
  3. Effectively managing risk is a significant challenge – but predictive insights can help. Use digital platforms that can identity and highlight problems before they occur, to reduce delays, rework and costs.

With digital transformation, construction firms can improve their productivity, meet rising client expectations and take advantage of new methodologies. Asia-Pacific construction firms are already realising many benefits from digital transformation – and with continued investment, they can maintain their position at the forefront of technology adoption.

Click the image below to download the IDC whitepaper – Digital Transformation: The Future of Connected Construction.

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Praveen Tomy

Praveen Tomy

Regional Director, Asia-Pacific, Autodesk Construction Solutions

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