Hyperloop Blog Series (Part 3 of 3): The Headwinds Facing the Construction Industry

Mar 29, 2018

Part 3: The Coming Evolution of Construction

In the first two installments of this series we focused on some of the most exciting transportation infrastructure solutions currently being pursued around the globe. Unfortunately, these futuristic solutions will be dismissed as science fiction unless the construction industry evolves rapidly enough to render them commercially viable while public and political support remains strong.

In order to improve, the construction industry must overcome significant obstacles, including:

  • A massive shortage of skilled labor
  • Negative productivity growth over the past 60 years
  • An overall lack of digitization and automation

As was pointed out in a 2016 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, the construction industry has lagged behind the rest of the economy in terms of digitization and productivity growth over the past decade (Figure 3.1 below).  In order for construction to overcome the challenges it faces and catch up with the rest of the economy, the industry will need to undergo a massive shift toward digitization and automation in the coming years.

Fig. 3.1 – Economic Sectors Ranked by Digitization & Productivity Growth

A graph displaying different economic sectors and their corresponding digitization and productivity growth between 2005 and 2015

Fortunately, Silicon Valley and venture capital firms have identified this need and, along with companies like Precision, are working to solve the problem.

“The opportunity and challenge for the tech industry is to have a much bigger impact in slow-growth sectors like construction.” – Marc Andreessen

Forthcoming technological advances in the construction industry such as BIM, mixed reality and equipment automation are poised to revolutionize the world of large-scale infrastructure construction by increasing productivity while reducing the need for skilled labor. Predictable physical work can already be performed much more efficiently and accurately by automated equipment but the construction industry has been slow to adapt. By incorporating modern technology into construction equipment and workflows, productivity will increase as labor costs are reduced – leading to lower prices and enhanced profitability.

Infrastructure construction in particular, due to its predictable and repetitive nature, is highly susceptible to automation due to need for sophisticated technology to perform precision installation and quality control work much more efficiently and cost-effectively than is possible today. By embracing modern technologies, the construction industry can play a critical role in leading society to a better future.