“How We Build Now aims to spark new conversations and to challenge construction leaders to think differently about technology,” said Procore’s vice president of Asia Pacific, Tom Karemacher, at the report’s launch.
The report surveyed 1,138 construction leaders from across the Asia Pacific, 314 from Australia and 114 in New Zealand. Opinions were also canvassed in Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore.
On 31 May, Procore convened a panel event featuring ANZ construction leaders from Meriton Group, Urban Core, Cundall, Fletcher Construction and Safework NSW, to explore the report’s findings. Here are some of the insights for construction companies looking beyond How We Build Now.
1. Optimism is aligned with technology outlook
Sentiment across the region is strong. In fact, 91% of respondents are confident about the industry’s outlook in the 12 months ahead. But the story is different in every country, with the Philippines the most buoyant (98%), New Zealand in the middle (89%) and Australia behind the pack (85%).
An optimistic outlook is not the only area in which Australian companies are relative to their regional peers. Australian construction companies lag in almost every area of technology adoption and investment, from artificial intelligence to advanced analytics.
Why are Australian businesses, and to a lesser extent their peers across the pond, lagging? Julie Harris, YouGov’s head of research, speculated that it may be because “ASEAN businesses are younger and perhaps more likely to be born digital”.
2. Finances aren’t the only future-proofing strategies
After two years of Covid-induced uncertainty, How We Build Now notes that construction companies are walking into new headwinds: labour shortages, raw materials costs, extreme weather events and geopolitical instability. How do businesses future proof?
Scott Meads, national quality and systems manager for Fletcher Construction, noted that the construction industry adjusted to the disruptions of Covid by reassessing contracts and risk allocations, and this strengthened resilience and set companies up to manage future uncertainties with greater confidence.
For Dominique Gill, managing director of Urban Core, responsible financial management was just a starting point. “Money is an obvious safety net”. But a focus on people and the quality of an organisation’s culture could “turn the Great Resignation into the Great Retention”.
Technology also builds a positive culture, Dominique added. Software creates efficiencies but also attracts the people who want to work in forward-thinking firms.
3. Rework can be reimagined
The average Australian construction company spends 12% of its time on rework, according to How We Build Now. This figure climbs to 16% in New Zealand. Both are well above the ideal for an industry focused on cutting costs, moderator Hannah Morton, Cundall’s sustainability associate, suggested.
Matt Press, executive director of compliance and dispute resolution at SafeWork NSW, drew an astute connection between waste and rework. He said it was amazing to wander around sites and see overflowing bins. “People see rubbish as an environmental problem – but it’s a productivity problem. Everything that ends up in the bin can be a mistake.”
4. Driving diversity is everyone’s business
Australian and New Zealand companies had among the highest rates of diversity and inclusion policies across the countries surveyed. Despite this, only four in 10 respondents on both sides of the Tasman thought women would play an important role in the industry over the next decade.
Gill won NAWIC’s highest honour this year – the NAWIC Crystal Vision Award – in recognition of her work to champion women in construction. And her message was clear. “Women aren’t choosing careers in construction because there isn’t the belief that they belong there.”
Attracting and retaining female talent was a business imperative, Press added. The construction industry is facing a “huge churn” over the next decade as a large chunk of the workforce retires. “We have to look at what an attractive industry looks like for the next generation – and if we work on that then female talent will come along.”
5. Day-to-day technology is transformative
How We Build Now notes that 3D printing, robotics and drones are less likely to drive industry change than tried-and-true technologies, like digital project management platforms and building information modelling.
But technology has no value if people don’t know how to use it. “You can’t just buy the technology – you also need to train staff,” Meriton’s Director of Construction David Cremona noted.
Leaders play a central role in building capacity and bringing teams together, the pair agreed. Technology integration must “trickle down from the top” David said. Prior to adopting Procore, Meriton had “ample paper and data that we couldn’t really use.” Now everyone in their team – including their subcontractors – has access to the same information.