Speaking at #futurenow, a virtual conference held by construction software company RIB CCS, futures strategist, human behaviour specialist and bestselling author John Sanei said the industry needs to develop robust business models and structures that allow for experimentation in a world that is changing fast. The conference explored the urgent need for the engineering and construction industry to embrace digitalisation to remain relevant and future-proof businesses. RIB CCS CEO Andrew Skudder (left) said this sector is one of the least digitised industries in the world (it is ranked 21st out of 22 industries), with no significant productivity growth in recent years. Conference speaker Marc Nezet of Schneider Electric highlighted three major challenges the world is facing – a global pandemic, recession and climate change. “World Economic Forum statistics indicate that construction accounts for 13% of the global GDP, 6% of world employment and a staggering 40% to 50% of worldwide emissions, meaning climate change cannot be solved without transforming the building and construction industry,” said Skudder.
According to Nezet, net-zero carbon cities and buildings need to be designed and built thoughtfully, and doing so is possible thanks to digital software technologies. McKinsey & Company partner Gerhard Nel reiterated the need for change in the industry, “which is currently characterised by increasing complexity, changing customer preferences, sustainability considerations, a move to modular, a shortage of skilled labour and a stricter and more complex regulatory environment”. Referring to the topic of disruption raised by Sanei, Skudder agreed that meaningful transformation sometimes requires creating so-called future teams in the business to experiment with new ways of doing things. “Innovative organisations do this as a matter of course, but I don’t think construction companies do it enough,” he said. “It’s a great suggestion for them to consider, especially with the way the sector is evolving.”