Forget drones. Focus on the foundations. Why constructors need a consolidated digital infrastructure.

by Rowan Jameson, Managing partner for industrial markets, Telefónica UK

It’s a positive picture in the construction industry right now. Improving order books. Continued high output. Strong demand across housebuilding and civil engineering. And growth is set to continue as populations rise and cities expand.

But there are pressures too, both competitive and operational, which are not helped by the current political and economic uncertainty. It’s likely that major investment decisions will be delayed until Brexit negotiations have been finalised. And when we do leave the EU, the industry could well face a skills shortage as labour restrictions come into force.

So how should construction companies best prepare themselves to meet these challenges and take advantage of growth opportunities?

For me, it’s about responding quickly to changing conditions by getting the right connectivity foundations in place, consolidating your infrastructure and leveraging the best of digital technology. It’s about having the agility to set up site in the harshest environment – and being able to get to work right away with access to everything you need. It’s about consolidating your infrastructure and leveraging the best of digital technology.

I’m not talking about drones or AI or machine-to-machine learning, or any of those other headline-grabbing innovations we read about most days, but rather the practical infrastructure services needed to run an efficient construction project.

For example, if you can get your remote site connected to the back office on day one, then staff will be able to access project plans, bills of material, supplier contracts, etc. without delay. In the past, installing a stable connection could take days or even weeks – but now it’s possible to put a secure digital network in place almost instantly, and bring together mobile, wifi and fixed connectivity into one service.

Not only does this accelerate operations at the start of a project, it will improve efficiency throughout the build. Site workers and decision-makers will have immediate access to the information, contacts and applications they rely on day to day and mobile connectivity will allow for better collaboration with back-office and remote workers.

Connectivity won’t be limited to people, either. A consolidated digital infrastructure can allow you to monitor the status of equipment and environments too. With access to real-time site data, you can prevent accidents and theft, and schedule maintenance tasks that minimise equipment downtime.

By getting these digital foundations in place, construction companies can support smarter working practices that benefit everyone – customers, contractors, suppliers and staff. You’ll attract the best talent in the industry to work with you, and you’ll build a reputation for quality work with fewer errors and more consistency.

So, let’s forget drones, AI and other headline grabbing innovations for now. Constructors should focus on their foundations first. By moving to a consolidated digital infrastructure, it will give you the agility to respond to new opportunities and compete better with new market entrants.

Please do get in touch if you have any comments or would like to talk about the current issues facing your industry. You can message me on LinkedIn, connect with me on Twitter @RowanJameson. Or visit o2.co.uk/enterprise