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Building a future: The changing face of construction

Smarter Staff
Smarter Writer

This article has been written by the Smarter Business™ Staff Writers

Smarter Staff
Smarter Writer

This article has been written by the Smarter Business™ Staff Writers

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Construction companies are integral to the Australian economy, with their total contribution to the production of goods and services reaching7.7 per cent in 2010-2011, or more than $100 billion, while employing more than a million Australians.

As the Australian economy recovers, the building industry is following suit, with projected job growth of eight per cent in 2015. As existing businesses and entrepreneurs see growth areas in the industry, innovation and efficiencies become more important than ever.

And technology is increasingly becoming more prevalent, both on-site and in the administration of the business. Here we look at five areas small and medium business contractors need to be across to help their success. 

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Melbourne-based Jacaranda Industries is a builder and contractor that specialises in complex finishes and joinery. Director John Giles believes that the growing prevalence of software and services that allow for collaboration are making a major difference, especially from an administration point of view.

“At the end of the day, everyone is tech-savvy, we are all improving on its capability, but… I am sure the services side of the industry has changed the most.

“The biggest thing that’s happened is that there are a number of tools out there that talk about online collaboration.”

Cloud project management platforms, such as Aconex, are widely used across the industry, but add significant efficiencies including being able to update information for all stakeholders immediately, and allowing onsite staff access to this information through on-site site laptops and smartphones, and reduces the risk of sites working from superseded information.

As these cloud collaboration platforms become more prevalent, the amount of data used on-site increases, which is driving more demand for services that allow for flexible data use, such as Telstra’s Easy Share Business Plans.

“Lots of subcontractors and the major builders themselves will distribute tablets or larger iPads to their staff so that they can bring up a drawing or whatever, [and] they can bring it up on Aconex.”

“We do share our [mobile] data – if it fills on one, it goes over another or is distributed from user to user.”

You learn so much from what other industries are doing, but it’s actually having the time to pull yourself out of today’s tasks to get involved and look forward.

- John Giles, Jacaranda Industries

Get the right tools for the job

Tools are constantly evolving. While sites used to be covered in cables causing OH&S issues, cordless tools have taken over. It’s these kind of improvements that are characteristic of the changing face of the building industry. New innovations are constant, providing small upgrades with significant benefits.

Importantly, small contractors should look at the benefits that future technologies such as 3D printing can provide on-site. In early 2014, University of Southern California's Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis unveiled a 3D printer that could build a house in 24 hours. While the technology is unlikely to be popular on that scale in the near future, 3D printers are already being touted as being able to create jigs, fixtures and other manufacturing tools, and one of Smarter’s technology trends that will help give your business the edge in 2015

To learn how to better your relationships and manage client expectations in the building industry, click below.

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Look to the future

In any competitive environment, being able to complete a job well and on time will help small businesses develop a reputation and secure ongoing work. For Giles, having a concrete view of where he wants to be in the future has allowed him to grow his business from eight to in excess of 60 since its inception in 2003.

“You’ve got to build your business with the mindset that it’s going to change. Technology will make it change... What happens today doesn’t mean it’s right tomorrow.

“It’s about just saying ‘What is the best thing for us going forward?’ and adapting and moving with it, whether that’s an estimating software or it could even be tools.

“You learn so much from what other industries are doing, but it’s actually having the time to pull yourself out of today’s tasks to get involved and look forward.”

Never stop learning

Knowing what’s on the market and how it can benefit you is the first step towards efficiency, but it’s also integral to have the skills to make the most of any improvements you decide to invest in.

Already, Master Builders has set up the Building Leadership Simulation Centre (BLSC), which uses technology, specialist actors, a 15-metre parabolic screen and 12 site sheds to create an experience that goes beyond books into real world experience without the risk.

In a video on the BLSC website, Brian Welch, Executive Director for Master Builders Victoria, says it has “the capacity to change the way people think and act in their jobs, and [there is] no doubt that will translate to improved bottom line, a greater accent on safety and a lift in the productivity of our industry.”

For other builders looking to grow the skill sets of staff the options are huge, ranging from universities, vocational education providers such as TAFEs, and private Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). Specialist courses exist at RTOs such as Sydney Construction Training School, and the Construction Skills Training Centres exist in Perth and Brisbane.

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