01 Jul These Technological Advances Are Changing the Concrete Industry
“The mechanical loom and the calculator have shown us that technology is both disruptive and filled with opportunities. But it would be hard to find a decent argument that we would have been better off without these inventions.” –Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence
As technology advances, tools that allow concrete producers to innovate, streamline, and reduce costs will become more affordable and accessible. And when operations large and small are able to keep costs down, competition within the industry will depend on customer service. Here are just a few of the technological advances changing the concrete industry:
Self-healing concrete, also called bioconcrete, might sound like something straight out of a science fiction movie, but it’s very real and already in use, though the technology is still being perfected.
Developed by Dutch microbiologist Henk Jonkers, self-healing concrete incorporates Bacillus bacteria and calcium lactate into a limestone concrete mixture. When the bacteria feed on the calcium lactate, limestone is produced as a byproduct and repairs cracks within the concrete.
Once available, self-healing concrete has the potential to radically change the industry, reducing maintenance costs and lengthening the lifespan of concrete structures by up to 200 years.
Drones and Autonomous Equipment
Autonomous robots and drones are appearing on more and more worksites, and they’re becoming increasingly sophisticated. Just last year, 26% of small to midsize construction businesses said they already use drones or expect to incorporate them by 2020. Drones are being used to augment the inspection and planning processes with aerial data, while autonomous equipment is reducing risk for workers and streamlining labor-intensive, monotonous tasks.
In Japan, Komatsu, the world’s second-largest construction company, is using bulldozers guided by drones to compensate for a labor shortage, and it looks like the U.S. is headed in the same direction. According to the Bureau of Labor, there were roughly 300,000 vacancies in the industry as of June. For some operations, drones and autonomous equipment may be the solution.
Construction Software and Technology Ecosystems
A technology ecosystem allows collaboration across all the components of your operation—and in an industry as multi-faceted as concrete, this is incredibly important. With so many options available, it’s rare for one solution to address all the needs of a company. That’s where technology ecosystems come in.
It starts with choosing a primary software solution. Innovative and industry-specific software solutions track work orders, outstanding invoices, inventory, labor time, etc. They have mobile apps that allow contractors in the field to access valuable job information. And they have payment integrations that allow your operation to accept business and government cards.
A construction software integrated into a technology ecosystem is a truly powerful tool that can improve productivity and ease-of-use for everyone in an operation, from laborers, to the marketing team, to office staff.
What’s driving all this change?
Put simply, competition. To remain competitive, concrete operations are looking to increase efficiency, consistency, and quality, and technology is allowing them to accomplish that.
Small to midsize operators should welcome the leveling effect of the technological advances changing the concrete industry. Now is the time to consider how these advances can help your operation win more bids and go toe-to-toe with even the largest competitors. New technology presents new opportunities and that’s something to look forward to.
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