Entitled ‘Future Trends, Challenges and Opportunities in Construction Post-COVID-19’, Linesight’s webinar held earlier today brought together a high-profile panel of speakers to discuss some of the key considerations arising from the pandemic. Chaired by Linesight Group CCO, Paul Boylan, the panel included Daniel Costello of Google, Mick Lynam of PM Group, Micheál O’Connor of Dornan Engineering and Shane Dempsey of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).
The session kicked off with Shane Dempsey (CIF) providing an update on building the industry’s recovery, which touched upon the remobilisation of the industry and the estimated 50% of on-site construction workers that have returned to work across 1,100 sites in Ireland over the last week. With the expected productivity impact, Shane highlighted that COVID-19 is the industry’s disruptor, and digitalisation is the answer, presenting a transformative opportunity to modernise the construction industry in a generation and offset the volatility in this economic cycle.
Daniel Costello (Google) then summarised Google’s COVID-19 response, outlining the status of key processes and tools implemented, as well as providing some insight into the technologies and practices being rolled out on-site to counterbalance declining productivity. Daniel highlighted the role of field integration and assembly, in terms of productisation and the stabilisation of delivery, the shortening of project-level delivery (driven by the supply chain), the shifting of project value closer to substantial completion, and the application of robotics and automation to drive down cost, address health and safety issues and improve lead times. He also touched on the differences between off-site fabrication and modularisation, and their parallel roles in planning for future project delivery.
Mick Lynam (PM Group) emphasised the increasing importance of getting the major project scoping/execution considerations decided upon early on in the concept and basis of design phases – now more than ever, plans must be well thought out and measures built in to facilitate that throughout the project life cycle. He pointed to the fact that COVID has put a renewed focus on the fact that a project with excellent health and safety coupled with quality will have a much better chance of delivering on time and on budget, and echoing one of Daniel’s key points, highlighted the role of off-site methodologies in this regard, including the objective of commissioning off-site.
Looking in more detail at the practicalities of the new methods of working, Micheál O’Connor (Dornan Engineering) spoke about how communication and collaboration have become more challenging with remote working, but regularity and reinforcement are all the more crucial in times of such uncertainty. He touched upon the need to alter tools and equipment, leveraging robotics and to facilitate working in a safe way within the new guidelines, without creating on-site pinch points. Micheál also covered the human aspect, in terms of supporting resilience and succession planning at both a business and individual level, as well as acknowledging the challenges around apprenticeships, where the usual close supervision and observance will be more difficult in the future.
Paul Boylan (Linesight) then wrapped up the discussion, stating that a level of maturity is required and a realisation from all sides that there will be impacts on projects for the foreseeable future, and an approach that delivers optimum outcomes for all sides must be pursued. The extent of the impact will of course depend on a range of factors, from the sector in question to the stage at which the project is, but Paul warned against ‘kneejerk reactions’ and the pandemic being seen as an opportunity to negotiate. Ultimately, the impacts are yet to be realised and fully understood in any great detail before the industry has any meaningful insight into the consequences of COVID for construction.
The webinar concluded with a lively and engaging Q&A session, with plenty of thought-provoking questions and points put forward by the attendees. A copy of the questions and answers can be downloaded below.
Linesight would like to thank the panel participants and all attendees for joining us for this insightful session.