Balfour Beatty, the global construction giant, has recently published a paper entitled Innovation 2050 – A Digital Future for the Infrastructure Industry.
In the presentation, they make a broad statement that there will be few if any humans to be found on Balfour Beatty infrastructure construction projects anywhere around the globe.
Rather, in response to the massive labor shortages and the digital revolution currently underway, robotic cranes and diggers will be observed and directed by drones flying overhead. The machines will communicate with each other and new, in many cases partially self-assembling, materials will create the needed infrastructure.
The report is groundbreaking in that a major construction company explains where the industry is today and makes recommendations to those leaders in the industry who want to be around 32 years from now about what they might do.
Digitization of the industry will be mandatory and according to the report, “Adopting and mainstreaming digital and other new technologies, such as advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, will be a game-changer for the industry, speeding up the otherwise slow-and-steady modernization of the sector, and providing answers to the challenges and opportunities we face.”
The report outlines some other the challenges facing the industry like cyber-attacks, massive data storage, and a “dramatic increase in competition for ‘digital natives,’ those who grew up in the digital age and are able to combine digital skills with creativity and new ideas.”
Balfour Beatty predicts that the change will come rapidly and that it is like to be massively disruptive to the existing industry players. They report that, “Change in the industry is overdue. The digital revolution will redefine the sector.”
They continue with 10 predictions and 10 recommendations for the industry and those willing to face the future with eyes wide open. The report continues with outlining the benefits of accepting and engaging in the change demanded by such a massive disruption to the way we currently operate. Ways that the industry will change are also outlined, and the report concludes with the statement that, “Balfour Beatty believes that the infrastructure industry must modernize in order to secure its own future. Those companies at the forefront of the digital revolution, which integrate new technologies most effectively, updating their business capabilities and their offer, will reap the biggest rewards.”
We would go a little further to say that those companies who do not engage in the massive change ahead of us will disappear from the scene much sooner than anyone expects. If Elon Musk can disrupt the space program, the automotive industry, create solar panels as shingles, and define driverless technology and high speed travel on the earth and into space, there is little that stands in the way of revolutionizing the construction industry.