The Director of the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) at Scottish Enterprise, Nick Shields, looks into how digital holds the key to a more productive construction sector. The modern approach to production for the most traditional industries can take the longest to make due to custom and practice.
Agriculture, for example, is a traditional industry that has undergone a rapid change in the past 20 years. Even though this sector employs less than 1.3% of the UK workforce, compared to 24% in 1840, the adoption of new technology meant that labour productivity has increased by 250% since 1973.
While the whole economy has improved by around 30%, the productivity in the construction industry hasn’t changed since 1994. With the size of the prize for the UK economy at £455 billion over the next 10 years, the sector that has by far the most to gain from this new digital approach is construction, with a predicted £88.9 billion.
Digital transformation offers huge potential to manufacturing over the next decade. The construction sector has the greatest opportunity to embrace this new digital world and through techniques such as offsite manufacture, profoundly increase productivity.
Scotland has demonstrated its commitment to improving construction productivity when it established the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), which allows businesses to gain experience in current technology that will improve building techniques and productivity. Focused on Business, Product, Process and Service forms of innovation, CSIC offers advice, funding, facilitation and access to the appropriate expertise. It is designed for anyone within the construction industry to use, with annual membership packages and pay-as-you-go models on offer.
A productive construction sector will be at the heart of a productive economy. Providing much needed infrastructure improvements which attract foreign investment coupled with a sustainable and low-cost approach to new housing will also provide the societal benefits on affordable housing that the UK needs.
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