Recommendations for action for digitalization in the construction industry
Completion of the consortium project DiCoMa
The consortium project “DiCoMa” (Digital Construction Management) ended on 30 April 2023. The aim of the project was to evaluate and advance the progress of digitalization in the construction industry. On the one hand, an interview study aimed at gaining in-depth insights into the state of digitalization and networking in the construction industry in general and the infrastructure measures sector in particular was conducted for this purpose. On the other hand, the concepts and functionalities developed in the predecessor project “Infra-Bau 4.0” were evaluated with potential users. From the results, the research team derived recommendations for action for the digitalization of small and medium-sized enterprises in the construction industry.
Infrastructure projects such as road and bridge construction are complex and expensive construction projects. They also frequently result in cost overruns. Digitalization is an important building block for solving this problem. In the previous research project “Infra-Bau 4.0”, a digital platform was therefore developed that digitally maps all stakeholders involved in the construction with their systems, data, and processes, and networks them to form a Digital Ecosystem. In the follow-up project “DiCoMa”, which was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) with a total of 442,186.41 euros, the project consortium tested the developed solutions in practice. The project ran from August 2022 to the end of April 2023.
In the first part of the project, the functionalities and tools developed in Infra-Bau 4.0 were evaluated in terms of practical suitability and user friendliness together with players from the construction industry at a concrete construction site (small-scale construction measure in the infrastructure area of the city of Kaiserslautern). The construction project was deliberately kept small in order to be able to simulate and analyze the complete construction process from work preparation to project completion within the short duration of the project. By means of interviews with the management levels (project manager, site manager, foreman) on the contractor side and selected project participants on the customer side, the ecosystem of Infra-Bau 4.0 was tested in practice.
In the second part of the project, a study was conducted to gain in-depth insights into the state of digitalization of the construction industry, specifically in the infrastructure measures sector. The overarching question was: How much digitalization has already reached construction companies in practice, and where do they currently feel the digital pinch? In a series of 26 interviews with representatives of the construction industry, their experiences, wishes, and solution strategies were elicited. The interview participants primarily expect digitalization itself to lead to more efficient construction through optimized processes, to better cooperation through more direct communication, and to an increase in the attractiveness of the profession and the industry itself. Technical challenges exist mainly in the exchange of data and with regard to data quality. Most o the software solutions used work well, apart from the sometimes high training costs – but fail the latest when it comes to working together with other software solutions. Nevertheless, digitalization is not primarily hampered by inadequate technology, but rather by obstacles in the areas of human resources (e.g., lack of personnel, lack of acceptance, lack of competence), financial issues (e.g., acquisition costs, granting of time off for training), or structural problems (e.g., award procedures).
Recommendations for action for companies in the construction industry regarding the sustainable implementation of digitalization include continuing education and training of employees in the area of digital skills, creation of standards for data transfer or cooperation with other companies, and increased cooperation with research institutions for the exchange of know-how and experience. Government and public administration can also make an important contribution to digitalization of the construction industry. Possible courses of action here include funding digitalization projects and collaborations, creating clear legal framework conditions, adopting measures to strengthen digital skills, and creating incentives for digitalization (e.g., through tax benefits).
The study can be downloaded free of charge from the project homepage.
About the DiCoMa consortium
The consortium of DiCoMa includes partners from the Kaiserslautern science and innovation region. Consortium leadership and construction management expertise lies with the Department of Construction Management and Construction Economics at the Rhineland-Palatinate Technical University Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU), represented by Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Karsten Körkemeyer. The Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM, and the Chair of Robotic Systems of RPTU are contributing their IT expertise to the consortium. Another project partner is the Science and Innovation Alliance Kaiserslautern e.V. (SIAK), which provides the link between science and industry and also takes over public relations tasks in the project. In addition, buildingSMART, the competence network for Open-BIM and digitalization of the construction and real estate industry, is involved in the project via a subcontract.