The Latest Construction Technology Trends You Need to Know About

October 5, 2018 Adam Higgins

McKinsey has just released its latest interactive map of the industry’s construction technology ecosystem. The map and its accompanying construction technology report track the emergence of technology clusters, and shed light on how the industry has been spending its more than $10 billion investment in construction technology over the past decade.

Here are the key findings you need to know about:

  • Constellations of solutions are emerging around established use cases.
  • Technology investment continues to accelerate.
  • The set of promising use cases is expanding.


Constellations of Solutions are Emerging Around Established Use Cases

construction-technology-report-graphA map of the current construction technology landscape. View the fully interactive map in the McKinsey Report

In their report, McKinsey includes an interactive map of the current technology landscape. The map reveals constellations of solutions around specific use cases.

The four biggest constellations in this year’s map are:

  1. 3D printing, modularization, and robotics
  2. Digital twin technology
  3. Artificial intelligence and analytics
  4. Supply chain optimization and marketplaces


1. 3D Printing, Modularization, and Robotics

This constellation of technology solutions contribute to the movement of construction toward a pre-fab and modular construction system of mass production. McKinsey’s research indicates that consistent use of these three types of technology could boost overall productivity in the industry by 5- to 10-fold.

3D printing and modularization technologies include:

  • Automated prefabrication processes that turn a 2D drawing or 3D model into a prefabricated building component
  • Fabrication directly off 3D models or shop drawings
  • Construction robotics such as bricklaying and welding robots
  • Self-driving heavy machinery to make construction safer, faster and more affordable
  • Exoskeletons and wearable robotics to enhance worker mobility and strength
  • Metal 3D printing of long-lead components such as joints
  • Hardware innovations that enable field augmentation with exoskeletons
  • Drone-enabled yard inspection


Together, these technologies contribute to more efficient, safer, and more cost-effective construction sites.


2. Digital Twin Technology

Digital twin technology refers to the constellation of applications, software, and hardware that enables off-site team members to interact with real-time representations of on-site features and environments.

These technologies enable unprecedented transparency and proactive problem resolution. They include:

  • Digital “twin” platforms that create virtual reality environments that reflect real-time conditions on site
  • Reality-capture technologies such as drones in construction, satellite imagery, and LiDAR and photosphere-based solutions
  • Seamless integration of twin models with 3D models generated by drone imagery
  • Live key performance indicator monitoring using Internet of Things sensors

Together, these technologies can enable off-site users to virtually interact with ‘mixed reality’ models that combine 3D design and as-built configurations. They can reduce decision-making cycles from a monthly basis to a daily basis, and enable the fast identification and resolution of issues before they become costly problems.


3. Artificial Intelligence and Analytics

AI and machine learning in construction have the potential to optimize schedules, automatically sequence tasks, and catch divergences from blueprints in near real-time. Intelligent technologies can model multiple possible scenarios faster than humans, making it simple and fast to optimize plans and corrections.

However, these technologies are still in early stages. According to the McKinsey report, few organizations “have the processes, resources, and existing data strategies in place to power the necessary algorithms and meaningfully implement the technology.”

However, these technologies are expected to substantially impact the industry to such a degree that no organization can afford to ignore their growth.


4. Supply Chain Optimization and Marketplaces

Another early-stage constellation of solutions is the one centering around supply chain optimization and marketplaces. Supply chain in the construction industry is currently a largely manual process that requires substantial human time and effort.

In some regions, solutions are emerging that offer marketplace platforms for the buying and selling of goods, as well as hiring. As these solutions are acquired by large suppliers, they have begun to be deployed at scale.

In theory, they enable contractors to match supply with demand, and as such, they have the potential to optimize the supply chain, improving productivity and profitability. They also can improve competitive bidding and support the increasing use of prefabricated components.

While the McKinsey report indicates that these technologies will be important to the construction industry, they are still in early stages of emergence.


Toward the Future of Construction Technology


Investments in construction technology have doubled over the past decade. Image courtesy of McKinsey Report

“Between 2008 and 2012, construction technology received $9 billion in cumulative investment. Between 2013 and February 2018, that number doubled to $18 billion, largely driven by mergers and acquisitions.”

- 2018 McKinsey Report on Construction Technology

The increased investment is driven in part by the fact that early investments in technology have delivered on their promises, plus an expanding set of use cases. 


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