Cranes and clouds above a skyscraper in construction

Until recently, the use of augmented reality (AR) in architecture and construction was the preserve of big corporates with equally big technology budgets. No longer. The technology is being democratised, very quickly. Even small firms, often using cloud services, can take tablets onsite and use AR to see how their plans will (or won’t) fit into the real-world environment.

And it’s not just AR. Technologies such as data analytics, predictive maintenance, prototyping through 3D printing, automated site-management solutions and drone-enabled inspections are now taking the sector by storm. Driven by the need to meet ever tighter deadlines and ambitious client specifications, the sector is rapidly digitising previously manual workflows and information systems.

The rise of the digital construction site

In previous waves of digitisation, companies adopted discrete technologies, each designed to tackle a single task. Today, using digital construction site management solutions, firms feed data from a range of systems into a single-site model and a single, dynamically evolving project-management plan. This allows many previously separate systems to now interact to become more than the sum of their parts.

For instance, GPS trackers on the equipment help site managers see exactly where each piece of machinery — every backhoe, boring machine, bulldozer, cement mixer, excavator and forklift — is on the site, both in real time and across time.

Using tablets and geotrackers, engineers can locate existing underground infrastructure before work begins. And connected sensors on key structure and sub-systems provide information about variables, such as temperature and humidity, that can have a significant impact on whether any given task runs smoothly and ends well.

The result, at least in theory, is a construction site on which every job is done in a sequence, and under conditions, that maximise the chances of success and minimise cost and risk. Thanks to GPS-tracking and data-driven planning, machine utilisation rates are kept as high as possible and idle or unplanned downtime as low as possible. Every person and piece of equipment is where he, she or it should be at any given time.

At least, that’s the theory. To ensure that it translates into reality, all the machines and equipment on site must be as available in the real world as they are in the virtual one. And that’s why maintenance is more important than ever. 

Innovation means nothing without reliability and performance

If you’ve planned work schedules on a complex construction site down to the minute, then all the equipment in that plan needs to be available, working at peak efficiency, and where it’s supposed to be. But that cannot happen if machinery is lost to unplanned downtime or is working at below expected performance levels.

According to the Shell Powering Peak Performance report, 34 per cent of lubricant decision-makers in construction admit there are challenges in keeping up with the latest practices and trends. A further 68 per cent of respondents believe more third-party advice would improve their practices, while 76 per cent think a lubricant supplier who can share expertise would be invaluable to their company.

This is important. Like fuels, lubricants are often wrongly assumed to be commodities. But they are not. The latest low-viscosity, synthetic lubricants are designed to be effective for longer, extending the time between drain intervals. They combine protection against wear with friction-reducing properties, helping to safeguard against damage but also maximising the amount of energy in the fuel that is delivered to the machine’s moving parts. This helps cut fuel costs and emissions.

 

Keep pace with progress through partnership

As the construction industry evolves, the companies that manage to respond in an agile and innovative fashion will gain the edge over their competitors. Working with Shell is one way to ensure that advanced equipment operates at optimum levels. By using innovative and high-performance products, and providing engineers and maintenance staff with the knowledge and tools they need to apply the latest technologies in lubrication and equipment maintenance.

Through online assets such as LubeAdvisor, LubeMatch and LubeCoach, Shell provides its partners with the services, knowledge and tools they need to train their staff on lubrication best practices, find exactly the right oil for their vehicle and use case, and maintain that oil — and the machine it protects — in peak condition. Our experts can help you keep up with the pace of change and stay ahead of your competitors.

The environment the construction industry has to operate in has never been tougher. Margins are razor thin, demand for improved productivity is constant, and environmental standards continue to tighten. Firms investing in new technology to maintain their competitive edge are doing exactly the right thing. Yet ultimately, if the same innovation and diligence are not applied to following maintenance best practice, all these efforts to maintain profitability will be unsuccessful. With the innovations arriving now and imminently, these are exciting times for the sector – but this potentially bright future still needs to be fought for.

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