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Construction 4.0 – Is the industry ready?

What is Construction 4.0?

A month ago, President Cyril Ramophosa, in his state of the nation address, mentioned the focus and implementation of the fourth industrial revolution in South Africa. Construction 4.0 is the engineering and construction industry’s version of the fourth industrial revolution. This is the digitisation of the construction industry encompassing many advanced processes and technologies including:

Industrial production, for example:

  • Prefabrication, automation, 3D printing
  • More assembly, less traditional construction
  • Changing skills – technicians rather than labourers

Robotics and the use of artificial intelligence:

  • Robots for repetitive and/or dangerous processes
  • Drones for surveying and light lifting/moving/positioning

Digitally controlled construction sites, for example:

  • Machines and equipment with simple BIM models
  • More and better data and telemetry from site equipment to support contractors
  • Everything connected to ensure accurate information in real-time, leading to smoother, error-free, faster construction

Challenges

Unlike the manufacturing industry, the construction industry deals with bespoke projects, once-off and site-specific designs. We do not manufacture the same brick repeatedly. Each project comes with its own challenges from design to delivery to quality to cost. So how do we standardise and monitor consistency throughout?

Construction 4.0 comes at a substantial cost from training to implementation to security management and software development. Companies will inevitably have to change their business models to incorporate this. How do we measure the return on investment? Can small consulting firms or SMEs afford to carry the costs of such a system?

The above challenges are probably why the construction industry has been adopting technology at a slow pace. 

Advantages

The implementation of technology will increase productivity and accuracy which are the key goals to every construction project. This is evident in the implementation of building information model (BIM), 3D printing and modular prefabrication.

 

Is Africa ready?

Probably not. It is however not a choice. Construction 4.0 is slowly seeping its way in the industry and will take time before it is fully implemented. South Africa amongst others is one of the slowest to adapt to such changes. The challenges are however recognised, and fiscal measures are in place as addressed in our President’s speech.

What about EQUATE?

Our data centre team is fortunate enough to be part of this exciting era. EQUATE has been involved in the roll-out of many data centre infrastructures from inception, design coordination, construction, testing to final commissioning and hand over. We work with our stakeholders and engineers’ hand in hand to ensure we deliver and meet our Client’s and their tenants’ needs. To enable change and keep ourselves competitive in the market, we are proud to call ourselves experts in the data centre construction and engineering cost management with a team that has gained extensive experience on these specialised buildings.