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Can technology keep the construction and industrial sectors on track?

Technology is an important ingredient for growth and innovation in any business.

Technology is an important ingredient for growth and innovation in any business. Photo: Supplied

Huge growth opportunities exist for the construction and industrial sectors this year, but businesses won’t realise this growth without overcoming their fair share of challenges.

Currently in Australia:

  • Inflation has hit a 21-year high
  • Interest rates are rising after more than a decade in decline
  • Construction costs continue rising, as profit margins shrink
  • Skilled labour shortages are impacting budgets, schedules and maintenance
  • Supply chain disruption continues to limit construction materials and equipment
  • And strong commodity prices, together with high infrastructure and residential construction demand, are adding additional strain to these already stretched sectors.

Given these conditions, it’s not surprising that even well-established building companies have buckled under pressure, or that the construction sector represented 28 per cent of all insolvencies in 2021.

Coates

Coates is Australia’s leading equipment hire and solutions provider. Photo: Supplied

Levelling the playing field

 Technology is an important ingredient for growth and innovation in any business. For construction and industrial maintenance projects, it can inform equipment hire decisions, reduce costs and help businesses do more with less, which is particularly important when equipment, materials and labour are all in short supply.

Technology therefore needs to be a core ingredient of any construction site. Innovations, such as enabling a smart and connected fleet of equipment, can harness the power of data for customer efficiencies and insights, and help to keep people safe.

Realising the power of telemetry

While data has always existed, its potential hasn’t always been fully realised. But as more cost-effective telemetry devices have come onto the market and IoT has evolved, these developments have allowed data to be harnessed and better utilised across a wide range of industries and customer applications.

Coates is Australia’s leading equipment hire and solutions provider. Across its fleet, telemetry sensors now capture real-time flow rates for safe water management.

They measure the loads placed on structural props for safe excavation. They also inform proactive asset maintenance and help industrial businesses to locate and understand the utilisation of tools, equipment and consumables. The opportunities for telemetry to inform and enhance customer activities are limitless.

Unlocking the value of data

The real value of telemetry, however, is not in the raw data that it sources, but in the analysis and interpretation of this data to uncover business insights.

Alongside telemetry sensors, Coates uses asset management technologies like SiteIQ and productivity tools like Smart Site to help customers reduce costs, drive business efficiency and guide the delivery of customer and market-focused solutions.

For example, late last year Coates supplied, tracked and monitored the tools and equipment for a major upgrade at the Mt Piper power station in NSW.

By eliminating unnecessary hires and aiding in the return of equipment that would otherwise have sat idle on site, a data-enabled approach helped this customer to achieve an 80 per cent improvement in tool time efficiency.

And while helping customers to reduce their hire might seem counterintuitive, it’s important to remember that efficiency is a two-way street, with benefits on both sides.

From a market perspective, once efficiency gains allow equipment to be taken off hire for one customer, it can also be used to support other businesses that face similar challenges around the demand and supply of equipment.

Coates hire

Across Coates’ eligible fleet, telemetry sensors now capture real-time data to give customers greater insight into their hire equipment. Photo: Supplied

Putting technology, not people, in harm’s way

Replacing people in performing high-risk, and high-cost tasks is another high value application for technology in the construction and industrial sectors.

Custom drones are increasingly used to perform pre-start safety inspections on construction sites, and for remote asset inspections during industrial maintenance.

Sending drones into these environments instead of people eliminates the need for access equipment like scaffolding, ropes and booms, and it helps businesses to keep their most important assets safe.

For inspecting industrial assets like cooling towers, drones also allow for the creation of highly accurate 3D models and digital twins to guide current and future maintenance.

Regardless of how far your technology strategy has come, there will always be opportunities for technologies like these to level the playing field and mitigate industry challenges. And there will always be productivity, efficiency and safety gains to be made.

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