The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry is one of the oldest industries on the planet. Partly because of this it has been slow to move to new technology. “Construction productivity has actually declined in some markets since the 1990s; financial returns for contractors are often relatively low—and volatile.” *
The construction industry is one of the least digitized.
Some of the challenges to the industry include multiple sectors which are geographically dispersed and dramatic differences between projects. Think of the difference between building a bridge verses building an airport.
There is a tendency for every project to be thought of as unique and not scalable therefore making embracing new technology may seem impractical.
The argument for the construction industry to accelerate technological innovation is powerful and one of the most promising areas today is in the use of Augmented Reality or AR.
What is AR? It is technology that uses a combination of sensors, cameras and databases to integrate your physical surroundings with computer-generated information to provide an efficient, enhanced view of your surroundings. AR differs from VR (Virtual Reality) in that VR is an entirely digital experience without integrating elements of the real world around you.
AR is effective for Project Planning. It can allow you to project 3D models onto a 2D plan.
It can give clients a realistic view of the project and allows for changes before starting the project that might otherwise lead to large cost overruns. The technology allows for quickly measuring height, width and depth on site and transferring those measurements onto updated models making sure that the on site spec and the planned models agree.
Combining a physical view with digital information can be invaluable for locating pipes, walls and beams and inform the user in real time of obstacles to a desired revision.
Augmented Reality allows complex data to be simplified and more immediately useful. Data overload can bog down progress and create confusion for anyone. AR can help by:
- allowing project managers to use machine visualization to ensure that equipment they’ve ordered will fit the workspace
- that any accessory they consider will fit the machine they’re using.
Some of the most powerful aspects of AR is increased efficiency, higher utilization rates and increased ROI.
In order to maintain a competitive advantage all of these factors are essential.
Making sure that machines are well maintained and being utilized effectively means companies can make more money back on their investments.
AR makes it easier for operators to use their machines safely, can translate control functions and decals to their preferred language and streamline operator efficiency to keep machines in use, as opposed to idling while trying to consult a manual.
AR can help ensure that equipment ordered for a project will actually reach the necessary height and handle projected loads, while still fitting into the dimensions necessary.
There are still drawbacks to AR just as there are with any emerging technology. It is not perfect and can be restricted by bad internet connection in remote places. Not all AR glasses can be worn with a hard hat.
The potential of AR and other new technologies to revolutionize the industry is profound. If the construction industry is ever going to increase efficiency and productivity in a meaningful way there is no choice but to integrate and embrace new technology. The industry as a whole is well positioned to come back after Covid and AR will be an integral part of its future growth.
JLG’s AR app is a suite of five tools:
- Machine Visualization: Make sure you have the right equipment for any job by placing and moving virtual machines in your actual job site.
- Kit Visualization: Stock or buy the right accessories for any job by viewing them on your real equipment or in the space where they will be used.
- Operation Guidance: Promote safe machine operation with control panel guidance in your choice of languages.
- Decal Viewer: Ensure operator safety with a viewer that shows decal information in your choice of languages and explains symbols and images.
- Inspection Assistance: Increase efficiency with inspection details and information shown on the machine you’re inspecting.