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DCW 2019: ‘Skill up for digital’, Farmer urges senior leaders

20 October 2019 | By Denise Chevin

Senior leaders are perpetuating old processes and putting the brake on productivity increases that could be delivered using new technology. That was the strong message delivered by Mark Farmer, author of the 2016 Modernise or Die report, at Digital Construction Week at the Excel exhibition centre in east London last week.

The CEO of Cast Consultancy told the audience on the first day of the show: “We keep hearing how BIM and digital technology are going to change the world, but we haven’t seen anywhere near the adoption needed – and change has been limited.”

He said that a variety of different technologies could and should be harnessed, such as augmented reality, to improve life safety, design quality and build quality. Yet the closer you get to site, the more analogue processes became, he said.

Reskilling the workforce had to be a priority if the industry was going deliver digital transformation, otherwise “we keep perpetuating the same problems”, he added.

He warned that without new skills all the new technology seen at the show would take four or five times longer to land in this industry

In a wide-ranging speech to the conference Farmer also called on:

  • Industry leaders to start using technology to automate payment processes; and for
  • A shake up of procurement to cut out too many layers in the supply chain, each of which added inefficiencies.

He said procurement was unfit for purpose and as the market began to soften construction companies were already acquiescing to clients and dropping their prices. “Senior leaders are acquiescing and they have just got to stop it,” he said. “We have to break this cycle of lowest cost.”

Farmer also said the industry needed to stop producing poor quality “bland and anodyne” housing. He said consumers were no longer prepared to tolerate the failure of house builders and that insurance companies were starting to drive improved performance. “The insurance market is saying that they won’t insure unless they can get better assurance on outcome,” he said.