GenieBelt’s Taylor Ryan: Why are Startups Disrupting Construction?


The construction industry is known for being less innovative and reluctant to embrace the benefits of modern technology than any other industry. Though we are getting very close to a world where building structures can be made automated and unmanned we’re still not there. For now, startups are trying to implement software to better manage or organize a construction site. And smart devices that will connect equipment and tools for easier use.

Better profits through efficiency

Construction startups will provide every relevant technology solution to all construction industry shortfalls. It is becoming more difficult, for example, to control and maintain profit margins on the construction projects. Proposals can be put together down to the penny and, given the vast amounts of data collected these days, a construction manager with enough experience should be able to give an accurate estimate on time and cost for a any project with enough information. Delivering a project on-time and up to the specifications ultimately comes down competence and efficiency of all the workers on site.

Skilled workers and educational startups

There is a serious shortage of skilled workers to take the places of an aging construction workforce. There is also a shortage of skills requiring hundreds and thousands of training hours. Training and certifying people for specialized labor fast enough is its own hurdle, and lends itself to a lean startup that can attract a competent workforce with lucrative salaries and a great training platform going outside traditional educational options. It should come as no surprise that education startups have popped up all over, and are putting these newly educated workers into better paying jobs.

Communication, and collaboration

The construction industry is struggling with the need to communicate. It’s not possible for a project manager to be in two places at once. Despite better cell phone coverage and higher resolution phone cameras there is still a disconnect between work being done and what is being planned from the office. There are a slew of new cloud-based startups that specifically solve the problem of reviewing project drawings and sharing documents that are usually too large to share via emails on day to day level.

This creates a major need in the market for better collaboration and overall communication within the market. Never before have designers, architects, and engineers been able to make updates to the blueprints and drawings of a structure without everybody’s needing to halt construction before getting new plans into the hands of all the workers.

Giving construction companies a better way to access each other in real-time results in a better overall result. Without this type of connection becoming more common, there is far less likelihood of success for those that remain disconnected and don’t change with the times.

Document control and storage

The construction industry has poor productivity record and relies totally on the paperwork of its construction projects and deliveries. Due to lack of digitalization, information and document sharing is delayed and often contractors, subcontractors and owners work from different versions of reality.

Paperwork use makes it difficult to analyze data that is important in procurement, constructing or historical performance which will lead to a poor project outcome and risk management. If the paperwork is mismanaged it can cause disagreements between contractors and owners on important issues such as construction progress, change order, claim management. Paper trails take a lot more time than digital process of data analysis.

The use of digitization in the construction project planning process will enable you to capture data that paperwork could not. The insights gained through the use of advanced digital analytics in construction projects will help to improve efficiency, risk management, timeline–and save money.

Another disadvantage of traditional construction is that the process takes a lot of time to complete and involves hiring high-skilled designers and builders. This significantly adds to construction cost and increases labor charges.

Contractors and subcontractors

Breaking down a language barrier and getting two teams to work together can be a challenge for any project manager. When you’re able to seamlessly integrate tasks and communication under one platform, with multiple languages, the results are improved efficiency, safer construction sites and better tractability. Never before have communication and language barriers been so easy to circumnavigate via a simple application as today.

Integration of old and new

Technical challenges to the construction sector have played a huge role in the slow process of digitalization: it is not easy to roll out solutions across construction sites for multiple sectors that are dispersed geographically. This means that startups have to learn to onboard these older companies with relative ease.

If it’s too hard for a company to migrate information over, or to train their employees in the software, that software will never likely get picked up and used regularly. This is partially an adaptation of the market and willingness to accept the change of the people working the key roles within each company.

New materials and devices

The market is looking for more efficient and lighter carbon footprint materials for the buildings of the future. These products will continue to drop in price but many of them need a chance to mature and proliferate. Given the huge demand for environmentally friendly construction, it is only a matter of time that many of the future materials and devices begin to become as affordable as traditional options.

But it is a slow process. The construction industry tends to focus on making incremental improvements partly because many builders believe each construction project is different, and that it is not possible to scale up new ideas by embracing new construction technology.

Connectivity and devices

Finally, with startups interruption on the construction industry, there will be an availability of low-cost Internet connections through handheld devices that will utilize cloud-based mobility applications that can be used even on remote construction sites with real time project updates which are important to contractors and project owners.

With these, project managers and operators can change the way the traditional construction industry likes to change order management, material dispatching, time tracking, productivity measurement, incident reports and document sharing. It also avoids manual inspection, which is time consuming and sometimes very dangerous to execute.

Taylor Ryan is head of marketing at GenieBelt.