Construction Risk Engineering is evolving. Here’s why.
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How the tech ecosystem innovates construction risk management
June 01, 2020
Construction is an industry with a lot of complex risks. On projects small, midsize or large, owners and contractors have to cope with the effects of weather, supply chain issues, equipment problems, site safety conditions, regulatory compliance, budgetary concerns, and of course, project deadlines. That’s a lot to keep track of, but fortunately an innovative approach is emerging to help make managing construction risks easier.
Various technology tools offer efficient ways to address these areas individually. A truly revolutionary way to help bring certainty to construction projects and manage project risks, however, is the digital technology ecosystem.
An ecosystem, simply put, is an interconnected set of services and products. In a risk management context, an ecosystem enables AXA XL and our customers to become partners and together unlock opportunities and insights about their risks.
AXA XL’s ecosystem for construction risks looks a little bit like some of the mapping apps that can show satellite views, traffic volume, nearby businesses and so on, but with much more granularity. The power of a digital ecosystem comes from combining correlated data sets to deliver insights on a real-time basis. The data comes from AXA XL’s collaborators, innovative companies that are developing technologies to measure and monitor site conditions, workers’ behaviors, and other factors. AXA XL’s ecosystem makes it possible to look at not only a customer’s whole portfolio of projects, but also measure risks at the individual jobsite level, too.
Data flowing into the ecosystem enables AXA XL customers to gain insights including:
- Project status and alerts. Weather reporting per location, with customizable parameters, can help inform decision making about work at specific sites. For example, sensors that measure wind gusts 200 feet above the ground can help determine whether conditions are appropriate for tower cranes and other aerial work. Atmospheric and climatic sensors can alert ecosystem users to water intrusion, air quality problems, and more.
- Company benchmarks and trends. Internal benchmarking data, such as drilling down into historical events, can show whether a construction firm is improving its practices and point out where it could make changes.
- Industry-wide loss trends. External benchmarks with anonymized data help construction firms see how their performance compares to that of other organizations.
Besides showing construction risks clearly, another advantage of the ecosystem is the ability to create new products to solve customers’ needs. For example, the owner of a building with a sprinkler system may qualify for property insurance credits as a “highly protected risk.” “Highly protected project” status, however, does not exist in construction. With the ecosystem, firms can procure curated, innovative technologies to help reduce risk and may become eligible for specialized products and services at more favorable rates.
The ecosystem offers significant advantages for contractors as well as owners.
Advantages for contractors can include:
- Recurring revenue. Contractors that deliver on time and on budget are more likely to get repeat business from project owners.
- Higher margins. Contractors that differentiate with technology can pursue more negotiated projects, which carry higher margins than projects awarded on a competitive-bidding basis. Request-for-proposal (RFP) business tends to require a lot of effort for a lower margin.
- Spot problems before they require costly fixes. Rework is time-consuming and expensive. To prevent this, contractors need to identify and remedy problems as they happen. New technologies help make this possible.
- More efficient use of labor. Construction has been a notoriously difficult industry to find and keep workers. In this competitive environment for labor resources, it’s critical to keep workers safe and productive. Using technology to help reduce job site risks is not only the right thing to do to protect workers; it’s also a smart way for contractors to gain a competitive edge.
Among the advantages for owners are:
- Better build quality. Technologies such as “digital twins,” which enable contractors to visualize projects as they’re built and compare them to the design, can enhance build quality.
- More accurate costs. New tech solutions have the potential to keep projects moving along to avoid delays and unexpected expenses. For example, labor shortages in construction aren’t just a problem for contractors. They’re challenging for owners, too. Worker shortages add to the length and cost of projects. A 2020 outlook survey by the Associated General Contractors of America Inc. found that, for construction firms with staffing issues:
- 44% have higher-than-anticipated costs
- 41% are forced to raise the prices of their bids and contracts
- 40% take longer than anticipated to complete projects
Technologies like project management tools and worker wearables can help address potential staffing issues by helping increase worker efficiency and providing insights into labor deployment. And better managed labor helps get a project done sooner. For owners, this could mean reaping the benefits of a finished project sooner and with less expense
- Maintain performance. Technology devices can be used during all phases of construction and continue to monitor performance afterward. structures are expected to perform as designed for long after the construction is completed. Devices can help owners to measure and maintain project performance.
Construction is a cornerstone of economic growth. To keep the construction industry and the communities it serves vibrant, managing risk is critical. It’s a privilege for AXA XL to help build and rebuild North America on time, on budget, and safely, with the most efficient use of resources possible.
About the Author
Gary Kaplan is president of North America Construction at AXA XL. With nearly four decades in the industry, he is passionate about helping construction firms tackle their business challenges. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- About The Author
- Gary Kaplan
- President, North America Construction