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In 2011, orders for new construction projects fell by 5 percent to £3.6B, which was less than half of the long-term average and just 30 percent of the 2007 peak. This sharp drop forced a lot of construction firms to make some extreme cuts to their workforce or go out of business altogether.

With the decline in demand for new construction projects, how could firms make the biggest impact to their bottom line with a minimal investment without sacrificing quality or increasing project timelines?

Moving from Paper to Electronics

Rather than deploying yet another IT system in-house or investing more in marketing efforts, going paperless and cutting infrastructure costs by moving files to the cloud seemed to be the best option for these firms. The cloud enables construction firms boost productivity and collaboration, easily share project files and contracts, and eliminate headaches with managing paper copies of files. They can cut costs and time without sacrificing quality.

Knowing they needed to make a change with the market downtime, the historically late technology adopters in this industry were forced to abandon their hesitance in changing their traditional processes and start adopting the cloud and mobile technology to stay competitive.

Does the cloud provide all of the answers?

AEC, Construction, hybridWhile the cloud proved to be very beneficial for reducing costs and easing business processes around collaboration and file sharing, it also came with many limitations. Especially for the Construction industry, these teams need continuous access to the latest blueprints and CAD drawings, and with limited bandwidth on job sites, the cloud can only handle so much.

Editing and sharing blueprints with spotty Internet is difficult. These files are large! Putting in monetarily, for one job, a bound set of paper blueprints could cost an astonishing $23,000! Think about the impact on your network by working 100% digitally.

This puts major constraints on the network and forces IT to invest in complex infrastructure such as WAN accelerators and caching appliances to support a cloud-only deployment. And, then there is the issue of losing access to files completely when the Internet is down. No access = loss of time, money and productivity.

With these associated costs, should firms go back to the traditional route of printing the blueprints? With the high costs associated with printing these blueprints every time a new version is created, and the issues with working from the wrong, outdated set of blueprints that can cause costly rework, going back is just not an option.

So what’s the next step for construction companies?

The answer is hybrid.

A combination of the cloud and existing infrastructure will eliminate downtimes and latency problems. Hybrid solutions can combat these issues by centralizing access to all files.

By working with an enterprise file-sharing platform, such as Egnyte, it allows teams to intelligently share, edit and access these files in a place that best optimizes bandwidth or other investments. For example, if the Internet connectivity is spotty, the field team can work directly from a NAS device. Or if they need access to the latest files without going back to the main office, they can access the most up-to-date version from their mobile devices since the storage is synced and centralized for the teams in one dashboard. This eliminates the issues around working on outdated blueprints and the costly mistakes affiliated with rework. Also, no downtime to increase project timelines.

Egnyte has been a pioneer in hybrid technology and an asset for firms such as Balfour Beatty, Devcon, Bowmer & Kirkland, and more. Balfour Beatty, who is one of the most recognized names in the construction industry, felt the limitations of their incumbent cloud-only solution Box, which led them to deploy Egnyte’s hybrid deployment for their work on the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport project. In doing so, they were able to save the company $5.1M costs on that one project alone. Recognizing the flexibility and added value of Egnyte, Balfour chose to deploy Egnyte company-wide to more than 2,500 employees.

What does the future hold?

Although many are enamored with the cloud at this stage, there is a collective understanding that there is also a need for on-premises hardware. By being able to leverage both on-premises and cloud data tiers, construction firms will be able to maximize their productivity while also increasing their ROI. This will ultimately help save hundreds, if not thousands, of construction firms all over the world.

 

*The original post appeared in BCR UK