Sector - Finance & Legislation

Construction: 2020 to 2021 Review

Nick Sacke is Head of IoT and Products at Comms365. In this feature he looks at what 2020 gave construction, and what 2021 holds for it.

A majority of businesses across a range of sectors have faced unexpected challenges caused by COVID-19, and the construction industry is no different. Being brought to a halt earlier this year, the pandemic has had a significant impact globally on the construction industry, with projects being cancelled or delayed, a reduction in workers through social distancing measures, as well as supply chain disruptions.

Recent research revealed that over 70% of construction businesses experienced a decrease in turnover, and nearly 70% of business owners reported having to cease operations during the pandemic. However, nearly half of those have now resumed trading – in the hope that the construction industry will rebound post-Covid. As businesses face increasing demand and pressure to pick up where they left off, a new and innovative approach needs to swiftly be put in place ready for 2021 to ensure that they can meet expectations whilst supply chains remain contended, for the foreseeable future.

Meeting Optimistic Construction Targets

After months of on-and-off lockdown, the European construction industry is gradually opening back up and resuming both old and new projects.

In November, the Government announced a target of building at least one million new homes in the next five years, but following COVID-19, this is going to become a much bigger challenge. With increasing pressure on the construction industry to build new homes, as well as the uncertainty and resulting fluctuating values driven by COVID-19 and Brexit, the incentives for developers to build in the short term are reduced.

Additionally, the planned HS2 high-speed railway in the United Kingdom has been under scrutiny since 2009, and was originally due to open by the end of 2026, which has now been pushed back to 2029-2033. Construction on-site has now formally begun after months of working restrictions, but now with office-based employees urged to work from home and a reduction in travel, many businesses are questioning again whether or not the building projects should go ahead.

The Catalyst for Digitalisation

The pandemic has accelerated the use of digital solutions across healthcare, retail, and now construction. The construction industry has often hesitated in the past when it comes to embracing technology, avoiding investment into digital trends without proof of return. However, new and innovative technology is now essential to construction businesses in order to keep up with demands, changes and to meet the aggressive government targets for building projects mentioned above.

The digital tools available to construction firms have advanced rapidly, including drones, robotics and augmented reality, which are proven to deliver efficiency and productivity opportunities across projects – revolutionising construction field operations as we know it.

However, all of these innovations require reliable and high-quality internet connectivity at sites to deliver the full value of these digital solutions.

Underpinning the Construction Industry with Connectivity

To effectively deploy digitalisation at sites, the basic requirement of portable and reliable internet networks to support applications and collaborative processes should be the first priority, not the last. All sites must have access to portable, high-quality internet connectivity to keep pace with growing user demand, retain profitability, and to expand the use of digital technology at the construction site.

With instant connectivity upon deployment, businesses can benefit from the adoption of new technology, even in rural locations where there is often no existing connection. As internet connectivity is no longer restricted to fixed-line provision only, portable wireless units can be installed so that sites have a suitable communications resource that satisfies business Internet needs – irrespective of location. For example, a high-quality internet connection at site offers the possibility of patching through data from drones directly to application hosting servers, cutting down the time to generate, deliver and make available field survey reports.

Furthermore, advanced bonded Internet solutions enable organisations to add resilience capability to their connection to ensure business continuity for applications and ensure productivity. Precise performance management of the unit can be included, along with management of data usage, to ensure there is control over costs and quality of service delivery. This is highly suitable for immediate deployment situations; especially if Internet services are required last minute and on an urgent basis.


New statistics have found that the UK construction sector has shown positive signs of recovery after reporting the sharpest rise in monthly activity in almost five years. In order to keep this pace up, the construction industry must set aside outdated processes and management methods, and instead, embrace digital advances and adopt smarter ways of working and technology to bounce back stronger in 2021. Businesses have two choices: either embrace the cultural and digital shift, or risk falling behind and failing.

To be successful in this transition, sites should consider working with an ecosystem of experienced and trusted providers who can supply both the digital communications infrastructure and the technology innovations without retraining and hiring additional headcount. For construction firms willing to harness digital technology innovation, 2021 and the years ahead look more positive, due to the potential operational rewards that it can bring to their businesses and customers.

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