Building better bridges of communication for productivity and efficiency. By Shirin Arnold 

The engineering industry has always been driven by creativity and innovation. Throughout history, engineers have pushed the boundaries of what is possible – coming up with new and improved ways to design and create everything from sustainable materials to complex machines.

Today, the industry faces a range of new challenges, from labour shortages to supply chain disruptions, and economic uncertainty. To meet these challenges, companies need to strive to be more connected, efficient, and sustainable than ever before.

Shirin Arnold, Industry Lead, Construction at Dropbox

One way that the engineering industry has been responding to these challenges is by creating and embracing new technologies. From 3D printed homes, to AI and machine learning, new technological solutions are facilitating better and more sustainable practices as growth and development continues across the sector. At the same time, digital solutions such as cloud-based platforms and collaboration tools have been enabling architects, engineers, and contractors from across sectors to collaborate more effectively, even within distributed teams as more and more people adopt remote working.

However, while technology has the potential to transform the engineering industry, it is not a silver bullet. To truly harness the power of technology, companies need to take a strategic, holistic approach to their digital transformation. This means starting small, with accessible technology that adds the most value for the least money and building incrementally from there.

Start small, with accessibility in mind
Whilst bigger corporations can spend money and resources to experiment with technology and efficiency, smaller firms are not always so lucky.

Many smaller businesses have struggled to embrace true digitalisation in their day-to-day. This is often down to lack of resources, lower digital expertise, and the inability to anticipate the potential impact digital transformation could have on their business. As a result, it has been harder for them to keep up with the bigger players in the industry.

By introducing cloud-based collaboration tools, firms can begin digitising their paperwork and implement better processes for managing projects, in a far more cost-effective way. This can free up more time to invest in greater technology training and reduce the time it takes to solve problems. This is especially important, as UK construction workers, for example, spend 91 hours per employee on average, on paperwork – including 15 hours just searching for mislaid documents.

The transition to the cloud and the implementation of incremental changes will significantly enhance collaboration, leading to smarter and more efficient teams. This approach represents a shift towards an enlightened way of working, ultimately enabling better, faster decision-making and increased creativity and innovation.

Smartening up your approach to data
Being able to gather data from across your business is one of the more significant benefits of embracing technology. However, while many businesses have data, not all of them know how best to handle and utilise it.

With more data generated during projects, the demand for businesses to better manage their data is growing. Many companies today are still storing siloed files of large data in their on-premises servers. This not only makes the data more time-consuming to process but it also creates even greater risk for businesses by increasing the chances of data fragmentation in siloes, and data loss.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept.

To manage data effectively, companies need to use secure technology that allows them to access their files from anywhere, with a centralised process of data management. This can help them to leverage these sorts of assets for data-driven decisions, that can ultimately improve productivity and boost project delivery.

Recent advancements in AI are also enabling businesses to unlock a new level of organisation when it comes to their data and content. For example, AI powered universal search, such as Dropbox Dash, is finally supercharging the ability to find, organise and work on content, by connecting all your tools, files, and apps, together in a single search bar. Businesses that utilise AI technology, to harness and organise their data in this way, will find themselves at a competitive advantage, with more precious time for work that really matters.

Integration for better productivity
The issue for many firms when it comes to technology is that very often, the tools they’ve implemented don’t communicate effectively with each other.

When engineering and construction companies, particularly those beginning their digital transformation process, introduce numerous software programs to manage their projects, it’s easy for them to burden their business and workers. However, this fragmented approach can detract from the valuable insights that come from consolidating data in a single, shared environment. As a result, this often impedes business performance and leads to needless employee frustration.

By using technology that can connect and integrate into their existing technology, they can boost more connected processes that speed up project delivery and improve the quality of service. This way when changes are made within one area of a project, all stakeholders can immediately become aligned with real-time updates.

Honing your approach to data and technology is one of the smartest investments engineering leaders can make in today’s economy. By taking the time to figure out how technology can work for them, companies can unleash a wave of innovation that will transform the way we develop and build our environment for generations to come.

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.
Shirin Arnold is Industry Lead, Construction at Dropbox. Dropbox is one place to keep life organized and keep work moving. With more than 700 million registered users across 180 countries, it is on a mission to design a more enlightened way of working. Dropbox is headquartered in San Francisco, CA.