Cloud Computing’s Big Role in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) in 2023
The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry had a strong year in 2022. Spending on nonresidential construction was up 9.2% last year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s early estimates. That would put total spending at around $883.9 billion.
However, many firms are looking toward 2023 with a cautious eye. Economic uncertainty looms in the news media, spurred by inflation that’s driving up material costs, staffing challenges, and global supply chain instability caused by the war in Ukraine.
While an extended downturn isn’t written in stone, AEC firms should consider arming themselves with technology to help them compete in this year’s challenging economy. Doing so would also put them on a path to more stable growth in the future, as the AEC industry quickly evolves.
How the Cloud is Changing Architecture, Engineering, and Construction
Cloud computing has already been deeply transformative in industries such as transportation, logistics, and hospitality.
However, the relatively conservative AEC field, which relies on real-time collaboration and the exchange of information, has been slower to embrace the cloud. We think that reliance on legacy workflows and on-premise systems may change rapidly in 2023, as companies struggle to adjust to more challenging market conditions.
In the AEC Outlook Survey conducted by OpenAsset, 74% of respondents said they plan to implement new technologies to help overcome key challenges.
Cloud Computing and the Promise of a Distributed Workforce
Adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to embrace ad hoc work from home solutions. Some industries were able to pivot quickly, but companies in the AEC field had unique challenges that prevented them from transitioning as smoothly as others.
One of the major challenges for AEC companies is the amount of data involved in their work.
At every phase, construction projects involve large blueprint and schematic files. This means that without the right cloud systems, data sharing among remote employees was cumbersome, which has a direct negative impact on productivity.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw that this caused a lot of stress for our AEC clients, an observation backed by industry research. According to report by Forrester Consulting, over half of the decision makers in the AEC industry said that “the ability for employees to collaborate and innovate across work phases has become much more challenging” because of the pandemic.
Now that hybrid work arrangements have settled into a semipermanent condition, firms can start to gather the resources they need to enable more efficient (and more secure) remote work.
The cloud is the most important part of that puzzle.
First, this involves making sure that your office productivity software, such as Microsoft 365 and Zoom, is deployed and configured correctly. Microsoft Office 365 security is something that many firms take for granted, but there are complexities to which AEC firms will need to pay attention.
Going deeper, firms will want to develop an enterprise-wide system for sharing files built on data governance and information security best practices. While this project will likely involve more up-front investment, we’ve seen how enabling efficient, cross-disciplinary collaboration on projects can pay serious dividends in terms of client satisfaction and improved employee morale.
The Cloud Helps Streamline AEC IT Budgets
The cloud gives AEC firms instant access to limitless storage and compute resources that scale upward or downward based on their current needs. When properly deployed and configured, cloud services can eliminate the need for costly capital expenditures on expensive servers or workstations without harming your firm’s ability to render 3D models and process advanced computer-aided design (CAD) files.
If we experience a sustained contraction in the construction industry during 2023, then having a network infrastructure that’s responsive to that changing environment will be invaluable.
However, be mindful when trying to trim costs with the cloud. Excessive cloud usage can produce the opposite outcome: eye-watering monthly cloud service bills that far exceed what you’d typically spend in a month on IT. When in doubt, consult a cloud computing partner with experience working with AEC firms for help.
Digital Transformation Will Continue to Shape AEC Industry
While we think that the cloud is the most relevant technology shaping AEC firms in Ohio, it’s far from the only one. Further in the future, our team anticipates a variety of other technologies broadly categorized under the umbrella of “digital transformation” to help eliminate some long-standing inefficiencies.
Next-Generation Building Information Modeling (BIM)
BIM software has allowed architectures and engineers to plan, design, and construct.
Next-generation BIM solutions built in the cloud will enable AEC teams to collaborate with a full representation of their project—including functional properties, materials, geometry, and mechanical systems—while providing tighter integration with other applications and storage services.
This tight integration eliminates mistakes in both the design and build processes, increases safety standards, and helps create a more efficient collaboration process for engineers, architects, and contractors.
Data Analytics and Visualization
Placing data in the cloud doesn’t just free companies AEC firms to collaborate more efficiently; it also opens up the possibility of using that data in new and impactful ways. Here are some of the interesting use cases where we’ve seen our clients in the AEC industry leverage their business data.
Tracking Job Costs
Worker’s pay, the cost of materials, and your overhead can all have a major impact on the profitability of a job. Analyzing time sheets, reports, and receipts from completed projects can help you uncover trends and find areas of optimization that you wouldn’t find examining them on a case-by-case basis. Because most AEC firms already house enormous amounts of this data, they can realize these often achieve new profitability without building out entirely new systems.
More Accurate Bids
Construction managers are looking for ways to improve internal profitability. Collecting field data can help you better understand what has gone right or wrong about projects you’ve completed in the past, better understand delays and staffing shortages, understand how resources were managed, and assess customer satisfaction throughout. All of this can contribute to more accurate bidding.
Interesting fact: the construction industry generates a massive amount of data, but 96% of the data is unused after it’s created.
Ohio’s Trusted AEC Technology Partner
For over 20 years, the Astute Technology Management team has been working in close partnership with Ohio’s AEC community, providing them with the network support, cybersecurity protections, and technology leadership they need to stay ahead of the competition.