On-Site Magazine

KPMG study: Technology can address construction challenges

By Adam Freill   

Construction Labour Software

KPMG in Canada research suggests that 80 per cent of construction firms are excited and supportive of new technologies.

Digital technology can help address the backlog of Canadian housing and infrastructure projects bogged down by unprecedented demand and a chronic shortage of skilled labour, finds new research from KPMG in Canada.

Nearly nine in 10 of the of 275 construction companies surveyed said the lack of skilled labour or trades is impacting their ability to bid on projects and/or meet project deadlines, but added that digital technology can help make their labour force more effective to address these shortages.

“Technology can help the construction industry address Canada’s housing and infrastructure challenges,” stated Tom Rothfischer, partner and national industry leader for building, construction, and real estate at KPMG in Canada. “Digital tools, if used smartly, save time and money, reduce waste, and improve worker safety and productivity. In short, they help get projects done on time or ahead of schedule and on budget.”

He notes that many technologies employed in the manufacturing sector can be deployed by the construction industry to increase productivity and reduce costs. For example, 3D printing technologies in manufacturing have been adapted to the construction industry to lay concrete and build complex steel shapes. Drone-based surveying can help contractors quickly and accurately layout work, measure quantities, and monitor progress. And Building Information Modelling (BIM) is allowing project teams to collaborate more effectively, especially with the use of digital twin technologies that build on BIM.


As in other countries, Canada’s construction industry has been slow to adopt new digital technologies. However, the pandemic, combined with the intensifying labour shortage, has proven to be the catalyst the industry needed to rethink how they go about their business.

“We’re seeing a definite recalibration taking place in the construction sector,” said Rothfischer. “While many are still just at the beginning of their digital build, leaders see the power of technology to reshape the way they work and plan to invest heavily in the coming years. But having the technology is only half the battle. The real advantage will come to those firms who effectively integrate it into their operations – from the back office to the construction site.”

Additional findings from the survey include that three-quarters of respondents believe that Canada’s construction industry is lagging behind other countries in digital technology adoption, although 85 per cent believe disruptive technologies could make their companies more competitive.

“Leading firms are already adopting technology to improve productivity and project management, safety on worksites, and decision-making,” stated Mary Van Buren, president of the Canadian Construction Association.

In addition to assisting with the planning and management of projects, technology is also viewed as a way the industry can cope with a severe labour shortage that’s challenging the ability of companies to bid on projects and/or meet project deadlines.

“The efficient allocation of trades is one of the industry’s most-pressing challenges and opportunities,” stated Jordan Thomson, senior manager, infrastructure advisory at KPMG in Canada. “Many companies are deploying or planning to deploy digital tools to better improve efficiency on site and do more with less. The application of data analytics, wearables, and internet of thing sensors, and BIM can help to improve productivity, schedule efficiency, and quality, minimize waste, and improve worker safety.”

According to the survey, 90 per cent of construction companies are currently experiencing a shortage of skilled labour or trades, with 86 per cent of respondents reporting that the shortage of skilled labour or trades is impacting their ability to bid on projects and/or meet project deadlines. Almost 90 per cent, however, agree that better project management tools, such as analytics, BIM and digital twins, help to address labour shortages and improve employee productivity.

The survey is available on KPMG in Canada’s website, or by clicking here.




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