Moving Qatar’s construction industry to a paperless future
Use of wireless technologies can benefit the construction industry to enable efficient means of procurement, logistics and workforce planning during the construction phase. How is Qatar’s construction sector faring in transitioning towards more technology driven processes?
As smart technologies are integrated into large real estate developments in Qatar, such as Lusail City, what remains less discussed is the penetration of technology in the country’s construction sector. Discussing the application of technology in the construction industry, Wesam Al Assaf, technical sales manager, Qatar, Aruba Networks, told The Edge, that much of the technology currently being used during construction is for collaboration between owners, architects, consultants and contractors.
These stakeholders communicate using construction document management systems which are used to share designs or CAD files.
On the benefits of technological penetration, Assaf said that, “Project members need to access current and accurate information without searching for documents, waiting for files, or working off the wrong designs. Document management tools enable everyone working on the project to access, retrieve and manage information on a secure platform. This ‘anywhere, any time access’ increases efficiency and aids collaboration.”
Ahmed Fouad, head of planning at Consolidated Contractors Company, believes that while the use of portable devices is very common at the stage of material handling at stores and their dispatch to sites, the penetration of portable devices for communication is weak on sites. “Many solutions are being applied in the Unites States, Europe and Japan. These solutions can be adapted
to the construction industry in Qatar too, but it requires initial investment in the required infrastructure as well as training for construction teams,” he said, discussing the challenges in the way of Qatar’s construction industry to go paperless. Another challenge, he said, is the requirement of clients to have physical proof of the documentation done during construction phase, translating into “many containers filled with documents”.
The level of site supervisors’ education is another key issue keeping smart devices away from sites. The issue can be addressed by training the workforce on site. Similarly, physical evidence can be replaced by electronic signature. However, what remains as the key factor in way of technological penetration is “raising the awareness across all stake holders about the importance and benefits of implantation.”
The clients, Fouad said, can play a major role in increasing the trend towards a paper-less construction industry in Qatar, an example set by the Pearl GTL project. “The contractors welcomed the initiative which saved tonnes of paper and saved a lot of storage space,” he said. The concept, according to Assaf, is also being promoted by companies such as Autodesk, Bentley and Aconex, which are the major technology providers in Qatar. “There are also various non-profit groups in Qatar who promote the use of such modern technology in their projects,” Fouad added.
A move from paper to portable devices can certainly save tonnes of paper, but how secure are these documents on the internet, prone to viruses and malware. Addressing the issue of risks, Wesam stressed the need to back up online data with protective tools, “Any confidential data, whether physical or digital is subject to risk. Developers must always balance the risk against the cost of securing the information. Today, there is no lack of technologies to safeguard data. Content can be protected by security
Al Assaf further explained that in addition to investing in the right tools for collaboration and security, sufficient focus must be laid on educating employees in correctly utilising these platforms. “Effective project collaboration starts with managing information well,” he said.