• UNSW Associate Professors, Matthias Hank Haeusler
    UNSW Associate Professors, Matthias Hank Haeusler

Australia’s engineering and construction industries are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to digital technology uptake, according to new University of NSW research paper.

The research found the slow and partial adoption of digital technology solutions is holding the industry back from realising greater gains.

Increased use of technology in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry globally has yielded substantial improvements in safety, cost and efficiency.

An associate professor from the UNSW School of Built Environment, Matthias Hank Haeusler, said the AEC sector is one of the least digitised industry sectors in Australia.

“At the moment only a few large firms engage with digital tools that could be described as advanced, a very few very large firms (mainly international firms) have included advanced digital tools and more importantly started to think about a digital strategy,” he said.

“But the bulk (some 97 per cent) are still at the bottom of the ladder.”

A professor in the School of Management & Governance at UNSW Business School, George Shinkle, agrees the AEC industry’s digital technology readiness is underdeveloped.

“While there are exceptional firms in the industry and signs of progress clearly exist, the average firm is underprepared for the type of digital tsunami that has hit other industries,” he said.

“The AEC industry is characterised by rather big capital investments with comparatively small margins and limited financial slack, resulting in a rather hostile environment for any corrections – or, put in different terminology, innovation.”

The UNSW research paper identified the digital technology challenges facing the AEC sector.

It proposed a framework consisting of four approaches to thinking to build digital transformation readiness: future thinking, strategic thinking, capability thinking, and experimental thinking.

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