Time to digitise

Need a flight to Durban? What about a car when you get there? So you head to https://www.cheapflights.co.za/ to find the best priced flight, and then you head to https://www.rentalcars.com to find the perfect car. Both can be done in under half an hour.

But when you want to rent a crane? Or perhaps a telehandler?

Well, that’s a completely different story, is it not? But why?

Digitalisation is playing a significantly limited role in mobilising construction equipment to site in South Africa, despite this being the area where digitalisation can improve productivity the most.

“Apart from built-in equipment information and tracking systems, digital technology has not been leveraged beyond capital equipment to improve the productivity of construction projects.”

So says University of Pretoria project and quality management senior lecturer Dr Giel Bekker, who is also the director of the Africa chapter of Texas, US-based non-profit consortium Construction Industry Institute (CII-Africa).

Bekker, in conversation with Engineering News, mentions that while some of the country’s larger construction companies are investigating the use of digital platforms to improve the mobilisation of construction equipment to site, thus far, none have deployed any solutions of their own.

Factors influencing the adoption of digital tools include uncertainty, a propensity not to challenge the status quo, being unaware of the available solutions, the slow adoption and acceptance of technology and procurement processes.

Hence research suggesting that construction companies do not always rent the nearest and cheapest equipment for a specific project, but often transport their own equipment, accompanied by maintenance crews, to site over long distances.

To address this, the digital equipment rental platform Dibz Rental, located in Tijger Valley, Pretoria, was developed to enable companies to locate the nearest, reputable and cheapest construction equipment supplier in proximity to a construction site, says Bekker.

“Multiple construction equipment types are listed on this platform, along with their current location, rates and terms and conditions.”

To reap the benefits of digitalisation, Bekker suggests that the time-consuming bureaucratic red tape of procurement, involving the prequalification of suppliers, quotation requests and reviews, short-listing, price negotiations and the confirmation of contractual agreements, will need to be challenged to affect change to realise the potential benefits.

“Digital platforms provide a direct link between equipment owners and renters, limiting agent intervention. Subsequently, the supply chain is shortened, allowing for cost savings.”

Further, digital platforms enable construction companies to not only obtain immediate quotes but also receive confirmation of equipment availability, while facilitating deposit payments and the timeous provision of equipment and final payment on completion of its use.

“Payment can be set up to protect both parties. For example, an order can be confirmed only once the renter has paid an amount into the platform’s account. Upon payment confirmation, the order is processed and the owner is notified to mobilise the specified equipment to site.”

The Graduate School of Technology Management at UP and CII-Africa are undertaking various studies on the digitalisation of the project management industry, and have initiated research on the impact of digitalisation across the complete project management life cycle, in conjunction with CII-Africa member organisations.

CLICK HERE for the full article.