MALAYSIA’S construction sector is currently on a healthy upward trajectory, if the latest numbers are anything to go by. In the second quarter of 2023, the sector grew 8.1% year-on-year in the value of work done, thus hitting a record of US$6.96 billion (RM32.4 billion).
The growth is also expected to continue with a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 5.5% between 2023-2027. These figures are driven largely by infrastructure initiatives, such as the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) Three and Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit projects.
According to a recent benchmark industry report by construction company Procore titled “How We Build Now 2023”, more than half (65%) of Malaysia’s construction professionals expect a surge in the number or value of projects in the coming year.
However, the optimism is dampened by the labour challenge the Malaysian construction industry is facing. As the country strives for greater self-reliance in the construction sector, there continues to be an alarming shortage of skilled workers.
The industry is grappling with a shortfall of approximately 300,000 workers, impeding its ability to meet the country’s construction demands.
While an influx of projects on the horizon sounds promising, the pressing question is: Can Malaysian construction businesses maintain their momentum and do more with less?
Key to unlocking growth: Data-powered innovation
Inefficiency in the construction industry is an outcome of communication gaps. Such gaps often result in wasted time – approximately one in five project hours is lost to rework.
One way to minimise wasted time and resources is to streamline various administrative processes with the assistance of technology. For example, modern workforce management software allows contractors to track everything from headcounts to assignments and commitments in real-time.
A holistic view of the entire workforce is instrumental in optimising planning, scheduling and forecasting. In today’s labour-short market, becoming more efficient is key to delivering projects on time and within budget.
Beyond efficiency, technology can also help construction businesses make smarter and more informed decisions. The sector is currently generating approximately 2.5 billion gigabytes of data from emails, wearable devices, sensors integrated into equipment, blueprints, financial records, drones and various other sources. Despite the virtually infinite supply of data, a staggering 96% of it remains untapped.
Data holds the promise of enhanced productivity, better project management and improved communication. By managing data more efficiently, Malaysia’s construction professionals estimate that they can save up to 18% in total spending on projects.
These technologies are in line with the Construction 4.0 Strategic Plan – Malaysia’s five-year roadmap aimed at embracing digitisation to enhance productivity and competitiveness.
The integration of technology, data and the cultivation of digital skills can unlock unprecedented opportunities for the construction sector, revolutionise how projects are executed and pave the way for sustainable growth.
Bridging gaps: Forging path to smarter tomorrow
Capitalising on data’s potential is appealing but many struggle with where to begin. Nearly half of the construction professionals (44%) stated a lack of confidence in successfully developing and implementing a data strategy.
Especially within the construction sector where numerous stakeholders from various functions are involved in each project, the golden rule is to centralise data and have a single source of information.
Traditional pen-and-paper record-keeping, while offering quick convenience, can falter when off-site stakeholders encounter delays. This can result in an inability to access crucial information, hampering informed decision-making.
To effectively tackle the data dilemma, construction businesses should adopt construction management platform technology. A unified platform can play a crucial role as a centralised repository for streamlined data collection and utilisation.
By leveraging a single construction management platform, communication can become more efficient and data can be easily accessible across various stakeholders.
Consequently, this will promote data-driven decision-making, cultivate increased collaboration and ultimately reduce costs down the line. These platforms can offer a unified view, giving project managers a complete understanding from a single source of information.
With full visibility of projects, construction businesses can enhance productivity, resource efficiency and risk management, effectively tackling the ongoing skilled worker shortage while positioning themselves for sustainable growth and success.
Harnessing data’s power: Elevating Malaysia’s construction future
The future of construction hinges on harnessing the power of data and intelligence. It is time for construction businesses to shift from a defensive approach, which focusses on shorter-term goals, such as mitigating risk, protecting project profitability and completing projects on time, to a more offensive approach, which will allow them to leverage data for them to make wiser and quicker decisions and protect profitability that will help business growth.
Looking ahead, while foreign workers will certainly alleviate the manpower crunch in Malaysia, there are currently no plans for them to be added to the sector.
The workforce we have now is the workforce we have to work with. Instead of crying defeat, businesses will be wise to embrace data-driven practices and thrive in Malaysia’s booming construction industry.
The writer is the regional manager of the construction company Procore in Asia. Comments: email@example.com