Contractors have transformed the face of the UAE. From the Burj Khalifa through to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the country owes every one of its most iconic landmarks to the engineering and construction industry and the various contractors operating within it.
Unlike other industries, though, the engineering and construction sector has been slow to take on new innovations and technologies, which has resulted in productivity stagnating over the past few decades; in some cases, it has even declined. However, this looks set to change very soon, and very spectacularly. In fact, key changes are already taking place, and the UAE is at the forefront of this revolution.
At the heart of this change is digitalisation, with more and more projects now featuring digital sensors, intelligent machines and new software applications – progressively more integrated with a central platform of Building Information Modelling (BIM).
The main challenge in 2019 and beyond is to accomplish widespread implementation and real traction. Everywhere the latest technologies have been utilised to the full, the outlook is a more or less 20% reduction in total lifecycle costs of a project, in addition to considerable improvements in completion time, quality and safety.
Naturally, the technical challenges particular to the contracting segment have a role in the sluggish speed of digitisation. Introducing solutions across numerous sectors that are geographically scattered is an enormous challenge in itself. Moreover, given the varying sophistication levels of smaller construction companies that often work as subcontractors, building up-to-the-minute capabilities at scale is an added challenge.
Nevertheless, these are challenges that are worth taking the trouble to meet. Indeed, those that ‘can’t be bothered’ are not going to even exist in a few years time. The McKinsey Global Institute, for example, estimates that the world will need to spend $57 trillion on infrastructure by 2030 to keep up with global GDP growth. This is a colossal incentive for companies to take digitisation seriously and invest in the future … now. And that is exactly what the firms in our Top Contractors list are doing – they are already ahead of the game, investing in not only technology, but also the people who understand and operate this technology, with graduates from many of the world’s leading universities joining the engineering and construction industry. It’s comes as no surprise, either, that a significant number are heading to the UAE, one of the fastest growing and most dynamic countries on the planet.
Alumni from such top institutions such as the University of Oxford, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, ETH Zurich, UCLA, Cornell University, University of Edinburgh, and the University of Toronto can already be found within the corridors of the nation’s leading contractors, and the numbers will only continue to swell.
Digitisation and the best people are sure to guarantee success in any industry, but in the contracting world they will become fundamental to ongoing growth and expansion, not only of the companies in question, but of the UAE as a whole. The future has arrived!