3 March, 2024

Share and share alike

02 November, 2021

Two topics that are being put increasingly in the spotlight are health & safety of the workforce and data security. And rightly so, of course – themes that are equally applicable to all industrial and mobile sectors. One of the most common questions regarding these themes is how do we ensure we are being as efficient as we can be vis-à-vis our safety and security plans? It has now become more or less a no-brainer that digitalisation has a major role to play here. Moreover, there is growing evidence that the sharing of data related to these and other themes can benefit all parties concerned. With this point in strong focus, a new guide released by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) states that manufacturers of construction products will need to start sharing their data digitally to support a safer and more sustainable construction industry.

Regulation is coming post-Grenfell and digital transparency will be key for manufacturers within the industry. The IET’s Digitisation for construction product manufacturers guide sets out a simple process to implement internal digitisation. It has been produced to help decision makers in manufacturing identify why supplying structured data is important; how to avoid poor investment decisions; how to set priorities and implement information management; and safe ways to share this information about products across the supply chain.

In an endorsement to the guide and in support of the digitisation of the sector, Dame Judith Hackitt, government adviser on the new Building Safety Regulator, recently said it will be a really positive contribution in helping people to understand what digitalisation means for construction products. Rick Hartwig, IET built environment lead, believes as we embrace a digital future, it is putting pressure on the manufacturing industry to act. “Manufacturers produce a significant part of the information required for a safer construction industry, but currently this information isn’t structured or shared in a consistent way,” he said, adding that if the UK construction industry is to meet the challenges of a digital future and respond to the requirements of a new building safety regulatory system, it needs manufacturers to structure and share their data safely and sustainably. In reference to the new IET guide, he believes it will help the industry embrace digitisation. “It is only through this digital transparency that industry and society can differentiate between compliant and non-compliant manufacturers,” he said. “Making structured information available to the supply chain is an essential step in this process.”

The benefits given in the report go beyond compliance to include commercial advantages such as increased revenue and margins, brand improvement and a smoother sales pipeline that comes from structured product data. There are also recommendations given to the UK Government. Indeed, Hartwig believes with a strong record of digitisation and the commitment to a digital economy, the UK Government is in an ideal position to take the lead in encouraging manufacturers to digitise. The guide has already been welcomed by industry. For example, James Talman, CEO of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, welcomed the guide stating that it will help companies to navigate through the minefield of information and systems out there on product data. “Ultimately, this will help get data to work efficiently and effectively for both suppliers and specifiers,” he said, adding: “We also support the central role the guide places on Trade Associations in leading an open digital culture.”

So, as well as the sizeable benefits related to safety and security, better structured product data realised through digitisation can also engender other major benefits, including better margins and legal compliance. This is certainly worth further investigation within construction, as well as in industry in general.

Ed Holden, editor

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