Lifting productivity in construction


New Zealand’s construction industry can lift its productivity by establishing a digital database on building products, a BRANZ-funded report from GS1 New Zealand finds.

This opportunity is explored in Digital Product Data for Lifting Productivity which investigates how such a digital database, or repository, would support the construction industry, and feasible steps for its establishment.

The report, funded by BRANZ from the Building Research Levy, draws on analysis commissioned from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) on international examples of productivity gain from using digital data systems, and GS1 expertise in data standards and related technologies.

The report states improved accuracy of information, once standardised and digitalised, is a key source of productivity gain.

This is because of reduced paperwork, information search time and costs. Furthermore, online availability of information — especially authoritative product assurance information for determining whether products are fit for purpose — can enable much greater certainty and confidence in product selection, and in building consent processes.

The latest statistics put the industry’s annual output at $64 billion, or 11.5% of New Zealand’s total economic output.

The report notes that its record of low productivity growth needs to be addressed (annual 0.9% per annum for the past 25 years; less than 30% of that seen in the ICT sector, and less than half of that in agriculture).

“Digital infostructure”, including a product information database with information used in numerous business decisions, is one means of starting to tackle the problem.

Standardised data essential

The report says such infostructure, enabling rapid exchange of product information across the industry, cannot succeed without the use of standardised data, and it recommends the use of global standards.

The repository would use “cloud” computing with multiple channels for “anytime, anywhere” access, and it would enable much more inter-operability between industry players.

The digital repository would enable suppliers to load product data once, making the data available to hundreds of users, saving suppliers paperwork, time and money.

The NZIER has estimated that information barriers to efficient consenting on residential building projects could be costing more than $30 million annually. Having digital product data available across the industry would help reduce those costs.

The NZIER analysis indicates the appropriate infostructure could lead to productivity gains which benefit New Zealand’s Gross Domestic Product by as much as $220 million.

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