Jurgen Maier's recent report commissioned by the government into the potential the fourth industrial revolution could have on UK manufacturing led to some very compelling conclusions: 3% year-on-year increase on manufacturing output with the potential to unlock £455bn in revenues and the creation of some 175,000 new skilled jobs.

All very positive news, put together by an industry leading figure...until you compare that report with Maces' CEO Mark Reynolds report into these technological advancements and the impact it could have on the service orientated construction industry.  Unfortunately the construction industry has a stigma attached to it.  Unlike other industries, we are famed for being slow at introducing innovation into our processes and manufacturing (if you include building products in the wider construction industry).

The flip side to an uptake of 3D printing, virtual / augmented reality and the like is the potential for such technology to take away the need for semi-skilled and skilled workers.  Such technologies can, of course, create jobs, but only if the industry drives training in the areas.  Mr Reynolds concluded that this could see some 600,000 construction roles going over the next two decades.

Addtional to this, he outlines that if the industry fails to train workers in these new advantments, the industry is likely to lose out on around £25bn of potential productivity.  

Speaking with the industry over the last few years, my fear for the industry is this could lead to a similar issue that we have seen with the uptake of BIM.   This technology has been around since the 70's, but the government is pushing companies to use latest versions in any work associated with their funded schemes.  As many will no doubt profess, I have witnessed the struggle companies have been through when trying to implement BIM.  A friend who owns his own architect firm and an MD of a specialist roofing manufacturer have lately told me that they try to bypass the use of BIM and find it excruciatingly hard to find people with the skills to satisfy demand.  

One compelling point Jurgen Maier's report outlines is the need for joined up thinking among industry leaders and the creation of 12 hubs nationally to increase the uptake of such technologies.  Lets just hope the construction industry buys a ticket for the ride.