Disruptive innovation is relatively new expression, but the phenomenon of new concepts radically impacting traditional ways of working is not. Harvard business school professor Clayton Christensen, who coined the expression, defines disruptive innovation as a product or solution that creates new markets and value networks, displacing established market leaders and alliances.
The industrial revolution was a point in history when disruptive innovation made a dramatic impact. The introduction of the steam engine and machines that enabled mass production completely changed the status quo. A more current example of a disruptive innovation is the Internet, which has utterly transformed the way people conduct business, access and share information and form social connections.
Building and construction today is experiencing a seismic shift that could be as dramatic to current-day operations as the industrial revolution was in the 18th and 19th centuries. Technologies like virtual reality (VR) and 3D printing are transforming the way work is executed. In the fire protection industry, these innovative technologies are changing the way contractors, engineers and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) train and work, improving the way projects are designed and built and how the resulting systems are monitored, inspected and maintained.
VR Transforms Construction
VR, which has reinvented the gaming experience, is having a comparable impact on the construction industry. Much of the same hardware – for example, HTV Vive and Oculus Rift headsets – that allows gamers to immerse themselves in the experience of a game are being used by fire protection professionals to improve system design.
VR technologies are bringing computer models to life, allowing contractors and engineers to “walk through” a 3D environment to “see” a building during pre-construction to visualize how piping can be positioned, where interference is likely, and where functionality might be constrained. The information gathered through this experience enhances collaboration, coordination and ultimately improves fire suppression system design and placement.
Using the Cloud, team members can access projects from any location and on any device so all the right people can be “in the room” to identify issues as they arise and find ways to resolve them. By accessing information in a shared environment, teams can make changes in real time, allowing the trades to quickly locate areas that require modifications. Identifying potential problems early limits the amount of rework that has to be done later in the pre-construction process.
3D Printing For Faster Prototyping
3D printing is also known as additive layer manufacturing (ALM). ALM is a process of building up parts using successive layers of material under computer control. As the technology becomes more well understood, the types of material used is becoming more diverse, and the complexity of components being produced is expanding.
While large-scale 3D printers are creating parts to be used on large construction projects, manufacturers are using smaller 3D printing earlier in the design process to help decrease the time between design concept and prototype manufacturing. Having prototypes available in less time enables testing to begin more quickly, allowing modifications and feedback to be incorporated and eventually bringing products to market in less time.
Down the Road
New innovation is enhancing the way contractors, engineers and AHJs manage jobs from planning to completion, making projects safer, expediting project schedules, and enabling efficiencies that reduce costs. Over time, VR, 3D printing, and drones will be adopted even more broadly by the fire protection industry, and their applications will be further refined.
Before long, these disruptive technologies will be as commonplace and indispensable to the construction industry as the Internet is to us today.
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