The construction industry is in a moment of enormous change. Business is booming — and so is the number, complexity and duration of projects. Concurrently, a serious shortage of affordable, skilled labor means that many companies are operating short-staffed.
Increasingly, construction companies are turning to technology to improve their productivity, make the most of limited resources, improve safety and document and coordinate every step of their projects. According to McKinsey, investment in construction technology has doubled in the past decade. The most innovative companies are integrating technology into their daily processes and choosing technology partners that provide intuitive tools that every team member can use. By doing so, these companies are able to remain competitive and grow revenue, reaping the benefits of more comprehensive real-time reporting, resulting in savvier asset allocation and project planning.
As the industry continues to shift, five trends are emerging that present opportunities to improve efficiency with the help of technology.
Increased Pressure to Finish Faster and Cheaper
With technology, companies can respond to increasing demand by completing projects faster and more efficiently. As more companies integrate technology into their processes, clients expect greater speed and efficiency. Experts predict this cycle to continue, with timelines shortening and client expectations rising.
As the industry struggles with a skilled labor shortage, meeting these rising expectations will become increasingly challenging. Companies not currently using technology must begin integrating technology platforms into their processes in order to remain competitive. Companies that already use technology need to look for additional ways it can increase efficiency in order to retain competitiveness.
Focus on Proactive Safety
In recent years, the rate of safety violations and worker deaths has increased dramatically, partly due to the increased demand for speed and cutting corners due to rising costs. In 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, construction industry deaths rose five percent with 1,034 worker deaths.
Companies are proactively spending more time and money on improving safety conditions for their workers. Because 20 percent of deaths happen in the first two months on the job, companies are improving safety training, performing self-inspections and encouraging employees to self-report safety issues as they observe them, using technology to quickly capture and address safety issues.
Many companies have broadened their offerings to include additional aspects of projects for clients, and complete this work using internal teams or subcontractors. To see a project through to completion, managers depend on more people, teams and companies. Additionally, an over-reliance on paper for project planning means field crews don’t have the same project visibility as those in the home office, creating time-consuming delays and disconnects.
To address these issues, companies are changing their processes to encompass a much more collaborative approach by replacing spreadsheets, emails and meetings with cloud-based work execution platforms that keep everyone on the same page.
Using Mobile for Real-Time Communication
Many fieldworkers still write notes on paper or on their phones, which means they have to wait until they have access to a computer to update status, timelines and budgets, or alternatively, call in status reports to managers. This means that some decisions must wait until a team member reports in. Because cell service is often sporadic at job sites, additional costly delays can quickly add up to days and even weeks during a single project.
Using mobile technology to provide real-time communication cuts down on this type of inefficiency. According to the JB Knowledge 2017 Construction Technology report, 83 percent of respondents said that mobile technology was important to their business.
Instead of waiting for people to call in or spending time soliciting updates, team members can instantly complete status updates on mobile devices. This increases productivity and is a major reason that there will be an increase in the level and sophistication of mobile technology.
The current shortage of skilled workers means that companies must maintain the same speed and efficiency with a smaller labor force; mistakes, which happen more often when teams are stretched thin, are even more costly.
Companies are turning to automation to improve efficiency and accuracy. By automating repetitive tasks, companies can reduce human error, miss fewer deadlines, enforce processes and collect timely and relevant data that can be analyzed in real-time.
Building a Business for Tomorrow
Technology is spurring a revolution and the construction industry will look very different in the next decade. As digital technology is reshaping construction, new and emerging cloud-based platforms will become a cornerstone of the industry. As the pressure to evolve increases, leaders in construction should focus on adopting technologies that can evolve along with them. By creating a technological framework today that can scale to the needs and capabilities of the future, companies can position themselves to be ready to capture tomorrow’s opportunities.
Viers, Stephanie. 2019. Reprinted from Construction Executive.A publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. Used with permission.