Construction Industry Trends: December 2019 Roundup
6 Minute Read
December 20, 2019
February has been a busy month in the construction industry, and we’re following all the breaking news as it comes. From the Coronavirus and its impact on construction to the importance of safety on job sites and the future of construction labor, here are the stories we’re following:
You may think the Coronavirus is contained and doesn’t impact you, but the potential ripple effect is large within the construction industry. According to Construction Dive, the outbreak has sickened nearly 75,000 and killed more than 2,000. The Chinese workforce is impacted as factories are quickly closing and production is slowing. As China is the largest building import supplier to the United States, this could trickle down to commercial builders in the form of material shortages and higher costs. Not knowing how long the crisis will continue means an uncertain future for some firms. Once factory production does start again, there will likely be a delay in resources making it to the States due to insufficient staffing and a backlog of orders to fill. One thing is for certain: the quicker the virus is contained, the quicker things can start returning to normal.
The Takeaway: The reality is that the Coronavirus might impact the industry with higher costs and material shortages. The good news is that the outbreak seems to be contained — at least in China. Plan ahead and protect your business by workforce by sending your sick workers home and having a game-plan for labor and goods shortages. Be aware of your costs and automate your workflows to more easily offset these unexpected challenges.
Building Design + Construction Technology recently conducted an innovation study of 130 AEC “giants.” The study determined that innovation is king, with 42% of respondents believing they were ahead of competitors in terms of adopting advanced tech innovations. Meanwhile, 63% said they had a success rate of 40%+ on new tech innovations, leading to big benefits such as better project team coordination, improved identification of errors, better quality and speed of work and automation of general tasks.
The Takeaway: While this is great news for big firms, there is still a lot of mid-sized to large contractors who are still using disconnected software solutions or manual processes. The biggest opportunity lies in moving to the cloud and selecting an integrated software partner with solutions designed specifically for their construction needs. Contractors who are not adopting technologies risk getting left behind and missing out on the obvious benefits technology can bring. Many project managers in today’s projects require modern solutions in order to meet the increasing complexities of projects. If you want to better compete with these “giants,” consider how integrated software solutions can help.
As the demand for construction labor is growing, the supply of skilled labor workers is dwindling. But a new generation of construction professionals is on the horizon. A recent article in Construction Executive, highlights what schools are doing to expose youths to the construction trade. As four-year college degrees can be expensive, there is growing appeal in recession-proof jobs such plumbers, electricians and construction laborers. High schools are bringing back courses such as shop class and mentoring kids on the benefits of trade-specific schooling. Mentorship programs such as ACE Mentor Program of America are designed to guide youth interested architecture, construction and engineering. Popularity is growing, as the program helped over 8,000 students between 2016 and 2017. There is increasing hope that the next generation of “new-collar workers” will be ready to enter the labor force in just a few years.
The Takeaway: Construction firms should both support these types of programs as well as adopt technologies that are appealing to young construction professionals. Modernizing operations and embracing the latest technologies like virtual reality, advanced data analytics, robotics and AI, will lay an important groundwork for the future.
In a recent interview with Construction Dive, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) President and CEO Mike Bellaman shared his thoughts on tech adoption in the industry. He cautioned small companies not to get distracted by small, shiny start-ups, but to instead focus on bigger picture solutions that will more effectively impact bottom line. They should utilize younger workers, who may be more comfortable trying new things. Larger companies, on the other hand, should go big. “I think the best practice is to say, ‘let's give it a go.’ Find an ideal place where everybody's aligned to try it out, see if there's real value,” Bellaman said. “If there is, then we'll scale its use and application.” Bellaman also shared his thoughts on the next big thing in construction tech: data. He advises that companies should invest systems that not just collect data, but also analyze and make decisions driven by it.
The Takeaway: Bellaman hits it right on the button here. Tech strategies are different for large and small companies, but the best course of action is to have a technology plan in place and tech advocates within the company. The next frontier in construction tech is data, which is exactly what software companies like Viewpoint are focusing on.
News broke this month that the City of New Orleans has suspended two building inspectors involved with allegedly falsifying inspection reports in the deadly Hard Rock New Orleans project. You’ll remember that the Hard Rock hotel collapsed last October, killing three workers. GPS records indicate that the inspectors were not on-site when routine inspections were claimed to have happened and the inspectors were not properly certified to inspect these types of projects. The cause of the incident is alleged to be related to an inadequate amount of support for the concrete being poured on upper floors.
The Takeaway: This tragedy is another reminder that safety should be the number one priority on a job site and firms should have safety tracking measures in place. The right technologies, like integrated construction software that lets all team members collaborate in real time can ensure that important steps are not missed and that inspections are being done correctly. With proper measures in place and procedures followed, dangerous working conditions could be spotted and rectified long before tragedy strikes.
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