According to a Q3 2021 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, the construction industry faces a worsening labor shortage. An estimated 55% of contractors are experiencing difficulty finding skilled workers. The industry is almost unanimous on forecasting; 93% of contractors believe labor shortage in construction will continue or worsen far into 2022.
In the face of these continued challenges, developing new, technology-driven solutions to abate and overcome them is now critical. The construction industry can leverage current technologies to attract and retain skilled workers.
Streamlining the Pre-Construction Phase
The labor shortage in construction affects the physical construction phase the most. However, inefficiencies during a construction project’s pre-construction stages, like inadequate short-term planning or communication and logistic issues, create significant delays.
A shortage of workers exacerbates these delays. Construction technologies for equipment management can improve efficiency and compensate for the lack of laborers by offering ways to improve visibility and streamline the resource management process.
According to a 2021 EquipmentWatch white paper on the state of construction equipment, 38% of contractors consider aligning equipment management with pre-construction and operational goals their biggest challenge. Using new construction technologies to understand equipment usage and availability can optimize the pre-construction phase in advance of breaking ground to ensure projects can be outfitted with the necessary equipment in good working condition.
Additionally, tools such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) software enable construction companies to create complete, virtual architectural and structural models of the project for planning and design before starting construction. The digital models using BIM software can also be used for cost estimation and guidance during construction work.
A Stanford University study found that taking full advantage of BIM software offers the following benefits to contractors:
- Generate expenditure quotes up to 80% faster
- Reduce up to 40% of unplanned and unbudgeted project changes
- Save up to 10% of the contract’s value against the budget, up to 7% of time savings, and more accurate cost estimates (within 3% of the final costs)
BIM software can also be used for clash detection; when two or more elements of the same project overlap, requiring a rework to correct them. If clashes go undetected before the construction phase begins, they can cause costly, weeks-long delays, stressing an already limited workforce. BIM optimizes equipment fleet management and ensures the team stays on schedule.
Optimize Equipment Uptime With Telematics
In addition to reduced productivity and risking operational schedule slips, labor shortages can also mean fewer workers use and oversee the company’s available equipment. Any breakdowns require your workforce’s attention, potentially delaying the project. Stringent fleet maintenance can ensure your equipment stays in working condition.
Telematics is an Internet of Things (IoT) technology that can help with equipment maintenance. Installing telematics IoT solutions in your construction equipment offers many benefits. It allows you to keep track of their location (GPS tracking), utilization rate, and status (asset tracking) via a monitoring application.
Construction-focused equipment tracking solutions are compatible with more than just heavy equipment. You can add smaller items to the asset library, such as chainsaws and power drills, allowing you to track and manage all essential tools on any job site with ease.
Knowing the location and status of all equipment allows you to improve your maintenance schedules. Well-maintained equipment optimizes uptime and keeps your workforce focused on the project instead of repairs.
You can improve your fleet operations by implementing an equipment management system that integrates with a business’ tech stack (i.e., Accounting/ERP and Project Management Systems).
Equipment management software aids your construction company in improving the operational efficiency of your labor crews, mechanics, and office staff. You can assess which pieces of equipment are frequently in operation, accurately gauging the value they add to your fleet.
Leveraging Construction Technologies During Project Execution
Several technologies exist today to assist contractors with executing their projects, including onsite safety tools, project management software programs and more.
Project Management Technologies
To overcome the effects of labor shortages, construction companies are leveraging project management tools like Procore. Reliable project management software allows you to stay on schedule and budget while using communication tools to make decisions faster.
Increased efficiency and better communication can help compensate for the lack of a physical workforce. Management technology reduces the number of positions workers must fill, particularly in administrative roles.
Project management software allows the entire team to stay informed about project updates and deadlines. Project overview features give you a list of outstanding items at a glance, while information logs allow you to track all steps and speed up approvals.
Labor Management Technologies
Labor management and productivity tools such as Riskcast possess many powerful features for more accessible project organization and planning, freeing your managers’ time and attention for other tasks.
Typical productivity tracking features include time management systems, real-time project data reports, inventory and equipment tracking, and daily activity logging.
This software also integrates with your existing telematics and equipment tracking tools. It automatically synchronizes data between your company’s software solutions and minimizes manual data entry, reducing the number of workers required.
Remote Inspection Technology
Remote Inspection Technology (RIT) is a two-way video feed (similar to video-conferencing or live-streaming) used for inspection work. It involves an onsite worker or inspection assistant wearing a video camera, streaming directly to the inspector’s device in the office or at home.
Construction and building inspectors can use RIT to inspect a project site without being physically present. Remotely reviewing work sites has numerous advantages:
- RIT allows for more flexibility and more efficient timetable management
- No time wasted commuting means inspectors can conduct more inspections and receive compensation for each in less time
- The person wearing the camera on the worksite can also be a trainee or a less-experienced worker, allowing workers seeking entry-level positions to get their foot in the door on the job site
- Inspections from home or the office are 100% safe from construction site hazards and associated risks of injuries, allowing senior inspectors to continue working safely
Modernize the Industry To Retain the Workforce
The construction workforce isn’t just affected by a labor shortage; it is also aging. According to a 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the median age of a construction equipment operator is 43.7, while building inspectors are 52.6 on average.
With smaller workforces come longer workdays. Unfortunately, the effects of overwork in the construction industry are well-known: Increased stress, numerous health problems, increased risk of injury, and higher turnover rates.
Two advanced technologies can help make the workplace safer and keep workers from the dangers of overwork: Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Robots can assist with the most dangerous tasks, and AI increases equipment visibility and helps identify potential safety risks.
- For example, AI can assist during the pre-construction phase. AI-powered generative design tools can assist human teams by exploring thousands of potential project designs per second and choosing the ones most likely to meet the project goals.
- AI can also control robots on the job site. Robots can independently perform specific tasks, from digging to excavating according to the project’s needs and pre-planned parameters or GPS coordinates. These solutions help keep workers away from the most dangerous jobs, reducing safety risks.
Fewer people beginning their careers after post-secondary school choose positions in construction, specifically in field positions like operators, inspectors, and laborers. The aging workforce combined with a lack of new talent coming down the pipeline results in a heavier reliance on construction technologies.
These modern solutions can also serve to attract younger generations to construction careers. A 2017 survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders revealed that only 3% of young adults aged 18-25 are interested in a construction career.
The polled young adults perceive construction careers as physically demanding (48%), generally more difficult (32%) than office or tech-oriented careers. Leveraging AI, robotics, and related solutions can help change the industry’s image and attract more young talent to the workforce.
Build the Future With Tenna
At Tenna, our mission is to simplify the complicated. We bring technology and over 100 years of experience to your construction site by providing contractors with asset tracking and fleet management solutions.
Book a demo today and learn how construction technologies can make the worksite safer and your job easier.