In the last quarter of 2019, 83% of US construction firms struggled to meet project deadlines because they couldn’t find skilled workers, according to the Q4 2019 Commercial Construction Index.
And since most baby boomers are nearing retirement age, and fewer millennials are entering the industry, no one expects the construction labour shortage to improve any time soon. In fact, the labour shortage is expected to worsen over time.
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So, what can you do to combat this ever-widening gap?
In the short term, increasing wages and offering incentives to lure more qualified workers might work. But as the construction labour shortage worsens, that won’t be a sustainable solution.
To combat the labour shortage in the long term, you’ll need to figure out ways to get more work done with fewer labourers.
And new construction technologies can help you do that.
From software solutions that reduce inefficiencies in the field and office, to robotics that can automate labour-intensive tasks, here is how construction technology can help you get more work done with your existing workforce:
Construction software helps increase your team’s output without adding extra hires
Sometimes you don’t need new hires. Sometimes you need to get more out of the workforce you already have.
And many times, all it takes to increase your team’s output levels is to eliminate the productivity killers that are slowing them down—like poor communication practices and outdated workflows.
Here are a few ways construction software helps you do just that:
GPS time tracking software helps your crew make up for lost time
Construction time tracking apps combine GPS technology with mobile devices so your field crews can clock in and out at any jobsite easily and accurately. They also help you streamline scheduling tasks and better allocate the time employees spend on each jobsite.
Plus, they add a layer of accountability that you can’t achieve with paper time sheets. Because these apps allow you to see exactly where your crew is in real-time.
And the daily report feature allows both you and your employees to review how well their time was spent each day. And as you see inefficiencies, you can tweak accordingly.
So no more time will be lost because of poor time management skills or fudged timesheets. And you’ll know your crews are making the most of their workday.
Project management software speeds up communication times and bridges language barriers
Construction management software is designed to help you manage all the interconnected parts of your daily operations.
It installs on your team’s mobile devices and on your central computer system. And it keeps all your departments connected, no matter where they are—the jobsite, the trailer or the back office. So stakeholders, supervisors and office managers can communicate with field crews about projects and payments in real time.
And when all departments can communicate in real-time, it reduces the time that’s wasted running back and forth to clarify an issue or get approvals in person.
Plus, some field management software programmes now have multiple languages built-in. So Hispanic workers, and workers of other nationalities, can break the language barriers that slow project delivery times.
In other words, construction project management software speeds up communication. And the speedier your team communicates, the speedier things get built.
Modeling software strengthens collaboration between stakeholders, supervisors, and subs
Building information modeling, or BIM, is used to create interactive digital models of buildings and infrastructures before they’re built.
With BIM, your stakeholders, supervisors, and subs can evaluate a project from the planning stage through to the operational stages. And they can work together to solve any problems they see in the digital model before breaking ground on the project.
When everyone involved can see the end-goal from the beginning, conflicting opinions are resolved quickly, design flaws are corrected early and costly mistakes are avoided.
Machine-control software moves more dirt, more efficiently
Most machine control software connects a portable interface to your earthmovers to make them more precise. The interface uses data from 3D models to communicate with the machines and makes it easy for operators to work exactly to spec.
And since your operators have better control at faster speeds, even your less skilled drivers can use graders, compactors, excavators, and dozers with less rework and fewer passes.
Using machine control software can make your machines 50% more efficient at their jobs.
And if that’s not enough added productivity, there’s a new type of machine control software from Built Robotics that fully automates heavy equipment. So no one has to be inside the earthmovers to operate them. Instead, the software allows the machines to be controlled by an app.
From this app, you can set the machines to work on their own. In other words, you can “set it and forget it” as you work on other things. It’s a lot like using an app to control a Roomba vacuum, but on a much grander scale.
And if you like the idea of fully autonomous earthmovers, there are lots of new construction technology advances being made with robotics and automation.
Robotics and automation supplement your existing crews and reduce the need for a larger workforce
Thanks to advancements in construction technology, robotics and automation are beginning to supplement human workers, taking up the slack of smaller crews.
Robotics can enable 1 man to do the job of 10
Human strength is limited. And there’s only so much one person can physically do in a day. But if robotics come alongside your construction crews, suddenly one man is able to do the work of 10.
For example, drones have transformed the way construction sites are surveyed. And what used to take several men many hours, can now be done in as little as 10 minutes by one person.
And more tech gadgets are poised to do the same for other construction sectors.
A new bricklaying robot is helping masons lay 2000 blocks per day instead of just 400. And a new exoskeleton vest is helping construction workers lift heavy tools overhead without experiencing the normal fatigue that comes with it.
And there have been robotics advances in the concrete industry, too. From robots that tie rebar to machines that smooth poured concrete, time-consuming tasks are taking less time and fewer people to complete.
Automation makes short work of big builds
While the construction industry has been much slower than other industries to embrace the idea of automation, the need to speed up the building process is now pushing the idea forward.
In the past decade, 3D printing has been making headway in the construction industry. And 3D printers have automated everything from the construction of structural pillars to entire homes. Lately, the company New Story has completed the first 3D printed neighborhood. The homes printed in just 24 hours each.
And 3D printers aren’t the only way to make short work of housebuilding.
Modular and prefab builds are also gaining more popularity in the US.
And it’s not just residential home builders that see the advantage. The world’s tallest modular hotel is currently under construction and is slated to open in New York this Fall.
The AC Hotel New York NoMad will have 168 guest rooms, all built entirely offsite in a factory in Poland. And as the fully assembled and furnished rooms arrive onsite in New York, they’re lifted in place by crane.
The hotel is projecting an assembly time of just 90 days, which proves automation can greatly improve the build time of big projects.
The construction labour shortage is a real problem. But new technologies are coming out every day to help solve it.
So, if you’re feeling the pinch of the labour shortage, now is the time to start considering which tech solutions your company needs to implement so you can get more work done with fewer hands.
About the author: Holly Hughes-Barnes writes for ClockShark, a leading time tracking app for construction and field services. Hughes-Barnes is a B2B copywriter with over 20 years of construction and real estate experience. She writes authoritative blog posts, case studies, and ebooks that build trust, bring in leads and make more sales for the companies that she’s privileged to work with.