It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the U.S. and Canada, among many other places around the world, are facing the lowest rate of employable skilled workers in construction in the last decade. Since the beginning of the global financial crisis, there has been a certain degree of difficulty for contractors to find skilled workers to join their workforce. Among the other challenges being faced by the construction industry, such as the slow adoption to changes in standards and regulations, the labor shortage has proved to be the most challenging. That being said, there are a number of new technologies on the market which ultimately can help combat the labor shortage in the construction industry.
The Truth About the Labor Shortage in the Construction Industry
According the USG Corporation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the large majority of contractors in the construction industry have trouble finding skilled workers to fill job openings, which is resulting in big losses for the industry. In the UK alone, this deficit in the workforce is costing more than £90 billion a year. With the construction industry developing at such a steady rate as it has been for years, and 8 out of 10 building firms unable to fill positions and find skilled workers, it is certain to be a continuing challenge.
Not only are contractors facing difficulty in finding people to add to their workforce, over half have admitted worry concerning the fact that the workers they do find may not be adequately trained for the job. The labor shortage is also putting its toll on the existing workforce within the construction industry as laborers are required to put in the extra hours necessary to complete projects. This, in turn, can have an effect not only on the productivity of the industry, but on the quality of work being output as well as the health and safety of workers.
In recent years, we have witnessed a push for academics and higher education. The great recession has given an unfavorable reputation to jobs within the construction industry which are now viewed to be more unpredictable and provide less security than non-trade jobs and careers. Because of this, students are often being directed towards traditional 4-year undergraduate studies rather than a career in trades. With less interest in trades, there is less funding for internship programs and apprenticeships which provide people entering the field with the necessary experience and education. Due to the excessive amounts of work to be done, employers are forced to hire the underqualified or inexperienced workers and either take on proper training for new employees themselves or deal with the consequences.
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Contractors are forced to find ways to maximize efficiency to get projects completed in a timely manner. In many cases, the best way to do thus is to replace traditional methods of doing things with new, state-of-the-art technology and machinery designed to reduce labor and increase productivity.
New Technology in Construction
With the rapid advancements in technology and the evident labor shortage in construction, it is critical that the construction industry start adopting new technology. From building information modeling, to connected jobsites and smart testing devices, technology is enabling engineers and contractors to streamline the design and building processes, optimize project schedules, and increase safety, sustainability, and efficiency on the job site.
From the office to the project site, apps and technology are being used to keep track of documents, records, and inventory and to track everything from change orders and material delivery, to progress and delays in project schedules. Although a lot of new job site technology is still making its way into worldwide markets, things like autonomous trucks are seeing the light of day. Driverless vehicles are making job sites safer and more efficient by automating processes and removing danger from drivers and vehicle controllers.
Other forms of technology such as NDT devices and smart concrete monitoring sensors are being used to eliminate the need for destructive testing and bring accurate, real-time data into the hands of contractors. Concrete sensors like Giatec’s SmartRock2 are allowing GC’s and construction workers to have real-time access to concrete temperature and strength data during the curing process. The sensors are enabled with wireless technology, meaning they are fully-embedded in the concrete during the time of pour and anyone who is granted access can easily connect to the sensor with their smartphone or tablet to collect data. This data can then be shared wirelessly with project managers and team members, regardless of whether they are on site or off site.
How Technology is Helping Overcome the Labor Shortage
There are many reasons why engineers, project managers, or contractors might want to adopt smart technology for their projects, but one reason why they need to start considering using advanced technology is to combat the effects of the labor shortage. Smart technology is designed to make job sites more efficient and to streamline project schedules. With the shortage of available workers, smart technologies are more important than ever as they allow contractors to efficiently utilize labor by streamlining processes on the job site.
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By using smart concrete sensors like the one mentioned above, contractors are able to eliminate the need for time-consuming procedures like break tests and embrace real-time temperature monitoring. Having access to the actual temperature of concrete at any given time means contractors know exactly when their concrete is cured and strong enough to move on to the following phase of the project. Instead of waiting up to a day for results to come back from the laboratory—not to mention paying the fees associated with these laboratory tests and having the extra number of workers available to either collect the samples or transport them from point A to point B—contractors can download concrete maturity data to their smartphones and share reports with all parties involved.
Pairing smart sensors, project management platforms, and other technology available to the construction industry can enable GC’s to cut days, even weeks off project timelines and make job sites more efficient, which in turn reduces the amount of people needed to get jobs done. Adopting technologies like driverless trucks and construction vehicles can further help manage the shortage of available workers while also keeping those on the job site safe.
About the author: Article provided by Giatec Scientific Inc