Could Leveraging Technology and Automation Solve the Skills Shortage in Construction?

This article is part of a blog series on the labor shortage in the construction industry in 2024, exploring some remedies to this crisis.

The skills shortage could badly impact the productivity performance of your company. Attracting new people to the sector is difficult, as the construction sector has a notorious among many young people for:

  • being low-tech
  • requiring physically exhausting manual labor
  • having poor employment development.

We need to introduce innovative and productive ways of working to revamp construction's image. In 2023, construction was the second-largest contributor to the world economy’s annual productivity growth, so it should be advertised more.

Addressing the skills shortage

Retirement is the main cause of loss of skilled workers. If they are not replaced, the industry will lose all its efficiency gains. The number of young people enrolling in construction trainee programs dropped to the 2007 levels.

To reverse this trend the sector must digitalize and embrace technology innovations, including:

  • artificial intelligence (AI)
  • digital tools to analyze data
  • modern methods of construction
  • automation.

This would require attracting new talent with different skills to operate these innovative technologies.

Construction could also demonstrate to the young generation of apprentices and graduates the role it is playing in sustainability on the road to net zero building.

The consequences of the shortage of skilled labor and subcontractors generate:

  • project delays
  • cash flow erosion
  • low margins.

One of the most effective ways to tackle this concern is through automation, as explained below.

What could be automated?

You should automate front-end and back-end processes like:

  • repetitive tasks on-site
  • project management
  • human resources (HR) management
  • training
  • inspection
  • data transmission.

How to mitigate the labor shortage crisis?

Before finding solutions you should diagnose your current structure to understand your operations. Your analysis should address the following:

  • what new technologies could fit with your current workflow?
  • how could you introduce best practices in your workflows before fully embracing the Building Information Modeling (BIM) culture?
  • what processes would need to be automated?
  • how could your people work collaboratively and interdependently?
  • how could you integrate your processes through automated, transparent, and seamless systems?

Processes you could review include:

  • expenses, handbook, and reward mechanisms to boost the troop's morale
  • project management to reduce delays
  • data management to collect real time data to improve analysis which can raise productivity and reduce travel costs
  • training online and/or using virtual reality could help improve health and safety as dangerous situations could be taught in a safe environment.

Could the implemented solutions mitigate risks?

Mobile device data-driven strategies could help you manage the existing workforce efficiently and retain talent.

Health and safety training, in virtual reality, would make your processes compliant with ISO 45001 and would reduce the risk of accidents and absenteeism.

Site-specific training needs, delivered online, including videos and practical handling of difficult tasks, could improve the skills of your workforce and help you to be compliant with ISO 9001 to improve your quality.

Easy business expense reporting features for employees could avoid unnecessary trips to the office. Expense management could ease your cash flow, improve the profitability of the project, and motivate teams as they are reimbursed quickly.

Project managers, architects, and/or engineers could review and analyze data in the office, and send inspection checklists to the site manager who should use them on daily site inspections. This would eliminate the need to send inspectors on-site and could avoid lengthy and costly reworks and material waste leading to:

  • less overtime
  • happier employees
  • cost reduction
  • better cash management.

An HR management system will help you to celebrate successes, whenever your crew meets a goal. This could make your workers feel appreciated and eager to push forward. Rewarding and valuing what your people are doing, reinforces the importance of their contribution to the success of the project. People feeling valued are generally not looking for greener pastures.

Automation reduces the need for more people

Software companies claim to have the latest and greatest product, or you could be impressed by new offers from a current vendor, but how do you know that they are the best tools for your firm?

Taking the time to understand what you are trying to achieve with software and how it will be integrated and systemized, should help you yield positive results.

Should you be using BIM on all projects?

According to an international survey, 65% of private-sector owners and 70% of public sector owners require the use of BIM in new projects.

If you want to have a competitive edge you should embrace BIM even for small projects. BIM implementation can be daunting, but here are some useful questions to consider before you fully embrace the BIM culture:

  • are you trying to make your firm more efficient?
  • are your clients expecting 3D visualizations?
  • will new software enhance your workflow and be compatible with the other programs you are using?
  • does your current software help you meet your firm’s vision and goals?

Using and managing templates

You could be efficient independently of the software you are the most comfortable with, but you would have to take the time to develop your company standards and BIM templates to increase your productivity.

Templates benefits:

If you implement standard templates you will find that:

  • you could start a project faster and more efficiently. Templates reduce wasted time because various elements are being automatically generated
  • you could establish geometric object data once instead of reinventing them for each project
  • you could set expectations for your team so they would not have to guess what to do
  • your presentations to clients would be consistent, independent of whom in the firm is involved, as your documents are automated and their layouts and views are defined
  • rules or guidelines could calculate or follow a method you follow on many projects, using the industry-standard approach. Information industry standards are great guidelines for boosting efficiency
  • you could make classifications part of your templates to organize your projects. The codes would be consistent from project to project. However, you should make sure that there is a customer for those classifications. They are not always structured in a way your modeling teams want to use them.

Best practice using templates

Having a generic template does not mean that you need to use the entire document. Picking and choosing the information applicable to your firm or your workflow is very efficient. The key is to take pieces of a large template that can be applied to different projects.

Starting with templates significantly reduces admin. However, there are challenges, and a common framework can help mitigate many of these risks. Involving team members and supporting a rapid feedback loop would build trust in the system. The result would be higher quality outputs and happier teams.

Integrating your system

A lot of firms use many software products to create their designs when one or two would do the trick. Other firms re-build models because they design and document in different tools. Using the right platform can often replace three or four pieces of software and systemize your way of working.

System integration is defined in information technology as the process of linking together different computing systems and software applications physically or functionally to act as a coordinated whole. System integration involves integrating existing, often disparate systems in such a way that it focuses on increasing value to your customer.

System integration benefits

Integrating your systems would allow you to:

  • streamline processes helping your team to work efficiently and put a smile on their face
  • get staff loyalty to your company
  • meet project quality requirements
  • automate the quality control process to help you accommodate your client's standards.

Best practice in system integration

Implementing best system integration practices would help you to:

  • maintain a smooth workflow between design and construction teams
  • deliver project design and construction on time
  • reduce costs incurred to produce a digitally designed model and build an asset
  • avoid wastage as you minimize the corrections of models on-site and off-site, and you implement a smooth procurement process.

Having the right processes in place, together with automation, has the potential to dramatically:

  • improve your productivity
  • increase staff retention
  • attract new and younger employees

Teams that work well together do a better job of sharing ideas and embracing all that their technology has to offer.

In conclusion

Automation and system integration will help your firm to retain and attract skilled employees.

You should develop a strong leadership team to motivate your staff to collaborate and develop electronic and task-oriented collaboration procedures including:

  • model management (e.g. model check-out, revision procedures, etc.)
  • standard meeting actions and agendas
  • how to work in teams considering items such as communication methods, document management, data transfer, record storage, etc.

Take our Technology appraisal diagnostic, to find out the best way to insert new technology in your workflows and how to move your organization to cloud computing so you can open up new possibilities for your daily planning tasks and make sure your data never leaves the optimally secured data center.

The technology appraisal report will help you explore what investment is required to improve your projects’ productivity and collaboration as well as the ROI you can expect.

Implementing BIM can be daunting, but Driving Vision is here to help you at the pace you are comfortable with. Get started by getting in touch now

We focus on the only 3 ways to maximise ROI

Investment

You minimise the level of investment required to implement BIM as we share the Research and Development costs with other client

Increase

You increase your revenue by staying ahead of the competition as BIM best practices allows you to win bigger and more rewarding projects.

Cost

You reduce your costs, more than our fees cost you, by decreasing potential litigations, rework, and errors and omissions

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