Construction companies remain as resilient as ever, but we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about the very real challenges our industry faces. The most pressing one, of course, is the labor shortage.
A survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk found that 85% of construction firms have open positions they're trying to fill, and 91% struggle to find qualified candidates for available roles.
These challenges are further exacerbated by supply chain issues—such as the 65% of firms reporting that supply chain challenges have delayed their projects.
It's no wonder then that construction companies are experiencing project delays, with 13% of firms saying they've had to postpone projects in 2023.
It's not all doom and gloom, however. While these challenges seem daunting, there are steps you can take to augment your workforce.
Construction technology has come a mighty long way in the past few years, and forward-thinking companies know how to leverage tech to support their teams.
Let's take a closer look at how you can do it, too.
AI (and its subsets—machine learning and deep learning) can be a touchy subject for people because they're often seen as technologies that can replace humans. A survey by Pew Research found that over a third of workers in the US think AI will hurt the workforce, while just 13% think otherwise.
While AI concerns are valid, it's important to remember that artificial intelligence is a tool, not a replacement. When used in a thoughtful and ethical way, AI in construction empowers your team to work faster, reduce stress, and ultimately drive better decision-making.
This streamlines the process of ensuring safety compliance on-site, making it easier to identify potential risks and rectify them quickly.
Or consider Construction IQ, a built-in AI and machine learning feature in Autodesk Construction Cloud, which helps you predict, prevent, and manage risk. Construction IQ utilizes sophisticated algorithms and natural language processing to highlight higher-risk design, quality, or safety issues. Teams can take action sooner rather than later and prevent costly impacts downstream.
AR, VR, and the metaverse are distinct (but related) technologies that have the potential to redefine how construction teams collaborate.
AR can overlay digital elements—e.g., models or design data—onto the real world. Many teams use AR technology to visualize how a finished project will integrate with its surroundings. Another excellent use case is leveraging augmented reality to spot potential design clashes, thus avoiding costly work down the road.
VR, on the other hand, immerses users in a digital realm. Project stakeholders can operate VR headsets to experience a virtual construction site where they can conduct pre-emptive walk-throughs or safety training without physically being there.
Meanwhile, the metaverse gives teams an opportunity to "meet" and collaborate in a shared virtual space, facilitating real-time discussions on digital models and projects.
Together, these technologies bridge the gap between digital design and physical implementation. They empower teams to visualize, strategize, and execute projects more efficiently—which is a big win, especially for firms struggling with talent shortages.
Jobs that require people to be on the construction site are physically demanding. From carrying heavy loads to working from great heights, these jobs strain workers and lead to potential injuries. The labor-intensive nature of construction sites may also deter people from considering a career in construction.
Industry data shows that many folks still see construction as a blue-collar profession that requires them to get their hands dirty. And it doesn't help that construction jobs are considered more dangerous than many others.
This is where technology can be a game-changer.
Robotics, in particular, assists people in risky situations, ensuring that workers won't have to strain their bodies or put themselves in harm's way when working in confined spaces or hazardous zones.
Take, for example, a UK initiative where robotic machines were employed to lay down cones, sparing workers from the potential danger of being hit by oncoming vehicles during the marking process.
While adopting the technologies mentioned above certainly counts towards digital transformation, it's worth noting that modernizing your construction firm isn't just about implementing new tech. Technology is one part of digitization, but at the true heart of digital transformation are your team and the processes they follow.
When you think about the "transformation" part of digital transformation, don't limit your view to technology. Remember that you must also transform your culture, and you may need to fundamentally change how you do things.
Let's start with the people and culture component. For digital transformation to work, it must be ingrained in your organizational culture. Part of doing this is promoting innovation and rewarding people who try new things (rather than punishing them when something doesn't work).
Beyond that, be sure to invest in training and development. Upskill your team on the tools and software that'll enable them to do their jobs better, and see to it that they have the know-how to adopt and implement construction tech effectively.
Adopting technology when you have poor or disconnected processes is like putting a bandaid on a deep and severe wound without actually treating it. Even the most advanced solutions can't function to their full potential without streamlined processes.
That's why before jumping into shiny new tech, you should first evaluate your current workflows. Identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies and see that your technology can eliminate them. You must also be prepared to rebuild processes from the ground up (particularly for outdated or manual procedures).
Will you encounter pushback and resistance to change? Most likely. But remember that enduring short-term discomfort for long-term improvements is the hallmark of progressive and successful organizations.
And if you already have a strong culture, you can trust your team to be adaptable and resilient enough to make hard changes.
Now, let's talk about the technology side of digital transformation. This stage involves identifying tools and solutions that meet your needs and implementing them across your organization.
Since every firm is different, the nitty gritty of tech implementation will vary from one company to the next. Generally speaking, though, finding success with new solutions or platforms requires a strong foundation (see people and process above), a solid tech solution, and a change management process that ensures clear communication and ongoing support.
For best results, choose a technology provider that serves your partner in success (versus just being a vendor). The best tech companies provide ample resources and collaborate with your team to ensure that your firm not only gets up and running smoothly but can get the most value both in the short and long term.
More than ever, the construction industry is striving to attract and retain talent in order to put an end to the labor shortage. Until then, we need to be proactive in bridging the gap with tech-savvy solutions.
Whether it's adopting AI, AR, and VR or implementing a larger digital transformation initiative, it's important to remember that we have several technology solutions at our disposal to help us navigate labor issues.