The pandemic has negatively affected industries and communities of all kinds all over the globe. It has been about one year since the outbreak reached global pandemic levels. Throughout this time, one critical industry has stayed essential and arguably, became more important than before: construction. But managing construction during this global crisis has not been easy. In fact, new challenges have come to light during this time, but unlike previous crises, the construction industry proved to be resilient.
According to Construct Connect, during the first few months of the pandemic, the industry lost over 1 million jobs but gained 600,000 jobs back within just a few months. This is because despite many construction projects were halted at the start of the outbreak, many more states have deemed construction an essential industry.
This meant that many companies were able to resume operations so long as they adhered to new safety protocols to manage the spread of the disease.
Now that one year has passed, what are the changes made by the industry to not just adapt but thrive in this challenging time?
The Current Projections
According to projections made by McKinsey Global Institute, despite some economic uncertainties still present at this point, economic activity could be on the upswing this 2021. This is assuming that the efforts to further contain the virus, alongside implementing good policies, continue consistently.
The same report gave a warning, however. It said that if the crisis continued and resulted in more lockdowns and restrictions being implemented, this upswing in the economy could be delayed further. In fact, the delay could be pushed back to 2023.
Despite the current improvements in the construction industry, the challenges persist. For example, due to the need for social distancing, border restrictions, and transportation challenges, migrant and domestic workers could find it difficult to reach job sites. This can result in delays in projects, something that plenty of entry-level construction scheduling software can solve independently.
This challenge is just one of a number that needs to be addressed if the industry is to survive. So what are the changes being done in the construction industry to address these challenges?
Improvise, Adapt, Overcome
The biggest change that has happened in the construction industry during this time of pandemic is overall management. Project management for construction has virtually been overhauled to adapt to the new environment and adopt new techniques and technologies for workforce safety and monitoring.
For Construction Pros reported that during this time, the construction industry has quickly adopted new trends. What’s amazing is that it could do so in less than a year instead of the usual three-year timespan. This resulted in the construction industry being able to keep going despite having numerous restrictions that would, by all accounts, slow down the progress of projects.
Technology was a big help in addressing gaps in site assessment and oculars. Drone film photography, for example, when combined with augmented reality technology, assisted field engineers with monitoring to build progress and safety. But the biggest contribution made by smart technology was in keeping track of each worker’s well-being.
Combatting the Pandemic and Other Safety Concerns with Smart Tech
During the pandemic, each worker’s contribution to construction has become more crucial than ever before. It is very important that no worker got injured or sick because having these issues would mean a blow that could severely set back a project.
As the new normal became just normal, construction companies have employed smart technology for each worker in order to make project management easier. But more importantly, it is to increase the safety level of each worker involved in a construction project.
According to a US Chamber of Congress report, in 2018, only 6% of construction companies and employers used smart wearable technology for worker safety and efficiency. However, it is expected that by this year, that number will jump up to 23%. In addition, up to 83% of construction companies, today believe that these devices would further improve the safety of the workers in job sites and make project management much more efficient.
But the biggest challenge in construction management these days is making sure that the job site is safe for all worders, and this is where smart tech can play a crucial role. This is due to the fast data gathering smart wearable tech can give to project managers and human resources teams, according to a statement made by KINETIC, a company specializing in wearable smart technology.
Data gathered using smart wearables has not only made both managers’ and human resources’ time more efficient, but these devices have also allowed companies to have more accurate and strategic contract tracing protocols, according to a report by HR Reporter. Aside from that, these wearables can also improve personal safety protocols and even be used in conjunction with construction scheduling software to improve project efficiency.
With these advancements in technology now being adopted by the construction industry, construction management during the time of pandemic has allowed the industry not just to survive but thrive.
Thriving in Adversity: Additional Changes in Construction Management
Aside from adopting advanced technologies to ensure the personal safety of workers, and therefore the company, contractors have also adjusted other aspects of their business due to the pandemic. One example of this is working remotely, which improves social distancing for construction company employees and reduces the possibility of spreading transmissible diseases even further.
According to a report by Construction.Com, remote working has become commonplace for 50% of civil contractors and 67% for commercial contractors. In the same report, 75% of civil contractors have said that they think the changes are done, such as remote working and social distancing, will stay moving forward.
And while not everyone might adopt remote working fully once this pandemic is over, a good number, around 35%, is likely to allow it still once the crisis has passed.
Management of Trends Moving Forward
Companies and employers are starting to show a variety of trends in managing construction projects moving forward. These changes are indicative of the changes the industry is hoping to adopt and implement to keep on thriving during this pandemic and beyond.
In addition to the aforementioned practices of remote working and use of smart wearables, a report by McKinsey says that the short term and long term trends of the construction industry include the following:
- Adopting more digital technology for work – the use of digital collaboration tools like building information modeling or BIM, 4D and 5D simulations for engineers and contractors, as well as the use of apps for monitoring employee performance and well-being, materials management, finances, and more.
- More resilient supply chains – less reliance on constant deliveries and more on building inventory, securing materials for the long-term, and so on.
- Consolidation of processes – the augmentation of different departments like R&D, IT, and the use of cutting-edge technologies.
- More developments on innovation and technology – the pandemic gave the industry a challenge to overcome: the shortage of skilled workers. Moving forward, with the possibility of further expanding on social distancing and remote working, companies are looking to invest more in tools that increase productivity, automation, and focus on improving efficiency and fast building systems to make project management for construction faster, more efficient, and more modern.
- Increase in pre-fab construction – with the shift in workforces, the implementation of social distancing, and change in project management style, the use of pre-fabricated assemblies is estimated to be more and more the norm moving forward. This has the potential to speed up project completion, which can ultimately lead to more cost-efficiency.
These trends are just a few of what many experts in the industry are expecting to happen.
As one of the essential industries allowed to operate almost entirely during the pandemic, the changes made in the construction industry may very well set the stage for other significant changes in different industries to happen as well. Despite the somewhat wary projections being made in late 2020 and early 2021, the industry has been able to adopt innovations that assisted with the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
The industry was largely able to adapt to technology that improved not just the efficiency of projects, but also improved the safety of personnel. It was also able to adjust to the unique needs of the workplace and allow remote work where possible.
Should the pandemic continue unabated, the industry does expect delays in projects due to a more muted economy. However, it has quickly learned from its innovations this past year. Many players in the industry have begun adjusting their practices to fine-tune their processes, use technology more efficiently, and streamline project flow in general.
And here at Pro Crew Schedule, we know that software like ours is integral to the future of construction firms in these trying times. Let’s find out how we can help you make streamlined, cost-efficient projects throughout the rest of this pandemic and beyond.