Of the several primary industries, the construction sector has somewhat been sluggish in adopting modern technology, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Workforce deficit and supply chain issues are two of the industry’s most significant challenges. Companies are obliged to invest heavily in worker safety, minimize delays where possible caused by increasing costs of raw materials, low production, and late shipments and deliveries, among other things.
Without adopting innovative technological tools, companies are unable to operate productively. Below, you’ll find some of the automation solutions construction companies are exploring to work better, smarter and faster.
- Addressing labor deficiencies
According to the ILO, the industry has been facing labor shortage for several years, with the pandemic aggravating the situation. Enterprises were forced to make changes to their offsite and onsite operations to address this pressing issue with the use of the following:
- All-in-one software: Administration-related work in the construction industry requires at least three people, depending on the project size. Organizations can streamline workflows and hire one person to do the job by deploying customized software to support them.
An example would be this multi-tasking application from Jobber that has been developed specifically to help excavation service providers deal with vital business tasks all in one place. Software such as this aids in scheduling work, communicating with clients, and sending quotes and invoices, as well as many other things. This has the overall effect of improving productivity at reduced costs.
- Self-driving trucks: Driverless vehicles aren’t exclusive to personal automobiles. Even heavy construction equipment may be operated without humans, thanks to machine learning systems.
- Drones: Because of their usefulness in reaching elevations that are otherwise too dangerous for humans, drones are becoming essential in replacing workers having to inspect and monitor dangerous places. Equipped with high tech cameras and communication equipment makes them highly effective in this role.
- Robotics: Robots have replaced humans in repetitive construction tasks, including concrete mixing, cement laying, and floor polishing. In some instances, demolition robots are deployed to dismantle structures meant to be rebuilt.
These initiatives allow companies to address the lack of workers and keep their staff safe while reducing errors and increasing efficiencies.
Automated business solutions can streamline startup companies’ operations by solving daily pain points. For example, excavation service providers can use business software to send a fully-customizable excavation estimate template that adopts best practice and increases the likelihood of winning a job.
- Making project management more efficient
Project management can be challenging with or without a remote working arrangement, especially when complex tasks and several departments are involved. The entire operations don’t rely merely on the construction staff, as procurement, finance, and administration units are also key to the involvement of the project.
An intuitive project management tool improves and simplifies collaboration and communication across all these departments. The technology provides updated and real-time information from various inputs and allows managed access to all the onsite and offsite staff. For instance, an outsourced accounting company can track business finances and procurement workflows even if they’re offsite. With this tool, team members can engage with others more effectively and monitor the project’s progress or address challenges even if they’re on the other side.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) and augmented reality are two of the most significant components in project management. With it, members can create electronic structure models, leading to better program or works planning and allowing specialists to improve the design and construction protocols as needed.
3. Managing construction material shortage
The unavailability of raw materials and supply chain disruptions are two primary reasons for the slowdown in the construction industry. With the recent travel ban associated with the pandemic, some factories had to shut down either temporarily or permanently, impacting production levels. Travel bans and stricter shipping rules have also drastically led to port congestion, dragging deliveries, and cargo movement.
Construction companies must adopt various technologies to overcome delay-causing and cash-sapping challenges. These include:
- Automated material management solutions: These tools help contractors plan their operations better by procuring suitable materials at the right time. Material management solutions also enable companies to manage inventory more efficiently by providing real-time delivery information. Ultimately, this advanced technology leads to smarter decisions to eliminate the risks of stalled projects.
- Supply chain monitoring: Disruptions in material movements not only cause delays but lead to increased costs. When organizations have an efficient supply chain monitoring system, they’re capable of anticipating delays in advance and acting proactively.
- Three-dimensional printing: Early this year, the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity introduced 3D printing to provide homes to low-income families. This construction modality is said to build energy-efficient homes while cutting costs and construction times. Three-dimensional printers can manufacture structural components to assemble an entire building resilient to extreme weather conditions, paving the way for a more sustainable and inclusive sector.
- Modular construction: Instead of relying on numerous and often scarce construction materials to build, companies can implement modular construction techniques to accelerate the project and cut waiting times for raw material deliveries.
In this modality, pre-fabricated items like wood, steel frames, and concrete systems are assembled from a factory and by builders. This can speed up construction and address material shortages for vital components like cement, lumber, and glass.
- Ensuring builders’ safety
Contractors are legally bound to ensure their staff’s safety and well-being. The industry is known to be one of the riskiest, and it’s not uncommon to hear workers getting injured or sick because of trips, falls, and slips, alongside exposure to harmful chemicals and heavy equipment mishaps.
When an accident occurs at a site, tasks are often halted to give way for investigations and adjustments to safety protocols. The administration team will also have to deal with workers’ compensation claims, depriving them of time to concentrate on their core responsibilities. Work absences also affect an already deficient workforce. As such, safety is of paramount concern to builders.
Technology can help minimize risks and ensure compliance with the following initiatives:
- Site sensors can be deployed to track organic compounds, noise levels, and temperatures to help manage workers’ exposure. These devices can also be installed to monitor the progress of work.
- Wearables can monitor staff health and notify potential signs of infection or health concerns.
- Safety data analytics provide insights to identify potentially hazardous behaviors and practices. The information can also improve regular safety training sessions by addressing the most common issues and initiating revisions to safety protocols.
The bottom line
As with other sectors, time is money for construction activities. By implementing these technologies, companies save time and eliminate the risks of costly mistakes and further delays. Builders can improve project outcomes without sacrificing quality with machine learning systems, all-in-one business solutions, and digital advancements. More importantly, integrating technology provides organizations with a competitive edge, making them stand out from the others.
- International Labor Organization. 2021. ILO Sectoral Brief. www.ilo.org. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_dialogue/—sector/documents/briefingnote/wcms_767303.pdf. Accessed 12 August 2022
- Peters, J. 27 May 2020. How Tech Helps Streamline and Manage Construction Businesses. www.constructionconnect.com. https://www.constructconnect.com/blog/how-tech-helps-streamline-and-manage-construction-businesses. Accessed 12 August 2022
- Long, E. Undated. 5 Ways to Streamline Construction Project Management. www.build-review.com. https://www.build-review.com/5-ways-to-streamline-construction-project-management/. Accessed 12 August 2022
- Shrivastava, P. 06 April 2022. The Future of Technology within the Construction Industry. www.buildingenclosureonline.com. https://www.buildingenclosureonline.com/blogs/14-the-be-blog/post/90666-the-future-of-technology-within-the-construction-industry. Accessed 12 August 2022