TECHNOLOGY’S HAND-UP FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
After the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, the U.S. construction industry lost up to 600,000 jobs. With no prospects to return to, most skilled workers left and haven’t come back. Experts predict that by the end of 2019, the workforce will have grown at a rate of only .5 percent annually. This very serious labor shortage shows no sign of letting up any time soon. Traditionally reluctant to embrace cutting-edge technologies, the construction industry is beginning to adopt some promising new high-tech practices that will help them weather the labor shortage storm.
Attracting a workforce
The Associated General Contractors of America reported that 80 percent of its 27,000 member firms had trouble filling openings for hourly craft workers in 2018. Construction companies are having trouble attracting new talent, partly because the industry has an image of providing only hard-labor, low-paying jobs. According to John Wagner, national construction director at insurance brokerage firm Gallagher, “construction is not an attractive industry to millennials.”
Building costs are up approximately six percent. Finding and recruiting skilled workers costs time and money, and companies have to pay more in the competitive environment. Fewer workers mean more overtime pay; more overtime hours can lead to more mistakes. Contractors have to bid higher on jobs, despite more projects being late, even canceled. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, as of April, 2019, there were 434,000 vacant construction jobs. Last year, about 32 percent of construction laborers were between 45 and 64 years old; many are nearing retirement age.
Reducing operating costs is strong incentive to consider leveraging new advances in building technology. The science of robotics has come a long way in the past several years. Many of the factories that manufacture building components are already staffed by robots. These materials are shipped to construction sites, where human workers assemble them. Onsite, using robots cuts labor costs; robots don’t take breaks, and they work at a very consistent rate, for longer hours. Robots are capable of doing many repetitive – and boring – tasks, including bricklaying, welding, pouring concrete, and demolition. With robots replacing humans for select tasks, there are fewer injuries, which help manage costs of liability and disability insurance. Building sites will be safer, too, ensuring critical OSHA compliance.
Drones, 3D design and concrete sensors, Oh My
Drones have come a long way. In this context, they can be used to conduct inspections. The drone photographs specific sections of the project, and performs 3D mapping that provides an accurate account of how the work is coming along. If changes need to be made, new digital design programs like Building Information Modeling make it easier to keep the project on-schedule. With 3D printing, a new part can be made onsite if necessary. Sophisticated software programs ensure everyone keeps updated on shared tasks and work monitoring.
Concrete maturity sensors add new efficiencies to jobsites by helping supervisors make accurate, critical decisions during the concrete curing process. Sensors placed in new concrete transmit data confirming the ‘compressive strength’ of the concrete, in real time, to any smart mobile device. This can shave up to weeks off construction schedules.
The construction industry will always need skilled craftsmen, dedicated workers that can improvise in a changing or challenging situation. Human judgment and expertise will never be replaced by technology. However, as the industry relies more on sophisticated robots, 3D printing, drones, and concrete sensors, contractors and their construction teams will be more efficient than ever. New builds, re-models and infrastructure repairs will be in the capable hands of a stronger, combined workforce.
Your team – human and robotic – needs concrete and masonry equipment of the highest caliber. Call Ace Cutting Equipment and Supply, Inc. today – 888-283-2597 – or visit our website acecutting.com.