As society has evolved, the construction industry has undoubtedly grown with it. But, the true “digital transformation” we think of today began to take shape about a decade ago. While construction has and will always largely take place through human labor, construction leaders can implement technology in smart and creative ways to maximize the use of their workforce.
BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY
Technology supports (not replaces) human capital. According to Associated Builders and Contractors, the construction industry is facing a workforce shortage of 650,000 in 2022. Because of this significant labor shortage, it’s critical to make the best use of the existing workforce by leveraging technology for tasks that are more easily completed—and oftentimes more cost-effective—through digital means. Technology provides a layer of support for existing construction employees, allowing them to focus on tasks technology can’t address. It creates a better workplace for employees, helping them be more successful in the long term.
Technology enables the safest and most efficient environment for workers. Over the past two decades, worker safety has come to the forefront of the conversation, with hardhat, glove and glasses policies being enforced in certain workforces as late as the early 2000s. In fact, according to OSHA, one in five deaths among U.S. workers is in the construction industry. But, with new technologies that prevent injuries by limiting potentially dangerous activities—such as chopping, lifting or working above the head or below the knees—it’s possible to improve that statistic. And remember, technology doesn’t only prevent short-term injuries—it promotes the long-term health of a workforce. Less heavy lifting and overall strenuous manual labor will help keep employees healthy throughout their lifetimes.
New industries will evolve from the widespread adoption of technology. When looking at the last 200 years, history shows that when a new technology is presented, it creates a new industry. This leads to more—and different types of—jobs. Currently, more jobs are taking place in factories due to an industrialized construction environment. For example, the implementation of robots provides career opportunities for those who are skilled in working on machinery. Plus, these new industries with game-changing technologies often improve the quality of work by minimizing human error.
Whether it’s the digitization of change order tickets or the rollout of a complex 3D modeling program, technology is already changing our industry for the better, and the opportunities for growth are endless. But, rolling out a new technology can be tricky, and leaders must be planful in their implementation strategies. The following tips can help:
- Start small. Rolling out too many new processes or technologies at once may cause confusion or frustration, leading to an unsuccessful launch.
- Vet technology as much as possible before putting it in the field.
- Find a trusted “champion”—or champions depending on the size of the organization—for every project, and collect detailed feedback as the new technology is rolled out. Leverage these champions for the entire technology rollout.
- Understand what technology works for your specific workforce and what doesn’t. Don’t hesitate to be flexible and adapt.
- Collaborate with an industry association working to encourage the adoption of technology in the construction space, such as Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors Alliance (SWACCA), the collective voice of signatory wall and ceiling contractors in the national conversation about the unionized construction industry.
If utilized correctly, technology can be an incredible asset to construction workers at every level. For management, it has the opportunity to make planning and operations oversight easy, and for employees in the field, it can improve day-to-day activities. Construction leaders should embrace the digital transformation and think deeply about how technology investment can improve their employees’ wellbeing, business operations, and the construction industry as a whole.
About the Author:
Dan Wies is the president of Wies Drywall and Wies Offsite. He has a passion for entrepreneurship, building unstoppable teams, and pushing his creative. Third generation in the construction industry, he brings years of knowledge to the table with a goal of leaving the world a better place than he found it. Dan serves on the leadership board of Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors Alliance (SWACCA), the collective voice of signatory wall and ceiling contractors in the national conversation about the unionized construction industry. The alliance works to enhance union construction by providing business tools and resources to its members through relationships, education and advocacy to build better tomorrows.
Modern Contractor Solutions, December 2022
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