July 29, 2020

How Contractors Can Adapt to the “New Normal” in Construction

When the world seemed to stop due to coronavirus, the construction industry carried on. Nevertheless, construction isn’t an exception to the effects of a pandemic: Forty percent of construction firms reported layoffs in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus, and the unemployment rate rose to over 16 percent in April. Faced with these facts, you’re not alone if you’re wondering, “What now?” Contractors and construction professionals can adapt to technology, renew their focus on safety and redefine what “normal work” looks like to persevere.  

With this mindset, your construction firm can do what it’s always done when faced with a challenge—dig in, and get to work.

Embrace digitalization and remote work

To move forward with a strong footing, contractors and construction professionals must reimagine and redefine their “normal” work. We can expect remote work (and the tools that make remote work possible) to grow in 2020 and beyond. While it’s often essential to be on-site during construction projects, some tasks can be accomplished remotely to save time and money. 

Over the past few months, the virtual meeting app Zoom added more users than it did in all of 2019. Remote meeting technology has empowered contractors and construction professionals to continue work safely by switching to virtual planning and project management meetings. Tools like Zoom can help departments connect—regardless of physical location—to communicate and plan. 

If and when work cannot be carried out (due to stay-at-home orders or safety precautions), work simulation tools and building information modeling (BIM) tools can help your team plan, simulate building, solve problems and hit the ground running later. 

Construction technology like EquipmentShare Track helps contractors connect the various parts of daily construction work, such as their fleet, jobsite and employees, so they can manage these parts from an internet-connected device. By using Track, contractors don’t have to be at the jobsite to locate a machine, lockdown an asset or schedule a rental delivery. Service and maintenance technicians can receive work order assignments and located downed machines from their phone with Track’s Digital Work Orders solution. 

The ability to adapt to digital work won’t just serve your firm now; it will be good practice for the future.Remote-capable construction technology can help your firm digitalize workflows and processes so work doesn’t have to stop.

Safety is more important than ever

Living and working through a global health crisis has reminded us just how important it is to keep our employees, coworkers and customers safe. Fortunately, because it’s 2020, there’s technology to help construction firms do just that. “Social distancing technologies” help employees and workers keep a safe distance while still completing the job at hand. These technologies come in the form of wearables, such as wristlets or watches, or other personal protective equipment (PPE). For instance, the Halo vibrates on your wrist to let you know you’re too close to another person. 

Additionally, construction firms and service providers alike are embracing contactless work to limit exposure to others. For example, EquipmentShare Rent customers can track their rental machine’s GPS journey to their jobsite from Track or the Link mobile app, which means delivery and off-rent is contact-free, safe and efficient.

In addition to finding new ways to limit interaction and exposure, your firm can also invest in your employees and their safety skills to mitigate risk. Safety training resources such as OSHA’s Toolbox Talks can keep workplace safety and health top of mind into the future. Ensure your employees have current safety certifications, and provide them with the resources to strengthen their skills and knowledge. This could look like hiring a safety or risk management specialist, strengthening your business’s safety plan, and setting expectations by following all safety procedures yourself. 

Wearables and smart PPE are two forms of technology that could be especially beneficial for construction workers as they dive back into their projects on busy jobsites and facilities. While some of these tools are still in production phases, it’s worth noting how quickly these concepts came to fruition following the pandemic. When disruption takes place, new technology is always close behind. 

Reimagine and reform to help your business stay ahead

A recent article by McKinsey details seven steps for construction to take to emerge stronger after coronavirus. These steps include reimagining and reforming what efficient work is to your firm: “Opportunities to push the envelope of technology adoption will be accelerated by rapid learning about what it takes to drive productivity when labor is unavailable. The result: a stronger sense of what makes business more resilient to shocks, more productive, and better able to deliver to customers.” 

What is your firm currently doing well, and what could be improved? How can technology help, and how can you continue to drive productivity? Construction automation technology can help teams increase output with fewer employees. With assistance from a remote-controlled machine, like an autonomous compactor, your team could increase output while saving time. 

That’s not where the benefits of construction automation tech stops, though: Many automated solutions exist to help your firm increase safety, efficiency and productivity. Jobsite technology like Track can help your firm save time and improve communication by digitizing time-consuming processes, such as work order assignments and employee time tracking. After all, time is money, and any amount of saved time will positively affect your bottom line, which helps your firm protect itself in a time of uncertainty. 

It can take valuable time out of your too-short day to find out who was on-site during a safety incident or find out why a routine task took twice as long as usual to complete. With a digital time-tracking solution like Time Cards, employees can track their hours and which tasks, jobs and work orders they completed during their shifts from their phones with the Link app. Authorized users can access Time Cards information in Track, with the end result being complete work transparency, faster communication and better scheduling. 

Construction professionals are presented with the opportunity to adopt technology that will help their firm get more work done and become resilient in the event of future challenges. At the end of the day, technology adoption is just reimagining what work looks like. It may seem counterintuitive to look for opportunities to operate your business in a different way in the present moment. But being flexible, adaptable and open to technology can help your firm increase efficiency and resiliency. 

Construction is resilient

Construction managers will need to help their firms adapt to working remotely and leaning on simulation tools and digital workflows in an industry that’s always been hands-on. Safety managers can explore new safety technology, such as smart PPE and wearables, in order to protect the health of their working employees. Finally, construction business owners and contractors must remain open to working differently and embrace automation and digitalization in order to continue growing. 

Fortunately, reports state that the third and fourth quarters of 2020 are slated to be better than the first and second. Adapting to construction work in 2020 will take hard work, but as you well know, this industry is no stranger to that.

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