Top 9 Construction Trends And How to Benefit From Them
The most competitive construction companies stay that way by knowing which trends to jump on because they’re changing the industry and which will be a passing fad. We’ve analyzed nine construction trends that are shaping the industry’s future and how you can use technology to future-proof your business.
1. Automated Equipment
Automated equipment like self-driving vehicles will transform the industry by executing repetitive tasks and allowing employees to focus on more skilled, specialized work. Relying on autonomous equipment to make calculated, optimized movements can improve efficiency, productivity, and safety, which in turn can decrease overhead costs without displacing jobs.
“So many efficiencies can come out of automated equipment, both in terms of the things we know, like equipment moving around on a site, and then the things we may not know yet. For instance, if electronic plans could communicate themselves to the equipment and the equipment act accordingly, how exactly could that affect the quality of the project?” asked Mary Teichert, President of Teichert, Inc., a 135-year-old family-run contractor in the western US.
The key to seeing returns in an investment in automated equipment is good data. Before implementing automation, generate solid baseline data so you know how to most effectively deploy equipment and can prepare your operators. Utilize telematics data to know where your equipment is in real-time, track meter readings, and set up low inventory alerts. This allows you to spot issues before they arise, identify trends, and ultimately determine which equipment is currently making or losing you money and where you can automate your fleet.
Read more about automated equipment and Teichert’s full response here.
2. Automated Payments
Transitioning to automated payments like smart contracts, blockchain, and cloud-based technology can save time, improve communication, reduce risk, and simplify the payment process.
“The biggest impact that we would see from automated payments is the elimination of all of the pieces of the project costs that result from not being paid on time. We could then give our customers a lower overall cost because we’re being paid faster,” said Tim Zeglin, VP of Frontier Environmental, a general contractor in the eastern US.
Prepare your company for automated payments by fully understanding your jobsite costs in your current systems. When your software can account for every detail of the job, you can analyze costs comprehensively to gain visibility into cashflow, make more informed on-the-fly financial decisions, and analyze how jobsite conditions affect your margin. Automated payments need to be part of a larger process analysis to ensure your payments are accurate and on time.
Find out what else Zeglin had to say about automated payments here.
Members of the HCSS team give their take on the future of construction.
3. Supply Chain
Recent supply chain issues have tested every industry and their digital ordering process. Being nimble in the field can put you one step ahead.
“There’s so much going on in construction sites and there’s more and more things that we’re responsible for. Technology through digital ordering can catch errors from tracking and misordering and help us be proactive,” commented Tom Agresta, President of The Eclipse Companies LLC, a heavy civil contractor in the midwestern US.
Protect your precious time and materials by having software that integrates your bidding and project management processes so you know exactly what to expect and when. Knowing that everything your job needs will be harder to find, slower to arrive, and more expensive than it’s been in years past, a digital plans tool that integrates with your project management is also key so you know exactly what’s been performed and can plan ahead.
Learn how to stay ahead of the supply chain with advice from Agresta here.
Building sustainably while implementing reliable, safe, and cost-efficient processes that comply with government regulations is one of the biggest challenges for the industry–and it’s only going to become more and more prevalent.
“As an industry, we need to do better,” said Phillippe Falkner, Safety Director and Business Services Specialist at Ed Bell Construction Company, a heavy civil construction company in the central US. “You can either figure out how to change with it, or you can become a very sad chapter in history of how you were not part of the solution, you were just part of the problem.”
Lean into the sustainable solutions that are also beneficial to your business. Swapping paper time cards, plans, payments, bidding documents, and notes for their digital equivalent not only reduces waste, but also increases efficiency, improves collaboration, and provides transparency on the job. Digitally tracking fueling helps companies find places to reduce their fuel consumption–a win for sustainability and for the bottom line. As more and more partners look for environmentally friendly firms to work with, companies that embrace sustainable practices will pull ahead of their competition.
Hear more of Falkner’s take on how to build greener (without sacrificing practicality) here.
Introducing new technology into your business is a risk that requires time, money, resources, and training, but the biggest hurdle construction leaders face is actually feeling they can trust their own people with the tools. Companies that are able to entrust field employees with software, with greater transparency into the business, and with profit-impacting decisions find they have more reliable data, better efficiency, stronger employee retention, and ultimately a more profitable business–but getting to a place where you can invest that trust in your people is no easy task.
“Right now, we are competing with other industries for the very same skill set, so we need to provide the same opportunities that other industries do. Technology can help provide continuity and the sense of belonging to something bigger than the sum of its parts,” said Linda Pawlak, VP of Strategic Development at Walbec Group Inc., a family of construction companies in the midwestern US.
If you’re just dipping your toe into empowering the field crew with technology, lean on software that provides a very simple experience for users and allows you to build in automated checkpoints for the data that comes in. Expand into providing more feedback to the field about how they’re performing against estimates and project plans. Eventually, building up the software toolbox that each employee has access to can help you better engage younger employees, get more efficiency from all your people, improve accountability throughout the company, and even identify rising stars who can innovate and propel your business forward.
Learn how Pawlak helps empower her team here.
The construction industry has a reputation for being an unsafe workplace environment, and that’s for a good reason. How do you get people to actually care about construction safety and not just tolerate its checklists? How do you provide a safe work environment that can attract the most talented employees to work for you? And how can you do all of this while complying with tightening regulations? You keep your team safe and build a reputation by building a safety culture. Take safety beyond compliance and use it as a tool to build better work relationships. It’s crucial that everyone has the tools and knowledge on how to help keep their coworkers safe, not just those that are on the safety team or in the field.
“Safety is one of our centerpieces. We’re always focused on sending everyone home safely to their families because at the heart of it, that’s not only important to the individual, but it’s important to their family and to the company. Our focus on it helps them understand what they mean to us,” said Mary Teichert, President of Teichert, Inc., a 135-year-old family-run contractor in the western US.
Safety software can make it easy for anyone to report positive or negative observations so everyone can contribute to a safer workplace. Train people to look at safety not as a way of pointing fingers at each other, but as a way to look out for one another to prevent costly on-site disasters. Hold toolbox talks and meetings to learn from past mistakes by reviewing near misses, inspections, and observations. Take advantage of safety software that provides pre-loaded safety inspection forms to perform inspections quickly and eliminate the headache from creating forms time after time. Safety software can streamline safety processes so you can focus on building your safety culture and your legacy.
7. Data Science
As our economy is squeezed and the industry continues to change, data science can help us find ways to do more with less and make our current processes better optimized and more cost-efficient. Collecting and analyzing our own data is not only crucial to spotting inefficiencies, but it also trains your people to think critically about your current processes and encourages them to make data-informed decisions.
“Too often we see pieces of data that we’ve collected and lost, or pieces of data that we have that no one else knows that we have,” mentioned Tim Zeglin, VP of Frontier Environmental, a general contractor in the eastern US. “If all of that data could funnel to a common repository, a data lake, for lack of a better term, and we could use that data to figure out exactly what we’re looking for and make the next best decision for our customer, we’re gonna be very, very profitable, but we’re also gonna create happy customers every single time.”
Leverage your bidding software to show predictive analysis of costs and materials and track them throughout the project lifecycle to see if costs could be allocated elsewhere for future jobs. Robust project management software can store financial information, receipts, limitations, and documents all in one space, providing the visibility you need to optimize costs. Track your fleet’s inventory in real time to not only schedule repairs or replacements in a timely manner, but to prevent theft and equipment loss. Consistently tracking and analyzing your data can help you make more profitable, actionable decisions.
See what else Zeglin had to say about data science here.
8. Integrated Solutions
While construction companies are not one size fits all, it’s imperative that the software you use is contained on one system and can integrate with all your tools. Finding software that offers multiple services and promotes communication amongst different job roles can reduce the man hours needed to sift through multiple data sources, onboard your employees more easily, and help your people better understand why certain processes are linked. Increased visibility from the software can foster better collaboration amongst your team.
“Customers, internal project management, our business leaders, etc. all want access to data for different reasons. Allowing the machine to do the work, rule by exception, and show us the right data from one source completely flips the dialogue from the more manual, often duplicated, efforts that we’re used to today,” said Linda Pawlak, VP of Strategic Development at Walbec Group Inc., a family of construction companies in the midwestern US.
Estimators can send activities, material, and labor from the estimating software to the project management software to build the job and budget in minutes. Let your mechanics see the live locations of where their services are most needed by integrating your fleet maintenance software with telematics. Connect your digital plans management with cloud-based apps to ensure you’re always working from the most up-to-date plan. Using one platform means the data is clearer, the setup is easier, and you’re able to do more with what you have.
9. Creating Top Talent
How do you attract and retain top talent in an industry that is deeply affected by the labor shortage and a large skills gap? Work from the inside out and use your technology as a way to not only bring people in, but to elevate your current employees to work smarter, with better communication and accountability, and to take on more responsibility with less time.
“Every check I get from an owner, every bit of revenue I’ve got, I didn’t make any of that. I supported the guy who made that,” commented Phillippe Falkner, Safety Director and Business Services Specialist at Ed Bell Construction Company, a heavy civil construction company in the central US. “I think that we forget sometimes that as management, our job is only there to support them.”
Make training all employees on the technology you use a priority; the time put into training will save you money down the line. Encourage mentorship where younger employees can assist with the tech while tenured employees teach the intricacies of the field. Use the technology as a means to get people more involved and integrated into what other job roles and processes do. One of our clients actually pulls the data for who held the most safety meetings compared to the number of days that they worked and declares the winner the Safety Leader of the Year with an embroidered jacket. Create a culture that can leverage technology to work better together.
HCSS is proud to help construction companies take advantage of these trends and grow throughout the project lifecycle.