By Michael Drost on March 10, 2022Categories: Construction
Are you curious as to when contractors can expect inflation to stop eating up their profits? Or how construction technology solutions can help reduce costs and improve productivity when qualified workers are increasingly hard to find? Then you’ve come to the right place. In our two-part series on the 2022 U.S. Construction Technology Outlook, we conduct a deep dive into some key industry trends, as well as provide a contractor’s view on how construction technology solutions like Autodesk Build can help companies keep a competitive edge in 2022.
In part two of our series, we take a look at the 2022 construction technology outlook from the contractor’s perspective, featuring insights provided by Matthew Cordova, director of construction technology for Hermanson Company, a mechanical contractor based out of Kent, WA. Matthew talked about his experiences within the industry during a recent Construction Cosmos webinar, the 2022 U.S. Construction Outlook.
Supply chain and labor shortages are real
Two noteworthy industry trends we identified in part one of our series are persistent issues with supply chains and worker shortages, and these issues have real consequences for contractors. According to Cordova, disruptions in supply chains can seriously impact the ability to maintain schedules. Contractors win and lose jobs based on their ability to be on-site and perform work on set schedules, so being able to order materials or plan staging in a timely manner is paramount. Likewise, Cordova said finding qualified workers is a serious challenge, as older workers retire and younger workers fail to enter the skilled trades that contractors depend on.
Education is key
To combat the skilled labor shortage, Cordova recommended the industry embrace education. Construction is not the same industry that it was a few decades ago. Jumping into a skilled trade can offer numerous career paths with great benefits, whether it’s learning to fabricate metal, welding pipe, electrical schematics, or becoming skilled in technology solutions like AutoCad or Revit. Making an effort to convince younger workers that construction is an industry worth entering will go a long way to replenish the skilled workers that companies are losing to retirement and other factors.
Construction technology changes the landscape
Cordova said that 25 years ago, contractors would estimate and make bids off paper drawings. Oftentimes when they went in to begin construction, they would discover issues that would have to be handled via requests for information. This would force construction to stop until the issue is resolved, schedules change and change orders are processed. Fast-forward to 2022, and now architects, engineers, and contractors are working on the same integrated design project hosted on solutions like BIM 360 or Autodesk Build. This changes the landscape immensely. 3D BIM models can be leveraged for material acquisition. Companies can produce the building materials for ordering months before they’re needed to be installed. This ensures contractors can maintain schedules and meet deadlines for clients.
Top-down, or bottom-up? Why not both?
Cordova said that it’s important for contractors to adopt a hybrid, top-down/bottom-up approach to implementing technology solutions. Initially, Hermanson Company took a top-down approach. They met with trusted partners like U.S. CAD to identify new tech and come up with a vision for implementation. This vision needs to be explained and processed at a high level, with buy-in from stakeholders and owners that this vision will become reality and worth investing in. Then the next step is a bottom-up approach, which is arguably more important. Each discipline, whether it is the shop workers, the foreman, detailers, etc requires focused attention to ensure the solution will work as designed. These disciplines will identify problems with the tech and offer solutions that will help make implementation smoother, improve production, and ultimately increase profits.