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Building a Future on Data

One of the hurdles facing the construction industry right now is a skilled labor shortage. This isn’t a new issue per se, but it is one that continues to hinder the industry. And, honestly, if things don’t change, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Back in 2015, a nationwide survey of construction firms conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America Assn., found that 86% of contractors have trouble filling key positions with qualified candidates.

Last year, a report commissioned by HomeAdvisor found that difficulties hiring skilled labor is preventing construction businesses from growing. About 93% of those surveyed in the HomeAdvisor report say they believe their business would grow if it weren’t for hiring challenges.

The fact is that construction is facing a generational gap in its workforce that is not helping the industry grow—and it’s certainly not helping the industry innovate.

The current construction workforce is getting older, and the industry isn’t attracting many millennials. Why? It could be a lack of exposure, a lack of quality training programs, or even a negative perception of construction as an undesirable industry for such a connected generation.

In the long term, the skilled labor shortage could become even worse if things don’t begin to change. The current generation will eventually retire, and if there’s no one to take over, then we as a country are in a world of hurt.

When it comes to adopting IoT (Internet of Things) solutions, the technology may be able to alleviate a labor shortage in some respects, but many companies aren’t going to pursue new ventures if they can’t even cover their most basic needs.

If you really think about it, it’s a shame because millennial involvement in the construction industry is great for innovation. These young workers are often more open to finding technology solutions to solve the problems businesses are facing.

But moving on to the next hurdle: economic uncertainty. Again, if a construction company is unsure about being able to cover its most basic needs, it’s less likely to pursue new technology. Ironically, in some cases, this very technology could save the company a lot of time and money.

But as a business owner myself, it’s not hard to understand the hesitation. As a new president has taken over in the White House, a lot of construction folks are taking a wait-and-see approach to how this administration is going to affect the industry and the economy in general.

A shake-up with a new Administration can always cause some uncertainty as the dust settles, and this uncertainty can prove to be a current, but temporary hurdle in construction.

Another point that needs be addressed while talking about the economy, is the rise in costs for materials and labor that construction companies continue to face. The 2017 construction economic update released in January from Associated Builders and Contractors says construction input prices collectively rose 3.8% on a year-over-year basis. This represents the fastest year-over-year rate of materials price inflation since early 2012, the association says.

If the trend continues, construction companies must look to other ways to streamline processes and cut costs—perhaps by adopting IoT solutions. And it’s worth noting that one of the most pressing hurdles hindering IoT adoption in construction is interoperability and a lack of common standards. This is something that my team and I here at Connected World and Constructech magazines are very passionate about.

Construction is grappling with an influx of data as businesses adopt IoT solutions, often by piecing together various technologies and systems that add value to their operations. But without industrywide standards, it can be difficult to get all of these systems to “talk” to each other.

Interoperability as a hurdle is something we hear over and over again from construction companies that want to adopt the IoT. That’s exactly why we’re in the midst of an initiative called “Baseline to Build On.”

We’ve partnered with construction professionals to develop a standard that will set expectations for technology providers regarding the need for integrated, collaborative solution sets.

We’ve held two Baseline to Build On events so far, and the discussions we’re having are absolutely vital to the future of this industry. There are two more events in the series, and I’m looking forward to what we will accomplish in addressing this particular industry hurdle.

The final obstacle has to do with data. Construction companies that are adopting IoT technology often have another challenge: figuring out what to do with all of this data. Making data actionable is easier said than done, in some cases, but it’s absolutely vital to making the most out of an IoT solution or deployment. Data for data’s sake isn’t doing anyone any good. The key is leveraging data to make more informed business decisions. more informed business decisions often mean faster and better business decisions.

In construction, realtime data about assets, project progress, employees, and more can concretely impact workflow by removing a lot of guesswork and significantly reducing time lags.

If construction companies can sort out how to make data actionable, they can often use this data to discover new efficiencies, catch potential problems before they cause incidents or delays, improve jobsite safety, and take steps toward on-time, on-budget project delivery.

All of this should be music to construction companies’ ears. And while some hurdles, such as the labor shortage, may take years to sort out; other hurdles, such as a lack of standards, could be solved much more quickly if the industry comes together to tackle it. Just imagine what we can achieve then.

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By |2017-05-31T13:11:24+00:005/31/2017|

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