What is keeping contractors up at night? Two big areas I hear a lot are the labor shortage and the supply chain—and the two challenges actually go hand-in-hand. Both affect project timelines, ultimately having an real impact on the bottomline.
Looking at the numbers from the ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors), we know in 2022 there was a deficit of 650,000 workers to keep up with demand. Going into this year, 2023, the number is not much lower. There is still a deficit of 590,000 workers. This is a conversation I was having recently with Beth Buerger, director of product management for SYNCHRO, Bentley Systems, on The Peggy Smedley Show.
“A lot has changed since we went through COVID,” says Buerger. “From a personal level, we have experienced issues, and delays, and disruptions with the tiny things, and then if you think of construction, you have a massive scale of having a supply-chain disruption.”
She explains the direct impact here is higher costs and more schedule delays. Diesel has doubled in price since 2021. “Steel mills is the other thing we have noticed. There is a statistic out there that steel mill products are up 123% since August of 2021,” she adds.
The question then becomes: How do we mitigate this risk and improve management strategies with the use of cutting-edge technology and data. Digital transformation, collaboration, BIM (building information modeling), and lean construction can all help, resulting in better project management, minimizing the risk of costly schedule delays and rising costs.
“When you talk about supply chain as a whole, you can get software that really focuses on the supply-chain management digitally,” says Buerger. “This will help for all of construction companies optimize procurement, inventory management, logistics, and then you come back to cost and time. It leads to cost savings and better resource allocation. You can track progress, which is huge. You can do that right on site where you have status visualization of your model.”
The benefit here is better quality decisions and less delays, which leads to more savings. It also allows all stakeholders to communicate and share information in the same location in realtime, ultimately getting everyone on the same page regarding materials, equipment, delivery schedules, and more.
“We know there are a lot of great point solutions out there and they are awesome for what they do, right,” says Buerger. “They provide specialized functionality, probably a shorter learning curve, and they do it well, but if these contractors want to elevate their workflows, they want to start looking at platforms that cover their entire project lifecycle—that you get better communication, comprehensive analytics, which ultimately leads to better data flows and collaboration between all the project stakeholders. You want to be able to pull together your work, you want to make it repeatable, you want to refine the process, and really that will allow for continuous improvement and then overall just better decision making.”
At the end of the day, we are seeing how technology can be a powerful solution to the challenges construction professionals face on the job every day, helping alleviate some of the stress related to the supply chain and the labor shortage.
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