Future construction technology: why builders need to get onboard
Invest in the future: Why US infrastructure investment is a rallying call for future construction technology innovation
Three new bills-the US Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act-will drive over $2 trillion1 of new infrastructure investment over the next decade, presenting enormous revenue opportunities for building contractors willing to invest in future construction technology.
However, this boom comes at a difficult time for the industry, with six in ten firms experiencing delays due to workforce shortages.2 While McKinsey forecasts up to 3.2 million new jobs could be created by 2032,3 an aging and shrinking construction workforce is creating both a drain on skills and intense competition for specialist workers, with approximately 375,000 unfilled positions as of August 2022.4
How can firms future proof their operations and keep costs under control as construction demand accelerates?
The case for workforce innovation
Quit rates have been on the rise across the US.5 High resignations in construction have been driven by complex factors that reached a tipping point during the Covid-19 pandemic. Studies suggest safety concerns, heavy workloads, reduced access to appropriate equipment, and lack of digital infrastructure caused significant challenges for construction workers, compounded by a perception of a lack of leadership and management skills among those in charge.6
Companies are being encouraged to make substantial adjustments to address these shortcomings, and skill sets highly reliant on specialist manual labor such as construction layout.
In June 2022, President Biden launched the Talent Pipeline Challenge to boost construction workforce investment. The recruitment drive is intended to prepare firms “to meet the demand of implementing the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” according to McKinsey, which includes a dedicated pot of $800 million to fund job training. Construction employers are being asked to diversify their hiring, development, and retention strategies, including investing in tuition assistance, childcare, and transportation costs.7
Although this will be new and uncomfortable territory for some firms, the drive reflects a need to reverse a critical workforce trend that could derail the construction industry’s recovery.
The case for investing in future construction technology
Construction projects are growing more complex and larger in scale, with more money at stake, while the shortage of skilled labor and supervisory staff will only worsen in the absence of radical change. These are deep issues that require new ways of thinking and working.8 And, although technological innovation might not hold all the answers, it’s an important piece of the puzzle that’s worth consideration.
Companies have an opportunity to deliver more cost consistency via construction robotics and automation, enhancing their workforce’s capabilities, making forecasting easier, and ultimately leading to a better reputation among existing and prospective clients. Upgrading technology can also help drive faster, more efficient project delivery, presenting an alternative to the slow speed of manual processes. For example, a construction robot used to tie rebar on the recent Koppel Bridge project in Pennsylvania shaved 34% off job duration on the project.9 Equipment telematics on modern versions of conventional machinery can also signal when preventative maintenance is required, limiting the impact of lengthy and costly repairs further down the line.
While technology investments like this won’t solve the skills gap completely in the short term, savings will free up revenue to invest in building capability in higher-skilled areas of the workforce, while adopting advanced technology will help attract the next generation of construction talent.
Long-term ROI requires a long-term vision
Construction layout is a critical part of any construction project, but traditional methods take time to complete and require execution by a shrinking pool of highly skilled workers. At a time when demand for construction is high, our construction layout robot, HP SitePrint, helps organizations reduce layout and labor costs while minimizing the need for redos. The robot enables faster printing, better legibility, and prints on a variety of surfaces and materials so you can do layouts across different trades.
Learn more about HP SitePrint