As 2019 kicks into full gear, the construction industry is in the midst of a fascinating transition, with contractors transforming their operations across the globe to integrate new technologies, ideas and opportunities. Though the political and economic landscapes remain a bit of a fuzzy picture, one thing is clear — there is no shortage of work and opportunities for contractors to significantly grow their businesses in 2019.
Those who stay abreast of the latest industry trends and technologies stand the best chance at excelling in the coming year. With that in mind, here are eight key trends that we expect will have a significant impact on the construction industry in 2019:
1. The Labor Shortage Continues
The lack of skilled workers in construction has continually been the top challenge for contractors for nearly a decade now. Following the recession from 2008 through 2012, when layoffs and lean operations forced many trained construction workers to take work in other industries, contractors have had a hard time convincing them to come back. Coupled with attrition from a significant number of retirements among older generations, the industry has struggled to maintain skilled workforces. And younger generations have spurned construction jobs in favor of other more tech-focused industries. Construction industry associations and many forward-thinking contractors have focused on new recruitment methods over the past couple of years. Among them: revamping degree programs at tech and trade schools, campaigns to attract more women and minorities to prominent construction roles and appealing to younger generations with a host of new construction technology opportunities. Still, the numbers are not where contractors would like them. Expect to see an even bigger push to sell “construction as the industry to make your mark in” for 2019.
2. The Rise of Digital Contractors
The technology evolution in construction will remain strong in 2019 as contractors large and small are realizing it is time to adapt or perish. With cloud computing emerging as the preferred vehicle for business operations worldwide, construction companies are upgrading their business management and operations software systems accordingly. With integrated, cloud-based construction software platforms providing the vehicle for contractors to use the same sets of data across the back office, field and entire project teams, departmental siloes are being torn down and projects are being run in real time, with real, actionable data. This digitization is also eliminating paper and manual processes throughout, saving time, mitigating risks and errors and improving productivity and profitability.
3. Big Data and Business Intelligence
Another benefit of contractors’ digital transformation is the ability to utilize new and emerging technologies they couldn’t before. Perhaps chief among these are data analytic tools and business intelligence solutions. These technologies allow contractor to collect, parse and evaluate far greater amounts of construction data than ever before, and all quite easily. Leading construction business intelligence tools are not only as simple to use as dragging and dropping data into buckets, they are integrated into larger construction ERP solutions, making it easy to analyze virtually any data desired.
4. Mobile Construction Technologies
As mobile devices continue to advance, we use them more and more in our daily lives, and their application in construction is also growing. Thanks to the cloud and intuitive construction apps, workers in the field can access and collect data on their laptops, smartphones, tablets or even wearable devices. Intuitive construction-specific apps also allow them to analyze data right from the jobsite, providing an up-to-the-minute look at the true health and productivity of construction projects. By utilizing the cloud to collect and share data, mobile devices will continue to have a dramatic impact on construction collaboration and productivity in 2019.
5. Drone Use in Construction
Multiple construction industry reports indicate the overall drone industry will develop into a multi-billion-dollar industry over the next decade, with estimates anywhere from $5 billion to $100 billion. And drones’ application in construction is huge. Already many contractors are using drones in their daily work to provide visualization of both work in progress and work remaining, collect data from the jobsite and provide key safety assessments. Drones and the data they collect are also being integrated into other construction technologies, like ERPs to facilitate further analysis of construction data and influence business intelligence and forecasting models.
6. Redefining Construction Design
BIM programs, which use 3D modeling to streamline planning and design of buildings and infrastructure are already a requirement of contractors in the UK and are now gaining steam in North America, as more contractors are adopting BIM into their operations. Now, with 4D and 5D BIM technology being developed and other innovations like the use of augmented reality devices and AI technology to visualize projects from the ground up before construction even begins, construction is moving away from paper and CAD programs and into a new realm where possibilities and new ideas are virtually endless.
7. Modular Construction Advancements
Though pre-fabrication of materials, parts and even buildings has been around for years — especially among mechanical and electrical contractors, we really saw contractors begin to embrace bringing work in house in 2018. More and more contractors are transforming into design-build firms, with modular construction or pre-fab facilities that allow them to begin building in a central location. Because construction of modular buildings can occur simultaneously with site and foundation work at the jobsite, projects can be completed 30% to 50% sooner than traditional construction. Modular construction has many benefits, including reductions in material waste and allowing contractors to sidestep costly weather delays since most modular construction occurs inside a factory. Modular construction also provides greater flexibility for how buildings can be used, allowing them to be disassembled and relocated for new uses or repurposing of materials.
Along with modular construction, the use of robotics and automated smart machines are helping boost productivity and accuracy, while reducing overhead and waste. Robotics are being used for everything from brick laying and foundation building to autonomous construction equipment on jobsites and 3D printing of materials used in both modular/onsite construction. By automating manual processes and reducing time and labor needed on construction projects, contractors are able to deliver projects faster and more efficiently, while offsetting the loss of skilled laborers.
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