How Construction Technology Can Help Labor Retention
March 31, 2022
While construction companies tend to focus hiring efforts on Millennials and Gen Zers entering and coming up in the business, there’s one group that can get overlooked in the push to alleviate the impact of the skills shortage, and that’s existing labor. The more experienced Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in particular, many of whom have been on the jobsite for at least a couple of decades, are starting to hang up their tool belts for good due to on-the-job injuries or simply bodily wear-and-tear. This is a huge potential loss, however, as it represents a large portion of the current construction workforce. Fortunately, there are physical and digital construction technologies that can help attract and retain every generation and workforce skill level.
The Physical Side of Construction Technology
The physical construction technologies appeal to all workers as they are about personal safety and reducing the physical harm of construction — at any age. These include:
- Robotics that can perform more of the repetitive manual labor that often leads to injury
Years of performing the same tasks over and over can take quite the toll on the human body. It could be loading/unloading materials, laying bricks, painting, plastering, or pushing and pulling objects. In many cases, it can result in a lifetime of aches and physical limitations and shorten workers’ potential long-term employment. Though not yet in common use like jackhammers, these robotic technologies are steadily gaining traction to help relieve humans of these repetitive functions, upping the safety quotient in the process. By eliminating the risk of compounding effects on workers’ bodies, it can extend the years they’ll be able to work. And that may help keep the labor shortage from worsening. In fact, workers can either be reskilled in how to operate the robots, or out in the field alongside them performing the manual work requiring decision making and dexterity the robots may lack.
- Drones to perform more dangerous tasks including surveying, safety and quality inspections
Able to go places humans cannot (or should not), drones are being sent out into the unsafe working conditions that surveyors and inspectors often find themselves in — high atop tall buildings, on the ground amid hazardous site conditions and traffic, below ground in mines, and in hard-to-reach areas along bridges, for example. Rather than going out to always physically conduct the surveys and inspections themselves, these workers can get training in how to maneuver the drones so they can put their human expertise to use once these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are airborne.
- Wearables to proactively promote real-time safety
Wearable devices could very well become just as common as hard hats and safety vests. Often in the form of an unobtrusive smartwatch or arm band, for example, they can monitor vitals from heart rate to body temperature. Some may also be equipped with sensors that can detect location. The benefit? If the wearer has a sudden rapid heartbeat, is at risk of heat exhaustion, suffers a fall or is approaching a hazardous area, the device will transmit this real-time data to a smart device that can alert a supervisor to take action immediately.
- Prefabrication to eliminate onsite construction and installation involving unsafe, awkward postures
The more substantial and complex a project is, the more physically compromising situations workers will find themselves in when installing site-built systems and equipment. They’ll be faced with trying to navigate in tight spaces, often at dangerous heights involving ladders and scaffolding, and assuming uncomfortable, precarious physical positions — all of which can be challenging for skilled veterans and newer workers alike. Instead, prefabricated systems and equipment manufactured in advance offsite can remove much of the personal safety risk and potential for injury. Crews assemble the preconstructed components on the ground once they arrive at the jobsite, relying on heavy equipment to hoist those assembled units in place for an overall safer installation process.
The Digital Side of Construction Technology
The adoption of digitalized construction technology helps by attracting the younger, tech-savvy set to the industry, and also represents an opportunity to retrain and hold onto valuable, seasoned individuals who don’t really want to leave the industry quite yet. These include:
- Bidding and estimating software — Central to construction companies’ survival is their ability to win bids and accurately estimate job costs and timelines. Building off of past project data and valuable insights of veteran workers, these highly scrutinized processes are streamlined using software that eliminates from-scratch estimate creation.
- Building information modeling (BIM) — BIM is the future of construction projects. There’s so much project intelligence that can be gained and leveraged from BIM’s 3D modeling process that links rich data to each element within the model. Among its strengths are visualization capabilities to reduce the risk of jobsite and physical safety hazards, and design capabilities to optimize structural designs as well as prefabricated components.
- Commissioning software — A normally documentation-heavy task, commissioning software centralizes all that documentation up to and including the substantial handover packaging. Far from being a mere checklist-based activity, it’s a vital role that can be entrusted to experienced workers who can more readily spot safety, QA and installation issues for real-time repair and resolution, which in turn can reduce late-stage rework known for higher injury rates.
Incorporating physical and digital construction technology into your company operations can introduce new ways to improve how seasoned individuals perform their work, help you attract new generations of vital employees and keep everyone safer in the process. InEight project and business management can get you there. Request a demo today to learn more.