It may seem contradictory to attribute gains in productivity in construction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the crisis has pushed changes that have the potential to deliver benefits that continue long after the coronavirus threat has finally diminished.
As we all know, the construction industry has historically lagged other markets in technology adoption. Yet, requirements for social distancing have driven the industry to implement technology tools that it might otherwise have only considered prior to the pandemic.
Take cloud-based project management software. It may have peaked the interest of construction firms coming into 2020, but remained low on the priority list. As the crisis unfolded, however, the incentive to implement such software became more urgent, pushing a number of companies to adopt it sooner than expected in order to maximize safety for personnel and ensure all stakeholders, internal and external, maintain visibility into project progress without the need to physically visit the site.
Advanced communications tools have seen a surge in use during the pandemic. All manner of industries were forced to become proficient in platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx and others to maintain communication not only between employees but with clients, dealers, suppliers and other critical resources. Mobile communications apps have also proliferated over the past months as companies strive for more efficient means to stay in touch while staying apart. Training moved largely online, and simulation technology utilizing virtual, augmented and/or mixed reality found a larger place in both training and in obtaining and maintaining equipment.
Kyle Peacock, CEO, Peacock Construction, believes a number of the technologies being implemented today will continue to have a place on jobsites in future. He foresees technologies like security cameras and drones used to monitor site activities during COVID-19 becoming “ubiquitous on jobsites” as their features advance and costs continue to come down.
Peacock also predicts we’ll see increased use of technologies such as robotics on jobsites. “This has been coming for a while and addresses the demand for automation, faster building and the skilled labor shortage while also supporting social distancing,” he points out.
Even a tech tool like digital check-in when entering sites is likely to have a place long term, eliminating inefficient paper-based forms and visitor logs. “This is because contractors see the value of knowing who is on site at any given time for safety and security beyond the virus,” Peacock asserts.Though we can only hope the current incentives to use these and other tech tools will be short lived, the productivity benefits will continue to exist with the majority of the technologies being applied. Exploring their advantages now means you’ll have a leg up on those who didn’t and can be that much more productive and profitable as the U.S. economy and construction activity continue to recover.