July 28, 2020

How Contractors Can Adapt to the "New Normal" in Construction

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When the world seemed to stop due to coronavirus, the construction industry carried on. Even so, construction isn’t an exception to the effects of a pandemic: Forty percent of construction firms reported layoffs in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus, and the unemployment rate rose to over 16 percent in April 2020.

Faced with these facts, you’re not alone if you’re wondering, “What now?” To keep moving forward, contractors can adapt to technology, renew their focus on safety and redefine "normal" work.

With this mindset, you and your team can do what you've always done when faced with a challenge—dig in, and get to work.

Embrace digitalization and adapt to remote work

To move forward with a strong footing, contractors and construction professionals must reimagine and redefine their “normal” work. We can expect remote work (and the tools that make remote work possible) to grow in 2020 and beyond. While it’s often essential to be on-site during construction projects, some tasks can be accomplished remotely to save time and money.

Over the past few months, the virtual meeting app Zoom added more users than it did in all of 2019. Remote meeting technology has empowered contractors and construction professionals to quickly adapt to new health and safety guidelines by switching to virtual planning and project management meetings. Tools like Zoom can help departments connect—regardless of physical location—to communicate and plan.

If and when work cannot be carried out (due to stay-at-home orders or safety precautions), work simulation tools and building information modeling (BIM) tools can help your team plan, simulate building, solve problems and hit the ground running later.

Construction technology like helps contractors connect the various parts of daily construction work, such as their fleet, jobsite and employees, so they can manage these parts from an internet-connected device. By using T, contractors don’t have to be at the jobsite to locate a machine, lockdown an asset or schedule a rental delivery. Service and maintenance technicians can receive work order assignments and located downed machines from their phone with T3's Work Orders solution.

The ability to adapt to digital work won’t just serve your firm now; it will be good practice for the future. Remote-capable construction technology can help your firm digitalize workflows and processes so work doesn’t have to stop.

Safety is more important than ever

Living and working through a global health crisis has reminded us just how important it is to keep our employees, coworkers and customers safe. Fortunately, there’s technology to help construction firms do just that. “Social distancing technologies” help employees and workers keep a safe distance while still completing the job at hand. These technologies come in the form of wearables, such as wristlets or watches, or other personal protective equipment (PPE). For instance, the Halo vibrates on your wrist to let you know you’re too close to another person.

Additionally, construction firms and service providers alike are embracing contactless work to limit exposure to others. At EquipmentShare, Rent customers can track rental machines' real-time location from their computer or mobile device for safe, contact-free delivery and off-rent.

In addition to adapting to low- or no-contact processes, your business can also invest in employees' safety skills. Safety training resources such as OSHA’s Toolbox Talks can keep workplace safety and health top of mind. Ensure your employees have current safety certifications, and provide them with the resources to strengthen their skills and knowledge. You might hire a safety or risk management specialist or strengthen your business’s safety plan. Most importantly, set expectations by following all safety procedures yourself.

Wearables and smart PPE are two forms of technology that could be especially beneficial for construction workers on busy jobsites. While some of these tools are still in production phases, these concepts quickly came to fruition following the pandemic. When disruption takes place, new technology is always close behind.

Reimagine and reform to help your business stay ahead

A recent article by McKinsey details seven steps for construction to take to emerge stronger after coronavirus. These steps include reimagining and reforming what efficient work at your firm: “Opportunities to push the envelope of technology adoption will be accelerated by rapid learning about what it takes to drive productivity when labor is unavailable. The result: a stronger sense of what makes business more resilient to shocks, more productive, and better able to deliver to customers.”

Is your firm adapting appropriately the rapid changes the coronavirus has brought about? What are you currently doing well, and what could be improved? How can technology help, and how can you continue to drive productivity? Construction automation technology can help teams increase output with fewer employees. With assistance from a remote-controlled machine, like an autonomous compactor, your team could increase output while saving time.

That’s not where the benefits of construction automation tech stops, though. Many automated solutions exist to help your firm increase safety, efficiency and productivity. Jobsite technology like  can digitize time-consuming processes, like work order assignments and employee time tracking, for faster, clearer communication. Saving time positively affects your bottom line and helps your firm protect itself in uncertain times.

It takes valuable time out of your day to find out who was on-site during a safety incident or track down a mechanic to learn how they resolved a complicated work order. With a digital solution like Time Cards, employees can track their hours from their phones. They can add details about the job, tasks and work orders worked during their shift. Authorized users access Time Cards information in T3, resulting in complete work transparency, faster communication and better scheduling.

At the end of the day, technology adoption is just reimagining what work looks like. It may seem counterintuitive to look for opportunities to operate your business in a different way in the present moment. But being flexible, adaptable and open to technology can help your firm increase efficiency and resiliency.

Construction is resilient

Construction managers will need to help their firms adapt to the "new normal" of working remotely and leaning on digital workflows in an industry that’s always been hands-on. Safety managers can explore new safety technology in order to protect the health of their employees. Finally, contractors must remain open to working differently and embrace automation and digitalization in order to continue growing and stay competitive.

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construction technology, 2020, adapting