Every construction company is intrinsically the same. The businesses that make up the construction industry make money by having their employees on the jobsite and productive. But on some days, the task just to make a little progress seems to be a monumental undertaking. The construction company of today faces challenges that, to a great extent, haven’t been seen before. Because of this, the answers for many of the “big stresses” are not readily apparent. Here are some of the big “stresses” that are now widely felt within the industry.
- Managing Compliance to Regulations – It seems that some level of government is adding a new “to do” to the already burdened schedule of construction businesses every day. Making sure that each job is in full compliance with the complex and sometimes confusing regulations of entities and laws such as OSHA, ADA, HUD, and the EPA is an unending maze that is difficult and time-consuming to negotiate. Utilizing project management and workflow software in conjunction with a continually updated database that is accessible from the field will alleviate some of this challenge.
- Business Strategy – Most small to medium-size construction businesses of today are just trying to keep their customers happy and to keep their financial heads above water. There is really no time allotted to plan for the next step. Even if there were, the payoff isn’t immediate, so strategy planning is put on the back burner.
The challenging part of this time-driven lapse in planning is the fact that many of the small to mid-size companies within our industry do not have a plan for viability post-disaster. Certainly, planning for the next stage of company growth is important and should be considered, but a plan to keep the company afloat, its data secured, and its employees paid during a time of unexpected difficulty brought on by natural disaster or criminal/terror activity should be seriously considered.
- Coordination – This is the age-old frustration of construction management. The employees on the job site don’t communicate well with the office staff, and the office staff doesn’t really understand what the tradesmen do on a typical day. This breakdown in cooperation and project management often leads to confusion at best and conflict at worst.
Across all industries, a full 57% of projects fail due to a breakdown in communication costing the companies involved around 37 billion dollars a year.
- Finding the Right Employees – From the eighteen-year-old labourer just starting out to the subcontractor that is desperately needed to complete a project phase, it is hard to find the right people.
The migration of jobs and labor force to large population centres makes that all the more difficult. In fact, the jobs that had been available in the suburbs for the past ten years or so are now migrating back to city centres and the workforce seems to be following the trend.
- Leadership Training – Many in construction company leadership are so focused on getting the current project wrapped up and the next bid in on time that they don’t give any real thought to the future. In the back of their minds, they know that if they are going to grow, they are going to have to get employees on a management training track. However, because it isn’t urgent today, it never gets tackled.
Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on this issue. At the moment baby-boomers make up the majority in senior leadership positions within the industry. Time must be taken to train and educate those within the ranks so that leadership positions do not sit vacant or worse be filled with those who are incompetent or ill-equipped for the role.
Because companies around the country are facing some, or all of these “stresses”, a few observations are in order:
- Observation #1 – Some or all of these issues can be alleviated or solved through investment in and use of new technology.
- Observation #2 – A vast majority of small to medium size construction companies are ignorant of or stubbornly resisting the advantages that technology brings to the construction industry.
- Observation #3 – A company that is willing to invest in and deploy technology into the field can get out ahead of their competition.
Whether it is using mobile advances to speed up and improve office-to-field communication, cloud technology to improve project management, or online leadership courses funneled directly to the jobsite for downtime training, the advantages that new technology can bring to today’s forward-thinking construction firms are truly infinite. It is true that there is an investment required and a learning curve, but the benefits to the long-term viability and the competitive stance of a company that utilizes technology are substantial.
Working with an Information Technology firm (commonly called an “IT managed service provider”) can center construction firms firmly on a foundation from which they can grow in this area. The implementation and deployment of technology doesn’t have to happen all at once, but the hardware and software tools that are available through an IT managed service provider will better equip the modern business to move forward. A small investment today in laying a technological foundation will pay significant dividends in a company’s future.
The advancement of technology has opened up a new area of exploration and business advantage for the construction firm: It is the field of construction information technology. It is a quickly expanding part of this industry. This is mostly as a result of the fact that new tech solutions can ease some of stresses that the modern age has brought to the construction industry as a whole and individual construction companies in particular.