The construction workforce is facing challenges of a magnitude that it has not seen before. Skilled labor shortages combined with an aging workforce are becoming an increasingly concerning problem. Contractors are feeling more pressure than ever to change their processes and create a new normal. Multiple economic factors are driving the need for rapid acceleration in construction technology adoption as contractors are faced with meeting growing demand while mitigating construction cost inflation. In this face of adversity, the innovative contractors who are adopting technology are leaping ahead and becoming leaders in their markets. What does it take to be a game changer in construction? How can you leap to the forefront of innovation in the industry?
According to McKinsey and Company, construction posted 440,000 vacant positions in 2022 marking the most significant number of open jobs in history. Associated General Contractor’s (AGC) Workforce Shortage Report states that 87% of firms have unfilled hourly craft positions. This discouraging news comes on the heels of the over $1 trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that promises to fill the backlog of already shorthanded contractors across the nation. In addition to workforce shortages, the crew that is currently on the jobsite is aging fast. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a construction worker is 42.5 years old, an average that is alarmingly close to the average age of retirement at 61. These numbers and statistics point to one simple fact; contractors and subcontractors must get innovative to create a sustainable workforce that can overcome the challenge of repairing America’s crumbling infrastructure.
When traditional labor needs help, technology has become the solution. Throughout time construction has realized the need and adopted several generations of smarter equipment, from the hand shovel to the steam shovel, excavators, and now Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation. Many contractors have already turned to digital solutions like BIM modeling, advanced project management software, mapping tools, and more to improve their productivity. These tools are powerful but do not address the remaining construction needs where they lie on the jobsite. For technology to truly create a sustainable and healthy workforce, it needs to address a specific jobsite problem and have the ability to work side by side with a crew. The “dance” of combining construction crews and automation is where game changers are made. This new robotic revolution is giving construction firms the ability to consistently meet rapidly growing demand and reduce schedule risks while improving safety and extending the career longevity of crew members.
Seeing is believing, and the best way to see how jobsite robotics can address your specific problems is by seeing the technology work on your actual projects. The first step to unleash the true potential of automation & autonomy on the jobsite is to give the technology the opportunity to show you what it can do. Test Drives or Pilot Programs are excellent opportunities that allow the contractor and the crew to get their first experience with new tech in a risk-free manner. While the technology handles the repetitive, monotonous, back-breaking work, crews will be freed to do higher-value work elsewhere on the job, making precious manhours go further. With a wide range of jobsite robots entering the market, including our Rebar-Tying Robot, TyBOT®, construction layout robots, painting robots and autonomous excavating units, those in construction have plenty to explore and learn about. Your first steps into robotic adoption will help build trust in the tool and help make advancing to the next phase of the process easier.
After piloting the tech, the next step is to accept it as a full-time member of the crew. With the technology introduced, teams begin to realize even more value, see real schedule savings, and start to see the potential to drive more efficiency by modifying some existing processes around the technology. TyBOT customers who have reached this level of adoption are experiencing between 25% - 35% productivity and schedule gains during their bridge deck rebar installation. When equipped with the latest tools of the trade, a previously shorthanded crew can complete major phases of the critical construction path faster than ever.
The final step on the road to innovating infrastructure is full adoption into the organization’s culture. Full integration requires moving from reactively tweaking workflows on the job to proactively factoring in the advantages that technology provides and adapting new processes to optimize the entire project. From gaining a competitive bidding advantage to increasing capacity to complete more work with existing crews, reaching this final stage of creating a modern workforce is the true game changer. In the face of declining productivity and expanding labor shortages, the time for the construction industry to increase its adoption of technology has never been better.
New tools of the trade have arrived on the jobsite to bridge the labor gap and modernize the construction crews. Those who test new technology, integrate it into their crews, and make it part of their culture will stand out above the rest during difficult times as leaders in the industry.