Can Digital Transformation Solve Construction’s Labor Challenge?

by | Feb 7, 2022

Safe Site Check In Op Ed Three Cost Effective Safety Practices in 2021

While there are lots of factors that contribute to the success or failure of a construction tech startup, one of the biggest variables is labor.

Today, there’s no sign of the construction labor shortage gap closing. In fact, it’s getting worse. According to Associated Builders and Contractors, construction businesses will need hundreds of thousands of workers over the next two years to keep up with construction demands. These problems take time to fix. This is where digital transformation and the massive investments in construction technology come into play.

The easy and naive response to the talent shortage is to invest more in technology. Yet the majority of technology solutions today don’t address the issue. Many of the latest technologies are focused on what’s happening in the office and not the jobsite. And yet the jobsite is how a construction firm makes its money.

For some general contractors, and especially workers, there’s a lot of conversation and consternation that technology will replace the need for construction talent. This is simply not true. Here are two reasons why.

  1. Digital technology augments, not replaces, the roles of the jobsite supervisor and project manager. Technology makes it easier for them to manage projects and people, and interact with clients and site visitors.
  2. The demand for buildings is steadily increasing and it requires workers to be onsite to help construct them. Consider the fact that every $1B in construction spending generates an average of at least 5,700 construction jobs.

Yet construction productivity, as promised by digital transformation, won’t take off until the workforce on the jobsite is brought into the digital era. Since construction tradespeople want to build, not enter, interpret or manipulate data, digital transformation will only happen if productivity-enhancing solutions are easy to use and improve productivity almost immediately.

This is likely to lead to a new sub category in construction tech: Site Management. Going beyond project management offerings, site management solutions will be developed for workers on job sites.

Since every worker is already carrying a smartphone, site management solutions will be app based. They won’t entirely solve the staffing issue, but they’ll help close the productivity gap by streamlining activities and functions that are time consuming or administrative in nature. Essentially, actions that detract from the actual building process. They’ll also connect to the back office, project manager and site supervisor without adding more work.

Opportunity awaits those that address the jobsite productivity growth issue through digital transformation. They aren’t easy problems to solve but we can use technology to shave minutes or hours previously spent on administrative activities on the jobsite.