The construction industry has seen gains in employment since April, despite overall declines in spending, as workers were brought back to complete necessary emergency projects and jobs begun prior to the pandemic.
For the month of July, total construction employment increased a modest 0.3% to 7.2 million, up from an April low of 6.6 million. While employment has pushed upward the past three months, total spending has decreased since a peak in February.
Construction companies should look to participate in this digital transformation, both on and off the jobsite to build flexible and resilient operations that can promote long-term growth.
Despite the decline in spending, the Dodge Construction Momentum Index, a measure of the first report for nonresidential building projects in planning, saw its first increase of 2020 in July, moving up 3.4%, and suggesting there might be a pick-up in in construction in the second half of the year.
As construction companies continue to deal with the fallout from coronavirus, they should look toward technology to help grow their operations. The pandemic has expedited a significant digital transformation across many industries. Schools and offices have moved to living rooms and kitchen tables, increasing the need for more space at home and faster internet speeds through fiber broadband. Meanwhile, retailers are tracking even more online transactions as consumers shy away from stores. Construction companies should look to participate in this digital transformation, both on and off the jobsite, to build flexible and resilient operations that can promote long-term growth.
We have noted below some recent trends in these areas through discussions with clients.
Jobsite technology trends
With significant social distancing measures and safety guidelines being put into place, contractors are turning to virtual management tools and new onsite technologies to help maintain productivity and prevent delays on jobsites. One notable tool that has gained popularity among construction workers is Spot-R by Triax Technologies. The Spot-R technology uses a wearable sensor for employees (also a tag for equipment) that provides real-time worker activity. This technology provides multiple benefits to contractors including:
- Elevating jobsite management: the technology replaces workers’ badges to get onto a jobsite and provides supervisors with real-time and historic information on who was on the jobsite, when they arrived and where they worked (zones and levels).
- Increased visibility into employee interactions: the technology tracks employee movement and proximity to others on the jobsite, which can help companies assess individual employee risk in the event of COVID-19 infection.
- Improved worker safety: the Spot-R contains a push-button, which alerts superintendent or safety managers in real-time of safety issues and their location.
This technology and others like it are helping construction companies remain open and safe through the pandemic.
Off jobsite technology trends
In addition to the increased use of technology on jobsites, contractors have also identified a need for off-jobsite technology to help keep operations moving forward. In one recent roundtable discussion between RSM and several construction executives, a key theme noted was that each of the companies represented had either recently undergone or was in process of implementing Procore, a construction management software tool, to allow better collaboration among personnel as employees are forced to practice social distancing, with many off-jobsite employees working remotely from their homes.
Additionally, construction management software is becoming more sophisticated to allow for better interaction with other software platforms, providing greater visibility for users of these systems. One example is the integration between Procore and Prophix (a corporate performance management software tool). Integrating Prophix and Procore allows construction companies to automate job cost reporting, WIP reporting, forecasting and cash flow projections from a single platform.