People have been building things for thousands of years (probably for much longer, honestly, but this isn’t a history class) and as time passed, we as a species have gotten better and better at it.
Eventually, it got to a point where we realized that “Hey! Maybe our buildings should actually be structurally sound!” or “Perhaps we should make sure that the workers are safe!” Granted, these were changes that needed to be made, but having to accommodate any change, be it good or bad, can be a challenge.
Sometimes, the longer you do something, the more issues can arise from trying to get it done. Nowadays, safe buildings and workers are an absolute must, but contractors still have plenty of problems that they have to soldier through if they want to get anything done. Here’s a list of things that can make a contractor feel like tearing their hair out.
A contractor – being the guy in charge of the whole operation and all – has to keep up with a staggering amount of documents and files – all of which can be hard to keep track of if they’re doing things the old fashioned “paper and pencil” way.
The lack of digitized records can make it harder to gather the necessary information for specific tasks.
Electronically managing paperwork can make the administrative side of being a contractor much easier as files, documents and photos can be accessed and stored in the same place. Being able to pull up important information on the go from a cloud-based system (like say from a phone) can mitigate issues like stoppages and reworks which can quickly spiral into a nightmare.
Speaking of digitized records and cloud-based systems, construction is rapidly changing to include such ideas. As we just discussed, if you want to have an easier time with paperwork, it’s probably best to move away from it actually being on paper and have it all stored in a cloud that can be accessed via a mobile device. There is also Building Information Modeling (BIM) software of all kinds that offers 3D insight to contractors/engineers/architects to better aid them with planning, designing and constructing buildings.
These are only two items that can make construction projects easier and more streamlined – but implementing them can be a difficult task. A contractor has to be sure that using said technologies doesn’t completely change the way the company operates. On top of that (and this is not to step on any toes), the tech should be integrated slowly so as not to alienate any workers who don’t necessarily like the idea of using technology to do their jobs. You know there are some.
Projects Are Getting More Complex
Sometimes, buildings tend to look less like your traditional rectangular building, and more along the lines of a “Look what we can do!” project. The Burj Khalifa – really a lot of Dubai – is like that and that is fantastic. Things like the Burj Khalifa or the yet unrealized Sky Mile Tower show just how innovative humanity can really be. It also shows our knack for making things very difficult.
The more complex a building’s design is, the more there is a need for it to be executed perfectly. A contractor would need workers who can quickly and skillfully construct buildings of this magnitude. They also need to contend with managing massive project resources, budgets and timelines.
There Are Worker Shortages
Perhaps the most pressing challenge that general contractors have to face is the lack of people willing to work in the construction industry. Ever since the industry peaked in the 60s, the number of people working as construction workers went on a steady decline and never looked back. A huge part of it is that there are many people who see construction as dangerous, dirty and difficult. Many don’t feel that entering this field of work is worth getting involved with, as it can be very risky.
The lack of viable workers is so large that there are over 434,000 unoccupied construction jobs within the United States alone. In order to attempt to resolve this issue, contractors have been forced to pay higher wages to subcontractors and simply wait out other projects that are underway, so they can hire some of the workers for their project. That “integration of technology” we talked about earlier is one way in which people are trying to attract more workers, but only time will tell if it will be truly effective.
Although this particular article may come off as a bit of a downer, look at it this way. There isn’t really an industry in the world (at least not one that we can think of offhand) that doesn’t have its flaws and problems.
As brilliant minds get together and communicate, there are plenty of possibilities for positive change in the construction world. In the meantime, however, are there any challenges out there that any of you face as contractors? Let us know what they are and if you’ve found any solutions for them.