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When "We're Hiring" No Longer Works

May 16, 2022

Addressing the Construction Industry’s Labor Force Challenges

From healthcare and retail to building and construction, the ongoing nationwide labor shortage is having a far-reaching impact on almost every industry. Companies of all kinds are marshaling their resources to find enough employees with the right skill sets that will enable them to thrive as an organization.

The global pandemic served as a monumental disruptor, reshaping norms:

  • The construction industry lost one million workers during the initial COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and has yet to win back 1/5 of those workers. (Business Insider)
  • Eighty-eight percent of contractors report moderate to high difficulty finding skilled workers. (US Chamber of Commerce)
  • Forty-nine percent of civil contractors are putting higher bids on projects due to a shortage of skilled workers. (Civil Quarterly)

Add to this the ongoing monetary and time pressures on every construction job, and construction stakeholders of every kind realize they must rely on technology innovations to go faster, maintain safety, minimize learning curves for the labor force and use solutions that reduce labor hours needed on site, and drive costs down to remain competitive.

Riding the Technology Wave

In recent years, technology has taken a front seat on the construction site in a variety of ways. Equipment is GPS enabled. Site plans are on the cloud. Building models are digital 3D images. Tablets and cell phones have replaced paper drawings.

The shift to digital interactions is creating ripples across the construction industry – notorious for being hesitant to big change:

  • Sixty-six percent of civil contractors say new technology has increased productivity. (Civil Quarterly)
  • Forty-one percent of civil contractors say new technology has improved their ability to manage project budget. (Civil Quarterly)

As younger workers enter the industry, there is an openness to apply new thinking and fulfill project needs with digital processes that expedite learning and building. These approaches also typically require fewer people at a time when finding, hiring, and training the right people is an uphill battle.

The new generation brings a different mindset to the construction instruction. They have a high capacity for adopting new technology, collaborating digitally, and enter with baseline knowledge of design software such as Building Information Modeling.

A Framework for Smart Formwork

When the time comes to select equipment, contractors turn to the companies they know can deliver safe, cost-effective tools. With the labor shortage changing how projects can be staffed, the ability to use equipment that is safe, easy to learn, and fast to assemble is even more important.

Starting from the planning phase, using PERI QuickSolve allows construction professionals to digitally draw concrete wall layouts and divide concrete pours to match the project cycling plan. The tool generates a formwork design around the wall layout along with a parts list and 3D rendering, providing an optimal configuration proposal to purchase or rent PERI wall and slab formwork solutions.

QuickSolve enables technology and digital renderings to be part of the process from the start and ensure the optimal formwork configuration is selected for the project. It also requires fewer personnel to be involved in the planning and selection of components by delivering a list of necessary systems.

With new technologies and software at their disposal, contractors who choose to engage a supplier early in the planning phase can better coordinate their work, often leading to projects that can be completed sooner and with fewer on-site workers.

Formwork and scaffolding solutions from PERI USA are designed to reduce labor – from fewer crew on site to faster timelines for assembly – with safety at the forefront. Access points are built in on the ground, assembly is ergonomically easier, and engineering support is incorporated from the start.

Consider the DUO Lightweight Handset Formwork system from PERI. Weighing only four pounds per square foot and featuring conveniently shaped panels, DUO is designed to be handled without a crane. Limited parts and an intuitive assembly sequence make DUO ideal for small crews, no matter the size of the project. DUO panels are connected using a red coupler resembling a door handle in both appearance and simplistic motion for installation.

For the crew working on The Loop at Mattapan Station in Boston, Massachusetts, SKYDECK – the lightweight and safe panelized slab formwork system from PERI – increased productivity on site and helped achieve the tight deadline. The simple and systematic assembly sequences required minimal training, further accelerating operations.

Modularized formwork systems can be preassembled in a controlled environment and include access points and accessories, allowing crews to work safely at all times. By providing dedicated attachment points for safe use, crews no longer need to create access points while at height or spend time precariously accessing formwork.

The infrastructure bill being considered by Congress this fall would make a substantial investment in improving roads and bridges across the nation. It also has the propensity to create two million new construction-related jobs per year over the next decade.

Translation: The labor crunch shows no signs of abating in the near term, which requires new thinking and approaches. That means construction professionals will need to look at ways to compensate for the new normal. In this way, the drive to select innovative formwork and scaffolding solutions – ones that save time and money – will play an even bigger role in the decision-making process as projects take shape.