Making Your Job Site More Productive

For a century or more, productivity experts have been looking at factories and office buildings. In those environments, most of the variables are carefully controlled. If an assembly line is bottlenecking, you can create parallel lines at the crucial point, and move on. On construction sites, labor productivity is affected by more dynamic variables. This means you need to approach it from a larger framework, viz:

Sequencing

A great deal of downtime is caused by improper sequencing of subcontractors, or of discrete job elements. You can think of this as a human-resource corollary to zero-inventory management. But here it is “zero-waiting-around-for-the-other-guy-to-finish-something”.

Crowding

Crowding is the most common breakdown of a good workflow. You cannot put too many people in the same space at the same time. When scheduling subcontractors, think about whether their work is going to impair—via dust, fumes, or foot traffic—adjoining work. Think about what time frame after they are done will be needed for things to dry, cure, cool down, etc. And then give all those margins a good margin for error.

Labor Fatigue and Scheduling

Human labor productivity starts to decline almost immediately once we go to work. Some studies show that the most productive workers are those who work relatively short days and take breaks up to 25% of the time. Needless to say, that is not the kind of worker that most of us are instinctively eager to hire. But think about this a different way: if you are working into the wee hours, you are paying people overtime for hours in which they are almost certainly less productive than the normal working day. You are paying more for less. How do you prevent that? By making realistic estimates of how long the job will take. If you have to rush, you should seriously consider hiring a second shift rather than the “zombie shift” of overtime workers.

The Missing Specialist

There are few labor markets so slow that you can’t find a guy to haul lumber. But scheduling your electrician or your plumber may be a little more tricky. And if you can’t get the electrician in until Wednesday, you may find that there’s not much to do on Monday and Tuesday. There will still be people on the payroll, though. The takeaway here is to schedule around your scarcest subcontractors and make sure they are reliable.

The Future of Construction

The construction industry has been around for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean that is has stopped evolving. The modern industry is undergoing a great deal of change to take advantage of new technologies and to help solve a variety of problems, such as climate change. Many of these changes are quite significant and will lead to new opportunities for home buyers, so everyone can benefit from learning a little bit about them.

Robotic Workers

Increasing automation is rapidly making every industry more productive, and the construction industry is no exception. There are already cases where robots can do work much more quickly and cheaply than human workers, such as Hadrian, a robot that lays bricks.

Robots are also appealing due to safety concerns. Construction can be a fairly dangerous industry, especially when working on large projects. That creates a need for elaborate and expensive safety measures to protect human workers, but there is no such need to protect robots from injuries. Since robots are often more durable than humans, they can survive accidents that would kill a human worker. Even if they are damaged, the accident is less important than an injury to a human because the robots are not living, feeling creatures.

These factors allow robots to drive down the cost of construction. That’s excellent news for consumers, especially for people who want to buy their first home on a budget. As construction robots improve, this change will become even more pronounced.

Connected Devices

The Internet of things allows instant communication between devices, and that communication can allow them to coordinate their automated processes with ease. This impacts the construction industry when people want their homes to take advantage of the technology, but it also helps with the construction process. Workers can use this technology to predict damage to machines based on the earliest indications and plan repairs before they are necessary. It can also gather a huge amount of data, which makes it easier for engineers and architects to improve their designs for the future.

Information Technology

Computers are gathering more data than ever, and also helping people to manage it. Humans could never hope to sort through all of the information that a construction company gathers, but big data technology can do it for them. After it picks out the important information, companies can use it to guide their decisions.
Programs such as Building Information Modeling are also helping to coordinate projects. These programs gather all of the information about a site, and put it together in a way that every type of professional can understand. All of the workers can access and comment on that data, which makes coordination easy and cuts down on administrative costs.

How Technology is Keeping Job Sites Safer

As the world moves deeper into the digital age, emerging technologies are being used to make construction sites safer and more efficient. These tools offer the additional benefits of being very affordable and having a low barrier of entry. The following describes how technology is improving the construction industry.

Drones

Drones are an advanced method for surveying land, keeping an eye on progress and spotting safety issues. They move much faster than humans and are cheaper to operate than manned aircraft. The devices are able to collect data more quickly and accurately than workers and provide an excellent return on investment. They are also lightweight, quite easy to operate, and have to ability to zoom in for greater detail.

Real Time Location

Many construction companies utilize a real-time location system (RTLS) to synchronize their modeling with the actual built result. This improves job-site safety through tracking worker behavior and locating possible trouble zones. An RTLS uses Bluetooth technology to transmit data and is similar to Boston’s mass transit authority using an app to observe user behavior for service improvement.

Virtual Reality

The term virtual reality conjures up images of video game players wearing headsets over their eyes, but it also has practical uses in the real world. In the construction industry, virtual reality puts everyone at the center of the project and is a very helpful tool for teaching safety protocols. It also educates engineers and architects about the realities of construction as many of them do not have experience on job sites and do not understand the danger involved.

Cloud Computing

Construction companies use cloud computing to store and analyze the data produced by their projects. This provides easy access to information about job sites and the workers involved with them. It also allows companies to be flexible in terms of meetings. Unlike an office, a construction site does not have a conference room, which means meetings must be held through computers and tablets. Having all data stored in a common virtual space is the equivalent of being everywhere at once and makes meetings easier and more efficient.

With the addition of technology, the construction industry will continue to undergo changes as it moves into the future. Contractors have embraced and will continue to use these modern methods to increase efficiency, lower costs and enhance safety at all job sites.

The 3D Printed House

In the United States, homelessness is no small matter; in 2015 nearly 1.5 million people were staying in homeless shelters with an additional 578,424 people living without shelter – that is to say, on the street. The national rate of homelessness was 17.7 per 10,000 people, ranging as high as 111 per 10,000 in areas like Washington D.C.. Of the homeless population, in 2014 8.6% of those without shelter were veterans, men and women who have served this country.

Organizations like Habitat for Humanity work to actively combat the issue of homelessness by building houses and residences in areas of high need, but the demand is so much higher than the supply that using this method as a solution likely remains unfeasible.

That’s where 3D printing comes in.

You’ve likely seen videos on the internet of people 3D printing everything from toys to cooking utensils to automobiles and everything in between. For many, many years after it was first invented in the 1980s, 3D printing was something that was far too costly, and therefore exclusive, for anyone who wasn’t wealthy. It wasn’t until 2007 that the first system was released that cost under $10,000, but even then the market didn’t open up like it was hoped. The public demanded a system for under $5,000 which became a new mark to hit. In January 2009, the first system became commercially available for purchase in the form of a kit. Thus began the 3D printer craze we see now.

Although we typically see the entertainment side of 3D printing, some amazing progress has been made in areas that could truly benefit society. A recent development may even be able to take a huge stab at the issue of homeless across the nation; earlier this month a house was 3D printed in Russia and on site in less than 24 hours.

You can watch a time-lapsed video of it here.

The San-Francisco-and-Russia based company called Apis Cor developed a printer that can build and paint the concrete walls of a house in just about 24 hours. Once the walls of the house is completed, the workers remove the printer – which looks more like a crane than a printer –  and add the rest of the structure, like the windows, doors, and the roof. Once completed, the house can last for up to 175 years.

Not only are they quick and easy to build, these houses are also incredibly affordable, costing only about $10,000 to make, with the most expensive portion being the windows and the doors.

On a mass scale, these amazing and innovative houses offer a feasible and affordable solution to help combat the issue of homelessness in America.

How to Find Skilled Workers

The overall shortage of skilled labor can be quite the headache from many different companies. The biggest problem for businesses is the overtime payout they have to issue because these positions are going unfilled, but the work still keeps coming in. Luckily, we live in a technological age and there are a multitude of ways employers can reach the skilled laborers they’re looking for.

Social Media

In the age of technology, getting the word out is much easier than ever before. The trick is getting your company in front of the right people. You can use a variety of social media sites to entice skilled laborers into checking out your company. Their visit to your profile could have them searching for the careers page on your website in a matter of minutes. It’s all about messaging and how you brand your business.

Content to Attract Customers & Employees

Consider this a continuation from above because content is what you’ll develop and deploy onto social media. Quality content should always serve one of two roles. Each post, tweet, or image should be there to attract customers or future employees. If you’re able to do both with one piece of content, you’re doing it right. Conveying a message to your target audience is your shot to show them what you have to offer.

Bring on Apprentices

Apprentices are an investment in your future and it’s a win-win for both parties involved. The apprentice needs to get real life experience to hone their skills and you need help rather quickly. Some companies hesitate from this idea because an apprentice doesn’t come with years of experience. They also need a lot more coaching, but everyone had to start somewhere and you get to train them in a way that benefits you.

Allocate Resources to Train Current Employees

This is a fairly costly endeavor, but something worth considering. As skilled laborers retire or search for jobs outside their skill set, you’ll need to replace them. If you can get the resources behind a training program, you always will have a supply of dedicated employees to fill the positions you need.

The Three Sectors of the Construction Industry

Construction is the broad term that we apply to the industry that builds things. All of the man-made structures you see as you drive through town, including the road on which you’re driving, Everything that has been built is a product of construction; the industry has had a huge hand in quite literally building our nation into what it is today. Places like New York City and Washington D.C. that are heralded for their architectural wonders and structural masterpieces owe their fame to impeccable construction. Every corporation, means of transportation, and form of communication in some part owes its success to at least one of the three sectors of construction, building, infrastructure, and industrial. Let’s break each of them down.

Building Construction

Building construction is exactly what it sounds like: it’s the sector of construction that deals with buildings and institutions all around us. This sector is broken down further into two sub-sectors, residential construction and commercial construction,

  • Residential Construction

Residential construction is everything that involves housing and places where people live. This includes houses and apartment buildings of all types, shapes, and sizes.

  • Commercial Construction

Commercial construction, also known as non-residential and institutional, deals with erecting buildings for business use. These buildings are often leased out as shopping outlets, medical centers, offices spaces, and small-scale restaurants.

Infrastructure Construction

Infrastructure construction handles the heavy duty, high-traffic and high-use aspects of the industry that we use every day but rarely ever think about. The facilities provided by infrastructure construction include, but are not limited to, roads and highways, bridges and dams, mass transit systems like trains and subways, electrical power and telephone lines, law enforcement agencies and prisons, schools, hospitals, and waste removal facilities. This area of construction is incredibly important, because they are crucial to the small, constant aspects of our everyday lives.

Industrial Construction

Industrial construction is the sector that handles what the other two sectors don’t cover. This is the sector that handles the creation of huge buildings and structures that deal with things on a massive scale. The builders who work on those projects must be highly trained on numerous, specialized tasks so they are able to construct multiple aspects of these titanic projects. Workers in industrial construction deal with large-scale structures and must be able to design, install, and maintain these massive projects. Some of the projects that are handled by industrial workers include manufacturing plants, oil refineries, power plants, and factories, and can even extend to some specialized projects like dams or bridges.

Why You Should Never Cut Corners

In life and in business, hard, quality work is second to none. You should always commit to projects you undertake with 100% focus and dedication in order to deliver the best work possible, and construction is absolutely no exception to this rule. Many construction firms prioritize profits over product, and cut construction costs in order to make money, regardless of consequence. To the same point, these construction firms are often ones that fail once someone discovers that they’ve been doing shoddy work. No matter how much money you may save or how much easier you may make the project, you should never cut corners when it comes to construction; here are just a few of the reasons why.

  • It can damage your reputation.

If you’re using shoddy materials or cutting corners on construction, it’s likely that someone will find out at some point, and bad reviews spread like wildfire on the internet. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, illustrated this point perfectly when he said, “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” This holds especially true in a world where everything is online, and unsatisfied customers waste no moment airing their grievances about businesses whom they feel have wronged them. So be cognizant of the fact that cutting costs even one time could end up in front of thousands of potential customers you just lost.

  • It can cost you lots of money in the future.

If somehow some negligence in your is discovered and someone is injured as a result, you’ve put yourself in a very vulnerable situation for a lawsuit.  

  • It could put your workers at risk for injury or death.

In fiscal year (FY) 2015, there were 11 on-site construction worker fatalities in New York City alone, which is 83% more than in FY 2014 and 120% more than FY 2013, which raises a number of red flags. Further research produced data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that showed that 75% of the construction site deaths in 2014 and 72% of construction site fatalities in 2012 and 2013 were nonunion worksites who were repeatedly ignoring safety warnings given by City inspectors. There should never be a time when you’re in noncompliance with safety rules and regulations on the jobsite, because your workers are your best assets and you need to keep them safe no matter how much it cuts into your profit margins.

  • It could inevitably cost you your business.

Between the damage done to your brand, any injuries that may have occurred, and any lawsuits or settlements your business has had to handle, there’s a very good chance that you’ll become yet another of the construction companies that failed due to negligence and disregard. You’ve worked so hard to build your company and your brand, do you really want to risk it all and your future to save a couple of bucks?

Top Construction Safety Tips to Practice

As you may already know, the construction field takes a lot of energy and work, but it is also a hazardous job. From climbing various heights, dangling from rooftops, and a lot of equipment handling. Not being careful while on the job can lead to serious injury. In some cases, people become disabled or critically injured which means they can’t work anymore. But taking the steps to prevent such issues gives you a high chance of preventing these problems. Whether you’re new to the field or not, it’s always critical to remember these top three safety tips to avoid critical injury.

Proper Safety Gear

Wearing proper safety gear is the foundation in preventing safety hazards. Safety gear is made specifically for the purpose of keeping you safe, but it only works in the event that you wear them. For example, the CDC says that over 2000 workers suffer a work-related injury that could have been prevented by proper safety gear, such as eyeglasses, harnesses, etc. Some uniforms and clothing are also made specifically for the job, therefore it’s a good idea to take advantage of them. By using your safety gear while on the job, you are able to take precaution and prevent serious injury to yourself on the job.

Awareness

Another important tip to constantly remember is to be aware of your surroundings. One of the worst things your can do while on the construction job is forget to pay attention. Construction is a very dangerous industry. At any given moment something can break off or fall and seriously injure you or someone else. Be sure to always pay attention when you are in training classes, but most importantly, be sure to pay attention to your surroundings to ensure precautions are taken to avoid injury.

Use Tools What They Were Inclined to Do

Tools are a great way of allowing us to get our work done at a faster and more efficient rate. However, using tools for a different job than what they were made for can result in expensive tools being broken, but also injury. Be sure to properly inspect tools and equipment before you begin using them to look for any damage or potential hazard. It’s also a good idea to use your equipment for what it is meant to be used for. For example, don’t use a chainsaw to cut a piece of plywood- use a saw. Even if you think it might be quicker, using proper equipment on the job will save you the risk of injury so you can continue to get the job done.

Future Construction Trends

Twenty years ago it would take years for homes and buildings to be built. Today however, you can see hundreds of building pop up in one construction season. The reason for this is the advancement in technology and increase and demand. As technology continues to increase, so will our day to day lives. The construction industry, specifically, will continue to grow to provide for better architecture and growth in the world. Here are the following construction trends to look out for in the near future.

Concrete

One great advancement in the future of construction technology is self-repairing concrete. It may not sound like much but self-repairing concrete, but it can actually be the key to driving and road safety. Researchers at various universities have been studying various properties that could be the key to developing roads that fix themselves. For one, researchers at Ghent University have developed a polymer that is added into concrete mix. When a road cracks, the polymers work to patch it up evenly. Delft University in the Netherlands have also developed a bacteria that is triggered to patch concrete when it is wet. These various technology enhancements will lead to better roads and less vehicle accidents and damage in the future.

Smart Roads

Another advancement for the future of technology is smart roads. We’ve heard ideas of glow in the dark road markings and wind powered road lights. However, the future is very near as some companies are expected to develop solar energy roads. The idea is that cars would drive over these roads and ultimately produce power generation. Another type of road in development is piezoelectric roads. Roads would be build with piezoelectric crystals which release energy when pressure is on them. This would allow for the production of energy during a day to day commute. California is expected to be the first state to put these roads to the test.

Drones

The construction industry is really looking forward to making drones an important aspect of the industry. Not only do architects and engineers believe that drones will help come up with future projects and plans at a faster and more efficient rate, but drones are expected to cost waste and transportation costs. For one, drones would be able to deliver products without delays and at a quicker pace compared to current aircraft. Waste would also be cut as there would be less risk of damage or loss of product. The costs would also be cheaper as aircraft costs are much higher than drones. The future of drones will shape the way construction is perceived and focus on creating faster and more efficient projects.

Construction Industry Trends for 2017

All industries have their projected trends for the year. Some of them are correct and others never come to fruition. Since we are only a month into the new year, I figured it was a good idea to look at some of the trends for the upcoming year within the construction industry. These trends are not a guarantee, but merely an observation on the way things have been headed.

Labor Shortages Continue

2016 was no stranger to labor shortages and it looks like this unfortunate trend is going to continue steamrolling on. The economy has remained strong, so there is plenty of work to be done. Unfortunately the industry as a whole is having a difficult time hiring skilled laborers to staff construction sites. As long as we continue to see more and more jobs come through the door, it’s like the shortage will continue on.

Rising Costs of Materials and Labor

Going in hand with labor shortages, the cost of labor is supposed to be affected as well. This makes sense for a few reasons. Laborers have to work harder, longer hours due to the shortage of workers. If they are working more and harder, they are absolutely going to demand more money.

Materials are speculated to increase due to inflation as well. Over the past several years, there has not been much increase in material cost, but because of the amount of work coming through, companies have taken advantage and raised the price of the work. The material costs have not matched the increase of the cost of construction, but according to industry leaders, we have reached the tipping point.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality devices were huge towards the end of 2016 among consumers. It was a huge source of entertainment. Experts are saying that the technology is going to be adapted into more practical uses, including construction in the coming year. They will be used in areas like training and even be used to provide clients with an in-depth view as to what the finished project will look like. Pretty neat stuff!