The global labor shortage is hitting the construction industry hard. Over 90% of construction firms are currently struggling to fill open positions.
Many industries across the globe are facing this problem. However, it is causing a unique set of problems for construction and industrial operations. In addition to driving up the prices, it is also causing many firms to cancel, delay, or scale back on projects.
With the added consideration of a supply chain crisis that causes increased costs and unreliable access to materials, the current economic conditions are disrupting the industry’s ability to keep pace with demand. In turn, this is negatively impacting project owners, new infrastructure, and the economy as a whole.
Labor Shortages Threaten Infrastructure Efforts
The US has currently allocated $550 billion to invest in new infrastructure over the next decade. Globally, Infrastructure Outlook forecasts that infrastructure investment will reach nearly $80 trillion.
Despite these staggering investment sums, the construction industry is still in trouble if it can’t overcome recruitment challenges. 402,000 construction positions were unfilled as of October 2021, the second highest number recorded since 2000.
The reasons for these labor shortages vary, but there seems to be a general consensus that most applicants just don’t have the right skillset. A survey found that 77% of respondents said that “applicants simply don’t have the construction skills to do the job.”
An aging labor force is another important factor to consider. As many older construction workers leave the workforce to retire, younger workers aren’t entering the workforce at a high enough rate to overcome the deficit.
To overcome worker shortages, firms are embracing a number of future-looking methods. Approaches include focusing on recruiting younger generations, technical education programs, immigration system reform, and wage increases. But without a way to improve things fast, the gap between infrastructure needs and execution will only get worse.
So how exactly can construction firms and contractors overcome labor shortages in the short-term? The answer is connected worker technology.
What Is Connected Worker Technology?
According to Industrial Transformation Network, connected worker technology is “a class of technology applications that brings together plant operators, maintenance teams, and other workers with the critical information and applications they need to do their jobs more efficiently and productively.”
An example of connected worker technology is a mobile app that guides workers with step-by-step, intuitive work instructions. Another example could be Bluetooth tools that record manual work data and sync to a centralized platform.
Construction projects have historically lacked an effective way to connect field and office teams. Connected worker technology offers the perfect solution to this problem. By digitally capturing field work progress in real-time, work safety, quality, and productivity are all positively impacted.
Of the many innovative construction technologies that have emerged in the past decade, connected worker technology is the one that is best suited to quickly and effectively address the current worker shortage.
3 Ways Connected Worker Technology Lessens the Labor Shortage Impact
How exactly can the benefits associated with connected worker technology be applied to help alleviate the impact of the labor shortage? While the list could go on and on, here are three main reasons.
1. Effective Training for New Workers
First, connected worker technology has the ability to capture and store manual work data. This means that knowledge and learnings from a project don’t go out the window when a worker retires or moves on to another project.
Instead, that information can be used to train newer, less experienced workers so they get up to speed faster. This includes using actual work data to show new workers the safest, most effective way to do their jobs.
2. Guidance for Field Labor
Another way that an inexperienced workforce can use connected worker technology to their advantage is by integrating a mobile app into work processes. For critical work like bolted joint assembly, a mobile app can provide intuitive instructions to ensure that all steps are completed correctly.
To take it one step further, integrating Bluetooth connected tools into this process can provide another level of quality assurance. Simply set each tool to a target torque value, and your bolts will be properly tightened—every time.
3. Integrated, Real-Time Quality Assurance
In addition to providing workers with step-by-step instructions, a mobile app can also require that workers perform quality-oriented tasks such as completing checklists or uploading images to ensure that the work is done right.
In this way, unexperienced workers integrate quality assurance into their work activities. Even if they aren’t able to catch that a rusty gasket should be replaced, the picture they take will allow a more experienced QA engineer to immediately spot the problem without even leaving the office.
Implementing Connected Worker Technology
The idea of implementing a new technology can cause a project manager to sweat. But with a global worker shortage threatening to stunt economic growth, the industry doesn’t have the luxury of sticking with the status quo.
Luckily, implementation is much easier than you might think. In less than 30 days, you could have a real-time connection between field and office teams that makes training new employees a breeze. Book a demo call with us on Calendly to get started.