While construction labor shortages are getting a lot of warranted press lately, it’s also very apparent that the industry is suffering from a lack of experienced and skilled staff at the supervisory and project management levels. A lot of talent left construction during the Great Recession, and while the industry is rebounding, the talent pool may not have caught up with the improving economic climate.
Home Innovation recently conducted a focus group with a local chapter of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) members. The assembled members almost unanimously concurred that poor coordination between construction disciplines is one of the biggest issues in the construction industry today — especially in non-residential construction.
Project coordination between the many trades and disciplines on a construction site has likely been the bane of our industry since the beginning of civilization. Despite our centuries of experience and ever-evolving technologies, this problem has yet to be adequately solved and still plagues the industry with reduced productivity, schedule and budget overruns, and construction errors.
Participants of the ASHRAE focus group did not seem to think in-field engineering skills were lacking. Rather, they agreed that a lack of project management skills, especially in the realm of coordination among contractors, was one of the biggest deficits in our industry. They observed that new technologies were making communication easier, but said the most effective tool for coordinating was still the traditional, face-to-face meeting, followed closely by telephone and video conferencing. Interestingly, they cited email as the most frequently used project coordination tool, despite it not being included on the short list of most effective methods. They noted newer technologies and platforms – e.g., Webex, GoToMeeting, Google Docs, and Skype – were being used but not with a high degree of success. They attributed this to lack of familiarity with the platforms among some project team members, and the inability to get consistent connections and document formatting across the wide range of communications platforms used.
The group believed that seasoned professionals with deep experience in project coordination were better project coordinators; however, more junior staff had the advantage of being more adept at using new information technology tools. With this in mind, the moderator queried if they group would suggest training more seasoned staff to use the new technologies, or training younger staff in the principles of construction coordination. They couldn’t come to consensus on this point and saw merit in both approaches for different reasons.
The bottom line? Despite the vast improvement in construction project coordination in the past decade, thanks to portable and hand-held computing and real-time data collection, there are still big opportunities for companies to capitalize in this area. Throughout history, we have witnessed cycles of vertical and horizontal integration of construction disciplines into a single company as a solution to the project coordination dilemma. Whatever the solution is, it will require integrating a deep knowledge of construction and capability of real-time, cross-discipline communication for both the tech-savvy and non-tech-savvy alike.
Interested in exploring these opportunities for your company? Or have other solutions to help streamline and improve the construction process? Get in touch so we can help you navigate how to best invest your time and efforts.***