The events of the past two years or so have put most people to the test in many ways. The pandemic has taken its toll on both our mental well-being and our finances and still continues to provide its fair share of challenges.
It is safe to say that businesses and sectors alike have suffered. From economic difficulties to logistic hurdles, it has certainly not been an easy ride. Some industries have managed to level up and stay afloat, including online gaming and education technology. However, the majority have struggled to adapt and continue business as usual. The field of construction engineering is one of them, penalised both by a significant shortage in the workforce and setbacks within the supply chain. How has the field coped with the wide range of obstacles it had to face?
Here, we explore some of the most common issues that the construction sector has had to deal with over the past 24 months. Moreover, we highlight steps that have been – or could be – taken to solve ongoing concerns.
Challenges for the construction engineering sector
There is no hiding that recent happenings have had an impact on the construction industry. The engineering sector – on the whole – has not been spared either.
On one side, the sector has had to adapt to the pressing necessities of these unprecedented times. Ventilators and other vital machines or tools have been developed at a very fast rate. This suggests that, at least, many of its fields have never been out of work.
On the other hand, disruptions to supply chains have caused more than a few headaches. With a substantial decrease in export and import levels, many engineering-related businesses have had to swiftly change suppliers and find quick, alternative solutions.
What’s more, the events of the past couple of years have aggravated pre-existing concerns. Low predictability, low productivity levels, a scarce labour pool, and financial fragility were barriers that existed well before the pandemic’s arrival. In this respect, the ongoing global situation has not done the industry any favours.
As for the construction sector, delays with supply deliveries have posed a real threat to businesses’ activities. From shortages of raw materials to rising costs of essential components such as steel, tiles, and cabinetry, there are many factors that have affected the industry.
Supply chain disruptions, though, have not been the sole issue. Temporary suspensions of operations have also been a frequent worry. With workers having to self-isolate, or construction sites limiting the number of labourers for safety reasons, work has often been put on hold until further notice. Inactivity at construction sites, of course, have slowed down projects.
Not only that, but it has also had a negative impact on construction companies’ finances and profits. In fact, in April 2020 alone, 45% of businesses in the construction field saw their usual turnover halved. This was due to almost half of staff being furloughed during that period.
Despite the numerous negative effects on the sector, the construction engineering industry is finding – or can find – viable ways to stem the ongoing issues. What are they? Here, we detail a few:
- Digitisation – Digitisation can offer a substantial helping hand. Technology reduces face-to-face contact and unnecessary travel, minimising risks and safeguarding workers while keeping operations rolling. Pre-commissioning software, for instance, replaces avoidable in-person meetings, stores required documents and information and ensures that teams are up to speed with all the latest developments. It is fair to say that it works wonders on productivity, helping engineers and workmen overcome existing hurdles.
- Drone inspections – Furthermore, drone inspections are becoming more common. In the construction industry specifically, drones can efficiently replace visual inspections, and can truly conceal an array of benefits. First, they prevent large gatherings at building sites. Secondly, they can put a stop to risky or dangerous practices for site inspectors, including climbing to assess construction progress. What’s more, drones can actively help to reduce expenses. From removing the need to assemble one-off scaffolding for in-person inspections to limiting insurance costs, it is a valid, money-saving process.
- Local sourcing – As mentioned, disruptions and delays in the supply chain have caused problems for many over the past couple of years. Contributing to an array of logistical hurdles, one of the best ways for construction firms to tackle the problem is to source their local materials. Not only can this aid smaller local businesses, but it can also give construction sites the chance to diversify their suppliers and avoid unexpected inconveniences.
The construction engineering industry, like many other sectors, has faced a long period of difficulties. From reduced workforce to supply chain issues, the challenges have been numerous. However, with the help of a few, helpful strategies, it can gradually restore its efficiency and productivity.