The COVID-19 pandemic has directly affected various industries, and nearly all aspects of the supply chain continue to be impacted. That means major adjustments for the AEC industry and by default all the engineers, skilled workers, electricians and staff members who labor under its umbrella.
Many megaprojects, as well as public and private construction projects, were temporarily halted to comply with government mandates. Only time will tell when these projects will be resumed and completed.
From building hospitals in just a few days to donating lifesaving equipment, the industry has played a critical role in responding to the crisis and in the recovery. Engineering, construction and building materials also will have a vital role to play in a postpandemic recovery of our communities and economies.
It is becoming clear that the world will look different as we move beyond the COVID-19 crisis and into the next normal. Reimagination can help industry leaders look beyond the immediate crisis and start to plan for the next normal.
5 things you need to focus on to succeed in the construction industry during the COVID-19 new normal
Construction companies are already taking steps to move beyond the current crisis. Many executive teams are reshaping their strategies and operating procedures, launching ambitious initiatives to come out stronger and spur positive change on the heels of the pandemic. Leaders must proactively reshape their agendas to improve their odds of future success.
- Accelerate or change previous AI adoption strategies: Engineering consultants might strengthen their BIM capability and other collaboration tools. Contractors can remotely collaborate at the production stages using a digital model or by urging for minimal manning at site offices. Distributors may need to rethink their entire fulfillment model with minimal physical interactions, especially with e-commerce models and digital tools.
- Supply chain resilience: It is true that supply chains are vulnerable due to the pandemic. We must now look at options for fortification, such as building inventory, identifying backup distribution channels and recruiting direct labor to replace subcontractors. These developments could lead to greater consolidation and vertical integration of the value chain, not only to minimize risk but to drive future productivity.
- Digital skills matter more than ever: Nevertheless, this shift to remote working has increasingly demonstrated the shortage of digital skills spanning across almost every industry and sector – and this trend is likely to continue well into next year and beyond. Moreover, there is no better time to upskill the entire workforce and require training on new tools and technologies (such as BIM) and operating procedures. Many of these activities can benefit employees by encouraging greater engagement with one another.
- Redeploy capital and resources: To sustain a postcrisis revival, AEC players must strategize their business priorities. While aspects will differ across the value chain, they will also likely each contain choices of where to deploy capital, resources and capabilities (and where not to) in the most economical manner.
- Identify opportunities to shift work offsite: Suppliers and subcontractors should identify elements and subsystems that can be preassembled in a controlled environment. Robotics could contribute to the diffusion of off-site construction with triple-bottom-line benefits: economic, due to higher productivity; environmental, by enabling more precise construction that reduces the gap between designed and actual energy utilization; and social, by potentially reducing onsite accidents.
Now is the time for companies to prepare for their role in a more productive and resilient industry.
Md. Rifat Bin Ahmed is a structural engineer at BCE in its Dhaka, Bangladesh, office, largely focusing on sustainable concrete and steel structure design in a community with limited resources to overcome challenges. He is a member of ASCE, ASCE’s Structural Engineering Institute and the National Society of Professional Engineers.
As he advances in his professional career, Rifat’s goal is to increase his involvement with ASCE and SEI in promoting and assisting communities in the BD and around the globe.
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