March 7, 2022
The past few years have been challenging to navigate for everyone, but it’s been especially hard in the construction world. We’ve had to contend with surges in demand while material prices soared, the pandemic shut down operations and qualified workers became harder and harder to find.
According to a report from Deloitte, construction earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) only account for about 5.5% of a company’s sales. This has all put increased pressure on the bottom line – and construction profit margins were never that roomy to begin with. Factor in continuing supply chain issues and more undetermined punches coming down the pike – that we’ll all have to roll with – and it can look intimidating. But a little intimidation never caused us to shy away before. So, let’s tackle 2022 together.
If we’re going to be successful in the coming year, we must take an honest look at the changes in our industry – those we’re in the midst of as well as those on the horizon. We’re going to need to build faster, safer, more efficiently and more sustainably. Luckily, continuous technological advances make this more and more possible. MBCI’s director of market intelligence and business strategy, Joe Gentry, said it’s a matter of looking in the right places – “Where are the opportunities when you’re getting into some of the more granular trends?” Today, we’ll explore them.
Sustainability has been a growing focus throughout the industry for many years, and there’s no getting around it. Today’s greener, more sustainable trends are likely to be tomorrow’s mandates. “At some point in time,” says Gentry, “you’re going to see a lot more regulation come through.” Clearly, it’s best to be ahead of the game.
We’re also seeing new materials that are engineered to have specific properties – and those properties can reduce construction costs, be friendlier to the environment and feature a wide range of other advantages. Self-healing and flexible concrete is being put to creative use. There’s even transparent aluminum taking the place of glass, making for lighter structures that allow more natural light into buildings.
“As a lot of companies are starting to consider sustainability more and more,” Gentry said, “metal roofing offers a really good solution for that.” Metal roofing products are made of largely recycled materials and are 100% recyclable at the end of their lifespan. “We’re seeing additional adoption of metal roofing in the commercial space because of how energy efficient it is,” said Gentry. “It’s going to reduce your energy bill quite substantially.”
Metal roof systems are also easy to install and last far longer than traditional asphalt roofs, making for less waste. All of this has led to a boom in metal roofing – and not just for commercial projects. “Metal roofing has grown in popularity leaps and bounds over the last several years, especially in the residential market,” said Tyler Roose, MBCI sales development manager.
We all know recruitment and retention have been a struggle in recent years, and it’s crucial to think differently if you want to edge ahead of the competition. Competitive wages and benefits are important, but so are other differentiators that show you truly value your people: worker development and training, better tools, new technologies, training and certification programs, apprenticeships, bonuses and incentives. Today’s workers don’t just want a big paycheck, they want to feel valued and cared for – and feel part of something that matters.
The labor crunch means that modular and prefabricated building components have reached new heights in popularity. Having components constructed off-site, then shipped and assembled in one fell swoop makes the most of a reduced workforce. They also reduce waste, timelines and overall cost. Some experts expect the modular construction market to reach $157 billion by 2023.
Though construction has been around for millennia, our industry has also been eager to adopt technologies that make our buildings better, safer and more profitable. Here are some of the tech trends to watch and plan for in 2022.
3D printing can be used to do everything from print replacement parts to build highly detailed, complex construction models or even rudimentary structures.
As the financial barrier to entry has dropped, construction drone use has skyrocketed. Drones can be used to monitor progress and safety, reach inaccessible areas and even minimize theft risk.
It’s a fact: much of construction labor consists of repetitive tasks. These can now be relegated to a robotic workforce, capable of doing everything from brick laying and installing drywall to performing dangerous work. This can reduce costs, keep workers on the jobs that make the most of human skills and help make up for the labor shortfall.
Wireless sensors can be integrated into PPE or other worker apparel to keep an eye on vital signs and watch for problems – making for a safer worksite.
No industry is immune to the massive migration to the digital sphere. Transforming your construction business into a more digital operation is likely to yield better profits and performance.
Artificial intelligence and the latest in project management software make it easier than ever to monitor project profitability in real time. As we know, small changes can have huge impacts, and cloud-based AI technologies take out the headaches and help you keep your focus on what matters most.
We’re all strapped for time, and offering easy online ordering can help everyone buy back a little of it. Gentry pointed out how important this is. “How do we remove all the manual processes of ordering today, so that it’s all digitized?” he asked. This reduces lead time and many companies have made this move, including MBCI, with detailed online ordering starting last year.
Building information modeling (BIM) is the standard method of visualizing a project, avoiding clashes and preventing costly problems. But 3D visualization software can also be used to help customers envision their structure and visually audition different alternatives. “Imagine you’re thinking about metal roofing for your house,” said Gentry. “How nice would it be if you could just go online, very quickly get a visual rendering of what your house now looks like, change the colors, get a quote and schedule the contractor to come out? That is something that you’re going see fairly soon.”
Similar to BIM, digital twins are exact virtual models of a project. These use the Internet of Things technology that capture numerous data points and process it through AI. Different changes or alternatives can be tested in real time, improving design, integration, scheduling and more.
Thought the future looks evermore entangled in technology and digitalization, Roose reminds us of an important point: “The industry as a whole is deeply rooted in long lasting relationships,” he said.
Those relationships are what sets MBCI apart from the rest. Just because we embrace new technology doesn’t mean we forget what matters most – our relationship with the person at the other end of the phone, the email, or the online order. We’re always here to help in any way you need us, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.