Coronavirus and the construction sector: how can the industry get back on its feet following the crisis?

     

    The world economy is going through a major crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic. This health emergency, which is still expanding, will have an impact on all the economic sectors, including the construction industry.

    During the 2008 financial crisis, which led to the decline of many developed economies, and resulted in job losses for millions of people throughout the world, the construction sector was hit hard. Between 2006 and 2009, according to data from the International Labour Organization, more than five million jobs disappeared in the construction sector alone.

    The big question that is being asked in the economic sectors right now is: are we likely to suffer another crisis like that of 2008, or even similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s? The severity of the impact remains uncertain. However, one thing that we do know, is that we can use what we have learned from these past experiences to help restore the economy and mitigate the negative impact of this pandemic.

    The effects of COVID-19 are only just beginning to be felt in different countries, nonetheless, we are already starting to wonder what will happen in the world once things finally get back to “normal”. Below you can read about the ways in which the impact that the crisis has on the construction industry can be mitigated, as well as how the industry is adapting to be able to tackle these new challenges.

     

    How did the construction industry overcome crises prior to COVID-19?

    • By reducing the operating expenses of construction companies, a measure that implied changes in contracting procedures.
    • By monitoring inventories in a more precise manner. During a period of recession, a construction company needs much less product stock than during times of greater stability, allowing money tied up in stock to be used in another way.
    • By maintaining lines of credit as large as possible, even when it was not their intention to take out loans.

     

    What opportunities will emerge in the construction sector after COVID-19?

    As the pandemic progresses and the complete effects of the virus take hold, the construction industry is beginning to look at how it can tackle the challenges and respond to the new needs which have arisen as a result of the expansion of this virus.

    For example, in Central America, companies from the industry are coming together in an effort against the coronavirus by participating in operations for the cleaning and disinfection of public spaces.

    CEMEX Panama began with this initiative and it has now reached Colombia with the support of CEMEX Colombia.

    The construction sector in Europe has also issued a joint declaration in which it has requested urgent measures to protect the health of their workers, support the economic activity, and help the sector to recover in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

    Meanwhile, in construction projects, the work to optimize processes and resources by implementing technological advances and developing the activity with dynamism, innovation and technology in each of the phases of the construction lifecycle continues. This can be done through:

     

    • Remote monitoring and communication.

    One of the main challenges faced by construction companies today is the reduction in the number of on-site workers. Yet, despite these reduced numbers, the companies still have to continue with all of the necessary tasks as indicated in the project schedule. Some examples as to how technology is helping ensure that this is still possible are:

    1. Struction Site: offers a 60 day free trial:
    • It allows remote access to the work place, therefore enabling workers to see the status of their projects from the safety of their own homes.
    • It limits staff interaction as only one person needs to be present to perform a site walkover, as they can provide their team and any other interested parties with remote access.
    • It mitigates risk by enabling data to be collected and used as evidence in the event of a claim or a trade dispute.
    • Communication:
    1. Nyfty is offering a free version of its product for communication via SMS; this product can be integrated automatically into the proCORE records, managing automated responses. No applications are required.
    • Planning:
    1. IPSUM offers their clients remote support to enable them to maintain the highest possible levels of productivity: improving weekly planning, detecting and mitigating restrictions for the implementation of projects, carrying out reprogramming activities and analysing exposure to risks upon completion of the project.
    • IoT Devices

    IoT devices are essential for maintaining the flow of data which is derived from a worksite, helping reduce the number of workers who are on-site gathering data and providing real-time information, therefore minimizing the workers’ exposure to COVID-19.

    1. WorkerSense has developed a system in which an IoT device is connected to the workers’ helmets; this device monitors the distance between workers and provides instant alerts when the minimum distance of 1.5m is not respected.
    • Management of Risks and Safety
    1. myComply makes it possible to flag workers who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and block them from entering all job sites in order to control the spread of the virus.
    2. Prysmex creates a 3D model of the industrial installations, enabling professionals to remotely map, monitor and control risk situations in real time, allowing them to implement the necessary safety and hygiene measures to ensure that their workers are protected and that they may continue with production. To help tackle the current crisis, Prysmex has developed a safety and hygiene manual for industrial plants.
    • Supply chain services
    1. GoFor has opened up its last mile delivery service platform to sending essential supplies such as food, hand sanitizers, masks or flowers to hospitals. Likewise, they have implemented special measures for their drivers, such as contactless deliveries, the use of hand sanitizers and masks, and the use of the digital signatures.

    CEMEX Ventures is looking to build a better future for the construction industry by bringing together the main elements of the ecosystem including startups, entrepreneurs, universities and other groups of interest.

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