“The adoption of automation in the construction industry is more likely to make it more efficient than it is to diminish employment opportunities.”
Although the current crisis has propelled the digital revolution of many companies and industries, the conversation around digital solutions is not new to the construction sector, where new technologies have been present for several years now. Nonetheless, the workers in this industry still have many questions regarding the notion of working remotely within the construction sector. Will the introduction of digitalisation and technology get rid of physical work? Can a robot replace a construction worker? It´s not very likely. However, it is important that we are aware of the ways in which companies and their employees must evolve as they look into the future, in order for them to adapt to what will become the new reality for the industry.
Automation and the implementation of new technology
Prior to the crisis, McKinsey reported that embracing automation in the construction industry is more likely to make the industry more efficient than it is to diminish employment opportunities. Likewise, by being able to carry out work remotely, workers will be able to enjoy a better work-life balance. What can workers do now? Learn and adapt!
Thanks to the advances in technology, remote working is now a reality for the construction industry. For example, many tasks involved in a project can already be performed off-site and in real time. This means that there is no need for a project to be halted, just because it is not possible to work on site at a given time.
Also, there are different ways in which robotics can be used to implement automation in the construction industry. For example:
- In the realisation of physical tasks, it is anticipated that machines will perform individual activities within a specific role. This means that workers will have to learn to work hand in hand with machines, by using specialised software, a tablet or a drone.
- New construction methods, such as the use of modular building and the 3D printing of components for construction work are gaining ground in the sector. So why is it so important that companies and workers in the industry are aware of these developments? Because it has been estimated that around 15 to 20 percent of new building construction will be modular in the United States and Europe by 2030 (McKinsey, 2019).
If, as the available information suggests, the new technologies which are being implemented in the construction industry are here to stay, why is it that so many employees are sceptical about it? Perhaps it is due to their fear of the unknown as these new technologies are still unfamiliar to them.
Adaptation and acceptance of this industrial revolution
In order to implement these new technologies, methods and processes, which will define the construction industry and therefore the jobs of the future, both the companies and the workers themselves must undergo a process of adaptation and training. To be able to incorporate robots and integrate them into the work typically performed by humans, companies will have to draw up a talent management strategy. By doing so, they will be able to enter the preparatory phase which will therefore ensure the successful implementation of these new technologies for everyone involved.
So, how can you convince a worker of the advantages of working remotely and make them willing to adapt? It is important to highlight the fundamental role that technology plays in the industry, while at the same time, emphasising the essential role that workers will play in ensuring that these new systems work correctly.
When telling an employee who has been working on site for the past 10 years that they will now be able to work remotely, it is important to assure them that this does not mean that they will just sit on their sofa and do construction work on a computer. The role of the companies will be to educate these workers. They must understand that the implementation of these new technologies, although may seem very complex at first and different to what they are used to, will be beneficial, both for their work and for the industry in general moving forward.
A technological revolution implies that more cost-effective and time efficient projects will be developed, and the risks for workers on-site will be reduced. These projects will allow the growth of the industry, therefore guaranteeing greater stability and flexibility for the workers.
Once the first half of 2020 is over, it will be interesting to see how the industry develops as it moves into the future, and how the workers embrace the new ways of working in the sector. These months are sure to provide food for thought and will be a period of learning for everyone.
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