Worker safety, adapting to change and technology and innovation driving the future of the construction industry were some of the themes we saw highlighted in industry news throughout February. As construction continues to navigate at a Jekyll and Hyde sort of landscape — business models are changing, industry challenges still remain, yet project opportunities show no signs of slowing down and innovation is leading to expansion — keeping tabs of key trends is more important than ever.
Continued Safety Incidents Highlight Need for Better Oversight
On Feb. 15, three construction workers suffered injuries after falling from an elevated platform while working on the 21-mile stretch of the $2.3 billion I-4 Ultimate project in Orlando, Fla. The fall occurred when a section of formwork gave way while they were pouring concrete. Work was stopped across the project so similar platforms could be inspected. The project had just resumed work days earlier after an early-February incident where a worker was hit in the head and killed by a 20-foot section of piping. He is the fourth worker killed on the project thus far.
The Takeaway: While this is just one project, there are stories like this daily across the construction industry. Contractors have improved safety measures dramatically in recent years and the overall number of safety incidents in construction has ticked down slightly over the past few years. However, safety incidents at construction sites on roadways and highways have been on the rise. Construction safety and health research firm, CPWR noted in its Q2 2018 report that from 2011 to 2016, 609 workers lost their lives at road work zones across the United States. Across the industry, curtailing safety incidents has been a rallying cry, and they underscore the need for contractors to have the right measures in place — including software and technology — to help streamline and advance leading-edge safety practices on the jobsite.
Technology Aiding Construction Finance Professionals
An insightful recent article in Construction Executive, authored by one of Viewpoint’s technology partners, Nvoicepay, highlights many of the different ways modern technology and software solutions are helping construction finance professionals do their jobs better. From business continuity planning and managing changing accounting standards and workflow to attracting key talent and mitigating project risk, technology is helping improve productivity and profitability.” Deployed strategically, new tools can help construction finance teams resolve many challenges,” the article notes.
The Takeaway: The article is right on the money in terms of the many ways contractors can take advantage of new technology to help them better perform and grow. Especially now that business in most industries is moving to the cloud and contractors modernizing their own operations, it is more important than ever to stay in front of the technology landscape. Those that don’t will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. It’s yet another reason Viewpoint partnered with Nvoicepay to deliver our new Viewpoint ePayments solution, which modernizes contractors’ accounts payable department to deliver a paperless, single-step process.
From the Death of Malls, Rises New life in Mixed-Use Developments
You’ve probably seen recent stories of entire malls – especially in smaller communities – closing their doors. Or, you might have heard about recent closures of retail stores like Toys R Us, K-Mart/Sears and more recently, Payless Shoes. The explosion of internet commerce is seeing these once grand brick and mortar retailers go belly-up. But rather than letting these vacant buildings litter community landscapes, developers and civic leaders are bringing new life in the form of mixed-use developments. In Texas, Centurion American Development Group, recently purchased the Collin Creek Mall in Plano, Texas and is converting it to a $1 billion mixed-use complex that will feature 450,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 500 townhomes, and 3,000-plus apartments. Similar projects like these are springing to life across the United States, converting shuttered malls, big-box stores, strip malls and other former retail space to mixed use developments. Even massive online retailer Amazon.com, which tends to take the bulk of the blame for e-commerce’s bite into local stores, is getting into the mix by buying former malls and retail space and redeveloping them into fulfillment centers. The company is already underway with two such facilities in Ohio.
The Takeaway: While it’s been sad to see brick and mortar retail shops fold in the communities I’ve lived in, the truth is business is changing and this is just part of how our lives as a whole are evolving faster than ever before. And, it’s good news for developers ready to meet these new modern demands, as it creates significant opportunity to develop new projects. This transition also speaks volumes to the adapt-or-die nature of business. Anyone remember when we all thought Blockbuster Video would be around forever. Then along comes Netflix. And when Netflix first began, did we ever think they would soon be creating its own brand of movies and television shows? Contractors still doing business with manual processes and outdated software should take heed. Today’s modern construction technology is changing the very way the construction industry operates. If you haven’t started to modernize your operations by now, you could soon find your own business at a disadvantage.
Lessons for Small Contractors
A fascinating Q&A with leaders from the Korte Company in a recent issue of the Associated General Contractors of America’s Constructor magazine, divulged some excellent advice and tips on how smaller contractors can grow their businesses. Ralph Korte, along with his sons, Todd and Greg shared how they grew their small shop into a $250 million operation with work in 43 states. Among the lessons: invest the effort in hiring the right people, get deeply involved in the communities they work in, build in safeguards to endure tough times, stay on top of technology and seek to be an innovator. “Stay on the cutting edge. Embrace what’s new. Always look for the next project that’s just outside your comfort zone,” Greg Korte said.
The Takeaway: Aside from being a deeply inspirational Q&A, the strategies the Korte family talked about are all vital to small contractors ultimately becoming large ones. Though hiring good workers can be a challenge with the shortage of skilled construction professionals, I like the company’s “don’t compromise” approach. Thankfully, modern HR and talent management solutions for construction are helping contractors connect with stronger talent. The Korte’s view on innovating are also key, as even smaller contractors that take advantage of modern construction solutions can increase productivity, profitability, and ultimately gain more business.