By Tom Stemm is the CEO/Founder of Ryvit
The demand for construction has reached new heights in 2021. This resurgence is expected to be a positive indicator for the health of the U.S. economy. The Associated Builders and Contractors’ Confidence Index showed that business leaders and contractors expect sales, profit, and staffing levels to rise significantly through the rest of the year. However, the extent to which the industry can justify this optimistic viewpoint is highly dependent on its ability to deal with the challenges that sudden upswings in demand can bring. Here are some challenges that construction businesses must overcome before the industry can fully recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.
While contractors and service providers are optimistic about the construction sector’s quick recovery, customers still need some time to get used to market forces causing the prices of materials to increase significantly. Since the start of the year, the prices of steel, lumber, and concrete have skyrocketed, causing the budgets of numerous construction projects to spiral out of control. The rising costs of raw materials can greatly impact contractors’ ability to supply appliances and maintain hardware, each of which is crucial to the completion of a project.
As a result of years of globalization and international collaboration, the global supply chain has become increasingly interconnected and interdependent. This means that construction companies that wish to conduct business in the U.S. still have to rely on material suppliers in Asia, where new waves of COVID-19 are preventing a recovery similar to that in America. As a result, 70% of companies are expected to reshore in the coming years, making their supply chains as domestic as possible. This raises problems for American suppliers who have to deal with a sudden spike in demand and for business leaders who might not have extensive experience dealing with local suppliers.
The construction industry has been a collaborative industry since its inception. Projects usually require contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and project managers to come together to work toward a singular goal. However, this collaboration has not always been smooth. Teams and stakeholders that fail to collaborate effectively pay more in worker hours, wasted time, and unsatisfactory performance.
With more than half of construction professionals reporting at least one underperforming project in the last year, it is high time that the industry learns to improve its standard for collaboration and expand its capabilities by bringing together companies that could pool resources and expertise to meet customer demands.
Companies can find it hard to come together and collaborate when they are used to bidding on entire projects and managing every aspect of the project with in-house or regular contractors. However, more firms are moving to a design-bid-build model for construction and this means that business leaders can now call for numerous bids for a single project, forcing multiple companies to work together.
This approach can be imitated by construction companies who may bid for entire projects and share the data with external partners, contractors, and suppliers to meet the customer’s demands during the project. A crucial component in this exercise is information sharing—and this information has to be stored and displayed on platforms that are viewed by all parties as impartial and trustworthy. When construction businesses can view the past projects, supply levels, price strategies, and customer satisfaction records of their prospective partner, they are more likely to develop a relationship built on shared interests and trust.
Modular construction has gone mainstream in recent years and the modular construction market is expected to exceed $175B by 2025. The major benefit of modular construction is that each part of the construction project can be fulfilled by a company that is considered an expert in that particular domain or type of fabrication. The drawback of using this method is that these companies often have their own preferred project management software, communication channels, work styles, and data sources.
This is especially true when the nature of construction projects is considered. Customers are constantly changing briefs and adjusting project requirements and these requirements must be communicated to each stakeholder working on the project. Construction businesses that wish to use modular construction to share the workload with their counterparts across the industry must embrace software that can enable real-time collaboration over the various work platforms and technologies that construction companies commonly use.
While increasing digital transformation has changed the way construction companies plan and conduct business, the extent to which companies embrace and distribute modern software and hardware is inconsistent across businesses. In most projects, contractors, subcontractors, and project managers still fall back on the ubiquity of WhatsApp chats and email threads to collaborate.
The challenge here is that none of these platforms are designed to work in the context of a construction project and as a result, messages are often sent without contextual information like project timelines or updated client requirements. This discourages collaboration among teams as doing so results in additional work for those involved. Using integrated software helps business leaders develop a culture of collaboration in which each member of the team has complete access to the information they need and can communicate with members of other teams and businesses to quickly gather or share potentially important project details.
While the recovery of the global supply chain will remain inconsistent for the foreseeable future, American businesses must turn to their counterparts at home to share the load of rising demand for construction projects and limited material supply. Fully integrated software that increases transparency and trust between stakeholders can ultimately help businesses ensure a successful and profitable collaboration.
Tom Stemm is the CEO/Founder of Ryvit. He was inspired to build Ryvit when several of his clients in the construction industry had asked for some custom integration development work. At the time, Tom was part of the founding team at GadellNet (a fast-growing IT consulting firm in St. Louis, MO), and they realized that there was a significant gap in the construction tech industry – namely that, while tech purchases were high, the adoption rate of those solutions throughout all stakeholders was still lagging. After a very diligent launch process, Ryvit was born to address the rampant problem of a disintegrated tech stack in the construction technology space. Tom continues to lead a team of integration developers, application enthusiasts, customer heroes, and sales superstars on a mission to eliminate duplicate data entry and rampant data errors from the construction technology world.