Faced by a skills shortage, US contractors are looking to new technology for answers, according to the Commercial Construction Index (CCI) figures for the fourth quarter of 2018.
The survey, conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce in partnership with USG Corporation, found that 74% of contractors expect to start using technologies such as drones, equipment tagging, wearables and virtual reality in the next three years.
With 58% of contractors reporting that they were having difficulty finding skilled workers – the highest level recorded in 2018 – it would seem that investment in new technologies is seen as a way of bridging the gap.
Two thirds of contractors said improved labour productivity was the top reason for investing in advanced technologies.
Jennifer Scanlon, president and CEO of USG Corporation, said, “The construction industry has historically lagged behind others in productivity and, when confronted by the labour shortage, there is an even greater need to identify meaningful solutions that will lead to growth and innovation.”
She added, “To achieve the expected growth, it is important that contractors, architects and designers invest in understanding how technologies like robots and 3D printing can transform jobsites and impact businesses in the near- and long-term.”
Of all the new technologies included in the study, wearables such as sensors are expected to grow the most. Although just 6% of contractors currently report using this type of technology, the figure is expected to almost quadruple to 23% over next three years. Wearable technologies are seen by 83% of contractors as one of the best ways to improve safety.
Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, said, “To maintain America’s competitive advantage, it’s imperative that industries and businesses adapt and leverage technology as a way to address workforce challenges.”
With regard to the general outlook of commercial construction in the US, contractors are generally optimistic, according to the CCI. In the fourth quarter, the index score came to 75, which is unchanged from the previous quarter.
The index score reflects the results of three leading indicators that are used to gauge confidence in the industry – backlog levels, new business opportunities and revenue forecasts – generating a composite index on a scale of 0 to 100.