Perspectives

How can you future-proof an industry?

Mace's Group Head of Bids & Director of Innovation, Matt Gough, talks about how to future-proof an industry in an ever-changing climate.

It’s hardly a well-kept trade secret that the construction industry is going through a revolution. New technology is transforming the way in which the projects we work on are planned, designed, built and operated – and with it the construction teams that deliver those projects must change as well. 

Many sectors are facing similar challenges as new technology disrupts our working lives; but few face such a fundamental shift in skill requirements for their workforce. It is not a small task to upskill an entire industry, to overhaul training programmes or to change how you hire employees – and yet we must.

  

The first shift that will change our teams is already taking place all over the globe. Construction teams – just like other workers – are becoming more connected. Every worker now carries a smart phone that is capable of capturing data, communicating with colleagues both on and off site and linking in with smart technology and equipment of all kinds.

 

Teams will be able to co-ordinate more effectively, deliver their work more flexibly and react to issues faster. As a result, they will need to be trained on how to best leverage their new connectivity; and as the training requirement increases so does the cost for the employer.

 

This then changes how these teams are managed; gone are the days of simple schedules and plans. Managers will be able to react faster to changing conditions and supplies, enabling more effective construction strategies that limit team downtime. Leadership becomes more data driven – but with that comes the challenge of being able to process that data at speed, as well as being more accountable.

 

This explosion of data also changes how projects are delivered at a grander scale, causing another shift in management skills and expectations placed on all members of a team. Big data-driven procurement will allow for far tighter project management, minimising delays but putting more pressure on teams to deliver at the right time.

 

Combined with the arrival of more advanced BIM technology, this data will mean that teams can have access to more live-data and modelling of their project than ever before – but they’ll need to have the technological skills to process that information, react accordingly and produce the best possible return on investment for the client.

 

Already the construction teams of the future look different; they need new skills and mindsets and face new delivery pressures. On top of that, emerging technologies are looking to change construction fundamentally, creating specialisms that don’t currently exist to deliver projects that are larger and more complex than we’ve seen before.

 

Whether it’s hiring experts in 3D-printing concrete, or training existing staff in the use of construction drones to survey or build complex structures at height, companies will need to include the substantial cost of the skillsets required when they consider investment in new technology. Some of these specialisms will come from pools of people who might not even consider construction an option at the moment – if one of your new automated construction bots breaks down in the middle of a key sequence, you’re going to want a roboticist on your team.

 

This means we need to change how we think about our teams, our training and our hiring practises. It means we need to understand more about how our industry is seen, and how we can attract the very best talent and foster a culture of innovation.

 

At Mace, we think we’re already working on the solution; we’re working with our clients and our partners to put the skills agenda at the centre of everything we do – and we’re already leading the way with new training courses and huge investment in our people. However, we know we can’t fix this alone; to reverse existing trends and build the teams we need is going to need the whole industry pulling together.