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Top 6 Challenges Construction Project Managers Face in 2021

You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry that was not negatively impacted in the last 18 months by COVID-19 (except maybe video conferencing software and online shopping). This holds true for the Construction industry, which has seen a number of ongoing challenges intensify even as new ones emerged. While the we enter a new phase of more hopeful economic recovery, firms, especially construction project managers, will be grappling with intense pressure on a number of fronts for the remainder of this year and well into the next. 

Below are the top six challenges we predict to be the biggest hurdles for construction project managers in the remainder of 2021 and continuing into 2022:

1. Continued Supply Chain Disruptions and High Cost of Materials

As a result of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions are still plaguing the construction industry. Basic building materials such as tile, flooring material, metal, lumber and more are sourced by global manufacturers, who are not only impacted by travel and shipping restrictions but by  labor shortages. These factors are driving up costs and slowing deliveries. For instance, Verisk Analytics reported that total reconstruction costs were up 8.12% from April 2020 to April 2021, and lumber prices skyrocketed by 84.71%. With prices this high, winning new contracts  — and turning a profit — will be challenging, unless firms find ways to offset costs and differentiate themselves from other firms vying for contracts.

Source: Verisk Analytics

2. Construction Delays

The Associated General Contractors (AGC) reports that supply chain disruptions combined with rising material costs are not only driving up the cost of construction but causing construction delays. According to AGC, more than 75% of construction firms say projects have been postponed or cancelled because materials were unavailable or costs went over budget. Supply chain disruptions are unlikely to be resolved for at least another six months. Project managers will need to sharpen their forecasting and scheduling skills to manage client expectations for timelines and completion dates while finding ways to work more efficiently. 

3. Intensified Labor Shortage

The construction industry has been suffering from labor shortages for more than a decade — and it’s getting worse. New research from the Associated Builders and Contractors of America (ABC) reports the U.S. construction industry will need to add 430,000 new workers in 2021 over 2020 levels, just to keep pace with increased demand.

Various factors are contributing to this shortage. Many construction workers are aging out of the industry and entering retirement. What’s more, interest in trade professions such as construction has waned in recent years as the availability of technology-related jobs increases. Add to that workers being ill or quarantined because of Covid-19, and it becomes extremely difficult to staff jobsites with skilled workers, who are not only difficult to find but cost a lot more. Construction project managers will need to offset the cost of skilled labor, train new employees quickly, and help crews be more productive and efficient.

4. Managing Increased Risk as a Construction Project Manager

On the jobsite, risk comes in many forms: safety, materials and equipment theft, and weather delays and damage. Unfortunately, construction injury rates are 71% higher than all industries, on average. To make matters worse, Covid-19 infections send workers home or to the hospital. Exposures force workers to miss up to 14 days while in quarantine. All of these factors combine and impact a firm’s ability to keep projects on track. 

Risk of theft on construction jobsites is also increasing. With materials so expensive and hard to come by, they’re a prime target. In some areas of the country, firms are reporting single-day losses of $10,000 or more in materials, much of which is lumber. With global warming’s massive impacts on weather patterns across the country, risk of damage from storms and other natural disasters such as wildfires loom large. These climate-change related events can also cause construction delays by making it impossible for crews to complete certain tasks.

To mitigate the various types of risk on the jobsite, construction firms will need to implement 24X7 surveillance and maintain impeccable documentation to aid with any police investigations, should an incident occur. Such documentation will be necessary to justify delays and budget increases caused by worker absences, missing materials and weather, as well.

5. Compliance

Meanwhile, OSHA regulations become more stringent each year, and this year, the regulatory agency added new regulations addressing the CDC’s Covid-19 guidelines. This means there’s added pressure for firms to enforce rules and regulations — and avoid violations that result in steep fines. 

Not only will it be critical for project managers to ensure compliance on the jobsite, they will need an efficient way to document their efforts and prove compliance in the case of an audit, as well. Firms can spend significant time and resources gathering data and supplying proof of compliance to auditors because of the manual nature of the task. Those that find ways to streamline and automate documentation will be a step ahead of other firms in reducing the costs of compliance, and the risk of non-compliance.

6. Technology adoption

According to McKinsey & Company, Covid-19 has sped up the adoption of technology in many industries by as much as six years. And JLL’s State of Construction Tech: 2020 in 2020 states that the construction industry adopted more technology in a single year than what would have normally taken three years. What kind of technology? Digital collaboration platforms, scanning tools, drones and safety-focused wearables, to name a few.

To encourage technology adoption, firms should look for solutions that are easy to implement and use. Solutions should integrate with existing systems such as project management software and can then be used as part of the established workflow. Advanced construction camera systems that enable remote viewing, collaboration features and cloud-based storage of jobsite photos and footage will also find their way onto jobsites. These features help with cost mitigation, scheduling, labor shortages, risk management and compliance.

How Can Construction Cameras Help? 

With advanced construction cameras on the jobsite, project managers and other project stakeholders can monitor projects remotely via a browser-based interface. They can check in at any time to monitor a project’s progress, verify deliveries, monitor weather conditions and spot-check crews for compliance with OSHA and CDC guidelines. Remote viewing eliminates the need to travel to the jobsite, saving time and money. Photos and video footage can also be easily shared with other stakeholders to improve collaboration and accelerate decision making. This not only helps keep projects on track, but stakeholders also have immediate insight into anything that may impact the budget or schedule for the project. 

Cameras help to improve productivity, as well. Their mere presence on the jobsite encourages workers to be productive and comply with rules and regulations. Footage can also be leveraged for training new and existing employees on procedures and protocols. 

Construction cameras provide 24X7 surveillance to mitigate risk of trespassing and theft, during the day or after hours. Advanced systems like TrueLook offer intelligent security features such as motion alerts and infrared capability. These features make it easier to document incidents and identify perpetrators. Photos and video footage are automatically uploaded to the cloud for safekeeping and easy retrieval, in case of audits and investigations.

Preparing for the 2021 Build Season

A Lens into the Future

The construction industry has seen its most difficult year in nearly a decade if not longer. There are steps to be taken to help mitigate these challenges and to innovate for the future at the same time. TrueLook cameras are a great place to start. View a live demo today to learn more about how we can help optimize costs, mitigate risk, safeguard timelines, and help provide a full circle of communication with all stakeholders.