The construction labor shortage is worse than ever, which means firms have to find a way to accomplish more with less. In this blog, we cover how automating your construction materials testing workflow can help.
In 2020, 81 percent of construction firms reported to have trouble filling both salaried and hourly craft positions. In 2021, the problem is expected to continue, with 72 percent of firms citing labor shortages as their biggest hurdle of the year.
But this construction labor shortage isn’t anything new for the industry. We experienced something similar after the Great Recession of 2008, and now we’re dealing with the effects of the global pandemic—impacts that likely won’t be temporary.
Impacts like: Risks to worker safety. Lower productivity. Project delays. Increased costs.
Free Guide: How to Digitize the Materials Testing Workflow to Boost Productivity & ROI
As a result, construction firms must consider new ways to get work done.
That’s where automation comes in. Compared to other industries, the construction industry is notoriously concentrated on manual tasks—especially construction materials testing (CMT). Go to any testing lab and you might see specimens tagged by hand, results written on clipboards and other manual activities that require human intervention (as in, skilled labor that needs to do that work).
While there’s a lot of room for automation in the construction industry as a whole, the CMT workflow is among the lower hanging fruit to help firms manage and even thrive during the construction labor shortage.
Here’s how automating CMT can offset the pains of the lean labor market.
3 Ways Automating CMT Helps the Construction Labor Shortage
With a fully automated CMT workflow, your construction projects can save time, increase productivity and ensure accuracy and quality—even during the construction labor shortage. Here’s how.
#1. Remove Time-Consuming Manual Processes
People like to think they can multitask, but, in reality, humans can only effectively focus on one thing at a time. Lab technicians are no different.
And the time adds up. Think of every number manually entered into a spreadsheet. Every test run on a manual machine. Every test specimen manually labeled, transported and stored. All those little tasks only take seconds or minutes to complete. But those minutes and seconds turn into hours before you know it.
What if the process of identifying a specimen was as simple as scanning a barcode? What if you could run a test at the click of a button?
When you replace these time-consuming manual processes with automation, you free up the skilled workers you do have to focus on other value-added tasks.
#2. Ease the Burden on Overworked Employees
Once of the main risks of the construction labor shortage is overworking your existing workers.
This not only impacts worker safety but also accuracy. Overworked employees might make more mistakes, burn out and eventually leave their jobs—making the labor shortage even more of a challenge.
Testing cylinders is hard work. The lab technician has to pull data on materials, identify the specimen, run and monitor the test, record results and get the information to the next step or stakeholder. Then they have to clean the machine and prep the next one for testing. When this is on the shoulders of one or two technicians, errors might slip through the cracks. Not to mention the long hours the lab technician will have to spend to get through the cylinders that need to be tested on that day (because a 28-day specimen can’t be tested on day 29!).
This type of automation and integration streamlines mentally draining manual processes and makes your firm a better place to work for your employees.
#3. Ensures Data Accuracy
In an automatic CMT process, the combination of integrated automatic testing machines and CMT software eliminates the potential for human error every step of the way. Most labs today already use automatic machines that test with extreme precision. When labs integrate CMT software with these machines, specimens can’t be identified incorrectly or tested on the wrong date, and data is collected and stored without any human intervention. There’s simply no room for error.
But how does this help the construction labor shortage?
When something goes wrong or a mistake is made during a manual process, lab technicians or project owners need to spend more time uncovering or resolving that error. Whether it’s tracking down the right specimen to test or conducting an expensive core drill—it’s a headache that you may not have the time, money or team available to cure.
Automation helps you get it right the first time, every time. And in the process, it provides a reliable, provable and unalterable record of accurate test results to project owners.
If questions ever come up about the validity of results down the line, project owners have confidence that CMT data was tested, checked, recorded and approved correctly, which means they can move forward with the project and continue to meet important deadlines.
There’s a reason why companies across most sectors have already turned to automation.
Less rote manual tasks, less stressed employees and more accurate results are qualities you should require in your CMT workflow—construction labor shortage or not. This is because materials testing is not just a matter of compliance but also a matter of safety for construction workers and civilians alike. It’s why the industry demands skilled labor. When that’s limited, automation can fill in the gaps. When the labor shortage eases, automation will only continue to enhance your workflow.