It is no secret that, due to demographic change, there is an acute shortage of skilled workers. The construction industry is becoming increasingly affected – everything from delayed projects to the non-acceptance of orders is giving cause for concern. But what can be done if the retiring skilled veteran workers cannot be supplanted by the next generation? The digitization of construction processes certainly represents a promising solution.
Construction site veterans
When it comes to the age gap, divergences between all the professions that make up the construction industry are to be expected. In Germany, architects are slightly older than civil engineers. This trend is evident all over the country: just 10 years ago only 23% of all those working in the German construction industry were over 50. Today their number has risen to 33%. That’s about 900,000 people. In the real estate industry – i.e. in procurement and sales, or in facility management – 50% of the workforce is already over 50, and that percentage is expected to keep rising. The fact that senior workers are becoming ever more numerous, ranging from craftsmen to contractors, is mainly due to the demographic change that is affecting the entire German society.
A well-situated construction company (LDN) is looking for …
The consequences of these developments are becoming increasingly apparent. According to the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), in 2019 more than 60% of companies said they have problems with the shortage of skilled workers within the construction industry. Since vacancies can no longer be filled by qualified staff, the employees that are available are heavily burdened. This is detrimental to the working atmosphere and efficiency – with correspondingly negative effects on other aspects, such as occupational safety on the construction site.
The consequences of this trend are also reflected in the economy: if there is a shortage of manpower, less work can be done. The result: delays in the execution of construction projects. Whether infrastructure or housing – all areas are affected. In more and more cases, orders from construction companies are no longer accepted due to a lack of capacity. This in turn contributes to an increase in construction project prices. With the retirement of the older generation, not only urgently needed labor, but also valuable expertise is lost. Thus, young and well-trained staff is highly sought after – and expensive. Since the shortage of skilled workers affects not just the construction industry, but almost all sectors and industries, companies are competing for the upcoming generation of laborers. Naturally, in this situation big corporations situated in urban regions clearly have the upper hand.
In times of need, companies offer various incentives: brand new smartphones or company cars are meant to win over young craftsmen and persuade them to start a career in the construction industry. Other methods try to increase the attractiveness of the field by moving the company offices to more attractive locations. The moves are calculated and often offer childcare or the proximity to full-day schools, which – especially in rural regions – makes the companies more attractive to potential new hires. More long-term recruitment concepts use education and training as leverage. The fact that this makes perfect sense is verified by the figures obtained from the Main Association of the German Construction Industry. In 2016, the number of apprentices in the construction sector was 36,000, almost 65% below the 1995 level. Various programs are designed to help young people without sufficient qualifications, but also to help dropout students or immigrants obtain an apprenticeship. These measures are clearly effective: the number of apprentices in Germany has stabilized in recent years.
For most, such training is worthwhile. The average life income of a craftsman is comparable to that of college graduates. Anyone who, as a young craftsman, puts a lot of effort into this will even benefit from the demographic change: as more and more entrepreneurs retire, a growing number of successful companies are looking for successors in attractive management positions.
The benefits of digitization
Another way to offset some of the impact of the demographic change in the construction industry is to advance the level of digitization. When processes are optimized or automated, resources can be used more economically elsewhere. Experienced 50+ staff members do not have to spend so much time on routine tasks but can instead apply their expertise to more important tasks. A great example is the documentation of construction defects. Every practitioner knows that mistakes can not be completely avoided in any construction project, even if the greatest care is taken. If an error is discovered during a site inspection, in many cases the recording of defects is done analogically – with a ballpoint pen, a notepad and paper blueprints. The collected data must either be stored in analog files or transferred to Excel for further processing. Only then can the information be transmitted to the responsible project partners. Since countless e-mails are sent daily on construction projects, information can easily be overlooked or even lost. All of this is laborious and costs time, money and nerves.
In 2019, working on construction projects is demonstrably easier with software solutions such as PlanRadar.
PlanRadar is utilized worldwide by companies of all sizes for a variety of tasks: defect management, construction documentation, reporting, acceptance, inventories, evidence, due diligence, certifications, or task assignment. The app is available on all Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices – from the smartphone to the tablet.
Users of the software benefit from numerous advantages, such as:
- Construction errors, open assignments or other tasks are recorded as so-called tickets on digital construction or architectural plans. The information on each issue may be stored as text, voice memo and picture, as desired or required. This saves an average of 7 working hours per week.
- New blueprints or the revisions of existing plans can be uploaded with just a few taps as a PDF or JPG file – this makes uncomplicated plan management possible.
- After creating a new ticket, or adding information to an existing one, the software immediately notifies all responsible project participants. Only those users that have been granted the appropriate rights by the project manager are given access.
- The result: The total transparency and traceability of any communication between all involved project members. A chronological history of past services can also be called upon and reproduced, in a few clicks, even years later.
- All data is stored securely in the cloud according to the provisions of the Data Protection Act – unlike the way data is stored by commonly used messenger services used in construction, such as WhatsApp, information cannot be lost and can conveniently be filtered thanks to the filter function.
- All information can be easily summarized in logs and sent as a PDF or Excel file to third parties. Thus, for example, a publicly appointed and sworn technical expert can understand facts faster.
- From apprentice to site manager – The handling of the software is very intuitive and easy to learn. Even laypersons can create projects within a few minutes and without any previous training.
These are only some of the advantages that convince customers around the globe to use PlanRadar. Around 20,000 users from 43 countries and all the sectors of the construction & real estate industries use the app for communication and the documentation of their projects. An average of 25,000 projects are completed every week with the help of PlanRadar.