Construction boom

James Hepton is head of e-commerce and marketing at Actavo Direct
James Hepton is head of e-commerce and marketing at Actavo Direct

In the wake of several years of low profit margins and under-digitisation, the construction industry is on track for a much-needed financial boost.

With the number of construction projects expected to grow 5% by the end of 2021, there are rewards on offer for those willing to invest, particularly in the roofing industry.

Key technologies
The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and BIM technologies has made pre-construction a viable option for construction firms.

With a focus on efficiency and accuracy, more companies are looking to prefabricate their roofing process, as prefabrication is more economical and eco-friendly than traditional construction.

This is because manufacturing components in a factory minimises material waste due to the controlled settings. The parts can then be transported to the site for installation. It also mitigates against delays caused by unpredictable factors like the weather.

Plus, BIM can be used to produce 3D virtual models of projects, stored in a common data environment (CDE) that can be updated in real-time by multiple teams simultaneously. Scheduling and resource management information can also be stored and accessed in the system for complete transparency across the company, saving on time, compared with sending multiple draft versions of data around each team.

Leveraging AI systems will be essential in keeping up with project demand. Those looking to compete for new business will benefit from efficient project management with minimal delays.

The workforce of the future
A significant challenge for those looking to meet the growing project demand is an ageing workforce. According to UK census data, the majority of UK construction workers are closing in on retirement age.

Government plans are already in motion to readdress the apprenticeship levy, aimed at incentivising businesses to start a scheme and address the skills shortage.

Plus, the advantage of starting an apprenticeship is that you can tailor the scheme to meet your specific skills gaps. Young workers are often a blank canvas, making it easier to train them to work in a way that complements your business.

However, if you’re considering taking on an apprentice, you need to have a legal agreement drawn up, including apprenticeship type, agreed hours worked, college time and wage.

Safety first
Those looking to take advantage of the increase in construction spending will need to run accurate, timely projects and avoid delays. This means keeping employees safe and healthy to carry out tasks on time.

Safety is particularly important for roofers, with approximately 50% of all workplace fatalities involving falling from a great height.

AI and robotics are helping to reduce human injury, but until the technology is rolled out at scale, safety is still a concern.

Workers in roofing and cladding will benefit the most from transparent and accessible health and safety guidelines, including risk assessments on each site, which address the relevant hazards and advise on how to mitigate against them.

For example, in roofing, a common health risk is poor weather making surfaces slippery, so the guidelines should include steps to dealing with the hazard, so it doesn’t interrupt or delay the project.

James Hepton is head of e-commerce and marketing at Actavo Direct.