A few months before the pandemic rocked the world, Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) companies were looking at the promise of good times to come.
The construction industry in the US had generated $900 billion in revenue and employed more than 7.64 million people before the pandemic. The engineering industry had generated $103.24 billion in revenue.
However, the situation changed drastically during COVID-19. More than 6.5 million jobs were quickly gone. Additionally, the fears of getting exposed to infections, salary concerns, and a general depletion in the available workforce made it harder for companies to hire the people they needed. As things stand now, a severe labor shortage stands as a barrier to growth and progress. By some estimates, the sector needs to hire over 400,000 workers this year and over 1 million workers in the coming two years.
As the economy rolls along in stop-start mode, EPC companies are being forced to look for ways to control costs and “do more with less” of everything, including people. But to add to these woes, EPC companies have been relatively slow in adopting digital transformation.
As John. M. Beck, the executive chairman of Aecon Group, Canada, said, “Looking at construction projects today, I do not see much difference in the execution of the work in comparison to 50 years ago.”
EPC companies are still functioning like traditional workplaces. There is inconsistent and sporadic collaboration between teams and various stakeholders such as suppliers and contractors. Patches of remote working just made collaboration harder. There were also no set tools or processes to transfer knowledge from one project to another.
As investment ramps up in infrastructure and projects roll out, EPC companies are staring at the real possibility of falling short on timely project deliveries due to the labor shortage and slow digital adoption.
It is clear that the only way for companies to achieve their goals is by turning to technology.
4 ways EPC Companies Can Deliver Projects Despite a Labor Shortage
1. Powerful project management software
The EPC industry is labor-intensive. When governments compelled the companies to maintain social distancing within their work environment, there was even more disruption, forcing some employees to work remotely. 80% of engineering companies started using remote engineering tools to continue activities. This brought EPC project management software into the limelight. Robust and functional project management software enables EPC companies to manage their projects end-to-end for greater efficiency and impact. It integrates the back-end processes with the activities on the worksite to streamline the processes, monitor the team’s progress on site and allow better collaboration between the team and supervisors. Such software provides real-time visibility into activity across projects. So, EPC companies can monitor all elements of the project’s progress more effectively and track and direct materials and equipment to and from the worksite without any hassles. It brings transparency to the business and improves resource utilization by ensuring smarter allocation and tracking.
There are plenty of automation opportunities available in the EPC sector as most functions are process-driven. For example, a company may have to review several checkpoints while building a single pump and integrating it into the overall system. Observations may be recorded manually multiple times as the project moves from equipment list to the implementation stage. The job site recordings have to be entered in specific formats and validated with the spec sheets. These processes must be followed carefully as even a single oversight could lead to outages and a massive hit to project schedules. To avoid such issues, companies could automate the processes. Automation can manage all the processes efficiently with minimal human intervention, from capturing data to standardizing and validating them. It helps to streamline the processes, control costs, and help companies to save time and money while calling for reduced manual effort.
3. 4D and 5D simulations and BIM
The acute labor shortage in the EPC industry has the potential to delay project completion. Technologies like Building Information Management (BIM) and 4D and 5D simulations could help to address this shortage by optimizing the effort involved in project delivery, reducing rework and clashes, and improving plans and estimates. BIM allows companies to use 4D or 5D simulations to do virtual construction. It allows them to identify errors in the design early on, so there is minimal need for rework later in the project. Companies can also complete scheduling, forecasting, cost, and inventory estimations through BIM. The increased collaboration and improved data flow between different team members will decrease the communication gaps and enable all the teams to complete the project efficiently. BIM can also be used to create pre-fabricated structures off-site, thus saving time and accelerating the project completion process.
4. Cloud-based applications
EPC companies have to exchange a lot of data, including large documents and construction site images, from worksites to consultants, certifying agencies, and other stakeholders working remotely. The need for quick and easy data exchange became even more evident during the pandemic. Cloud-based applications allow easy exchange of data and improved collaboration among the team members. It saves time, speeds up decision-making, and allows for better-coordinated efforts. As companies start using sophisticated technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and wearable devices to exchange data, the need for cloud-based applications has become even more critical as it helps in enhancing the safety and productivity in the sites, while reducing the time spent on wasteful processes and activities.
The pandemic may have brought digital transformation into the eye line of EPC companies. The companies must continue to embrace technology as the key enabler to deliver projects on time and produce great outcomes. Using technology will bring greater efficiency, optimized effort, and reduced errors. This will help solve labor shortage issues and enable companies to train the existing professionals, improve collaboration, and increase productivity.
To know more about how technology can aid the EPC companies, contact us.