Get Around the Labor Shortage by Maximizing Efficiency

applying self leveling and trowling concrete

Labor shortage is an ongoing trend we’re seeing across the board in the construction industry today. It’s not that there aren’t enough jobs – there are too many jobs and not enough skilled workers to fill them.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the construction industry averaged 25,000 new jobs per month over 12 months between March 2015 and March 2016 – that’s 300,000 jobs added in one year!

There’s a steady stream of incoming jobs, but construction companies are struggling to hire for these open roles due to a lack of a reliable and skilled workforce. Between the lingering effects of widespread recession layoffs – when many highly skilled workers were forced out of the industry and didn’t return after making career changes or retiring – and an insufficient focus on technical training in schools, the millennial gap across the construction industry is more apparent now than ever.

Impact of Labor Shortage
A lack of skilled labor can present an array of problems and negative impacts. If a job isn’t completed in time, running over will create additional construction costs and frustrations for the customer. In addition, if workers aren’t sufficiently trained, they are more vulnerable to injury on the job – which isn’t only dangerous for employees but can create a headache for construction companies.

There are ways of moving past the labor shortage deficit that construction companies, builders and contractors can learn to implement. Although the training of young people in the industry must still be heavily addressed, using machinery in place of work traditionally done by hand is an optimal solution. Using pumps and machines can help make bigger projects less labor intensive, enabling companies to take on more jobs and in turn increasing profitability and efficiency. Using best-in-class machinery can help produce quality work at a faster pace with the same or a smaller workforce.

Advantages of Pumping Versus Manual Labor
Increased Efficiency
– Mortar pumps that can both mix and pump (water/cement-aggregate) across long distances or heights make it easier to complete more work in less time and with fewer people. Mortar pumps are also gaining popularity in other areas of construction, particularly the application of self-leveling underlayment.

In SLU applications, pumps allow workers to move much faster, doubling the production with the same size crew – or completing the same production with a smaller crew. Entire floors in high-rise buildings can be done in a single day – versus multiple days – allowing other trade crews to get back in and finish construction.

Less Potential for Injury – Switching to machinery reduces physical strain in a number of ways. For one, it dramatically decreases the labor involved in mixing materials and hauling heavy buckets up scaffolding or around construction sites.

Crews using a pump can split the workload between someone at ground level feeding the pump, someone applying the material and others finishing the material. Cutting down on lifting and the back and forth process results in reduced risk and fewer injuries. This may also help draw more young people into the construction industry. This is particularly relevant for stucco/EIFS workers who commonly work multiple stories above the ground.

Attract Younger Generation – Millennials today seem to be looking for ways to work more efficiently, and are drawn to industries that use the latest technologies. Effectively using the latest machinery can help draw them into the construction industry and fill the gap.

Easier Access – Pumps can be particularly useful for reaching tricky or hard-to-get areas, such as overhead or when filling concrete molds. For example, workers completing manhole restorations find pumps to be extremely beneficial. Pumping material overhead reduces worker fatigue and increases efficiency.

Similarly, bridge building and repair projects frequently use concrete molds as part of the construction process. Filling a mold by hand can sometimes mean pouring one bucket at a time through a small hole in the mold. Attaching a hose and pumping the material is much faster, simpler and wastes less material.

The future of the construction industry and labor shortage trend is uncertain. Industry experts are expecting a construction boom over the next several years, which will result in an immediate need for more skilled labor. Investing in machinery is one way to reduce the impacts of the labor shortage on your business, by maximizing your efficiency and allowing you to downsize your workforce if needed.

Danny Carillo preparing for applying concrete to the walls using a Graco Sprayer.

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