The global impact of COVID-19 has left us all startled. Governments all around the world are now working to get the economy back to normal, and in doing so the balance between public health safety measures and economic activities has shaken. We are now seeing a rise in coronavirus infections in many countries, and as the death tolls continue to daunt us, a second shutdown is now becoming an inevitable possibility.
Considering that possibility, how can the construction industry prepare for the coming disruptions? How has the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak impacted the industry, and what can we learn from it? Below are some of the best ways to prepare for a potential second lockdown:
- Workforce Safety and Retention
Construction projects requires a highly mobile and specialized workforce. The first wave of the pandemic reflected the importance of prioritizing the health and safety of the workers. Many construction companies were concerned that the workers might not feel safe working on the project sites. To tackle this, it is critical that workers feel confident and safe while returning to work.
Another concern was job security among workers after a prolonged shutdown. Many experts believe that continuity in workforce engagement is the key. For instance, an electrician might not be able to work from home but the communication and planning must be kept open so there is no stoppage. This ensures the workers are occupied even when there is no physical work.
- Expedite Ongoing Project
A lockdown introduces a variety of disruptions. For some projects, this would mean delays and change orders. In such cases, accelerating the current project might be the best solution to prepare for a second lockdown while they still can.
Many industry experts believe that, fast tracking the project schedules can be costly, but it beats an inevitable disruption. It is important that companies take the necessary measures to tackle the issues.
- Maintain a Checklist and Document Progress
Looking back at the early lockdown period, an important factor to prepare for disruptions due to emergency situations is to document the current state of all the projects. What percentage of the work is completed? What is the status of materials and equipment? Is the supply chain functioning as intended?
To effectively face a second lockdown, is it crucial to continuously review the project and keep the contingency plans at the ready for consistent delivery.
- Improve Project Productivity
When it comes to increasing the productivity and protecting the output levels, adopting construction technologies, also known as ConTech, and modular construction are going to be the secret weapon during the second wave of the lockdown.
Technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), cloud based SaaS technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and smart wearables enables project managers with complete control over the site and also help reinforce safety among workforce.
The first wave of the pandemic emphasized the importance of modular construction due to factors like fewer workers on site, safe offsite production environment and decentralization. Many experts now believe that modular construction will not only help the construction industry during the coronavirus pandemic, but also become a permanent solution to disruptions.
- Make the Best of the Downtime
With the unpredictable disruptions in manufacturing, construction companies can prepare for the potential lockdowns by securing necessary components and materials. Apart from preparing beforehand, companies can also use the downtime to redo the project aspects that weren’t executed as planned.
The e-commerce industry has experienced a lot of growth during the pandemic, construction companies can rely on virtual on demand services for completing stages like planning, designing and project approval.
- Prepare for the Aftermath
Once the vaccine up for distribution, the construction industry is expected to bounce back. What this means is that companies will have to cater to many projects that were postponed due to the lockdown. This has led to a rising concern of managing the influx of projects that were postponed. When that happens, factors like availability of workers and materials are going to be a big concern. Researchers believe that the aftermath will likely impact in the 2nd quarter of 2021.
When it comes to disruptions, COVID-19 has added a lot of unpredictable risks in construction projects. Here are some of the measures that can help companies in facing the second wave of lockdown:
- Plan for localized shutdowns
- Monitor supply chain performance
- Winterization of project sites
- Collaborative approach
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