Educate, Accelerate and Explore: Take Advantage of Downtime During the Pandemic

Contractors have an unexpected opportunity to reinforce and learn new skills, improve digital connections between field and office, as well as investigate and invest in technologies for long-term resilience.
By Scott Crozier
May 12, 2020

It’s safe to say that the world is forever changed by the ongoing pandemic—and many construction businesses are seeing temporarily limited, if not stopped, work on jobs. But all is not lost during these strange times.

While the world resets, contractors have an unexpected opportunity to reinforce and learn new skills, improve digital connections between the office and the field, as well as investigate and invest in technologies for long-term resilience.

Time to Learn

Continuing education is an integral part of the construction industry. While certifications and licensing are fundamental, there are also ample opportunities for operators to learn new or improve existing skills, particularly when it comes to technology used on equipment.

Construction equipment simulators are an increasingly familiar method for helping operators explore and expand on machine control skills on excavators, dozers, motor graders, haulers and scrapers. If the full simulator is not available, there are also plenty of apps from manufacturers and developers to learn basic or advanced skills. These apps make it easy to learn and practice machine control features and functionality from home.

Instruct-by-video modules can also help experienced operators practice advanced skills, from lane guidance to cleaning trenches and pipe placement. Keeping skills sharp through virtual training will ensure the team is ready to move forward with productive and safe operations when business returns to normal.

Remote Possibilities

The days of the high-density office are likely gone—and workplace distancing will likely become more the norm, at least for the foreseeable future. In the construction space, that likely means an increased reliance on connected jobsites, remote access to project information and the need to collaborate and share updates from afar.

To date, remote project management and operations in construction have largely been deployed in hazardous conditions. However, in today’s emerging environment, remote management and control could be a foundational piece of the post-pandemic safe and productive jobsite.

New hardware and software solutions are making it easier to enable connected workflows, content-enabled projects and rich constructible models that improve visibility and increase productivity.

These systems are built to wirelessly transfer data such as 3D designs to the construction site as needed. A dashboard provides an overview of real-time job progress—while in the office. Project managers can quickly and easily send digital work orders to field superintendents or equipment operators. Similarly, remotely connected equipment helps project managers track job progress and address issues as they arise by providing actionable real-time data. They can monitor operations, troubleshoot issues and efficiently train and support teams as needed, from the office or remotely.

While the construction industry will always have its peaks and valleys, companies that are able to act quickly in transforming their workflows will be best poised for success.

Get an Edge

With increasingly complex projects and tighter schedules, creating repeatable processes is a foundational step toward working faster, smarter and with less risk.

Technology advances such as virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality are helping drive efficiencies through remote training, collaboration, jobsite management and quality control and assurance.

According to a report from Zion Market Research, the global AR and VR market is expected to reach $814.7 billion by 2025—and construction will likely be a part of that growth.

Augmented and mixed reality technologies can help workers visualize a job site remotely and collaborate between the office and the field, improve issue resolution and drive productivity. Now AR is available in the cab of construction equipment. For example, AR in the cab of excavators helps operators more easily understand 3D models, cut/fill information, slope data and other bench points and reference points.

When evaluating current capabilities—people, processes and equipment—take the time to ensure that technology investments are scalable. Few companies have the time or resources to adopt all of the latest and greatest solutions. However, technology partners should have a seamless path to upgrade as needed.

by Scott Crozier

Scott Crozier is with Trimble’s Civil Engineering and Construction Division.

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