Looking Forward to #InfrastructureIn2021!
December 22, 2020
While it is true that the recent economic decline across the globe can be attributed to the pandemic, there are enough reasons for us to be cheerful. Last week saw the first batch of U.S. Health-Care Workers across the country receive their first dose of the Covid-19 Vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.
Thanks to advances in research and development, the vaccine was developed in record time, less than a year after the genetic sequence for the virus was first made available in January, 2020. And, as 2020 comes to a close, the timing is right to look at an article in the Economist, “The pandemic could give way to an era of rapid productivity growth”. It talks about periods of explosive growth in the last century, including the extraordinary growth period after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
At the height of the Great Depression, banks were in crisis, and unemployment was at nearly 25%. FDR introduced the New Deal (1933-1939) to rebuild the economy. The Public Works Administration (P.W.A.) was the New Deal's premier agency for the construction of big infrastructure projects, and the 1930s was considered a key era for engineering. The New Deal created millions of employment opportunities in the construction industry. Among the major projects include the Hoover Dam, Lincoln Tunnel, Empire State Building, the nation's first freeway in Los Angeles, the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. If history is any guide, we could expect a pent-up growth period once the current pandemic ends. And just like almost a century ago, infrastructure projects would once againbe one of the driving forces of the economic recovery. And, upgrades to our nation’s infrastructure are long overdue as the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card by ASCE found the national grade for infrastructure remains at a “D+”.
So how could businesses in the construction industry prepare for the post-pandemic period? One of the best strategies would be to take advantage of the current lull period to review existing business processes, and make the necessary changes, and invest in technology and employee training & development. Let’s take a look at some of the ways civil engineering companies, specifically Construction Materials Testing (CMT) and Inspection Businesses could get ahead during this slow period.
In terms of flexibility, cloud computing allows businesses to deploy new applications quickly as they only need to learn to use the functionality of the applications before they go live. Businesses could launch e-commerce offerings within hours. This has been especially useful during the current difficult times where many businesses had to adopt quickly to alternative methods of running their business in order to survive. The pay-as-you-go model also provides you scalability when you need it – you’ll able to upgrade capacity instantaneously.
1. Review your existing business processes
The key deliverable for a Construction Materials Testing and Inspection business is a report on CMT testing and Inspection that has been reviewed and approved by certified engineers.
Are you happy with the way things are done in your company to create your report in a timely manner? Do you have a documented process in place? If not, it would help to draw up a flowchart of the CMT process from the start to the end. This will help you identify bottle-necks and inefficiencies, and determine which steps cause the most delay and inaccuracies in delivering reports to clients. For example, there may be duplicate processes like transferring data entered on paper forms at the field to spreadsheets back in the office.
Next comes the steps that you could take to improve your process. Determine the areas that would benefit from streamlining with technology. Have a realistic goal and timeline that meets your budget.
Further reading: How to Collect Field Data More Efficiently
2. Invest in the right technology
With so many geotechnical engineering software and construction material testing software to choose from for work order scheduling, field/lab data collection and reporting, you have to go back to your main goals and budget for selecting the right software. Do you want a generic "one-size-fits-all solution" that typically has a cheaper upfront cost but in the long run could be more expensive when you factor in the resources needed to make it work for your business in a niche field like CMT, or do you want an industry specific solution?
You also have to determine which software model is the best-fit model for your business – SaaS (cloud-based) or On-Premise. The current trend in the industry is a move towards cloud-based computing.
Cloud-based CMT solutions with Mobile App
Cloud computing allows you to pay-as-you-go, as you would pay for your utilities while providing you scalability when you need it. There’s no need to purchase hardware upfront, and you don’t have to worry about ongoing maintenance of hardware and software.
With an industry specific mobile app for CMT and geotechnical engineering, field technicians would be prompted to enter test results on pre-determined electronic forms on their mobile devices – the data will be validated immediately and lab/office staff would have real-time access to test results, facilitating automatic report generation for review and approval.
Think of the productivity gains with an automated workflow solution from scheduling to task dispatching to field data collection & lab management to reporting. There would be a significant improvement in the turnaround time for accurate reports, and if the software is integrated to timesheets and invoicing, you’ll get your payments sooner than before.
An industry specific solution for Construction Materials Testing (CMT), Inspections and Geotechnical Engineering Investigations like eFieldData would increase productivity and profits. Its intuitive, easy to use interface facilitates quick on-boarding, and empowers your team to get the job done in real-time with a mobile app for field data collection, lab management, and industry standard reporting. A big picture dashboard, allows you to keep track of who is doing what job when and where.
Further reading: How to Choose the Perfect Solution
3. Employee Training & Development
The world is evolving rapidly, and we have to adapt to new technologies to remain competitive. And, thanks to impressive technological development, despite the on-going pandemic, we have access to continuous education - there is a wide range of online classes/webinars to choose from to keep our skills updated. You could get details on the latest trends and directions from engineering journals & newsletters, industry webinars, your state DOT sites, professional/industry/trade organizations including but not limited to ASCE, ASTM, AASHTO and FHWA. Below are some of the websites:
So, now is the perfect time to encourage your employees to register for the right program to support their training needs. They can take advantage of the downtime to advance to higher levels of certification in their chosen path.
In summary, with the imminent distribution of vaccines over the next few months, life would slowly get back to normal. And, companies that adapted their processes to take advantage of technology would be in a better position to enjoy the forthcoming growth period post pandemic.
Looking forward to #infrastructurein2021!