As traditional resources are strained to meet looming demands for civil works projects, adoption of advanced digital construction management systems will play a vital role in the overhaul of America’s aging infrastructure.
Our Infrastructure Today
If you’ve paid attention to the news over the past several years, it probably won’t come as a surprise that many of the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, dams, water distribution systems, and other vital components that keep the country running, are in critical need of upgrades. Many of the systems we rely on today were built decades ago and haven’t been modernized since then despite the U.S. population more than doubling since the 1960s.
In the American Society of Civil Engineer’s 2021 report, they found that the nation’s infrastructure averaged a C-, with a nearly $2.6 trillion investment gap that needs to be closed to catch up with countries like China and Japan. Failure to upgrade and repair our infrastructure will inevitably lead to a higher incidence of disasters like the Oroville Dam and Flint water crisis. These types of large scale infrastructure failures pose dire consequences to the public and often cost billions of dollars to fix, but inadequately maintained infrastructure systems are already costing the country billions of dollars per year through lost economic productivity alone.
Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
The need to invest in our infrastructure has been a hot button issue for years, though no meaningful legislation has been passed in recent history to confront the issue. President Trump introduced a $1.5T proposal during his tenure to build new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways, though this never came to fruition. President Obama passed the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act following the Great Recession in 2009 which included approximately $48 billion in infrastructure spending over 2 years, but this only increased road and bridge construction spending marginally over pre-Recovery Act levels. Some noted that this bill did little more than resurface some highways and bridges that were falling apart rather than substantially expanding existing systems.
President Biden has made infrastructure a key initiative during his presidency, calling for trillions of dollars in spending on public transit, bridges, clean drinking water, high speed internet, clean energy, and other priorities. Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which the Senate passed in August, would be the biggest infrastructure package in decades. A few key highlights of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act from the White House’s press release include:
- Largest federal investment in public transit ever
- Largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak
- Largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system
- Largest investment in clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in American history
- Largest investment in clean energy transmission and EV infrastructure in history
These are incredibly bold statements, and it stands to reason that, if passed by the House of Representatives, project Owners and civil engineering companies will find themselves exceptionally busy over the next decade.
The Infrastructure Bill’s Potential Strain on a Qualified Workforce
As the construction industry continues to rebound following the recent downturn caused by the pandemic, many Owners and engineering and construction firms are experiencing difficulties hiring enough skilled workers to handle the influx of new projects. In line with what has become a global trend in all industries post-pandemic, many construction projects that were put on hold during 2019 have restarted while new projects have concurrently entered the pipeline, thereby causing a shortage of labor. This skilled labor shortage has been especially pronounced for engineers with 5-10 years of experience who are often responsible for executing the bulk of the work on civil infrastructure projects.
Construction organizations have faced a similar conundrum as design firms, with the need to hire 430,000 workers this year and 1 million more over the next two years to keep up with demand. A recent survey by Search Consultancy found that “85% of engineering and manufacturing firms were being hit by skills shortages, with 83% of construction firms also reporting that they were struggling to find enough skilled workers.” This shortage is occurring now, in 2021, even without one of the largest infrastructure investments in U.S. history being passed.
One way that many large civil construction firms are dealing with this labor shortage is by leveraging their global workforce to supplement local talent. This means that in many cases an engineer located in another country, like India, could be working on a project in the U.S. This offers benefits such as allowing for around-the-clock work on a project as well as favorable bill rates. However, it also introduces several challenges that come with engineers trying to understand the many nuances of a large construction project without actually being able to see it in person, making technologies that allow for real-time visibility and collaboration essential. Engineering and construction firms will be forced to think creatively and achieve the highest amount of efficiency possible to keep up with project work once the floodgates are opened and must invest in the best advanced digital construction management system to stay afloat.
Leveraging Technology to do More with More
With a limited talent pool to draw from and demand for large construction projects continuing to ramp up, engineering and construction companies will need to find ways to do more with more funding and more projects to deliver on. One way this can be achieved is by leveraging innovative construction technologies that create more efficient workflows, technologies like HeadLight.
Our visual-based inspection technology, HeadLight, captures verification data from the job site in real-time, allowing for seamless communication between the field and the office. In the past, construction inspectors were often expected to fill out paper-based inspection forms, take photos on a camera (or iPhone), scan the paper-based forms onto the computer, transfer the photos from the camera to the computer, then finally file everything in an antiquated document management system using a file structure that may or may not make sense for the person hoping to dig the reports up in the future.
With HeadLight, all of these steps occur in an instant, with the data being captured, sorted, and uploaded to the cloud in real-time. This has become especially useful in a post-pandemic world where engineering and construction teams are increasingly being forced to collaborate remotely (sometimes in different countries) rather than being able to see things in person. Consultants, owners, and construction firms nationwide are choosing HeadLight due to its efficiency in gathering high-quality data with less user effort. This results in improved collaboration: increased productivity, more comprehensive reports, and quicker delivery times from the inspector to the Owner and design team.
HeadLight is a visual-based inspection technology designed for infrastructure construction teams. We believe that in today’s world, more data ultimately results in better projects and greater transparency. Find out more about how HeadLight can set your organization apart from the competition and meet your advanced digital construction management needs. Request a demo today.