Data shows a relatively optimistic two-year outlook among heavy civil contractors, explores their use of technology and safety practices to improve jobsites
HAMILTON, NJ – July 8, 2020 –
Heavy civil construction is deemed essential to our economy and has continued in many jurisdictions throughout the economic shutdown. However, data from The Civil Quarterly (TCQ), a new publication from Dodge Data & Analytics launched today, reveals contractors in this sector are facing supply chain issues and other challenges in keeping jobsites going.
The Civil Quarterly (TCQ) is the result of a partnership with Founding partner Infotech, Platinum partner Leica Geosystems and Gold partners Command Alkon and Digital Construction Works, and is based on original research collected quarterly from civil contractors and engineers. The research provides a snapshot of the current business health of contractors operating in this dynamic environment. The inaugural report features research on how technology is transforming civil jobsites and on the prevalence of important safety practices, and future issues will continue to offer insights into key trends that are transforming the sector. Ninety-nine contractors responded to the survey conducted online from mid-April to mid-May 2020.
The key business health findings suggest that heavy civil contractors are generally optimistic about business conditions, despite impacts of COVID-19, which contrasts with other Dodge research about commercial firms:
- Over half (56%) have a high level of confidence about the market’s ability to provide new business opportunities for the next 12 months, increasing to 63% for a two-year outlook.
- Contractors appear to be satisfied with the level of backlog they have right now, since the ratio of the average months of backlog reported and of the average ideal backlog is 92. This contrasts with commercial contractors who in a recent Dodge study had a ratio of average current to ideal backlog of 73.
However, the research also uncovered two areas of concern for these contractors: changes in profit margin and the availability of skilled workers.
- 38% expect a decrease in their profit margins in the next year, and only 29% expect an increase.
- 60% have a high level of difficulty finding skilled workers currently, and 53% expect the cost of skilled workers to increase in the next six months. Almost half (43%) of those expecting the skilled labor cost increase believe that they will be challenged to meet budget requirements on their projects due to it.
These findings show an industry adjusting well to the impacts of the global pandemic, yet cautious about their bottom line. The metrics will be tracked in future surveys and changes reported in upcoming issues of TCQ.
In addition, the technology study reveals widespread adoption of many advanced tools and digital processes in the heavy civil sector, including:
- Drones and ruggedized tablets, which are used by more than half of contractors.
- Heavy equipment operated remotely, or machine control, used by 42%.
- Utility detection used by 40%, and another 23% that are shown to be considering.
- Nearly one quarter also found to be considering adoption of technology that is currently less widely in use, such as mobile mapping systems and e-Ticketing. The growth in e-Ticketing is further explained by an owner’s perspective on how it improves safety, especially during the pandemic, and eTicketing will be more thoroughly explored in the next quarter’s report.
The top benefits that contractors expect from adopting new technologies onsite are increased productivity, better ability to manage the project budget and improved safety performance. When asked about their biggest barriers to using new technologies onsite, the highest percentage (56%) point to the cost of technology, and workforce challenges are also obstacles, with 47% concerned about workforce adoption of technology and 40% lacking the skilled resources to manage technology.
The study also showed that heavy civil contractors prioritize safety investments, with about two thirds reporting that they became more important over the last two years and will continue to be more important over the next two years. They also currently rely far more on processes and policies than on technology to keep workers safe, with over three quarters reporting that regular communication about safety (89%), safety policies based on industry best practices (77%) and an emphasis on safety culture (77%) were the means used to keep workers safe. In contrast, only 47% are actually tracking safety data across projects to determine company best practices, and even fewer are using new technologies like wearables (14%) or video tracking with AI analysis of worker behaviors and ergonomics (4%). Likewise, communication about major project activity is employed by 62% to keep the surrounding community safe, compared with just 19% who employ automated equipment for that purpose.
Dodge Data & Analytics will provide this report free to the industry on a quarterly basis. Future editions of The Civil Quarterly will track a variety of business health metrics and address a wide range of additional related topics to provide a comprehensive view of this complex and ever-changing segment of the construction economy.The report can be downloaded for free at www.infotechinc.com/thecivilquarterly.
About Infotech: Info Tech, Inc., DBA Infotech (Infotech) is a leading SaaS solutions provider for the infrastructure construction industry. Informed by DOT relationships and decades of experience, Infotech develops software solutions that bridge the gaps between owners, consultants, contractors, and other project stakeholders. Whether it be tools for construction administration and inspection or secure online bidding, all of Infotech’s solutions are built to increase transparency, productivity and the availability of data. Infotech is the developer of Appia®, Bid Express®, and Doc Express®, as well as the official contractor for AASHTOWare Project™. For more information, visit infotechinc.com.
About Leica Geosystems: With more than 200 years of history, Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon, is the trusted supplier of premium sensors, software and services. Delivering value every day to professionals in surveying, construction, infrastructure, mining, mapping and other geospatial content-dependent industries, Leica Geosystems leads the industry with innovative solutions to empower our autonomous future. Hexagon is a global leader in sensors, software and autonomous solutions. Hexagon (Nasdaq Stockholm: HEXA B) has approximately 20,000 employees in 50 countries and net sales of approximately 3.9bn EUR. Learn more at hexagon.com and follow us @HexagonAB.
About Command Alkon: As the Leading Supplier Collaboration Platform for Heavy Work, Command Alkon solutions deliver supply chain integration and frictionless digital collaboration across the heavy construction ecosystem. CONNEX, a many-to-many technology platform purpose built for the industry, enables business partners to automate inter-enterprise operations, capture real-time visibility into heavy material orders and deliveries, leverage leading-edge software experiences to achieve mutually beneficial goals, and share knowledge to manage by exception and promote certainty of outcomes. Command Alkon is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, and has offices in locations around the globe. For more information, visit commandalkon.com.
Digital Construction Works: Founded in 2019, Digital Construction Works, Inc., (DCW) is a leading services organization providing digital automation, integration, digital twin services, and fit-for-purpose solutions to automate and optimize the construction process from planning through to operations. With an emphasis on heavy civil infrastructure, DCW is transforming the construction industry from its legacy document-centric paradigm and simplifying and enabling digital automated workflows and processes, technology integration, and digital twinning services for infrastructure. www.digitalconstructionworks.com
About Dodge Construction Network Dodge Construction Network leverages an unmatched offering of data, analytics, and industry-spanning relationships to generate the most powerful source of information, knowledge, insights, and connections in the commercial construction industry. The company powers four longstanding and trusted industry solutions—Dodge Data & Analytics, The Blue Book Network, Sweets, and IMS—to connect the dots across the entire commercial construction ecosystem. Together, these solutions provide clear and actionable opportunities for both small teams and enterprise firms. Purpose-built to streamline the complicated, Dodge Construction Network ensures that construction professionals have the information they need to build successful businesses and thriving communities. With over a century of industry experience, Dodge Construction Network is the catalyst for modern commercial construction. To learn more, visit construction.com
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