Our industry has a vital role to play in a post-pandemic recovery of our communities and economies — and this week’s release from Build UK reporting their members have 86% of their infrastructure and construction sites open (at 75% operational capacity) felt like a milestone in the long road to our destination.

Many executive teams are reshaping their strategies and operating procedures, examining how they can emerge stronger. A recent thought-leadership article from McKinsey got me thinking about what construction can learn. How can we proactively reshape our agendas to improve the odds of future success?

Examining the Trends 

In recent years, there have been a number of key trends shaping construction — both in the short-term (increased digitization, ranging from BIM to maximise material ordering efficiency, to apps for monitoring employee well-being) and the long-term (for example vertical integration, off-site construction, and sustainability drivers).

Preliminarily indications from McKinsey are that many of the characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic are inducing or increasing some of these trends and disruptions. What can we take from this?

Actions

The following actions, based on my indication of the emerging trends, can help leaders prepare for the next normal:

  • Accelerate rollout and adoption of digitisation, from enabling minimal physical interaction during distribution, to scaling up remote collaboration tools. I recently wrote about this here, discussing how digitalisation can support robust growth and operational control.


  • Bolster supply-chain resilience. This means different things across the sector — for us, this means supporting SME partners we work closely with in access to frameworks and resources. For Contractors this might mean building inventory, identifying back-up distribution channels or recruiting direct labor.


  • Identify opportunities to shift work off-site. An interesting thought-piece can be found here, and several of my colleagues are experts in this field. In the long-term this could also contribute towards sustainability goals.


  • Stay engaged with your customers. This is close to my own heart — regular communication at a variety of levels is key to building mutually beneficial partnerships with our clients. In the short-term, where needed, we should agree alternative ways of working. Customer preferences are undergoing a step change, so it’s more important than ever to stay close to current (and future) customers.

Conclusions

Construction is typically far more volatile than the overall economy (due, in part, to the immovable fact that other economic activity affects demand for property assets). Staying ahead and maximising the chance of success requires us to be proactive and stay ahead of trends.

A healthy and productive construction industry is vital for both the current crisis response and overall economic recovery. The only certainty is that it will look far different from the current setup. Now is the time to prepare for our role in a more productive and resilient industry.