How Modular Construction Solves Labor Shortages

How Modular Construction Solves Labor Shortages

There’s a dramatic labor shortage in the construction industry. Some say the construction labor shortage has reached crisis level. This shortage is particularly concerning because it coincides with the shortage of multi-family housing and the passage/rollout of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will mean more competition for labor. One way to meet the need for more housing despite the labor crunch is to invest in the modular construction market, which requires less labor than traditional construction.

What Causes Skilled Labor Shortages in Construction?

The labor shortage in construction includes both skilled and unskilled workers. However, the ramifications are worse with skilled labor because a skilled-labor shortage leads to project delays and inconsistent quality control. 

With plenty of jobs available in the industry and workers being relatively well paid, why does the shortage exist?l

Many trace the labor shortage back to the housing crash in 2009. Between 2007 and 2011, the construction industry lost over 2.2 million jobs. When the market turned around due to increased demand, many construction workers had left the industry for other professions.

Demographics are also a factor. The median age for construction workers is 41, and it’s increasing. The construction shortage would be less concerning if a steady flow of young people were entering the industry. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

Some place the blame on societal shifts and focus away from hands-on jobs and toward professional careers that are involve sitting at a computer. College for all and the focus that there is a school for everyone ignore the benefits of working in construction. Therefore, more young people who in the past may have chosen a career in construction opt for other career paths.  

Other reasons young people may avoid the construction industry include the physicality required, including the greater possibility of injury, and disinterest in working outside in the elements.

modular construction factory worker

How Modular Makes Remote Construction Easy

Fewer young people are attending college than in the past, and even fewer have attended since the pandemic hit. This situation provides an opportunity to help solve the labor shortage in construction. Modular construction in particular can attract labor. Even more importantly, modular construction requires fewer skilled workers than traditional outdoor building.

 

Centralized Location

There are construction projects all around the country, including in remote areas. If no skilled workers are living in an area, tradespeople have to travel to the construction site, or even relocate during the project. Depending on the distance, some skilled workers are reluctant to do so. 

In contrast, modular apartment construction takes place primarily in a factory. A factory can be in a centralized location, making it easier to attract workers. Plus, workers may choose to move near a factory since they know where their job is located. There’s no need to wonder about the location of the next construction site and hope it will be convenient.

 

Process

As noted above, construction issues include an aging labor force. So, the industry is seeing many retirements and a brain drain. As the older generation continues to exit, the remaining labor pool will be less experienced.

Because modular construction production takes place in a factory, more work can be automated. By taking full advantage of technology, robotics, and automation, some skilled labor functions can be lessened or even eliminated. Work is more standardized (compared with traditional building), so workers can become adept at it faster.

Modular construction requires less skill than construction done outside, so the impact of the lack of experienced workers will be reduced. In addition, younger people are generally more comfortable with technology and are drawn to it. The opportunities to work with technology that are more prevalent in modular construction could draw young people to the industry.

 

Better Working Environment

One reason for the shortage of buildings is the increasing amount of time it takes to construct a building. Construction supply chain issues are a factor in the longer project times. Nothing can be done by builders to improve the supply chain; however, the modular construction market can offer some solutions.

Modular construction has been found to be up to 50% faster than typical construction. One of the primary reasons modular is faster is it takes place indoors rather than in the elements. Working in a factory means working in a standard controlled environment, whereas bad weather can shut down a project for days at a time. Construction workers can also get beaten down by working in challenging weather conditions.

In addition, because routines are more easily established and maintained within a factory, employee hours can be standardized. People appreciate the better work-life balance that comes with having a regular schedule.

 

Costs

Modular apartment construction costs less than traditional construction. As noted above, the less labor required helps reduce costs. Plus, the on-site labor is more productive since they work in a comfortable environment and have consistent tasks.

Besides lowering costs and increasing speed, employees like to stay busy. Being active is preferable to boredom at work, and having less downtime leads to greater job satisfaction. Studies show that happy employees are productive employees: They can be as much as 20% more productive than their unhappy colleagues.

Every business owner wants lower costs as well as greater control over costs. Modular construction offers both, and it benefits owners as well as labor. 

Volumetric Construction Factory

Conclusion

The multi-family housing shortage and construction labor shortage are long-term issues. Modular apartment construction helps ease both shortages. Its benefits – speed and lower costs – are music to the ears of the construction industry.

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