Is it the labor shortage again? Not so fast sparky. There is a labor shortage, no doubt. But there are still well over a million people employed in the electrical trades and, according to the US Census Bureau, over 150,000 firms are engaged in the industry. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the demand for electricians was projected to grow nine percent from 2016 to 2026. Increases in construction spending and growing demand for alternative energy sources will drive that. To take advantage of the robust and expanding construction economy in the US, challenges need to be addressed now.
Electrical Segment Manager for eVolve MEP, Adam Heon spent over 15 years in the electrical construction industry. Through his experience he points to four main factors holding back the electrical industry.
1.) Project complexity – Electrical construction by itself is difficult, for example:
- Electrical contractors (ECs) have to engineer jobs for installation (how the project will be built). Typically contract documents that ECs receive from engineers dictate how the various systems (power, lighting, low voltage, etc) should operate, but they do not go into the detail required to install the materials to make those systems operate properly.
- The lack of standardization on means and methods across the industry, by region or even within a company, causes a vast variation on how projects are built based on the individual(s) responsible for designing the project for installation. The more variation the more difficult it is to have a repeatable process for installation.
- There is a wide range of systems that ECs install, requiring sourcing supplies from multiple vendors, causing procurement difficulties, thus requiring someone to make sure the right parts show up on time and coordinating that information to the entire team.
- Combine the above with shorter construction schedules and less time for project planning, and the problems just get compounded.
2.) Lack of design and prefabrication resources
- To combat the reduction in skilled labor, ECs are turning to prefabrication. The goal of a company is no longer “do more with less” but instead “do more with what we have.”
- This labor shortage requires high level planning and prefab, which requires accurate design, which requires designers with a high level of experience, which is slowly diminishing (hence the labor shortage). Talk about a vicious circle. How and where can they begin this journey?
- With all the contractors across the country turning to BIM and prefabrication, you would think there would be no shortage of information on how to be successful with this “new way” of designing and building. Not so. In fact most companies seem to be operating in a silo and are figuring out how to adapt by trial and error with their fingers crossed, hoping their people will be successful.
- Electrical detailers are always under pressure and have no place to turn when problems arise. Fortunately, eVolve MEP is a go-to resource that’s available now to assist with this transition. The firm’s eVolve Electrical tools enable contractors to design for fabrication. In addition, eVolve MEP training can assist designers at all levels.
3.) Demands for technology adoption
- More and more general contractors (GCs) and owners are demanding that contractors use additional technology. How do ECs keep up with technology that’s constantly changing?
- ECs now need “technology focused people,” for instance VDC managers. The VDC manager is typically responsible for finding, learning and implementing new technology, in addition to their ‘day job’ managing a design team.
- One of the best partners an EC can have is a training resource with personnel who have practical experience in the electrical trades. A partner like this can be the equivalent of having a VDC manager. Applied Software is a good example, and it is also a great resource for implementation.
4.) Communication and documentation complications
- Contractors need to stay in constant communication while documenting progress, changes and issues.
- As subcontractors, ECs are typically required to use the GC’s document delivery/management systems for drawings, specs, RFIs, and submittals. If an EC wants to use their inhouse system to manage this information across all of their projects, they still have to deal with other systems for the GCs. This makes implementation and adoption of an inhouse system difficult.
- The industry doesn’t lack technology tools for communication. The challenge is finding one that works and is sustainable for the company – something everyone will buy into and use successfully.
The good thing is, a solution exists to remedy these challenges right now. eVolve Electrical facilitates electrical design and detailing by automating many of the typically manual tasks needed for fabrication, all via the Revit platform. With highly intelligent custom family components, modeling tools, drawing creation tools, and visual-graphics tools, firms can reduce labor and other costs in the design and fabrication processes. Contact eVolve MEP today and request the demo that can help overcome the challenges holding back the electrical industry and change your professional life.