Alex Harrell, Director of Strategic Planning, TNT Crane & Rigging
Could you please shed some light on the evolution of the construction landscape over the years? How has your journey been so far in the construction space?
Over the years, the construction industry has grown tremendously to populate the ever-growing urban population, especially in the last five to ten years. With technology scaling greater heights, the construction space becomes more and more adept, both in CAD engineering and in administering on-the-ground building and development. Adding to the growth is the expertise of veterans, who bring with them vast industry know-how and tricks of the trade. This combination of technology and experience is taking the construction landscape to the next level, making it more efficient and profitable. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted construction activities, it has simultaneously propelled the sector to innovate. As a result, a lot of new players are also entering the industry, bringing forth an exciting era for construction space.
I have two decades of expertise working in the oil and gas construction and heavy construction sectors and have witnessed the evolution of the domain first-hand. I had the opportunity to work on quite a few capital construction projects for refineries as well as construction projects for large buildings, ranging from stadiums and skyscrapers to small and mid-sized buildings. I have worked with and learned from many talented professionals during this career, bringing me where I am today. Whether the individual works in my company or any other organization, I have always focused on building reliable and trustworthy relationships. It’s the same trait that is the key while working with our extensive clientele as well.
What are some of the issues challenging the construction tech industry?
Adjusting to the new normal has been the biggest challenge in recent times. As with any other industry, the construction sector also came to a halt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many projects were put on hold throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world until the crisis started to subside. Although the industry shows a promising upward trend currently, there are a few challenges that need to be addressed.
Labor shortage continues to distress the construction industry, which now requires half-a-million new workers in 2022. With tech jobs trending among the youth, the majority of the younger generation is not considering trade jobs. The pandemic has further aggravated this labor crisis, impacting construction activities worldwide. There’s a high demand for individuals to handle the operations in the sector, now more than ever. Adding to the issue is the global supply chain shortage that has engendered a dearth in the supply of building materials. Inflated costs pose a significant challenge for the sector as they delay project completion, increase construction costs, and ultimately reduce profit margin.
“With technology scaling greater heights, the construction space becomes more and more adept, both in CAD engineering and in administering on-the-ground building and development.”
Technology-wise, I don’t see any challenges within the construction industry. We have great technology that is only advancing with the years.
How do you think the companies can leverage current technology to combat the challenges faced by the construction industry?
Safety remains a critical part of the construction industry. While many companies conventionally had a tendency to overlook their investments in workforce safety, we are witnessing a promising shift in that. From cutting-edge safety equipment to state-of-the-art training, construction companies are increasingly leveraging leading-edge safety technologies to enhance the safety of their workforce. This ensures that everybody is accountable for their actions, avoiding accidents or losses.
With more companies investing in advanced safety technologies, training, and programs, the industry’s total recordable incident rates (TRIR) continue to drop drastically. Workers are going to work and coming home safe. Safety practices are being propagated in such a way that they are integrated into the workers’ everyday lives as well. I think that’s one of the significant technological advancements I have seen in the last ten years.
Where do you see the construction industry in a few years?
The construction landscape is currently witnessing an uptick, which is expected to continue going forward. The shifting focus from office spaces to work-from-home or hybrid work cultures contributes to a steady rise in residential buildings. Commercial construction will also increase, thanks to sectors such as retail. Another expansion we would see is in the industrial space. With the growing focus on environmental sustainability, fuel cell technologies and carbon capture and storage technologies are coming to the fore. These revolutionary technologies will pave the way to a whole new industrial space with numerous capital construction projects.
Especially as the Gulf Coast of the U.S. has more than 50 percent of the country’s industrial refineries, the region will witness substantial industrial expansion in the coming years, facilitating numerous construction projects. This will open a window of opportunities, eventually attracting the younger generation to the construction industry.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs in the construction space?
Sustainability and reliability remain the key components of any business, regardless of the industry. While dealing with clients, open and honest communication is imperative. Once a client trusts us, we must live up to it. We have to be on top of our business and provide them solutions and services without keeping them waiting. It is also essential to have the flexibility to evolve with their ever-changing requirements. That confidence we build with our clientele through best practices will help us acquire a loyal client base and expand our footprint in the long run.