The construction industry is entering a new era – are you ready? The integration of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in construction marks one of the most significant shifts in the industry, which will affect nearly every job site. The autonomous construction equipment market is expected to reach more than $20 billion globally by 2027. Now is the time for contractors to not only understand this technology, but to prepare their workforce for the challenges and opportunities this new era brings.
THE AV ERA
The era of AV is here, with new advancements happening every day. This shift will change the industry more than anything in recent history. Automatous vehicles, ranging from drones to self-driving trucks and automated heavy machinery, can operate with minimal human intervention. They offer precision, can work continuously without fatigue and minimize the risk of accidents caused by human error. This transformative technology will enhance safety and productivity on job sites. However, the shift to AV in construction is not just about technological adoption. Even more important than choosing the right piece of AV equipment is preparing your workforce for this change.
Here are five ways to prepare your workforce for AV integration and set yourself up for successful adaptation. Starting now will allow your workforce to evolve with this new technology.
1. Training and Education
Develop comprehensive training programs to educate your workforce on how to operate and interact with AVs. This training should cover both technical aspects and safety protocols. Don’t forget to show how AVs will help your workforce be more productive while keeping workers safer.
PRO TIP: Involve employees in the transition process. Seek their feedback on training programs and the integration of autonomous technology. This can increase buy-in and smooth the transition.
2. Redefining Roles
As AVs take over certain tasks, the roles of construction workers will evolve. Focus on reskilling and upskilling your employees, emphasizing the importance of managing and maintaining AV technology. Ensure the new autonomous technology integrates with your existing machinery and software systems. Use the data generated by AVs to enhance decision-making. This can lead to improved operational efficiency and project management.
PRO TIP: Emphasize the development of problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability skills. As the role of workers shifts from manual operation to more supervisory roles, these soft skills will become increasingly important.
3. Update Safety Procedures
Encourage your employees to embrace new technologies and provide them with the resources to do so. Review and update your safety protocols to ensure your team understands how to safely interact with and around AVs. Offer safety training focused on operating and maintaining autonomous vehicles and machinery. This includes understanding the software, navigation systems and troubleshooting techniques. Conduct follow-up training and be sure to get feedback to understand and address any gaps.
PRO TIP: Equip your managerial staff with the skills to lead through change. This includes understanding how to implement new technologies and manage a workforce that is adapting to these changes.
4. Mental Health and Wellbeing
Technological shifts can be stressful. Provide support for employees who might feel overwhelmed or anxious about these changes. Acknowledge the stress and uncertainty that can come with significant changes. Offer support to employees who might feel overwhelmed by this technological shift. For older workers, take extra care to make sure they feel comfortable with the new technology and understand their skills and experience are still valuable assets.
PRO TIP: Partner with technical schools and universities to create specialized training programs. These partnerships can offer certifications and courses tailored to the needs of autonomous construction technology. This will help workers to evolve with the shift to focus more on monitoring and maintaining AVs rather than manual operation.
5. Legal and Regulatory Compliance
Stay informed about the legal and regulatory aspects of using AVs in construction. Ensure your workforce is also aware of these regulations to maintain compliance. Use the data generated by AVs to enhance decision-making. This can lead to improved operational efficiency and project management.
PRO TIP: Consider how AVs fit into your long-term business strategy. Stay informed about emerging technologies to continually adapt and evolve.
The incorporation of autonomous vehicles in the construction industry is not something that will occur in the distant future; it's a rapidly approaching reality. Contractors that strategically plan for the integration of AVs now will prepare their workforce for this change, allowing all workers to feel confident in the new era. This proactive approach will not only ensure a smoother transition but also position forward-looking companies as front-runners in an increasingly competitive and technologically advanced industry.
Photo courtesy of Bobcat