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14 May

The ‘new normal’ for the construction industry?

The construction industry has always been a barometer for economic change both local and global, but it has also been the quickest to recover in times of remobilisation as well.

 

If we look back to the announcement of Brexit, the industry halted dramatically with the majority of UK development ceasing and a rise in Middle and Far Eastern cash filling the opportunity. But it wasn’t long before property developers began assessing and adjusting to the impact of Brexit and the industry quickly returned to a new normal.

 

In the midst of Covid-19, we once again find ourselves in a position of questioning what a ‘new normal’ might look like for the construction industry; the global landscape has been changed fundamentally with a very different type of economic change, and an unprecedented one at that.  It isn’t simply a case of picking up tools and starting back on site again, and that goes for the majority of industries let alone construction. Whilst we may not yet know what the new normal will look like, what we do know is that the construction industry is very good at remobilisation and adapting to the changes presented to it.

 

There will, unfortunately, be job losses, companies dissolving and dramatic changes including new companies forming as a result of mergers and acquisitions as companies pool their resources.  Law reforms for employers and employees alike are inevitable as well as changes in insurance, all of these factors combine to form a very changeable time ahead.

 

This uncertain period, and the changes that will need to be implemented will be very different to Brexit as there are overarching health and safety implications rather than simply cash flow.  However, the construction industry has proven itself to be a very versatile and adaptive machine over the years with governmental, health and safety and global changes each presenting a unique challenge.  Covid-19 is something entirely different for every aspect of construction and it will no doubt force an evolution in terms of how business is done.

 

Face to face deals can be done virtually as we have seen, with people using technology to their advantage.  Technological advantage (or lack of it) will likely see the rise and fall of some companies in the sector where traditional methods of doing business are forced into a 21st century model.  Procurement, production, quantity surveying and all the machinery behind a construction company will have to adapt, and speculation around how is rife; particularly with the added challenges of borders being closed, jobs on the line and outsourced materials being hit the hardest.

 

Supply shortages are potentially going to be on the same scale as we saw in supermarkets whilst the logistical companies start to adapt and resupply once any large scale construction begins to restart.  The more technological or installation based resources will suffer the most.  On the evening news we see companies with less than 10% of the workforce in place trying to supply a demand that they can’t keep up with.  Automation will of course be something that thrives here and where possible, should be used but where it needs an individual on the tools only time will tell how quickly the industry gets up to the new normal.


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