The end of the Belgian construction industry?

In this blog, we look at some of the challenges and opportunities facing the construction industry today. These challenges are bringing about evolutions in technology and engineering as well as new types of organization and collaboration.

We are at the end of the classic Belgian construction industry.Companies operating within the construction industry have been facing a collection of challenges for some time. They are diverse in nature but also affect each other. Just think of the shortage of labor and skilled workers, evolution in technology and engineering such as BIM, the organization of the construction process, new ways of working together, the transfer of knowledge and the ever growing importance of sustainability. This causes these companies to have to thoroughly evaluate, adjust and partly or completely rethink their process. The companies that succeed in this will be the winners of tomorrow. On the contrary, those who cling to the past will find it increasingly difficult to deliver added value in the future construction market.

Labor shortage

It is no secret that there have been fewer construction workers for quite some time.  The ratio of qualified tradespeople to helpers who still need guidance to work fully independently is not good enough. Moreover, the higher profiles are also scarce. Thus, the loss of work planners, project leaders and project managers to ongoing projects can have far-reaching consequences. The solutions to this are diverse. We also believe that there is certainly no harm in investing in several solutions at once, as long as it is well thought through. Passing on knowledge remains difficult for many organizations to transform into practice. For a variety of reasons, knowledge and skills are often passed on too late or sometimes not at all between employees. Another solution is to provide strong incentives for knowledge and skills themselves. Shape the training of new employees yourself. Also coach the employees who have to provide this training to excel in this.

In short, it comes down to providing sufficient tools and follow-up for both the trainee and the trainer. Hire for attitude train for skills is the vision that ensures that the companies that apply this principle never have a shortage of talented employees. Another solution that many organizations are using is the establishment of joint ventures and other cooperative relationships in which the main contractor is involving more and more subcontractors as well as freelancers.

Organization of the construction process

In the past, a contracting company often had literally all the expertise on board to offer a total package. Today, this is still rare. In order to continue to guarantee a total package, many contractors without even saying most, are forced to outsource a variety of techniques to subcontractors. Different companies specializing in different niches of the construction process work together to create a construction project. Responsibility within these projects is often unevenly distributed. Also, the different parties see benefit in working with each other. Of course, the cooperation between contractor and subcontractor is an age-old principle but what we are mainly referring to is the fact that in the future these different parties will sit around the table sooner. All parties will be more involved. Not only the relationship between contractor and subcontractor or the way of working together will undergo a significant change, but also certain functions will take on a new character and others will disappear.

Winning organizations adapt well. Some even manage to turn challenges into opportunities. That is why it is important for HR and operations to join forces and sit down together to devise solutions in the form of changing and evolving functions resulting in the optimization of the entire operation of the organization.

Advances in engineering and technology

In addition to the advance of engineering within the construction industry ( strong preparation and execution through prefabricated elements and modular construction), Building Information Modelling will strongly influence the future construction market. It is a fact that will benefit the overall integration. We do not deny that today BIM is already strongly used by many companies, the classic players are launching their first projects in BIM today. Many companies are planning to integrate BIM in the future. The possibilities that BIM brings, allow a construction company to be future proof. BIM generates a uniform digital plan. This plan contains all the plans of the various parties that will be working on the project. This not only ensures that the various construction parties enter into dialogue with each other at an earlier stage and work together better in this way. It ultimately ensures that the effective implementation is very close to the estimated planning. BIM is a highly technical application.

Yet the organizational and human opportunities that arise from it are incredible. Collaboration is the motto. The client, architect, contractor and various subcontractors in different niches can work together in a digital plan. Not only a great tool to optimize the technical and organizational possibilities of the building process but also a great application for one of the above mentioned solutions for the labor shortage. Collaboration.

Sustainability of our society

Construction companies have as well as a social responsibility that they must fulfill. Whether it is residential, industrial, public or utility buildings; contractors have a whole set of standards and legislations to follow. On the one hand, buildings have an ecological impact where good management of the environment is important. So the environmental impact must remain low. On the other hand, building has a social dimension. Since people spend a large part of their time indoors, it is important that a building meets certain standards. The quality of life and health of users is central here. Finally, there is the economic dimension. Here it is important that there is a continuous thorough analysis of the possibilities for preservation and renewal of urbanization. In short, sustainability is the essence.

Conclusion

Our world is constantly changing. And the construction industry, like all other industries, is also facing change. Some challenges are shared, others are very unique. In any case, it is important for companies to adopt a flexible attitude towards this change. If not handled innovatively or creatively, scarcity will become a reality in multiple areas of the organization. Fortunately, the flexibility and resilience that companies apply today will determine the success of the future course. Of course, they are not alone in this.

Is your company also facing the challenges and opportunities within the construction sector? Do you have questions about the end of the Belgian construction industry? Then you can always contact us without obligation. We are happy to make time for you.

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