ECI Software Solutions Tackling Construction Labour Shortage

By Kitty Wheeler
A shortage of labour is an ongoing issue for the construction industry.
Bob Cain, Leader at ECI Software Solutions, discusses the role technology is playing in tackling labour shortages in the construction industry

One of the many challenges facing the global construction industry, one of the most serious -- aside from supply chain disruptions -- is a shortage of labour worldwide.

Technology is helping here, helping to streamline operations and improve project management and communication across teams. One company helping here is ECI Software Solutions.  We spoke to Bob Cain ECI's Business Unit Leader, Residential Construction Industry.

Who is ECI Software Solutions?

We have been providing industry-specific, cloud-based business management software and services to businesses around the world for more than 30 years.

With divisions focused on manufacturing, wholesale/retail distribution, building and construction, and field service, ECI's solutions integrate into every aspect of a customers' business to help them level the playing field, run day-to-day operations more efficiently, and free them up to focus on what matters most.

Introduce yourself and your role

I have more than 20 years of experience in residential construction, currently serving as the Business Unit Leader for the ECI’s Residential Construction Industry. 

I oversee the day-to-day operations of BuildTools, our project management software for custom home builders and remodelers and Bolt, our project management and scheduling software for trade contractors working with builders in new residential construction.

ECI Software Solutions has innovated techniques to address worldwide labour shortages

How is ECI solutions changing construction?

We work with construction businesses to help them streamline operations and, ultimately, boost profitability.

The growing labour shortage is a key challenge for the construction industry. It’s never been more important for businesses to proactively and efficiently manage resources and operations.

This is where we come in. Our enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solutions seamlessly integrate diverse processes to enable companies to streamline operations, optimise resource allocation, and enhance project visibility. 

Through our software, companies can gain an overview of the entire construction project, create and visualise project schedules, and get accurate and detailed estimates for material costs and labour expenses – as part of managing their wider financial operations and budget.

How are you addressing construction labour shortages?

Over the next three years, the industry will need to recruit 2.2 million workers to keep pace with the ever-growing demand for housing, according to the Home Builders Institute (HBI).
At the start of this year, trade association Associated Builders and Contractors, found that the construction workforce shortage now tops half a million.

This is due to a combination of factors, including a rising demand for labour and a retiring workforce, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. With skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing and electrical work predominantly affected, this is posing a significant hurdle to home production.

Our technology is helping tackle the labour shortage through automating manual, repetitive tasks and maximising data to help businesses plan and forecast how to optimise their existing resources. 

We are leveraging talent from different geographic areas by enabling remote work capabilities through our cloud-based platforms. This allows companies to hire skilled professionals who can work on design, planning, and management tasks from virtually anywhere.

The labour crisis has also been compounded by poor communications tech – which is crucial to ensure efficiency across the construction lifecycle. Our technology delivers real-time collaboration, document sharing, progress tracking, and reporting to help ease these problems.

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What technology is easing construction labour shortages?

Robotics and automation are at the forefront, with robots being used for tasks such as bricklaying, demolition and 3D printing of building components. Drones are also increasingly being used for site surveys and inspections, reducing the need for manual labour while improving safety.

AI and machine learning are also being used to optimise project management and resource allocation. Predictive analytics help in anticipating labour needs and mitigating risks. 

Meanwhile, virtual and augmented reality are used for training purposes, allowing workers to gain experience in a simulated environment before entering the job site.

We’re seeing a sharp rise in the number of trade contract businesses implementing software to run their businesses. 

Some of our customers have increased their job volume by ten-fold, with no additional resources. These businesses are using technology to do more with fewer people.

What are your biggest sustainability & tech challenges?

We invest heavily in research and development to keep our products at the cutting edge, but the fast pace of technological advancements means we must be agile and adaptable.
We recognise the importance of sustainability within the trade industries and believe technology can help here. 

One of our core products is our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system which allows businesses to keep accurate records of operational activity, tracking important sustainability metrics such as energy usage, water consumption, waste or carbon emissions.

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