Sunday, November 3, 2019

Modular Construction Industry’s “Experience” Shortage



Ever since the media “discovered” the modular construction industry a decade ago, there have been so many conferences, podcasts and investment seminars that one has to wonder who’s actually sponsoring them and where did they get their experience.



It’s time our industry begins looking at more than just a shortage of skilled labor, there’s a shortage of experienced people to actually run it.

First the industry had to get rid of experienced older workers because they didn't have the right skills. Now the workers with the right skills don't have the right experience. And forget that training idea; too expensive and time-consuming. To be competitive, companies need workers who can hit the ground running.

Since the housing recession of 2008 I have hosted and attended hundreds of modular industry events. What I’ve seen are lots of industry people with decades of experience being ignored in favor of new technologies.

I’ve sat with those experienced in modular construction and watched as a new technology is showcased at meetings telling us it will make construction at all levels easier and more profitable.

Trying to understand what they are pushing at the modular industry is tough to accept as our industry is still very much a hammer and nail business. Yes, we have auto-nailers and CNC machines and some factories are beginning to install wall panel automation, but the production line people that have the experience in why we do what we do are being replaced by people that are more intrigued by high tech than to making sure everything fits as it should on the line.

Moving onto the management side of the business finds a great number of experienced modular industry veterans being pushed aside by young tech savvy managers. They know about the latest robotic technology but lack basic knowledge of the construction trades.

Many modular factories are trying to install BIM into their plants. The younger managers have been told BIM will be the best thing ever, especially in those older factories where young managers take one look at their processes and say “I can improve that with BIM” without any knowledge of what to improve because they don’t understand how we got here in the first place.

Personally I think new processes and automation will become part of tomorrow’s modular construction industry. However, abandoning the old processes almost overnight without any regard for cost and productivity is wrong.

Our industry needs to have input from experienced managers and production line people before we jump head first into any new technology being rammed down our throats at seminars and conferences.

If we’re not careful, those experienced will be forced out and their replacements, who don’t know our history, will be doomed to repeat it.

Experience is in short supply in our industry.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of Modular Home Builder blog and industry speaker/consultant. modcoach@gmail.com

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