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They’re engaging students at a younger age, developing partnerships with technical colleges, focusing on training service managers and improving technician efficiency.

They’re digging into the stigma of the career too.

“The construction industry as a whole is not always portrayed as the most glamorous and the rewards of a machine operator career are generally not well known,” says Jason Anetsberger​, senior product manager for Komatsu America Corp. “This has made it hard for contractors to attract talent and grow skilled operators.”

He says this isn’t the old school construction industry you imagined as a kid.

Technology efficiency

It takes years of experience to operate the machines manually at the highest performance levels. But new technology is making construction jobs easier for workers and more efficient for companies.

Komatsu is innovating industry technology including GPS positioning, advanced machine automation, edge computing, 3D visualization, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

Six years ago, the company launched the world’s first intelligent machine control bulldozers and excavators using GPS satellite navigation to drastically increase machine productivity, upwards of 50 percent, regardless of operator skill level.

Here’s how it works: GPS knows exactly where the machine is on the jobsite; 3D design data files are loaded into the machine knowing the intended or target shape of the terrain; and advanced algorithms automate the movement of the machine.

Each pass of the machine is controlled so that the dozer automatically tries to push no more or no less than optimum. Anetsberger​ says accuracies are as tight as +/-30mm with the operator not even having to move the blade themselves.

The technology gives the operator the highest levels of performance, equivalent to many years of experience. That makes running a jobsite more efficient and on budget.

Komatsu’s SmartConstruction suite of solutions make it easier for site managers of all levels to increase productivity and shorten schedules. For example, high precision drones map the entire site’s terrain much faster than traditional ground surveys and intuitive analytical web portals calculate quantities of materials and visualize site progress.

The next generation

While technology is progressing quickly, technician supply is not keeping up with demand. It’s essential to the industry to train the next generation of workers, as a third of the current technician workforce in the construction industry is expected to retire in the next decade.

“Future construction workers must be engaged much earlier in their education to learn job skills, discern career paths and envision their future impact on the industry,” says Bill Chimley​, director of training and publications for Komatsu America Corp., who calls technician recruitment and retention one of the top three determining factors for future success in the industry.

They’re promoting industry related curriculum and programs in high school, creating robust intern programs, and helping students visualize a career in the industry.  

They’ve successfully used virtual reality simulators to connect high school gamers to their products. They also support multiple technical colleges that allow Komatsu dealers to recruit students, provide them with a specialized degree, and hire them immediately after graduation.    

Once employees are hired it’s important to keep them on the job. Komatsu is working to ensure service managers are ready to identify, grow and retain talent. For example, many of their dealers have trainers to teach technicians how to support and repair the latest model or technology. The technician trusts the trainer which can be a key to improving retention.      

The future is promising and Komatsu is committed to growing the technology and supporting the people in the industry.

Kristen Castillo, [email protected]

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