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The Next 30 Years
With PBI having celebrated 30 years in business last month, it’s tempting to look ahead and wonder what the next three decades might hold. Making predictions is a fool’s game, of course, as evidenced by just about everyone’s March Madness bracket, but here’s what I see in my crystal ball:
It took early man a million years to progress from discovering fire to the invention of the wheel. Now technological progress is measured in weeks and months, and it’s a sure bet it won’t stop any time soon. It’s hard for us to appreciate the dizzying rate of change while we’re busy living through it and trying to keep up, and it touches every corner of our lives.
In the construction and restoration industries, there are ongoing and real concerns about workers being replaced by robots, but there’s another edge to that sword also. Robots are starting to do some very dangerous jobs like mining and working on high bridge decks. Inspections done with drones can keep workers off roofs and other dangerous places. And virtual reality is starting to show up on the jobsite and in training programs, especially in bringing normally tedious safety training to life for the video game generation. Anything that leads to lower accident and injury rates will be welcomed with open arms.
That video-game generation, though, will continue to be an issue as construction fields struggle to attract an adequate labor force. I’ve written extensively about the trend towards attending college, even for those who really shouldn’t, when there are great livings to be made in the trades … without the six-figure debt. But that trend shows no sign of turning yet.
Where else will tech take the construction industry? Well, Europe’s first 3-D printed building was just erected in Denmark, as was a 3-D printed concrete bridge in the Netherlands. It’s a trend that seems sure to become more widespread.
And we’ll all be very surprised if self-driving vehicles don’t become a larger part of the picture in both commercial and personal use. I’ve even seen it suggested that traditional vehicle ownership will become a thing of the past … think Uber, but for every single trip you make, and you drive (or the car does, eventually). It’s a vehicle sharing model that begins to make sense when you consider the small percentage of time your car is actually in use.
Some very big names like Google, Marriott and Starbucks have embraced offsite construction, better known as modular building. This is not a new concept, but there’s a new level of integration between the manufacturers and the onsite contractors, and there are obvious benefits including the fact that most of the construction happens indoors and unaffected by weather.
What won’t change – ever, in my opinion – is the importance of real, face-to-face contact between business partners. The smartphone generation is starting to discover this, and we already know it: paying real, personal attention to the needs of real people is how we’ve grown over these past 30 years … and how we’ll make it through the next 30.
Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.