Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read January 2021 — Issues like shortages from providers and longer delivery times, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, have made companies like Current Builders take a more planned approach to construction and to boost communication with trade partners to keep their projects on schedule, said CEO Michael Taylor in an interview with Invest:Greater Fort Lauderdale.
What main challenges has COVID created for the construction sector?
The challenges are ever-changing. You think you know what to expect, but COVID comes and attacks you in the most obscure places. You don’t always know, day to day, how COVID is going to affect you. It hit the lumber market, midyear, really hard. We weren’t expecting that. It basically doubled lumber prices in about a month. So, there were challenges with how we recover those costs with the owner. Appliances also became harder to get, as orders became backlogged, because factories had shortages of workers as many facilities had to operate with fewer people because of social distancing, so their productivity dropped.
From the financial market and developers, we saw a lot of indecision. There was uncertainty, and many projects have been delayed. On the construction sites, we had to implement hand washing stations, masking, and social distancing, which has been challenging and has definitely reduced productivity. But we are still fighting hard to maintain progress on those projects, while being diligent about keeping our workers safe.
Which sectors do you see providing opportunities for development?
The majority of our construction projects are multifamily complexes and assisted living facilities. The assisted living sector is stalling because of state mandates and the fact that COVID-19 has been hard to contain in these communities. The multifamily market, however, is still strong. We are finding a great deal of need and opportunities in this market because people from the Northeast are moving out and relocating to the south to Florida. This influx has caused a housing shortage. Also, COVID has forced a tremendous increase in online buying, which has accelerated demand for warehouse space. So, the pandemic has led to growth in certain markets.
With situations like the lumber price hike, how have you redesigned supply chains to keep working?
It makes you schedule items a lot earlier than you might have scheduled before. You must do additional planning and have more communication with trade partners. We are staying closely connected with our resources, so we are continuously aware of their inventory and any potential supply interruptions. Frequently, we’re procuring products earlier than required and putting these products in storage to have it ready for the job. We also require additional cooperation from the owners and financial institutions, as they must finance this process of early procurement. It takes continual communication and planning to keep the projects on schedule.
How are you adapting technology to make your job more efficient?
Current Builders has been heavily involved with technology, and we were in the forefront of computer modeling. We’ve been utilizing this technology to construct all of our projects since 2007. Our technology committee is always searching for new products and innovations. The goal of the technology committee is to identify a problem and to find a technology that will solve that need. We spend a lot of time testing out products and technologies and different computer programs to see if they really improve our productivity, before rolling out the new technology company-wide.
On the construction site, the problems that we have encountered revolve around building layout, scheduling issues and getting the latest information out to our trade partners. By virtually building the project ,we have eliminated most of these issues before the first shovel is put into the ground.
How do you see the construction sector contributing to the recovery process?
The construction sector has continued to fuel the economy during the pandemic. We were fortunate to not have been shut down, so we’ve been able to keep projects moving forward and in turn keeping people employed throughout the pandemic. It’s not just about the people at the construction sites, it’s all the ancillary people who produce all of the products that go into the buildings, who work in the factories making the windows, producing the paint, etc. This employment in supporting industries and at the actual project sites should continue to help fuel the recovery process.
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