Our industry, like many others, has been greatly affected by COVID-19. From the very start of the pandemic, there was fear surrounding what impacts the virus would have on construction firms. And these concerns grew as we watched the crisis spread throughout the world, wreaking havoc on years of economic and industrial growth.
But like the influential leader, Benjamin Disraeli once said, “There is no education like adversity.”
And I cannot agree more. I have been inspired by the industry’s overall response and resilience when it comes to the novel coronavirus. I am especially impressed with our teams working on Bozzuto Construction jobsites. Over the past few months, they have encountered many onsite challenges — specifically related to manpower and productivity — but they rose to the occasion and overcame these hardships. Thanks to their efforts, our company is stronger than ever.
Since March, Bozzuto Construction has felt the effect of COVID-19 across all three of our major markets (Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia [DMV], Pennsylvania and Boston, Massachusetts). One of the initial and greatest impacts is manpower — the single-most critical component to getting a project built. Given our business, we rely on hundreds of workers every day to be successful, so we knew we had to respond quickly.
To gain a better perspective, we began studying the daily manpower logs on our active jobsites in the DMV and in Pennsylvania. Being armed with this information in real time enabled us to work with our subcontractors to quickly understand potential project cost implications and/or schedule impacts, and create recovery plans when needed.
As you can see in the table below, during the week of March 23 (week 13) — the start of government shutdowns, mostly in the Philadelphia area — we saw a 40% decline from the previous week in manpower across all active sites. Although government shutdowns did not occur in the Washington Metropolitan area, many workers remained home during this week.
The Bozzuto Construction team acted swiftly to take back control by developing and implementing our COVID Continuity Plan, with the sole purpose of creating a safer environment across all jobsites. The plan outlined new and updated protocols, such as outfitting sites with hand washing stations, the practicing of social distancing, and mandating intensive cleaning procedures at least twice a week. As new information became available, these measures evolved to require face coverings and temperature testing for workers.
By March 30 (week 14), we saw a significant bounce back as we regained 32% of manpower from the previous week across all of our projects in Pennsylvania and the Washington Metropolitan area. And while smaller scale ebbs and flows continued in the weeks that followed, our active projects have returned to manpower levels (as measured by the number of workers onsite) above the average figures seen for the first 12 weeks of 2020. We attribute this to our enhanced protocols, which made workers feel comfortable returning to our jobsites because they knew they would be safer while also being productive.
Despite the setbacks Bozzuto Construction and the industry experienced, I believe that recovery was possible thanks to the prompt actions taken by the contracting community, alongside local jurisdictions and ownership groups.
I also think that collaboration and the use of technology were critical, as each played a vital role in fighting the invisible enemy.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, myself, along with other Bozzuto Construction leaders have participated in peer groups allowing us to collaborate and share best practices with over 28 general contractors across the country. Similar to OSHA standards that exist, we continue to partner with organizations to craft processes and preventative measures for sites in order to battle COVID-19.
Internally speaking, as disruptions occurred, such as material delivery impacts, the entire team pulled together to understand options and make decisions that mitigated both schedule and quality impacts to our projects.
In terms of technology, Bozzuto Construction moved to shift work to decrease contamination and is conducting most meetings via video conferencing. We have seen jurisdictions leverage technology by rolling out a virtual inspection process, one that has increased productivity and streamlined the previous process.
As an added safety measure, we are collecting daily location maps from each subcontractor to capture crew work movements and have rolled out myComply technology to conduct temperature testing in order to gain access to the site.
What should we learn from all of this?
Adversity is inevitable — especially in the construction business. Rather than allowing challenges to defeat us, we must have the confidence to face them head-on, while keeping our workers and our job sites safe and productive. And because no obstacle is the same, we should look at each one as a unique learning opportunity that enables us to improve and evolve.
Take Bozzuto Construction for example. By innovating and implementing new technologies throughout the pandemic, I am proud to say that as a company, we are operating at our highest and safest level ever.
Thanks to this progression, the general outlook is positive — and I anticipate that productivity will keep moving in a positive direction as our teams continue to rise to the occasion and acclimate to the new ways of working.Learn more about Mark Weisner