Posted on October 2, 2014 - Ewen Dobbie
There is ample evidence suggesting the North American economy is improving. For those in the steel industry, you either anticipate or are experiencing an increasing work backlog for the first time in years.
According to Gargau’s ‘Steel Market Update’, Industrial Construction Starts “are accelerating at a torrid pace”, up 65%, over the last three months compared to the same period last year and 22% over the past 12 months. The Non-Residential Construction Producer Price Index also shows a general 1% price inflation over the past 12 months and 2.2% over two years. Warehouse structures experienced the greatest price inflation, up 2.6% over two years. Commercial structures increased 1.6% from last year, whilst office construction rose 1.4%. Examining building materials used, ready mix concrete was up 5.1% over the past 12 months and steel structural shapes increased 10.5%. Your current work backlog and financial performance most likely support these stats.
It is true that tough times are behind us, but now is not the time to ‘coast’ or be ‘complacent.’ For most companies, the last 4 to 5 years have been a time of self-reflection, cost cutting, survival and re-invention. If it wasn’t, your business may be in trouble.
The easiest thing for a company to do when work returns is to breathe a sigh of relief and be grateful things seem to be as they were pre-recession. In reality, things will never be as they were. Technology is changing faster than at any other time in human history, and the forces of globalization are affecting all aspects of business and commerce. To compete in a globalized economy, companies must be great, or ‘the best’ at what they do. Complacency; defined as “a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to make them better” will be the downfall of many.
Investing in software and technology, re-examining business processes, and even scrutinizing why you exist, and the value you bring to the marketplace, will be key ingredients to both success and survival.
Continuous growth and progress must be part of a company’s DNA if it expects to compete. Growth and/or improvement can be incremental, but don’t be shy to also search for those revolutionary changes. The steel industry has a rich history of revolutionary innovation and changes from automated CNC equipment to 3D modeling, detailing and BIM (Building Information Modeling) software. From this technology savvy part of the value chain, a model centric and collaborative way of working is emerging on an increasing number of construction projects worldwide. The advent of BIM and our ability to effectively communicate and collaborate online is also supported by a growing acceptance for people to publish and communicate personal life details online via Facebook, and LinkedIn. The ability to collaborate and communicate project details in real time will become commonplace.
So what do we do next? Experiment, challenge the status quo, and think out side the box. Look to other industries for ideas and opportunities to improve.
For companies in the steel design, fabrication and construction industry, look to what the leaders in your niche are doing. What technologies are they using, and what their global IT or long-term technology strategies are.
I will end with mention of one technology that excites the Dowco Group today; Panzura. After implementing this Cloud based solution for the AEC Industry across our global operations, it is evident this technology will change the way multi location companies operate.