Despite Widespread Pandemic Impacts, Civil Contractors Remain Optimistic

The Civil Quarterly’s recent findings show impacts are manageable, explores emerging strategies to cope

While the vast majority of civil contractors (73%) are experiencing delays with their projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contractors are still seeing high levels of backlog and remain relatively optimistic about the state of the civil construction market, according to new data from Dodge Data & Analytics. The second volume of The Civil Quarterly (TCQ) also found delays were reported on approximately one fifth of current projects with little change expected among these contractors over the next six months.

As expected, an overwhelming majority of the contractors surveyed (92%) reported that their business has experienced at least some impacts from COVID-19, but these effects were not uniform. The most frequent impacts identified were increased worker health and safety concerns (44%) and fewer projects starting construction (42%). Notably, while most of the contractors surveyed (76%) have changed work procedures to increase social distancing, and half (50%) have encouraged their office staff to work remotely, only 10% have had to furlough or lay off employees or adjust their salaries in response to the pandemic.

The Civil Quarterly is the result of a partnership with Founding partner Infotech, Platinum partner Hexagon and Gold partners Command Alkon and Digital Construction Works, and is based on original research collected quarterly from civil contractors and engineers. The research provides a snapshot of the current business health of contractors operating in this dynamic environment and explores trends in the industry impacting contractors. This quarter, the study took a deeper look at the impacts of COVID-19 and explored emerging strategies to address the need for social distancing.

The second volume of TCQ also found contractors are still quite optimistic about the state of their industry and their businesses, even though there are some declines from the positive findings in the inaugural report in April. Over half of contractors (52%) surveyed report a high/very high level of confidence in new business over the next 12 months, a slight decline from 57% last quarter. Conversely, only a quarter (24%) of those surveyed report a low level of confidence. This optimism isn’t unfounded. Of those surveyed, the ratio of their average current level of backlog to their average ideal level is 85, which demonstrates that most contractors have a healthy level of backlog. This is despite more contractors (47%) reporting decreased backlogs this quarter than last quarter (35%).

However, contractors do report a growing concern about the cost of construction materials. Nearly half (43%) have had their businesses impacted by fluctuations in the cost of construction materials in the last six months, and more than half (54%) are concerned about cost increases for materials over the next six months. It is unclear whether these concerns relate to supply chain impacts from COVID-19, the recent tariffs on some of these materials or other factors, although it is notable that the highest percentage of contractors (61%) report being concerned about steel prices.

Taken together, these findings reveal an industry that, despite headwinds, is managing the challenges and generally has a positive outlook on the state of business now and in the near future.

The study also explored the many technology strategies that have received new attention in the industry to reduce negative impacts and support the needs for social distancing and increased remote office work in business procedures. Top cited technologies include Ruggedized Tablets, Machine Control, Drones and E-Ticketing.

When looking at e-Bidding, which can impact productivity and profitability, the study revealed that its appeal extends beyond the pandemic, as a vast majority of the industry is either constantly (63%) or frequently (24%) pursuing bidding opportunities. Currently, about two thirds (67%) of the industry uses a paid bidding service, and only about half (51%) use it to conduct online bid submissions or find out about bid results. Subscription to a bid aggregation tool is more common (80%), but these tools are far more commonly used to find projects to bid and obtain plans and specs than to submit bids. This is despite the fact that over 70% of those subscribing to a bid aggregation service find that it makes the process for submitting bids easier, faster and more reliable. Currently, about two thirds (68%) also recognize that their bid aggregation tools help increase safety due to the ability to maintain social distancing.

Dodge Data & Analytics’ TCQ survey was distributed within the month of August 2020 and collected data from 147 contractors and 36 civil engineers who work on heavy civil infrastructure projects. The first iteration of The Civil Quarterly was launched in April 2020 and will continue to be shared as a complimentary report to the industry on a quarterly basis. Future editions of The Civil Quarterly will track a variety of business health metrics and address a wide range of additional related topics to provide a comprehensive view of this complex and ever-changing segment of the construction economy. The report can be downloaded for free at: www.infotechinc.com/thecivilquarterly.

About Dodge Data & Analytics:

Dodge Data & Analytics is North America’s leading provider of commercial construction project data, market forecasting & analytics services and workflow integration solutions for the construction industry. Building product manufacturers, architects, engineers, contractors, and service providers leverage Dodge to identify and pursue unseen growth opportunities that help them grow their business. On a local, regional or national level, Dodge empowers its customers to better understand their markets, uncover key relationships, size growth opportunities, and pursue specific sales opportunities with success. The company’s construction project information is the most comprehensive and verified in the industry. Dodge is leveraging its more than 125-year-old legacy of continuous innovation to help the industry meet the building challenges of the future. Learn more at www.construction.com.

About Infotech:

Info Tech, Inc., DBA Infotech (Infotech) is a leading SaaS solutions provider for the infrastructure construction industry. Informed by DOT relationships and decades of experience, Infotech develops software solutions that bridge the gaps between owners, consultants, contractors, and other project stakeholders. Whether it be tools for construction administration and inspection or secure online bidding, all of Infotech’s solutions are built to increase transparency, productivity and the availability of data. Infotech is the developer of Appia®, Bid Express®, and Doc Express®, as well as the official contractor for AASHTOWare Project™. For more information, visit infotechinc.com.

About Hexagon:

Hexagon is a global leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions. We are putting data to work to boost efficiency, productivity, and quality across industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, safety, and mobility applications.

Our technologies are shaping urban and production ecosystems to become increasingly connected and autonomous – ensuring a scalable, sustainable future. Hexagon (Nasdaq Stockholm: HEXA B) has approximately 20,000 employees in 50 countries and net sales of approximately 3.9bn EUR. Learn more at hexagon.com and follow us @HexagonAB.

About Command Alkon: As the Leading Supplier Collaboration Platform for Heavy Work, Command Alkon solutions deliver supply chain integration and frictionless digital collaboration across the heavy construction ecosystem. CONNEX, a many-to-many technology platform purpose built for the industry, enables business partners to automate inter-enterprise operations, capture real-time visibility into heavy material orders and deliveries, leverage leading-edge software experiences to achieve mutually beneficial goals, and share knowledge to manage by exception and promote certainty of outcomes. Command Alkon is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, and has offices in locations around the globe. For more information, visit commandalkon.com.

Digital Construction Works: Digital Construction Works, Inc., (DCW) is a leading construction services and solutions integration organization providing digital automation, technology integration, and digital twin services. We offer prepackaged solutions or customized fit-for-purpose integrated solutions to automate and optimize the construction process from planning through to operations. Our DCW Integrations Platform is a single, secure platform to manage and automate your digital workflows while providing an intelligent dashboard view of project data, enabling predictive and prescriptive project insights through analytics. We help you improve workflows, gain better insights into every aspect of your project, and make your entire business more efficient and profitable. With an emphasis on heavy-civil infrastructure, DCW helps transform the construction industry from its legacy document-centric paradigm and simplifies and enables digital automated workflows and processes, technology integration, and digital twinning services for infrastructure. www.digitalconstructionworks.com

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