Building Through the PandemicBy Héctor Castellanos | Tue, 11/16/2021 - 15:51
Mexico has been among the countries most affected by COVID-19, with around 3,512,000 cases to date. All industries have been affected in one way or another, including construction, even as it has been among the sectors of the economy to experience growth.
While the industry is undoubtedly recovering, this pandemic is different from many other adversities we have faced because it has not been a momentary event but a continuous process of adaptation throughout the last year and a half. The effects of the pandemic on construction have been severe, since our core business is the creation of objects, which cannot be done remotely. Both physical and intellectual work is needed.
Current safety and social distancing measures also reduce the effectiveness within civil works. As such, we have been presented with two options: we could accept the consequences, bear the additional costs and move on, or we could develop and implement technological innovations, both in our planning and in our construction processes, to streamline processes and make up for lost time due to the sanitary measures, all while protecting our collaborators and providing the best results to our clients.
Loss of productivity has been a serious problem. In this industry, precision is key and work schedules must be followed to the letter to meet the expectations and requirements that customers expect of us. Whether from contagions, remote work, or the additional time required for many other tasks, most of our construction schedules have been affected.
Technology has helped us through this period. The main technology we rely on is BIM. This is a system for creating and managing information for construction. It is based on an intelligent model incorporated into the cloud. The data is structured within the model, which allows estimations, projections, and predictions in a more accurate and efficient way. By incorporating BIM in conjunction with other software, it allows us to optimize workplans, which significantly reduces waste, as well as the order of operations that can be performed on site. This means that while we respect safety measures and hygiene, we can better assign employees to reduce downtime, increase productivity, and thus meet the objectives we set with our customers.
But construction does not only depend on field equipment. A solid base is required that supports and plans all those works that are carried out. These two have a synergistic relationship; one cannot function without the other. To protect our central office team, it seemed prudent to incorporate a series of measures that were above and beyond those recommended by the government. Of course, we have not been oblivious to the current effects — we recently had an infection in our central office.
Thanks to the fact that we are already present in 23 states of the republic and we are actively working in nine states, we already had remote work in our DNA. When the pandemic arrived, we reinforced our capacity to work either remotely or by providing our team with the necessary facilities.
In addition to this, we strengthened our central server, through which our team can access all the resources and information necessary to be able to carry out their activities remotely. For those who preferred to attend in person, we stipulated a staggered schedule, with different arrival times, as well as a selection of days within the week, to reduce crowding and possible infections. When presenting COVID cases, free tests were carried out, both PCR and antigen, for associates who had been in contact with the infected person. In this way, we were able to control any sources of infection.
I think one of the key lessons from this pandemic is that we cannot trust just one area of our business. We are committed to diversification as a way to minimize the impact on the company, since with a continued slowdown in the industry due to government policies, the only way we managed to continue our development was by looking for new branches and new markets where we previously had not offered our services.
We have lived through times of adversity but despite the obstacles that have come our way, we have emerged stronger and more prepared to face new challenges.
CONACYT. (2021, September 12). COVID-19 Board Mexico. COVID - 19 Board Mexico. https://datos.covid-19.conacyt.mx/#DOView
Economic Gazette. (2021, August 24). Construction activity decreased 0.9% in June. Government of Mexico. https://www.gob.mx/shcp/gacetaeconomica/articulos/la-actividad-de-la-construccion-disminuyo-0-9-durante-junio