By Rob Newman
The roofing and solar sectors are familiar with problem solving. Whether it's tackling contracted surveying or conducting on-site inspections, our industry knows how to observe and execute on the everyday challenges that are part of the job. Our industry is also familiar with being prepared. That's why crews put so much effort into design planning, inspections, and bidding to win new projects. All of this said, these challenges aren't going away because of the current global pandemic. Instead, they are being compounded, requiring more creativity in tackling them than ever before. In addition to upending the way many industries are defining "work," COVID-19 has brought three macro challenges to the forefront of roofing and solar:
Challenge 1: Ensuring Safety
Safety is a constant element of our industry. The inherent physical nature of the work dictates that safety be considered at all times. Precautions should advance and adapt with the times, and a global pandemic is no exception. COVID-19 is pushing us to reconsider what safety means on the job site. On top of the usual safety concerns like dangerous equipment or environmental hazards (i.e., heights), we now need to be constantly aware of how many people are on site, and how this could increase the risk of transferring a highly contagious virus. We need to consider how to reduce the amount of personnel absolutely necessary on site as a way to mitigate the amount of exposure to an entire crew, while still being able to work efficiently.
Challenge 2: Mitigating Physical Distance
A safe work environment with a reduced number of workers on site brings up another challenge - how to make up for lack of personnel, and maintain a high level of quality at a distance. Traditionally, prospecting and surveying on site has been an almost inseparable element of working in roofing, construction, solar, and other kinds of government prospecting. Having a detailed understanding of a project is not just a nice-to-have, but an absolute necessity for operations. One miscalculation can snowball into a detrimental series of setbacks. With the need to cut the number of people on site, construction crews and roofers need to get creative with how they can achieve the same level of accuracy and detail on a project using a leaner workforce and increased distance from the work site itself.
Challenge 3: Maintaining Speed
At the best of times, speed is a constant factor in construction projects. Schedules need to be kept to, deadlines are always looming, and one delay can cause an avalanche of setbacks. Most projects have come to a complete halt, which has already put countless teams under incredible pressure. Worse yet, it doesn't seem like it will be possible for crews to get back to full operational strength for a while - which means speed is significantly hindered. In an industry that is always racing against the clock, we need to think about new and innovative solutions to mitigate the strains on productivity that COVID-19 has put on our industry.
We already have the solution
Though the strains of COVID-19 can feel like they're continually mounting, the good news is that each of these challenges can be met and tackled with existing technology. One of the most powerful emerging technologies in our industry is on-demand aerial imaging. This cutting-edge technology allows roofing and solar businesses to handle the common challenges of the job. Given the current circumstances, it has the potential to become a game-changing tool.
Aerial imaging technology solves the challenge of safety and distance by reducing the need for on-site personnel. By using the technology to do more pre-planning on a project, crews can have a better picture of how many people are absolutely necessary on site, and plan accordingly. Aerial imaging tech is able to give planners a highly detailed image of the project - scaling proportionally down to the pixel - making budgeting and staffing decisions easier, and reducing unnecessary foot traffic. The tech also accelerates surveying speed, meaning that, even during the pandemic, every opportunity can be taken to speed up the more time-consuming part of on-site surveying.
Every industry is feeling the pressure to adapt to new ways of working. As we continue through this pandemic, we all need to be mindful of how to take care of our crew members while still delivering on deadlines. By being cognizant of the new challenges and staying open minded to new technological solutions, we not only better equip ourselves for the present challenge, but set ourselves up for greater success and innovation moving forward.
Rob Newman is CEO of Nearmap, an Australian-founded company that offers businesses instant access to high-resolution aerial imagery, city-scale 3D datasets, and integrated geospatial tools.