Civil Contractors Remain Optimistic Despite Supply-chain Challenges

Glass Half Full

The latest issue of the Civil Quarterly (CQ) from Dodge Data & Analytics reveals a dramatic increase in supply-chain challenges faced by civil contractors. However, contractors remain optimistic about the state of their industry in the near future despite adversity.

The report, based on a quarterly survey of civil contractors, engineers, and owners, shows that the vast majority of civil contractors (92%) have had projects impacted by fluctuations in the cost of construction materials in 2021. The latest report also found that 89% expressed concerns about cost increases for materials over the next six months, including prices for steel, piping, paving materials, lumber, and aggregates.

Despite these concerns, more than half (53%) expect to see increases in revenue, and nearly two-thirds (63%) expect to see their profit margins hold steady or grow in the next year. This is likely due to the fact that nearly three-quarters (71%) are highly optimistic about the volume of work they expect in the next year.

The report also features new data from the survey about cybersecurity and reality capture.

The current TCQ finds that civil construction project owners are more likely to consider a cyberattack possible or likely than civil contractors or engineers. Among civil contractors, only large firms frequently consider the risk of cyberattacks a likely possibility. In fact, nearly half (43%) of small contractors with revenues under $10 million believe such an attack is unlikely to hit their firms.

Not surprisingly, there is also a direct correlation between those who consider an attack more likely and the degree to which they are prepared for such an attack. For example, owners and large companies are far more likely to have documented cybersecurity policies, engage in cybersecurity training, and employ numerous other means of protecting themselves against cyberattacks, including having a mobile device plan, protecting IoT devices, or creating an incident-response playbook.

With the overall increase in cybersecurity attacks, the leading obstacle among contractors to widen investment in cybersecurity is that they do not think the level of risk for their companies warrants further investment.

On the topic of reality capture, the findings reveal there are a wide range of reality-capture tools employed on civil job sites. Use of drones, aerial mapping, and digital cameras are widespread, but a range of other tools are also emerging in use, including project-site webcams, laser scanners, and GPS rovers, among others.

Civil contractors who use these reality-capture tools are finding wide applications for the data they gather from them, with earthwork calculations, quality-control verification, and progress documentation being the most common. Not surprisingly, these numerous applications lead to some critical project benefits, with more than half of those who use these reality-capture tools reporting improved ability to track work progress, improved ability to manage schedules and budget, and improved quality on their projects.