5 Ways to Mitigate Supply Chain Unpredictability and Labor Shortages in Data Center Construction

Jan 21, 2021

It is overwhelmingly evident that the pandemic has redefined the way many businesses operate. The seismic shift to video conferencing, cloud collaboration, streaming, etc. has sparked unprecedented growth in demand for data center capacity. According to a recent Data Center Frontier article, Buddy Rizer, who serves as the Executive Director of Economic Development for Loudoun County, Virginia (a.k.a. Data Center Alley), stated, “This year [2020] has been crazy. We’ve had 26 fast-track (data center construction) projects since March. Normally, we’ll have 15 in an entire year, so that’s more than twice as many projects than ever before” (https://datacenterfrontier.com/data-center-construction-surging-amid-supply-constraints-in-top-markets). No doubt this is encouraging for construction contractors involved in this space.

In a recent DICEUSA Virtual Summit panel discussion, a collection of major data center operators highlighted the biggest challenges currently facing data center construction. The top two challenges were an unpredictable supply chain and shortage of qualified labor. Covid-19 has certainly disrupted both the supply chain and labor pool, but other factors also contribute to these challenges. For instance, the construction labor pool in general is aging. Millennials aren’t flocking to the trades. Regarding the supply chain, manufacturers are tasked with accelerated production and delivery schedules. Keeping up with the demand is one thing but trying to sync production schedules with construction timeframes presents a whole new set of obstacles.

As the data center industry rapidly expands, how can owners, contractors, OEMs, etc. overcome these challenges? Below are 5 ways that ProLift Rigging (PLR) is helping mitigate supply chain unpredictability and labor shortages on data center construction sites across the country:

1. Turnkey Solutions: In addition to rigging and heavy lifting services, PLR offers turnkey solutions for mission critical OFCI equipment. This involves the combination of transportation, storage, logistics management, rigging, heavy lifting, installation, welding, etc. This streamlines the supply chain and reduces the number of skilled laborers needed in the process.

2. Project Buffering: With a national footprint, PLR provides numerous dedicated warehousing locations near major data center markets, which serve as off-site staging areas whenever JIT deliveries to the jobsite are not possible. These strategically located warehouses act as pressure relief valves to the supply chain, which ultimately increases the predictability of on-site deliveries of mission critical equipment.

3. Dedicated Account Coordination: The PLR Team includes dedicated Account Coordinators, who provide real-time visibility into the tracking/tracing of shipments, inventory reporting, transportation arrangement, etc. This is done via a digital platform with mobile access. The intense visibility and coordination ultimately ensure precise schedule synchronization between equipment production and construction timelines.

4. National and Flexible Labor Pool: With a branch network of 10 locations across the U.S., ProLift quickly and efficiently mobilizes qualified labor to any jobsite in North America. Additionally, many of PLR’s field personnel are certified in multiple trades, such as rigging, welding, millwrights, crane operation, etc. The qualification redundancy helps optimize the amount of labor needed on each project.

5. Workforce Development: PLR’s Heavy Rigging Trainee Program encourages new participation in the industry. This program is not just an introduction to a new trade, but it provides craft workers the foundational knowledge, skills, and experience for a thriving career. According to the Association of General Contractors’ (AGC) website, “Industry recruitment and retention are essential to the future of the construction industry. Just as important as finding craft workers, project managers and supervisors is ensuring that these essential workers are properly educated and trained” (https://www.agc.org/industry-priorities/workforce-development).

PLR has been helping data center owners, contractors and OEMs improve speed to market for the past decade. Identifying and eliminating risks within the supply chain and labor pool is a key component to PLR’s approach. If you would more information on how these strategies might help you and/or your team, please feel free to contact us at sales@proliftrigging.com or at 1-855-900-9111.