Posted January 16, 2024

2024 emerging trends

JLG Industries experts recognize four major trends shaping the construction sector for 2024: labor challenges/shortages, the rise of megaprojects, electrification of large construction equipment, and data-driven decision-making.

by Craig Edwards

Let’s delve a little deeper into each emerging trend.

1. Ongoing labor challenges
The construction industry has long grappled with a shortage of skilled labor, and the situation is becoming increasingly dire. According to a report by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), as of 2022, 88 percent of construction firms in the U.S. reported difficulties in filling key positions. (AGC Workforce Survey)

To add insult to injury, it’s no secret that baby boomers make up a large percentage of today’s workforce, and those workers are edging closer and closer to retirement age – amplifying the shortage trend. Nearly 41 percent of the construction industry’s workforce is expected to retire by 2031. (ADP)

This increasing skilled labor shortage begs the question, how do we increase our skilled labor force? 

Training, apprenticeships, and certifications will help construction companies build the workforce they need. Inexperienced team members can be transformed into experts and business owners can reward loyal employees by furthering their professional development.

For example, the recently refreshed JLG University learning platform focuses on proactive training, offering customized learning paths, with ANSI-required safety training courses for machine operators, service technicians and supervisors. JLG is currently working to implement the program through trade associations and training centers, making it more accessible for professionals who use access equipment as part of their daily tasks, so they are ready on day one.

2. Megaproject trends
Megaprojects, characterized by their immense scale and complexity, are on the rise globally. Three notable sectors driving this trend are electric vehicles or battery plants, data centers and chip or semiconductor plants. With the increasing demand for renewable energy and data storage, these megaprojects require specialized construction equipment to meet their unique challenges.

Battery plants, essential for the growth of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, demand precision and efficiency. A wave of planned vehicle battery plants will increase North America’s battery manufacturing capacity from 55 gigawatt-hours per year in 2021 to nearly 1,000 GWh/year by 2030. This increase will support the creation of roughly 10 to 13 million all-electric vehicles per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The access equipment used in these battery plant projects must be versatile and capable of handling heavy loads, while ensuring safety and accuracy, as many plants will be built within auto manufacturing facilities.

Data centers, on the other hand, require access equipment that can navigate confined spaces and operate quietly to minimize disruptions.

Data centers are beginning to dot landscapes across the nation. Each has hundreds of servers and routers that send and receive data for everyday tasks like streaming content or handling high-speed financial trades.

The change in work habits during the pandemic also fueled the need for more data centers. The U.S. had 2,701 data centers in 2022, the largest in the world, followed by Germany, according to data compiled by Statista

While there haven’t been as many chip or semiconductor plants built as data centers, there is an uptick to strengthen semiconductor manufacturing capabilities in the country, driven by concerns about supply chain resilience and national security. 

Chip plants are largest in size (500-acres-plus), with recent projects costing $20 billion or more. At this scale, finding the right manpower, materials and equipment necessary for these efforts is a monumental project that impacts construction labor forces and equipment within a huge radius of projects.

3. Electrification of construction equipment
As the world shifts toward sustainability, the construction equipment industry is embracing the electrification of large equipment. Electric construction machinery, including access equipment, offers several advantages, including reduced noise and emissions, lower operating costs, and improved efficiency. 

According to a study by McKinsey & Co., the electrification of construction equipment is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8 percent to 12 percent, reaching a significant market share by 2030.

Electric equipment, which is quieter and odor-free, is also becoming increasingly popular in indoor construction and revitalization projects, such as in the renovation of airports or hospitals, as destructing and constructing indoors requires maintaining quiet and clean conditions. Equipment such as electric scissors, low-level access and compact crawler booms are now being used for these types of indoor renovation projects.

4. Data for better decision making
In the era of Industry 4.0, data has become a driving force. The ability to collect and analyze data from construction access equipment offers invaluable insights into performance, maintenance needs, safety, and operational efficiency.

According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the construction equipment telematics market is expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2027, reflecting the increasing importance of data-driven decision making.

JLG is going beyond telematics, integrating advanced IoT systems that allow users to monitor equipment in real time, with its ClearSky Smart Fleet two-way fleet management and communication platform. Soon to be standard on most JLG equipment, a single connectivity beacon combines analyzers, telematics, productivity applications — as many as 25 distinct features — to deliver seamless back-and-forth interaction and information such as maintenance needs and repair data.

ClearSky also helps:

  • Track individual machines on a crowded job site
  • Understand fuel utilization 
  • Pinpoint maintenance and battery needs, measuring how many hours equipment operates
  • Identify the number of lifts on rent and know how each one is being used

By harnessing this data, construction companies can make informed decisions about future rental needs and efficiencies in getting the right equipment for the project, ultimately saving time and money.

The construction access equipment industry is undergoing a transformative period, driven by evolving needs, technological advances and growing emphasis on sustainability. JLG is at the forefront of these changes. From addressing labor challenges through increased training to supporting construction megaprojects with specialized equipment, JLG is shaping the future of the construction access equipment sector in 2024 and beyond.

Craig Edwards is vice president, National Accounts at JLG Industries.