American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 99, No. 1 | www.ceramics.org 3
news & trends
Labor shortage challenges
manufacturing and construction
A theme that consistently echoes
across diverse markets tied to the construction
industry is a familiar
“The generation that is coming into
the workforce is less likely to enter the
construction market, so there is a gap in
labor that is there for all trades—electrical,
roofing, insulation, all of it. It’s an
issue the entire building industry is trying
to address,” says Matt Gawryla, insulation
R&D leader at Owens Corning.
In addition to attracting new young
workers, other contributing factors to
these labor shortages include the aging
current workforce as well as shortages
of immigrant workers due to changing
governmental practices, especially in the
The brick industry, for examples,
faces a shortage of bricklayers and
masonry workers, which drives up
the cost of brick installation and puts
additional pressure on the industry.
“So the brickmaker is struggling against
increased alternative products plus
increased cost to lay brick into the wall,
so that’s a challenge,” says Garth Tayler,
retired technical director for Acme Brick
(Fort Worth, Texas).
Those challenges extend beyond brick
as well, as many other product segments
face similar challenges.
Many factors—including aging current
workforce, attracting new young workers,
and shortages of immigrant workers—
contribute to a labor shortage in the
manufacturing and construction industries.
4 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 99, No. 1
news & trends
“Everyone is looking for long-term
solutions to combat the labor shortage
that’s challenging the manufacturing and
construction industries,” says Lucas J.
Hamilton, manager of applied building
science for Saint-Gobain Corp. “Some
specific examples of the industry response
to workforce issues include a focus on
how to properly address energy concerns
and stay on top of product innovations,
while doing so in a manner that installation
is easy and efficient for laborers.
We understand the future of construction
must be lean, and Saint-Gobain and
CertainTeed are becoming more agile to
set the example of what lean construction
means in North America.”
Because much of the labor is required
for installation, lean often translates into
easier-to-install products that reduce the
skill, time, and thus cost of installation.
Easy-installation building products are
emerging in many markets, including
brick, insulation, and roofing.
In the roofing market, for example,
labor-saving materials such as roofing
membranes with peel-and-stick adhesive
backings and insulated metal panels
reduce the time and skill required for
installation, and they are gaining acceptance.
Even some innovations in more
traditional materials such as asphalt shingles
are directed toward making installation
easier, including shingles with more
visible reinforced nailing strips.
Similarly, the innovation of thin brick
in the brick industry is about more than
just consumer options—thin bricks are
easier and quicker to install than standard
brick, perhaps a creative solution to
a shortage of skilled bricklayers.
Many other industries have also developed
diverse solutions that all converge
on the theme of easier-to-install products,
a trend that is likely to continue
into the future. n
Power over Ethernet: The
wire(not)less future of
Despite Silicon Valley’s push for wireless
as it aims to realize the Internet of
Things (IoT), in the case of smart buildings,
Ethernet may be the best way to
Traditionally, Ethernet is a more reliable
(and generally faster) cable-based
option to Wi-Fi for computers. But
transmitting data is not the only use for
Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a networking
feature that lets Ethernet cables
carry electrical power over an existing
PoE was first approved for use
by IEEE in 2003 via IEEE standard
802.3af. This standard allowed power
sourcing equipment to transmit up to
15.4 watts of power to a powered device
via twisted pair cabling. In 2009, PoE
power increased to 30 watts. Today,
many PoE-enabled Ethernet switches
provide 60 watts of power, but on Sept.
27, 2018, the latest PoE standard—IEEE
802.3bt—was ratified and approved,
which supports 100 watts of power.
PoE offers major advantages to building
owners compared to traditional electrical
wiring systems, including
• Reduced installation costs—
Ethernet cables cost less than traditional
electrical wiring, and Ethernet is often
already installed in buildings.
• Safer installation—PoE Type 3 voltages
are typically less than 60 volts, and
Type 4 less than 90; conduits and metal
cladding are not required.
• Responsive deployment—An entire
network does not need to be brought
down to add or subtract devices; PoE
devices can be easily moved and reconnected
at the switch level.
In addition to these advantages, probably
the biggest advantage to PoE is its
Ethernet gives users the ability to
assign an IP address to each connected
device. These IP addresses help simplify
management, configuration, and maintenance
of connected devices, as network
Credit: Michael Coghlan, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Thin bricks are one example of laborsaving
materials being used in the construction
industry, in part to account for
the labor shortage.
Credit: David Davies, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
In the case of smart buildings, Ethernet cables may be the best way to achieve the
Internet of Things.
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