I thought it would be of interest to share how we have evolved Shareplant to extend the sharing economy into the UK construction industry and to help meet the current economic challenges by launching our freelancer platform – Shareplant Freelance.
As an engineering / construction professional with 30 years’ experience, it has always intrigued me how the construction industry has lagged behind other sectors in terms of efficiency, productivity, innovation and digital solutions.
Too often as a senior manager in the construction industry, I have been frustrated with expensive resources – labour, plant and materials – not being fully utilised. The ultimate result of this is an inflated cost base – someone has to pay for it!
Driven by this frustration, we launched Shareplant Rentals in 2018, where owners of idle equipment can rent it out when it isn’t being used – thereby maximising utilisation, reducing costs and earning additional revenue whilst allowing hirers to find all types of high quality specialist, operated and self-drive equipment in one place.
Whilst working with our clients in the development of Shareplant Rentals, we started to realise that many processes, procedures and systems used by construction companies were outdated and based on paper! As a response to this, in 2019 we launched Shareplant Toolbox to provide a paperless online construction management application.
Shareplant Toolbox provides our customers with a single place to manage multiple aspects of their construction business from their tablet, smartphone or desktop device. Providing features to manage time booking, real-time site safety reports, equipment inspections, maintenance, defects, training, technical queries, assigning and tracking actions and much more. This allows construction companies to manage data and information in real time across multiple sites and offices.
The idea for Shareplant Freelance came from two sources – the construction skills shortage in the UK and, more recently, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where working from home has become the accepted norm. In addition to this, a lot of people have been shocked at the sudden and widespread shutdown of the economy – only propped up by Government support schemes – and how financially vulnerable we are when catastrophic events such as this occur.
During the lockdown period, we have developed a new Shareplant Freelance website which complements our Rentals and Toolbox services perfectly to create a ‘one stop shop’ construction project marketplace.
This provides a platform for construction clients to post short term tasks onto the Shareplant Freelance website and freelancers to bid for and deliver the work.
This new way of resourcing construction projects allows our highly skilled UK construction professionals to deliver short term tasks for clients – either on-site or remotely based at home for desk based work.
Clients are provided with a new way of finding specialist skills for any type of construction task or support service, in any location without the need to recruit permanent staff or employ costly sub-contractors – increasing their ability to offer new services without the large financial investment and risk.
Individuals with sought-after construction skills can bid for tasks on the Shareplant Freelance website and deliver the work directly to the client using the fully integrated payment, escrow, communication and workspace areas on the website. This allows individuals to work flexibly to fit in with their current employment and lifestyle, travel less to work, spend more time at home with their families, earn extra money and take control of their future. This can provide a way of earning additional money for luxuries such as holidays or even to provide a new way of earning a living.
There is a construction skills shortage in the UK which is set to worsen as a large proportion of the workforce nears retirement age and the number of vacancies in specialist skills rises. Future mega projects such as HS2, Crossrail 2, the nuclear new build programme and major highways schemes will bring these skill shortages into sharp focus, with contractors and clients struggling to resource projects. Apprentice and other training programmes will fill some of this demand, but this takes time – typically a 4-5 year lead in – and won’t solve the whole problem.
The UK has one of the most highly qualified construction workforces in the world with high standards of training and globally recognised qualifications. There is an opportunity for these highly qualified people to deliver work for a diverse range of clients by working additional hours to top up their income, save up for that special holiday or pay off some of their mortgage.
By using our new freelance platform, we can make more use of our existing workforce by helping them to find freelance work. I’m convinced that the construction industry will realign as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, with more people taking control of their own destiny, earning money to cope with any future economic disruption and working from home to spend less time travelling and more time with their families. Shareplant Freelance is the perfect answer to this changing environment and provides a win-win for everyone”.
Additionally Shareplant Freelance allows our freelancers to find work anywhere in the UK, develop a diverse customer base and deliver this work from the comfort of their own home, eliminating length commutes are freeing up more time for family and friends.
We have learned a lot on our journey and I am sure we aren’t finished yet – with more Shareplant products planned for the future.