Case Study: Turning to Innovative, Custom-Engineered Solutions in the Face of Skilled Labor Shortages

Building professionals can face many challenges on each construction job, but finding skilled labor tends to be one of the most difficult. This year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Q1 Commercial Construction Index found that 85 percent of contractors reported that it’s hard to find skilled workers, which is up from 83 percent since Q4 2020.

A lack of new entrants into the trades means a smaller pool of talented workers, which can lead to higher labor costs, project delays, and overworked technicians. About 630,000 people in the U.S. were training as trade apprentices last year, compared to around 12 million students enrolled full time in colleges or universities, according to PBS News’ recent segment “Despite rising salaries, the skilled labor shortage is getting worse.” The discrepancy is massive—and so is the impact.

Despite trade programs and organizations trying to recruit more talent and reverse the stigma surrounding a skilled trades career, the shortage is causing contractors to look for short-term solutions and has spurred creative problem-solving to address the immediate gaps. Technology has paved the way for better plumbing products that provide faster and safer installation methods. Many have turned from traditional, time-consuming techniques toward more innovative, custom-engineered solutions, and manufacturing companies, such as Reliance Worldwide Corporation, have responded to the industry’s need for engineering systems that reduce construction time with smarter, less labor-intensive options.

Save Time with Innovative Firestopping Systems

Traditional firestopping methods often require excessive labor time to complete the installation process according to UL standards, but some products, such as the HoldRite HydroFlame Pro Series, reduce installation time and costs through product designs that prioritize efficiency.

These options, in particular the HydroFlame firestopping sleeves, have an adjustable telescoping sleeve to accommodate various concrete depths, minimizing cutting or field modification. Depending on the firestopping system, contractors may have to remove the sleeves from the concrete once it dries, adding more time to the job. However, innovative products, such as the HydroFlame Pro Series, can remain in place after the concrete is poured. Additionally, workers and subcontractors can quickly identify sleeves in the dried concrete using the locator whiskers on the sleeve cap. The streamlined, cast-in-place method minimizes wasted time and eliminates the need for messy applications that sometimes require multiple skilled workers to complete.

Simplifying the DWV Testing Method

Plumbing code requires testing for drain, waste, and vent (DWV) piping, which is often performed using inflatable DWV systems. These traditional methods have not always been the most safe and efficient options, though, which is even more of an issue when limited labor is available. New and innovative DWV testing products, such as the HoldRite TestRite DWV products, address these concerns.

The TestRite system tests up to five times faster than the traditional plumbing test balls or inflatable test balloons because it requires fewer tools and allows contractors to fill or drain the test water right from the device itself. The system’s fill-up/drain-down ability at the test tee, as well as its ability to allow partial test and re-tests, makes these installations less labor intensive too. No one has to climb up ladders or onto a roof with a garden hose to fill the test system or drain the entire system if there’s a leak in only one area, which traditional methods often require. On top of being more efficient, these solutions help keep workers safe by eliminating the risks inherent with inflatable DWV systems, such as water spillage and potential property damage.

Construction sites are filled with time-consuming variables and unforeseen complications that hinder a project’s deadline. The shortage of skilled labor is one of those uncontrollable variables, but contractors can still maximize efficiency and keep their jobs on track with products and systems that help them compensate for a lack of available labor with quick installation methods.

To learn more about RWC’s efforts with careers in construction, please visit and

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