The scarcity mindset is a pathological obsession with a lack of something. Of course, normally it is discussed on an individual level, but the fact is the data center industry is experiencing it as a community, and the thing we are scarce of, is the supply chain.
The supply chain dilemma was the focus of one of our major panels at DCD>Connect New York and it quickly became apparent that scarcity was a concern for all of our panelists.
Ron Vokoun, director of critical facilities at OAC Services spoke of the employment side.
“Labor's not easy. We've got 10 job openings that we can't fill, from senior project managers, assistant project managers, QA, and QC. I’m interviewing people, and before I can make them an offer, they've accepted another, and these are people without data center experience.”
At the moment, there are somewhere around 300,000 open construction jobs, and as Ron points out, these are well-paying jobs that do not require a college degree. It should not be hard to fill these roles, yet this labor shortage is a shared experience.
Turner Construction’s Ben Kaplan told us that, “our [Turner Construction’s] professional staff is at a premium, both on the Turner payroll, but also with our partners. Getting technicians to start up equipment is an issue, getting craft labor that can install the kind of work we do has been a big issue, and qualified supervision is at a real premium. We're seeing these issues across the spectrum.”
The result is that, as an industry, data center construction companies are having to offer increasingly high incentives, making the whole process more expensive.
“You’ve got to pay a premium, and that means you've got to recover those costs somehow,” said John Ford of Sabey Data Centers. “So that means the rent needs to go up on the data.”
“There's so much money in the industry now, and it's kind of a perfect storm. We've got all of these constraints, but then we have this tremendous demand. So a lot of companies are grabbing as much data center space as they can. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: they're concerned they're not going to be able to get data center space, so they're grabbing as much as they can get, which is driving more construction, and then driving more shortages.”
The question is then how do we solve this? I am sure many of you will recall the first months of the pandemic when people rushed to the supermarkets to buy toilet rolls. The panic, the scarcity mindset, caused the very problem it was hoping to avoid.
But if we learned one thing from this experience, it is that attempts to reason and logically explain how this behavior accelerates a problem, fall on deaf ears.
Instead, the industry is pushed to think creatively and find more efficient methods of construction, be it prefabricated builds or embracing the somewhat feared automation.