It’s important to be strategic with your planning and technology investments.
And for your technology to succeed, you need to have the right processes and groundwork in place. If the underlying process isn’t working, then simply adding technology may not be the right first step.
Judd Fuoto, Construction Technologies Manager at Southland Industries, sat down with us to discuss his role there, what it takes to lay a strong foundation for getting innovative technology off the ground, and how to work together effectively in the process.
Tell me a little bit about Southland Industries and what you specialize in.
Southland Industries is what I’d call a one-stop shop. We are MEP building systems experts offering connected solutions, which are anything ranging from engineering to construction to control system maintenance. We do it all on the MEP and fire-protection side.
I’m the manager of construction technologies, which means that I specialize in what I call the “general building nerdery.”
Walk us through your career and what led you to become Construction Technologies Manager.
I have a degree in architecture from Virginia Tech. I worked as an architect and had a lot of experience with CAD, Architectural Desktop, AutoCAD, and those types of programs. Then, I started to get into Revit on the architecture side.
In 2008 through 2009, the economy crashed, and I decided that architecture was a wonderful hobby but it was time to jump ship.
After that, I went into facilities management and operations. I worked in the Division of Operations at The George Washington University. I led a few initiatives there, such as digitizing their old building document archive, and championing the creation of the Facilities Information Management Procedures Manual.
Southland was working on a project with George Washington University that I was helping on. So that’s how I was introduced to them originally.
Some time later, Southland reached out to me and said they had an open position. Not long after that, I was the first outside hire for, at that time, the company’s R&D team. I’ve been with Southland for around six years now.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career at Southland Industries? Why?
I’m more proud of the growth of my team at Southland than I am of any individual accomplishment. I’m excited to be a part of a progressive, forward-thinking organization in this industry.
As construction evolves, how do you see the role of Construction Technologies Manager changing?
I think as construction evolves, every organization is going to need people focused on what tools we have, how we use them, what’s next, and what’s next after that. At Southland, we have this Construction Technologies Manager role, but not every organization does.
As technologies and tools evolve, the role may also change and evolve over time. There is still opportunity for growth for this role in the industry because it’s one that wasn’t really in existence even 10 years ago. At least not to the same extent that it is now.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role? How does technology help you overcome those challenges?
The biggest challenge I face is the proliferation of technology and not viewing it in the context of a tool to aid a process. To put it bluntly, people may be afraid to look in the mirror when examining their own processes. Basically, if the overall process is bad, it doesn’t matter what kind of technology you implement. It is simply set up to fail. Getting people to objectively look at their processes – and not take it personally if something in those processes needs improvement – can be a challenge.
After you have the process mapped out, it’s easy to say what you want to improve and what you don’t want to touch. You can take specific technology-based tools and do what needs to be done to drive the company forward.
That’s what people love. All of a sudden you can move at a faster pace. They see how the technology and processes click into place, and they get excited about it.
Speaking of construction technology, what excites you about implementing Build over the next few months?
Seeing the progress of Autodesk Construction Cloud products has been very good. Seeing the consolidation of features is exciting for me because it means being able to use some of the best capabilities and top construction apps under one brand.
At Southland, we do a lot of field work. We do a lot of commissioning of our own work and work with third-party commissioning agents. Being able to have the checklists for tracking your commissioning, tracking your QA/QC, tracking all your issues, and being able to tie them to documents is huge for people who are working in the field.
What made you want to partner with Autodesk on your projects?
Autodesk is a large player in the market, and that can’t be downplayed. At the same time, the relationship that we have with the Autodesk team has been integral. They have never hesitated to include us in product sessions or anything like that. Plus, the integrated software is huge for a company like ours with so many functions to perform. Having software that hits all those needs ranging from design through construction is helpful.
When you think about the future, what are your plans to advance innovation and productivity at Southland Industries?
At Southland, we have a great strategic planning process in place. We gather ideas each year and the Strategic Planning Team looks at what we need to prioritize, solutions to consider, and what might be a more future-facing initiative or investment.
We work in that framework to keep the conversation open, because innovation is awesome, right? But innovation or implementation without a process or plan just to say, “Hey, we did a new thing,” can stall an implementation and give innovation a bad name at a company. Turning innovation into a discipline, I think, is effective.
What advice would you give to the next generation of men and women entering and preparing for the future of the industry?
First, don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what my entire career is built on.
You shouldn’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything – or automatically assume that you know nothing and that your input isn’t valuable. Where the industry is at now, we’re on the precipice of pushing forward at an insane rate. So, my best advice is to always be trying to learn and willing to help other people learn too.
[Tweet “”Where the industry is at now, we’re on the precipice of pushing forward at an insane rate. So, my best advice is to always be trying to learn and willing to help other people learn too.” –@JFuoto via ADSK_Construct”]
Interested in more interviews like this?
Myself and team regularly sit down with construction leaders to promote knowledge sharing among our community. We cover what works, what doesn’t, and what the future holds. Check out previous Behind the Build interviews, featuring some of the best in construction.