With rising pressure to deliver projects on time and on budget, construction firms are looking for new ways to achieve certainty. Enter the promise of Industrialized Construction (IC). Approaching construction from a manufacturing mindset is not only smarter; it’s imperative to meet the demands of a growing global population.
As a veteran of the manufacturing and design industry, Ryan McMahon General Manager, Manufacturing Informed Design at Autodesk brings more than 25 years of experience delivering products across the medical device, IT, and high-performance computing industries.
In his role, he leads a team that develops new solutions to bring manufacturing information into the design process enabling IC and bringing manufacturing means and methods to construction.
Construction professionals can get a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the most innovative companies approach productization in our Digital Builder Insider program. Keep reading to find out more about Ryan and what he plans to write about as part of our Digital Builder Insider series.
Tell me about yourself and what you specialize in?
What fascinates me most is truly understanding the ‘how’ in the way something works and then figuring out a way to improve it. For as long as I can remember I have loved building things, solving problems, creating something tangible that brings my efforts to life, and then deconstructing it and doing it all over again. I caught the entrepreneurial bug while working at Sonicare. It was so cool helping to build a product and a company from the ground up—I wanted to learn everything about it and eventually it was the very inspiration I needed to start my own company.
To that end, I have held roles in engineering, sales, marketing, and product management and I earned my MBA to fine tune those skillsets. I’ve worked for six startups and founded two companies. I have built products for electronic design automation, digital music, medical devices, sensitive information-sharing for first responders, IT compliance, mobile gaming, and high-performance computing. And, at Autodesk in particular, I have delivered manufacturing products for factory design, process modelling, production management, and now, I contribute to the portfolio of capabilities that make Industrialized Construction (IC) a success. Working across such a diverse array of industries has given me a strong foundation in experiences, that today, influence every step of my professional journey.
How did you get into the construction industry?
I began working with the IC group about five years ago. I was intrigued by how much of what goes into every building project is similar, but yet totally unique and engineered from scratch every time. With my manufacturing background, it was only natural to look for what elements were repeatable (but with predictable variation) and try to apply scale to improve efficiency and quality.
We partnered with the IC team to bring our manufacturing solutions to their customers and, when an opportunity arose to lead a team hyper-focused on IC solutions, I jumped at the chance. Since then, my team has been exploring ways to introduce productization to IC and developing solutions that make doing so even easier.
Why are you passionate about digital transformation in construction?
There is huge global demand for places to live, work, learn and play and yet, the industry is notoriously wasteful and suffers from flat productivity. Currently, the industry cannot meet this demand and will never get there without transforming the way we design, engineer, fabricate, and deliver.
I am passionate about helping make that happen and believe some key ingredients are introducing digitization and connectivity into our workflows and elevating the incorporation of productization in construction. These are foundational methods that help companies reuse designs, manufacture at scale (thus reducing waste and improving quality), and improve collaboration to ultimately accelerate, deliver and improve results.
Is there a project or person in the industry that inspires you to build better or differently?
I am constantly inspired by companies and projects around me, and they aren’t always the marquee or the most glamorous projects either but, rather notable for the ways they demonstrate innovation that’s not always easily detectable to the public eye. A few examples are Ilke Home, Van Wijnin, and Max Bogl—all of whom productize their building projects and employ manufacturing systems that rival traditional manufacturing companies.
Another area that really piques my interest is the building systems, both structural and modular, that companies are customizing so they can accelerate their delivery. Typically, these are defined by a single company for their own projects, but I anticipate a future where these are defined and adopted as general building systems that can be selected at the beginning of each project. Think of it like, wanting to build a toy house and being able to select from Legos, Bloks, Lincoln Logs, or an Erector Set – no matter which option you choose, you’ll be able to build that toy house, but each result will look different.
What can readers expect to learn about from you?
My end game is basically this—figure out how can we make productization a widely-adopted practice within the construction industry. I’ll lay the groundwork with findings that forecast how the industry is changing and what factors are propelling us towards IC, prefabrication, and productization. Then, we’ll examine common obstacles and barriers to adoption and potential ways of overcoming them. Our final outcome will be a collaborative one, where audience members can bring their own experiences and learnings to the table, and together, we ‘ll map the ways we think we can bring change to the industry.
What’s one “tool” you can’t live without and why?
PowerPoint is the tool I cannot live without. A huge portion of what I do is communicate with thought leaders and influence conversations that catalyze change across the industry and PowerPoint is the very tool that helps drive these conversations. With it, I can illustrate potential industry solutions, breathe life into what we are building and why, and most importantly, facilitate engaging discussions with my peers, partners, and customers.