Specialty contractors need the right tools to increase collaboration, mitigate risk, and reduce rework as increasing project demands require them to deliver complex work faster.
That’s where a connected construction platform comes into play. In our upcoming May 20th webinar, “Leveraging Autodesk Construction Cloud as Specialty Contractors,” we discuss how Autodesk Construction Cloud’s connected construction platform can work specifically for subcontractors. Utilizing this platform can better drive project success, increase team safety, and reduce risk.
We sat down with our two webinar speakers, Marcus Bollom, Director of Construction with MAREK, and Weston Short, Vice President of Engineering and Innovation, Gaylor Electric, to talk about their experience using connected technology.
Check out the Q&A for a preview of the webinar covering important topics, such as how technology aids MAREK and Gaylor Electric and how they see technology fitting in with the future developments in the industry.
First, tell us about your career and role within the organization.
Marcus: I’ve been with the company for 22 years now, starting as an intern when I was attending Texas A&M. My first project was an exposition center that is now known as NRG Center, which is located adjacent to NRG Stadium – Home of the Houston Texans. I was constantly thinking about what we talked about in the office and how those conversations would get translated in the field. Even today, that’s constantly present in my mind.
Over time my projects got larger and I began managing different scopes of work. The turning point in my career happened in 2012. MAREK was going through a conversion of a DOS-based ERP to JD Edwards (an internet based browser). I was chosen to be a functional lead with a focus on job cost using the new JD Edwards platform and utilized the tool to help us manage cost and turn over successful projects.
Weston: I started in the electrical field, pushing a broom about 16 years ago. I worked tons of different jobs in the field: pipe, terminating, switchgear, and so on. At that time, I was still going to school and learned to draw in Revit under the guidance of a professor. It was mind-boggling how much data you could actually pull out of a Revit model.
Around the same time, Autodesk purchased Revit, which allowed the masses to get onboard with this platform. I was able to leverage what I was learning in construction, cartography, and field experience into my day to day. This whole process was influential in helping me develop drawings and concepts that could be understood and installed by anyone.
Gaylor found me and asked if I wanted to start the engineering group in the Southeast. I’ve been here for nearly nine years now.
How does construction technology benefit your job and business?
Marcus: I’ve always asked myself, “How can I make the job easier in the field?” They need to build stuff, and I need to do the paperwork. This way of thinking resulted in the implementation of PlanGrid in 2013. This opened up opportunities for training, and brought awareness to how the software could help align and support business behaviors.
It is important to note that aligning and supporting can be two different things.
Software should support good business behaviors by falling into step without notice. However, when that behavior needs to change, software can help us realign with little disruption to increase effectiveness.
That helps us serve business objectives in the short and long term.
My role in construction operations is to ensure this support and alignment from field supervisors all the way to the employee level. Whether there’s a litigation issue or an employee gets sent home, we have the technology to track the situation and access the applicable information later. Things can get lost in translation, this technology allows us to see the same screen the supervisor on-site sees. This connected cloud tool allows me to support those in the field with little to no disruption to the job on hand.
Weston: Right now, we are beginning to use Autodesk Build. The benefit to me is that I know what is tracking and what’s not tracking. This can be done wherever I am at. The evolution of the single source of truth that can be accessed through an iPad, through a web browser, and not a full-blown cad machine is where most people are going to find the greatest ROI. This means that the information we have in the model is now readily accessible in the field. What we know everyone knows. This is extremely important because the company that will have the biggest win on a project will be the company that understands the job the best. There’s no way around that. Nine times out of ten, many subcontractors can get the job done, but the highest performing team is the one that has the tools to understand what they’re building, before they go build it.
That’s what we strive to do on every project at Gaylor — and technology is going to get us there.
How do you think technology will change how your company does business in the future?
Marcus: For the past 20 years, technology has stepped in to fill open opportunities. It is, at an essential level, an adopted change that meets a current need. Increasingly, technology can meet that need without a lot of training. It’s intuitive; the updates happen; they work, and we don’t question why they work. The question is, how can we adapt that technology to our business most effectively? How does this help us understand construction differently?
We are guided by the idea of taking different forms of technology, finding the core needs in our field, and removing anything that isn’t helpful. I see the technology ecosystem evolving to a very intuitive experience. Starting with employees meeting their own needs, such as clocking in, telling their boss what they accomplished, and getting paid for their time. That rolls up to the foreman, the supervisor, and ultimately the GC. If this information comes all the way up the chain cleanly, without duplication, then we’re getting the job done well.
Weston: In the past couple of years, we’ve seen an astonishing increase in the amount of AI in the design process. This is mostly architectural, energy modeling and structural, but the systems that actually make these buildings work is still a pipe dream. We’re still not completely there, with an AI system to find the best way to move air, how electrons should flow in a building. Often, we still need people to address issues that, with time, an AI system will be able to handle intuitively. That will enable us to optimize designs for buildings from start to finish.
The truth is architecture is literally just the first building block. It is how we want people to interact with the building. The structure is how we facilitate the means of making this interaction happen. The physical contact of this interaction is in the systems, the air that keeps you cool, the light that allows you to see, the outlets that allow you to work. These systems are what makes the building tolerable to the person. We can have the most beautiful buildings in the world, but if the systems are not optimized to the building, the building will never be as beautiful as it was intended.