Category: Construction Technology Inititiative

Take the Tech Survey that Delivers Insights

MCAA is once again sponsoring the annual JBKnowledge Technology Survey. Although the survey only takes a few minutes to complete, the questions that it asks will make you consider the choices that your company makes regarding technology and the direction that you are heading.

Take the Survey

MCAA has sponsored the last five JBKnowledge Construction Technology Surveys because they provide valuable insight for MCAA members. Through our sponsorship, we are also able to ask specific questions related to the MCAA members. Recently, we released the 2018 MCAA-Focused Construction Technology Report which showed that MCAA members don’t invest enough in technology budgets and manpower.

Download the 2018 MCAA Focused Report

The MCAA Focused report shows only a piece of the complete picture with comparisons of MCAA responses compared to the rest of the industry. The complete 7th Annual JBKnowledge Construction Technology Report revealed new trends for the industry overall, including a trend toward investing in R&D.

View the Complete 2018 Construction Technology Survey

Innovation on Display at Murray Company for the 2019 Fabrication Conference

At MCAA’s 2019 Fab Conference, Murray Company in Los Angeles, California opened its doors to over 225 contractors to learn fabrication, process and digital integration. Over three days, they helped move the industry forward by demonstrating their processes, technology and innovations. In addition to learning about the Murray approach to the fabrication process, attendees learned how pull planning and enhanced coordination can help drive schedule and increase productivity.

Report Shows MCAA Members Don’t Invest Enough in Tech Budget and Manpower

In 2018, MCAA sponsored a JBKnowledge Construction Technology Report that surveyed over 2,800 professionals in the construction industry. In the newly released MCAA-Focused Report, the responses given by MCAA members were separated and compared to those of the rest of the construction industry.

While MCAA members are getting heavily involved in VDC and mobile technology, they are behind the rest of the industry when it comes to some aspects of R&D. As the report’s primary researcher, Liz Beechinor from JBKnowledge points out, “Our research is showing that the construction industry as a whole is behind on R&D spending compared to other industries, but when we take a look at MCAA members’ responses and compare that to the construction industry, they are even further behind. Fewer MCAA contractors have dedicated R&D budget and employees dedicated to R&D.”

According to a 2017 McKinsey Report, the construction industry as a whole spends less than 1% of their revenue on R&D. Compared to the auto industry, which spends 3.5%, and the aerospace industry, which spends 4.5%, this can seem relatively underfunded.

What is even more concerning is construction companies’ lack of any R&D budget. The 2018 MCAA-Focused Construction Technology Report showed that 56.8% of those surveyed had no budget for R&D, while 63.5% of MCAA members reported that they didn’t budget for R&D.

The same could be said for having employees dedicated to R&D. In the last few years, we have seen more MCAA and MSCA contractors dedicate manpower to technology research and implementation, but on average, they are still behind the rest of the industry.

Most respondents that identified as MCAA members reported that they had one or two people dedicated to R&D, while 37% do not have employees dedicated to R&D. During a presentation on the topic at MCAA19, MCAA’s Director, Construction Technology Sean McGuire explained, “While we are seeing more members take technology seriously, smaller companies are going to always be more limited on budget and manpower that they can dedicate towards research and implementation. Larger GCs and CMs can absorb these costs a little easier simply as a function of their size.”

Being bigger does not necessarily mean better though.  As Sean notes, “While research and staff budgets can be absorbed by larger companies easier, the bigger you are, the harder implementation becomes. Small companies can adopt changes a lot faster because you can get less people pulling in the same direction faster.  Large companies have to dedicate more resources to implementation and follow up.”

This lines up with another report question that asked what the most limiting factor was for adopting new technology. Not surprisingly, lack of staff and budget received the highest response rates and were concerns for nearly half of the MCAA respondents. The report provides further insight into these questions as well as BIM productivity and estimation and mobile device and hardware use.

BIM Workstations Are Expensive, But Report Shows Investing in the Right System Can Be Valuable

MCAA has released its latest report in its Technology Research Series, focusing on BIM Workstation Configurations. With the integration of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) into our business, the computer workstations required to run BIM software need to be faster, stronger and more durable, but most executives do not have the computer science degree necessary to fully understand our needs. The MCAA Technology Committee teamed up with JBKnowledge to help MCAA members better understand the needs and value of BIM Workstations.

Put simply, underperforming computers cost MCAA members money.  Excessive processing times not only lead to long periods of idleness, but also slow down the design, coordination and communication of projects. This reduces the productivity of some of the most highly paid workers in the company.

This report guides member companies’ IT staff or fractional IT support through the process of performing benchmark tests. It also provides guidance in making hardware purchases.

Digital Integration Leads to a Sellout MCAA Technology Conference

While much of the country faced record cold weather last week, approximately 250 MCAA members made their way to Tampa, Florida for the MCAA’s annual Technology Conference.  The three day conference has evolved into an event where contractors are able to learn about the latest techniques, products, and software and connect with peers in similar roles across the country. One of these roles is an emerging position that many contractors have started developing in their companies over the last few years. As MCAA President-Elect Brian Helm from Mechanical, Inc. put it, “Every year, this conference grows bigger and gets better, but the comforting thing to me is seeing an emergence of a new group of construction technologists and how they are developing their own network in our association.”


Construction Technologists (or ConTech for short) are individuals responsible for researching, testing and implementation of new software, tools and hardware for their companies. While the construction industry has been lagging behind in R&D spending, some MCAA members are beginning to invest in both budget allocation on R&D and the personnel to roll it out. While this role varies widely across the membership, the emergence of  ConTechs has helped contractors research and implement processes that bring productivity gains to the their companies.

Over three days and 20 sessions, construction technologists, operations managers, BIM specialists and service contractors were able to catch up on the tools and techniques driving the industry forward. Next year’s conference is expected to be even bigger. Plan to join us in San Diego, California, January 29-31, 2020.

 

PHC News Names J.C. Cannistraro Contractor of the Year

Congratulations to everyone at J.C. Cannistraro, LLC for being named PHC News magazine’s Contractor of the Year! The company, which is a member of MCAA and the New England MCA, was selected for its reputation as a leader in modular prefabrication and a very early adopter of construction technology.

Construction Technology Report Shows Emerging Trends on R&D and Product Usage

The latest Construction Technology Report, released this week by JBKnowledge and sponsored by MCAA, revealed new trends for the industry. The survey goes in depth on spending, software use and processes that contractors are taking advantage of.

One notable trend identified involves R&D and having dedicated staff and direction to research new technology. The survey quotes one participant, “We’ve established a Chief Innovation Officer role who oversees R&D and quality.  We R&D new products, materials and technology using existing staff (vs. full-time), but we do have a process for identifying and assessing materials & tech.”

MCAA has also seen a rise in the R&D focused staff among its members with a new role emerging called a Construction Technologist, or ConTech for short. Sessions are planned to discuss this at both the upcoming Construction Technology Conference in January and the MCAA Annual Convention in March.

New Products Will Be Unveiled at MCAA Tech Conference

New products can bring change to the industry.  This happens in one of two ways – evolutionary or revolutionary. Sometimes it is easy to spot the difference.  A new feature in software that can make the user interface easier is an evolutionary design. It makes the next incremental step in the process and while adding value and productivity, does so in a small way.

Revolutionary products can bring exponential change to the industry.  These are products that create new processes that eliminate old ones. An example of a revolutionary change would be the robotic total station.  Instead of tape measures and T-squares, total stations use BIM, control points and positioning lasers to accurately determine locations in a construction project today.  New processes are used entirely, but huge productivity gains are made.

While most evolutionary products that move the process forward are beneficial, revolutionary products that can bring exponential productivity increases are celebrated.  During the opening session of the MCAA Tech Conference, James Benham will present multiple products that can be classified as revolutionary. If there is one session that cannot be missed at the conference, it will be this one.

In order to showcase how these new products will impact MCAA members, James Benham will bring in the experts.  This will include contractors that have beta tested them, research teams that have evaluated them and the developers themselves who will provide demonstrations of their purpose.  Some of these new products will be available immediately, some later in the year, but all will have an impact on our industry.

To learn more or register for the conference, visit the MCAA Technology Conference Website.

Mechanical Inc. Featured at Autodesk’s Connect & Construct Summit

Each year, as part of Autodesk’s annual education conference, Autodesk University, there is an optional session the first day that is geared towards the AEC industry called Connect & Construct. It features Autodesk’s corporate leaders like the new Autodesk President and CEO Andrew Anagnost talking about products designed for the construction industry as well as some of the industry’s leading innovators.

One such innovator featured this year was Travis Voss, Mechanical Inc’s Director of Technology.  Mr. Voss was part of the keynote address that included Dr. Peter Diamandis, a recent speaker at the MSCA Conference and MCAA Convention, and Lorien Barlow, the Documentary filmmaker behind a movie titled, Hard Hatted Woman.

During his keynote address, Travis spoke about Mechanical Inc.’s path to technology leadership, what his role as a Construction Technologist means and how collaboration and cooperation with other MCAA members through the Technology Committee has helped their company.

The video is available through Autodesk’s Online University through this link. Travis begins his presentation at the 45 minute mark.

Travis Voss will also be speaking at the MCAA Technology Conference in Tampa Bay, Florida on January 30- February 1.  His presentation will be part of a session titled, Next Generation Workflows, in which he will demonstrate how Mechanical Inc. has begun using augmented reality on the job site.

Be an Innovator – Attend MCAA’s 2019 Tech Conference

Every year, new innovations help leading contractors get a little more effective, productive and profitable. Missing out will not put you out of business right away, but it will gradually widen the gap between your company and the leaders in the market. It is never too late to catch up. Be an innovator. The MCAA Technology Conference is the best resource for learning how members are using the latest tools, software, and processes to thrive in these changing times. Join us January 29 – February 1 in Tampa Bay, Florida at the MCAA Technology Conference.

Construction Technologists Don’t Just Hack, They Find Artful Use

Written by: Jonathan Marsh, CTO/Division Manager Virtual Design and Construction, William T. Spaeder Company


In my role as a Construction Technologist, I am often accused of hacking.   As a result I have a great desire to better communicate what it means to “hack”, since there is a negative connotation tied to cybersecurity or even attacking with blunt force. Not that I don’t hack things—I do—but there is something outside of hacking that I consider artful use. If we’re talking about the Construction Technologist (Con Tech) we need to talk about the idea of hacking, but I think we need to separate what we are being forced to hack or modify and what we simply enhance, develop, or see potential in. The things we are enhancing or developing are really more about artful use.

Artful use is seeing the greater range of usefulness in an existing tool. For example, when watching s­omeone use a paintbrush, artful use is understanding that that brush can be used to paint the wall or paint the Sistine Chapel.  To paint the Sistine Chapel, you’ll likely have to hack the brush.  Modifying it to your purpose by breaking it down, build it into other brushes with varying bristle lengths, and identify artists capable of seeing what to paint. I think that a big part of what it is to be a Con Tech is looking at someone painting a wall and seeing that potential artful use.

I see hacking as being a little different, and it may or may not include artful use. Hacking is making what you have work and it is definitely a big part of being an effective Con Tech.  I think we are always looking for the missing tools in construction.  By ‘missing tools’ I mean the specialized tools that are needed by the mechanical trades but do not exist or are not present on the jobsite. An easy way to find a missing tool is to look for something that’s not being used conventionally.

For example, if someone is using the screwdriver to pound a nail, the missing tool might look like a hammer, or nail gun, or adhesives. The point being that the screwdriver is a workaround, but not an artful use. We are not looking for a better potential use of a screwdriver. We are looking for an altogether missing tool.

These missing tools and artful uses are often easy to see on a job site or in the Fab shop. That’s why I think Con Techs should spend a considerable amount of time observing or possibly working with the craftsmen in the field looking for missing tools, materials, methods and potential artful use. Every time I step on a job site I look at what craftsmen do with their tools with an eye to unconventional uses. Some of the best ideas have grown out of watching people use their tools in some absurd way. That can communicate louder than words what is really needed.

Physically being on the jobsite is also important in finding the right people to work with. As we introduce new tools and technologies, we need to identify people that are likely to be able to use the tools and share our vision. Like the artist in the example above, the tool really is nothing without a hand to direct it and a vision to follow. When you’re on the jobsite look for those people that are using their tools in innovative ways, the people that are good at adaptation. They are surprisingly easy to find on most jobsites but are not always the foreman. Finding those people is vital because ultimately, they will become your developers and advocates. They also are the people that are going to tell you when it’s a fail. Pick people that can see what you are shooting for and that you respect enough to believe when they tell you it’s not working.

I really hope as the Con Tech takes on a more conventional role in the industry we can better define and communicate to the teams we work with what we are doing, and how they can take part. In that vein, what are areas where you see the biggest disconnect when communicating what you do to the rest of your teams? And are there simple terms or ideas that would help us clean up some of the muddy thinking about what we do?

 

 

How Are Field Leaders Reacting to Technology?

Whenever a new process, tool or technology is introduced to a company, there is always concern about how it will be used by the people in the field every day. At the Indianapolis Field Leaders Conference, UA Director of Training Chris Haslinger made a presentation about construction technology. His presentation included a survey which yielded some very interesting results from 175 end users.

A balance must always be made in technology training. You don’t want to spend so much time on the training process that it keeps people from doing their jobs. You also want to make sure that people understand how to use it and follow up with added training if required. The good news from these results is that it seems like most field users are getting the right amount of time, regardless of the duration, and very few respondents appear to be getting new technology handed to them with little time to practice with it.

The next question focused more on the tools needed to use new technology on the job site. As mobile devices are frequently seen as required tools by foreman and field supervisors, the need for internet connectivity has risen significantly.

Two thirds of field leaders answered that it is not only very important, but almost all of the time. This speaks to how essential communication and data flow is becoming between the field and the office. Today, field employees are using their mobile devices for more processes and a good internet connection is becoming a necessity. A poor internet connection slows down the processes and can waste field time. This makes usage of mobile devices counter-productive when the time it takes for files to load or transfer make it slower than other methods.

The usage of mobile devices is increasing. Much of this has to do with better software applications on the market and more companies making it part of the process. When asked which software applications they used most frequently, they responded:

  • 85% – Jobsite Documentation
  • 75% – Blueprint Rendering
  • 67% – Time Cards
  • 19% – Tool Management
  • 46% – Safety Related Purposes

This demonstrates heavy usage of applications across a diverse set of processes. With a higher rate of application usage, the industry is likely to modify its processes to compensate. The last survey focused on this issue.

The top two responses both involved improved communication. Coordination with other trades is a process that has a high need for improvement, but involves a process improvement for communication. The same could be said of delivery of blueprints, change orders and design documents – a process that can grind a project to a halt and add significant cost if not organized correctly.

Mobile devices and job site software have become normal for modern contractors. To keep up on technology impacting MCAA members, MCAA’s Technology Initiative will continue to provide research, articles and guidance.

New Report Looks at How MCAA Members Use Technology

The MCAA-sponsored 2017 Construction Technology Report by JBKnowledge took an in-depth look at how the construction industry utilizes technology, software and IT. This week, MCAA released an “MCAA Focused” Report that analyzed the responses of MCAA and MSCA members. It looked at how MCAA members use and estimate BIM costs, track productivity, and emerging tech tools.

Part of the report focused on how MCAA members compare to the rest of the construction industry.  It showed that MCAA members have a greater adoption of BIM and have higher use rates for BIM with especially with coordination and fabrication.

The MCAA focused report also explored how MCAA members are tracking BIM hours and estimating their costs.  It found that far too many contractors do not track their BIM hours per project and as a result cannot use those hours to estimate the amount of time needed to perform BIM on a project.

The report also looked at emerging trends that contractors are currently testing. While the industry at large favors drones by a wide margin, MCAA members are far ahead of the industry on fabrication and modularization.

Using Gaming Keyboard in BIM to Gain Productivity

During the 2017 MCAA Technology Conference, a session was held title, 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes.  It allowed attendees to share some of their best solutions that could be used to improve productivity.

The winning solution was a contractor that was using a gaming keypad made by Logitech that allowed BIM technicians to pre-program sequences into keyboard.  This allowed the repetitive tasks to be performed with single button clicks, saving time and monotony with each action.

In the video, Sean McGuire, MCAA’s Director of Construction Technology talks with DeWalt’s Josh Bone about the practical applications and how much time can be saved using the solution.

Although the keyboard featured in this video is a Logitech keyboard, there are many options available that offer programmable features.

See BIM Do More With MCERF’s Complexity Measurement Tool (CMT) at MCAA18

“GO ALL IN” On Your BIM Efforts With MCERF’s CMT, a Free Revit Add-in! 

Are you attending MCAA18 in San Antonio? If so, you can see the CMT in action and ask questions of the software’s developer Brett Young (BuildingSP) during a session entitled Innovation for Virtual Design in Construction.

Download the MCERF CMT

If you have not yet downloaded MCERF’s  free Complexity Measurement Tool (CMT) onto your Revit stations, you are missing a unique opportunity to take your virtual design for construction (VDC) to the next level! The CMT, which is a Revit add-in, will allow you to visualize and quantify the amount of congestion and complexity in a designed space by generating heat maps whose colors and shadings change based on the amount of equipment or other objects in a given space. You can also export this information as data and use it as data analytics or to create metrics for your past, present, and future projects.

Still not convinced? Check out the accompanying CMT Video (shown above) featuring industry stakeholders who developed the CMT but who also use it on their projects.

The CMT is provided free for use by the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. 

This is a high-resolution output of a high-congestion area at the building core at 50% completed drawings (CD) using MCERF’s CMT. What types of metrics could you develop from such “heat map” images?

Metrics…and More!

MCERF’s CMT enables MEP practitioners to engage in new and exciting forms of building information analysis. It can provide metrics for questions such as:

  • How does congestion vary by project type?
  • How does congestion grow during design, coordination, and construction?
  • By what percentage do design models differ in routing from design through construction?
  • How do project scope changes alter congestion and affect coordination?
  • How does congestion vary down a corridor?
  • Which strategies help manage the most challenging congestion?
  • Which MEP congestion levels and characteristics support maintainability? Constructability?

Need Technical Help?

Contact Brett Young at BuildingSP

Have Other Feedback?

Contact MCERF’s Dennis Langley

HoloLens Research Report Reveals New Advantage for Contractors

What was once thought of as science fiction or construction fantasy is starting to make its way on to construction job sites. In late 2016, Microsoft released developer editions of their mixed reality headset, called the HoloLens. It represented the first time that a big tech company had offered a stand-alone headset that could overlay holograms in the real world that would stay in place as you moved around and changed your perspective.

For the construction industry, it offers a new path towards design, collaboration and visualization. The HoloLens allows you to take BIM models and overlay them on job sites or in conference rooms. You can see how your designs exist in the spaces you are building in. It allows you to move around them to check for collisions, plan for installation and visualize in real-space the plans that were once only on paper.

In MCAA’s Technology Research Series seventh installment, the MCAA Technology Committee explored the capabilities and potential of the Microsoft HoloLens for mechanical, plumbing and service contractors. Over the course of a year, the committee tested and proved that these devices are not only capable of making contractors more efficient, they can be seen as an immediate differentiator to your competition.

The report looks at how the HoloLens can be used to perform common processes for contractors. While it offers some extraordinary potential for jobsite planning and marketing, some areas like service had a limited role. These limitations stemmed from a lack of software that was designed for tasks important for service work.

Software plays a very important role in the usefulness of the device. To their credit, Microsoft was very savvy in the rollout of their new product. Right from the beginning, they partnered with leading software developers from multiple industry sectors to create apps designed for the HoloLens. This allowed for access to software applications for a lot of targeted applications, even during the roll-out of their developer editions.

Thankfully, one of the companies they partnered with was Trimble. Through Microsoft’s collaboration, Trimble developed tools for the construction industry to visualize construction models in real space. In the past year, more software developers have created solutions for the construction industry. The committee evaluated these apps in the report and made recommendations for software depending on the workflows that you intend to use the HoloLens for.

Software available today make it possible to pull BIM models into the device and visualize with extremely little training. They also offer capabilities in workflows that are not available on any other device. For contractors that are already working with BIM, this is another tool to increase efficiency and productivity.

The MCAA Research Report goes through five workflows to test the effectiveness of the device. In some cases, although a HoloLens could be used to perform a task, it was not the most efficient way of doing it. For other tasks it presented options and efficiencies that simply were not available using any other tool.

The HoloLens has proven to be an effective tool ready for the industry, the question is, how can your company ready to benefit from its use. To learn more, download the report and watch for updates. Software is in development by leading industry manufacturers that should push the capability of the HoloLens even further. The report is available to MCAA and MSCA members as a complimentary benefit of membership.  With the release of new applications scheduled for the HoloLens, the report will be updated throughout the year.

 

MCERF’s Complexity Measurement Tool (CMT) To Be Showcased at MCAA18

GO ALL IN On Your BIM Efforts With MCERF’s CMT, a Free Revit Add-in! 

Are you attending MCAA18 in San Antonio? If so, you can see the CMT in action and ask questions of the software’s developer Brett Young (BuildingSP) during a session entitled Innovation for Virtual Design in Construction.

Download the MCERF CMT

If you have not yet downloaded MCERF’s  free Complexity Measurement Tool (CMT) onto your Revit stations, you are missing a unique opportunity to take your virtual design for construction (VDC) to the next level! The CMT, which is a Revit add-in, will allow you to visualize and quantify the amount of congestion and complexity in a designed space by generating heat maps whose colors and shadings change based on the amount of equipment or other objects in a given space. You can also export this information as data and use it as data analytics or to create metrics for your past, present, and future projects.

Still not convinced? Check out the accompanying CMT Video (shown above) featuring industry stakeholders who developed the CMT but who also use it on their projects.

The CMT is provided free for use by the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. 

This is a high-resolution output of a high-congestion area at the building core at 50% completed drawings (CD) using MCERF’s CMT. What types of metrics could you develop from such “heat map” images?

Metrics…and More!

MCERF’s CMT enables MEP practitioners to engage in new and exciting forms of building information analysis. It can provide metrics for questions such as:

  • How does congestion vary by project type?
  • How does congestion grow during design, coordination, and construction?
  • By what percentage do design models differ in routing from design through construction?
  • How do project scope changes alter congestion and affect coordination?
  • How does congestion vary down a corridor?
  • Which strategies help manage the most challenging congestion?
  • Which MEP congestion levels and characteristics support maintainability? Constructability?

Need Technical Help?

Contact Brett Young at BuildingSP

Have Other Feedback?

Contact MCERF’s Dennis Langley