Category: Technology

MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program Has Kicked Off!

MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program has kicked off! Each of the 17 presentations is meant to help students navigate the proposal and bid process for the annual MCAA Student Chapter Competition project.  

Did we mention registration is free and you only have to register once for ALL of the presentations!

Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with the MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program website login instructions. This website includes:

  • All virtual program details;
  • Presentation descriptions;
  • Speaker overviews; and 
  • A full agenda with links to join the live sessions!

We encourage you to attend as many presentations live to interact with fellow students and engage with the presenters in the presentation Q&A. If you are unable to attend any of the sessions live, don’t you worry, the recorded presentations will be posted on MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program website AFTER the live session.

MCAA is sending a weekly Monday reminder email to registered attendees, highlighting the presentations for that week. Don’t forget to add them to your calendar!

MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program is sponsored by

REGISTER NOW

2020 Construction Technology Report Challenges Contractors Innovation

In 2020, the construction industry has been forced into dramatic changes in operations and workflow. More people are working remotely and thus, more projects are being handled in a distributed manner. To help MCAA members better understand what processes are gaining wide implementation across the industry and how their companies measure against these benchmarks, MCAA has sponsored the JBKnowledge Construction Technology Report.

The 2019 report, released in December, has an accurate look at where companies began the year. MCAA has worked with JBKnowledge to make sure that the 2020 report will take into account new practices and challenges that contractors face with the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply taking the 2020 survey can force you to ask questions about your own operations and if your company is operating at pace with innovation in the industry.

To learn more, download the 2019 report:

DOWNLOAD REPORT

Or participate in the 2020 ConTech Report Survey:

TAKE THE SURVEY

Training Video: WebLEM+Plus Estimating Software

This educational video provides users with an overview of the next generation of WebLEM — WebLEM+Plus. In this video, you will learn how labor units are created for both the Component and the Work Activity Method (WAM) and what factors are considered in creating labor units. The video highlights the new and enhanced features of WebLEM+Plus. You will learn how to navigate the updated software, how to access Component and Work Activity labor units and how to locate information associated with each product. The video will also walk you through a detailed example of how to use the Work Activity Method (WAM). Included in the recording is an overview of the work our industry’s manufacturers and content providers are doing to connect their product data and drawing content to the WebLEM+Plus. Welcome to WebLEM+Plus, the next generation of the industry standard for estimating labor hours.

Webinar #3: Shifting Work from the Jobsite – Jonathan Marsh, James Benham, Sean McGuire and Josh Bone

The COVID-19 crisis is forcing contractors to perform work in challenging new ways. This webinar focuses on two scenarios that will become more likely in the weeks ahead – forced remote work with no job site activity and one in which job sites might be shut down and fabrication facilities remain open. We discuss how to prepare staff to work remotely, what work can be prioritized to be done remotely and how to utilize fabrication space safely to keep projects progressing. This panel includes Jonathan Marsh, MEP Innovation Lab; James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge; Sean McGuire, MCAA Director of Innovative Technologies; and Josh Bone, Director of Industry Innovation at NECA.

This webinar was recorded Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

High Degree of BIM Use by Mechanical Contractors Leads to Multiple Benefits, New Study Shows

A new Dodge Data & Analytics study of mechanical and HVAC contractors using BIM shows that most mechanical contractors that use BIM experience benefits such as improved cost and schedule performance, lower labor costs and greater productivity. MCAA partnered with Dodge to produce the report, which includes input from many MCAA members.

The Business Value of BIM for Mechanical and HVAC Construction SmartMarket Report based on the study’s findings provides a comprehensive examination of the benefits that mechanical contractors experience when using BIM as well as the challenges they face in expanding BIM use.

The study demonstrates that mechanical contractors are sophisticated users of BIM software who have seen the benefits from that use. However, the study also shows that the ability of these contractors to fully leverage the value of modeling technologies is hampered by training and manpower issues, along with the challenge of getting other project stakeholders equally engaged in BIM.

One of the biggest benefits reported by contractors is the ability of BIM to improve the fabrication process. Many mechanical contractors are frequent users of offsite fabrication for their systems, and the study shows that nearly half use BIM on 50% or more of the assemblies they prefabricate, demonstrating that BIM is an essential tool for this process. Benefits from using BIM to aid prefabrication are widely reported, with over 80% of mechanical contractors who use it to prefabricate reporting that they see improvements in the material waste generated, labor costs, quality of installed work, avoiding the purchase of extra pipes and fittings and schedule performance.

Other top benefits reported by contractors using BIM in general are increased labor productivity, increased profitability, better utilization of resources and improved cost performance.

“BIM is an increasingly important and incredibly complex part of the building process. It requires additional coordination, planning, and design expertise, and MCAA members are embracing the tools and technology to rise to the challenge. This new process is still in its infancy, and mechanical contractors—especially those that are already using BIM—have a lot to learn from this report.”

–Sean McGuire, Director, Innovative Technologies, at MCAA

By using BIM, mechanical contractors have also been able to leverage the technology to conduct more analysis on their projects.
• Over 70% report that they use BIM for shop drawings and spatial coordination on half or more of their projects.
• Nearly two thirds (61%) report using BIM for constructability evaluation on more than half of their projects.

“Use of BIM for spatial coordination and constructability evaluation provides these contractors with a clear advantage,” says Steve Jones, Senior Director of Industry Insights at Dodge Data & Analytics. “They can address issues before construction begins, which saves both time and money, and can even help improve safety by avoiding rework.”

However, there are still challenges that prevent these contractors from fully leveraging the use of BIM. The biggest challenges include training needs for employees and lack of available manpower to create BIM models. In addition, these contractors struggle with full engagement with BIM across the project team, with lack of support for BIM from other important trades, the issue of other stakeholders on their projects not using BIM and poor-quality BIM use by other stakeholders also presenting significant challenges. Addressing these issues will allow even more contractors to more fully experience the benefits of using BIM collaboratively on their projects.

A Technology Conference Like No Other

Are you tired of conferences that end up being a series of advertisements for products, software or services? The MCAA Technology Conference is different. It focuses on sessions that are by contractors, for contractors. It also showcases innovation and shares ideas from industry experts to help you make your company more agile, productive and future-ready. So, join hundreds of contractors in San Diego this January 29-31 for a conference that’s a cut above the rest. Space is running out, so register now!

Get the Tech Training You Need at the MCAA Technology Conference

Whether you need to get started with tech, get better at it, or want a look ahead toward what the future holds, the MCAA Technology Conference has education for you.

For those who are new to technology and want to understand the first steps, Travis Voss from Mechanical, Inc. and Doug Smith from Dynamic Systems Inc. are your guides to Getting Started with Technology in an extended pre-conference session.

Curious about what other mechanical contractors are doing with tech? Want to know their results? Then you won’t want to miss member-led sessions showcasing their productivity improvements. Learn how to better use Revit, share data or build in-house software that helps give your company a competitive edge.

If you want to see where the industry is going in a few years, take part in breakout sessions on machine learning, servicing equipment with Autonomous Building Systems or catch James Benham’s opening session on futuristic innovations.

The conference is filling up, so learn more about what’s planned and register today on the conference website.

Learn How to Use BIM More Effectively at the MCAA Technology Conference

Many contractors use Revit for BIM coordination but few know how to fully amplify its productivity. At this year’s MCAA Technology Conference, two of the industry’s most innovative Revit hackers, Jeff Elwell from E.M Duggan and James Simpson from Art Plumbing, will share how they leverage software solutions and coding to implement shortcuts that create innovative solutions. In addition to drastically increasing productivity, these shortcuts have created a more standardized process for their BIM teams as they approach design. Learn more about their solutions and the many others sessions featuring contractors sharing their real-world technology solutions on the conference website.

Tech Conference Offers Innovations and Practical Solutions

The MCAA Technology Conference has always been geared to show you the next generation tools that will be used in the industry, but real-world innovations are the backbone of the conference. This year, the conference has more case studies and instruction led by contractors than ever before. If you want to learn how your peers are actually using new software, tools and processes, you need to attend this event.

Learn How to Foster Creativity and Innovation at the MCAA Technology Conference

Can encouraging your staff to have a wide range of interests help grow your business? Yes, according to New York Times best-selling author David Epstein. Epstein will share findings from his latest book, Range: How Generalists Succeed in a Specialized World during the MCAA Technology Conference. Learn how innovation is encouraged by having a broad range of experiences. You won’t want to miss his insightful presentation!

Find Innovative Ideas for ALL Members at the MCAA Technology Conference

Whether you’re in construction, plumbing or service, you’ll find innovative ideas to move your company forward at the MCAA Technology Conference. General sessions feature content of interest to all contractors, while breakouts and workshops let you choose the education that suits your interests. Don’t miss out…join this community of innovators!

Learn How to Work More Efficiently at MCAA’s Technology Conference

Innovation drives every industry forward. Construction is no different – just a little more challenging. Many MCAA/MSCA members are already adapting and thriving in the digital transition. If you want to keep pace with industry leaders, it’s time to learn how to work more efficiently and smarter. It’s time to innovate, and MCAA’s Technology Conference is a great place to do so. Registration is open for the January 29-31 conference in San Diego, California. It’s sure to sell out, so register today!

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.

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?