Category: Technology

North Mechanical Demonstrates that When it Comes to Fabrication, Efficiency Matters More than Size

In terms of productivity, the construction industry’s manufacturing has been lagging for years. Fabrication has increased output through robotics, lean principles, digitization and automation.

This has been hard to translate directly to the construction industry because every building, project and system is unique. Although similar techniques are used in every building, no two are the same and applying manufacturing concepts to the process has been a challenge.

In the second session of MCAA’s Fabrication Virtual Mini series, we are focusing on North Mechanical, an Indiana-based contractor that performs plumbing, mechanical and service. They operate a 20,000 square foot fabrication facility that drives tremendous productivity from a moderate space.

During a one-hour online session, North Mechanical will share video from their operations to demonstrate the tools, processes and techniques. Following the video, North’s VDC and Technology Manager, Trent Leinenbach and North’s Fab Shop Foreman, Tole Burnett will be joined by Sean McGuire, MCAA’s Director of Innovative Technologies and Adam Rich from GTP software to discuss and share technical details of the software integration.

The interactive discussion will share manufacturing concepts utilized at North, as well as how they are using new design software to get field drawings fabricated.

When: February 11, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Registration for the Fabrication Virtual Mini II – North Mechanical session is complimentary and limited to MCAA-members only.

SAVE YOUR SEAT

Connectivity on the Jobsite is Absolutely Critical. Register for MCAA’s Virtual Education Conference to Discuss the Various Options with James Benham.

As part of our Virtual Education Conference (VEC) Essential Learning for Unconventional Times, you will stay connected with James Benham, the CEO of JBKnowledge.

In a hyper-connected world, the ability to get connectivity to the jobsite is absolutely critical. “5G Platforms: Connectivity of the Future” will discuss the different options that contractors have for connectivity. All the best apps in the world won’t help your company if they can’t connect, so register and join the discussion! You will learn the options for jobsite connectivity, including 5G and 4G networks, satellite solutions, traditional wire-line solutions, as well as challenges and solutions for bandwidth between devices inside the site.

James is CEO of JB Knowledge, a premier provider of technology solutions for the construction and insurance industries. The company is a seven-time recipient of the Aggie 100 award, a six-time Newman 10 recipient and was recently named to the LSU One Hundred for the second time.

Register today and join your MCAA friends and colleagues online at MCAA’s first Virtual Education Conference (VEC) Essential Learning for Unconventional Times, March 22 – 25, 2021.

Registration is available for individuals and for companies (up to 10 registrants per company registration). Questions can be directed to eventregistration@mcaa.org. We look forward to seeing you in March!

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What Does the Construction Landscape Look Like in Five Years? Join MCAA’s Virtual Education Conference to Discover the Innovative Opportunities from Lee Smither.

As part of our Virtual Education Conference (VEC) Essential Learning for Unconventional Times, you will hear from Lee Smither, a principal for FMI’s consulting practice.

Prefabrication, modularization, robotics, autonomous equipment, 4D and 5D design… innovation is around every corner and technology companies have discovered opportunities within the construction industry. This seminar previews what Construction 2.0 looks like and what it means for you and your company. You will learn what our landscape will look like in five years, what innovations are already being used today and what is yet to come.

As a principal for FMI’s consulting practice, Lee helps engineering and construction companies with strategic planning to improve their corporate performance. He specializes in market strategy and consulting, developing and implementing organization-wide change initiatives and other leadership focused engagements. Additionally, he led FMI’s CEO Forum, which hosted the Top 100 leaders from the industry each year in Washington, D.C.

Register today and join your MCAA friends and colleagues online at MCAA’s first Virtual Education Conference (VEC) Essential Learning for Unconventional Times, March 22 – 25, 2021.

Registration is available for individuals and for companies (up to 10 registrants per company registration). Questions can be directed to eventregistration@mcaa.org. We look forward to seeing you in March!

Thank you Trimble for sponsoring this session and your continued support of MCAA.

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MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program Finishes Week 2

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

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MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program Registration Opening Next Week!

Registration for MCAA’s GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program will open on Friday, August 21 and it’s free! The program will begin September 15 and continue through November 16. MCAA will be hosting live sessions each week, available to all students, faculty advisors and MCAA members.  

The program is aimed to help give the next generation of mechanical contracting leaders a deeper understanding of the industry and the ins and outs of creating a construction bid. Each session will be taught by MCAA industry leaders and navigate students through the competition project with online instructional sessions focused on components of a real-world contracting bid.

Included in this program will be the annual MCAA Student Chapter Competition, which will be released virtually to student chapters through Procore. The competition gives students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom by creating a bid for a real-life mechanical construction project.

The fall schedule includes:

  • Tuesday, September 15, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program Introduction
  • Thursday, September 17, 1:00 p.m. Eastern – Student Chapter Competition Overview
  • Tuesday, September 22, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – Procore Overview: Learning About Construction Management Software
  • Thursday, September 24, 1:00 p.m. Eastern – Young Professionals Panel: Kickstarting Your Student Competition Project
  • Tuesday, September 29, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – Intro to WebLEM+Plus
  • Thursday, October 1, 1:00 p.m. Eastern – Basics of Estimating for a Project
  • Tuesday, October 6, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – Project Organizational Chart: Staffing Your Project
  • Thursday, October 8, 1:00 p.m. Eastern – Scheduling 101
  • Tuesday, October 13, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – How Companies Use Fabrication
  • Tuesday, October 20, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – The Business Side of Safety
  • Thursday, October 22, 1:00 p.m. Eastern – Identifying Project Risks
  • Tuesday, October 27, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – Digital Process of BIM
  • Tuesday, November 3, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – Understanding Service
  • Thursday, November 5, 1:00 p.m. Eastern – Services Sales: The Importance of Planned Maintenance
  • Tuesday, November 10, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – Understanding Finances of a Job
  • Thursday, November 12, 1:00 p.m. Eastern – Organizing Your Proposal
  • Tuesday, November 17, 3:00 p.m. Eastern – Competition Panel Wrap-Up

Please contact Megan Walsh if you have questions about the GreatFutures Virtual Fall Program or any of our student activities.

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.

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.

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!

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.

PCA Debuts New Seminar for Plumbing Service Contractors

This summer, the PCA is beta testing a new seminar on Plumbing Service to its members.  The Plumbing Service Roundtable is designed to be an efficient, one-day seminar that will allow attendees to be out of the office as little as possible.

The roundtable is scheduled for June 21st at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare, conveniently attached to the airport.  With a program scheduled from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, attendees will have the ability to fly in and out the same day to maximize their time out of the office.

Sessions will primarily be led by contractors with the intention to open up dialog between attendees and share best practices.  The curriculum will include content on recruiting, training, technology, inventory, sales and truck setup.

With this new session being a beta-test, registration will be limited to 35 attendees and a limit of only one attendee per company.  It is also recommended that attendees already be engaged in plumbing service at some level in order to share their experiences.

Registration is open and available on a first-come, first-served basis.  For more information, download the brochure or register online.

 

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.

With New Tax Legislation, MCAA Contractors are Still Able to Claim R&D Tax Credits for BIM and Design

During the negotiation process of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2017, the tax credit for R&D spending was temporarily removed. Fortunately, MCAA and others worked hard to ensure that the final bill re-inserted the language for the Research Tax Credit (“RTC”) and made changes that potentially increase the credit by more than 20%. With the RTC in place, contractors are able to continue to claim tax credits for qualifying BIM and design work. Unfortunately, many mechanical and plumbing contractors are unaware that they can even claim part of their design and bid work for these tax credits.

This article is intended to offer an overview of the Research Tax Credit for mechanical contracting personnel presented in general non-tax terms, wherever possible. The credit is, however, “tax based”, and as such, the inclusion of all of the applicable rules for every situation is not possible in a brief discussion.

In order to qualify for the research tax credit, activities must pass several tests. Although these tests are fairly specific, “qualifying activities” are generally much broader than many people think. When contractors hear the term “research” they often associate the term with scientists wearing white lab coats who are mixing chemicals in beakers. However, the Internal Revenue Code definition of research, as defined under IRC §41, is much broader than this traditional definition. As a result, many contractors may typically associate a large portion of their research activities as “routine” or “ordinary”, when in fact many of these activities might qualify for the Research Tax Credit.

To successfully build a structure, there may be experimentation or an iterative process on technical design issues and the installation process to properly build it. Although it might seem complicated if you are not claiming these credits, many contractors have been doing so for years. Before you begin, it is recommended that MCAA members contact their tax professionals to ensure that they are properly claiming the appropriate costs and activities under the RTC.

To begin, the Internal Revenue Code states that the activities “must be intended to discover information to eliminate technical uncertainty concerning the capability or method for developing or improving a product or process, or the appropriateness of the product design”. The Code also requires a “process of experimentation” involving the evaluation of alternatives, confirmation of hypotheses through trial and error, testing and/or modeling (this can include iterative steps in evaluating design alternatives, alpha/beta tests, pilot trials, scale-up testing, marketing/field tests directly associated with the R&D efforts, qualification Trials, etc.). Finally, wages, supplies, and contracts associated with qualifying activities qualify. The expenditures can also be either capital or expensed items.

Broadly, this includes any activity where there is some technical uncertainty involved in the development or improvement efforts- i.e., is there a technical problem that needs to be solved before you can effectively launch/implement this equipment design, software, product, process, prototype, etc.? Personnel who are directly engaged in resolving the technical issues will qualify and those individuals who have a support role will also qualify (i.e., performing alpha/beta/unit testing, collecting data or writing programs to collect data, supervision, technical project management, etc.)

Uncertainty exists if the information available to the contractor does not establish the capability or method for developing or improving the product/process or the appropriate design of the product/process. The required level of uncertainty may be established in instances where your work requires the resolution of technical issues when either designing the mechanical and plumbing system or working from a set of drawings that are incomplete or need modification to function.

The definition of activities that qualify for the credit is fairly broad and the driver for the effort can be to produce a new, better or more competitive product/process, to increase reliability/quality, to increase general product/process safety, to respond to new federal/state requirements, to reduce costs or increase speed/efficiency, etc. Furthermore, the success or the degree of technological advancement is not a factor.

Below is a representative sample of activities a taxpayer would typically perform, which often times are misclassified as “routine” or “non R&D” related:

  • Evolutionary advancements to the functionality, performance, reliability or quality of an existing product (Change orders for process improvement);
  • Development of prototypes or models to prove out conceptual ideas (Including BIM);
  • Experimentation to verify if an existing construction technique or process can support a new product with differing characteristics (Testing point loads);
  • Experimentation to verify if a new or existing construction technique or process can be implemented in a new or different geographic region, new environment, or different industry/application;
  • The design and development of custom equipment, tooling, molds and/or dies;
  • The development of microcode used within machinery or robotics;
  • The redesign of an existing construction or building process to improve efficiencies, increase safety or reduce operating expense;
  • Testing to prove out the use of new materials in existing products;
  • Plant and/or Process scale-up activities;
  • Qualifying “Bid and Proposal” efforts; and
  • The development of custom software that is either intended to be used internally or sold, leased or licensed to third parties as a commercial product offering.

However, simply because some items may be new, unique, customized or involve special problems does not mean that they will automatically qualify for a credit. For instance, there may be options or choices in regard the application of standard engineering techniques, but no uncertainty in regard to the resolution of a technical issue facing the project team. Qualifying activities that are intended to resolve technical uncertainties should also involve some iterative type of testing, experimentation, the consideration of alternatives, trial and error evaluations, prototyping, validation, etc.

Thus, although no qualifying activity might occur for most HVAC systems (even where custom designs are involved), technical uncertainty might arise on mechanical engineering and/or design efforts in instances where there are unusual requirements involving, for example: complex temperature, humidity, pressure, ambient air ratio range controls with differing protocols for numerous chambers/rooms; the need to design for particulate and/or chemical fume control/mitigation where the chemistry might require special construction materials; unusual space limitations, local regulations, cost mandates, etc.; instances where numerous alternative methodologies for technical solutions are necessary; development of technical alternatives to address repeated system failures; etc.

The PATH Act of 2015 made the Research Tax Credit permanent but also broadened the impact of the credit for many small to mid-sized businesses. Starting January 1, 2016, small businesses that meet certain criteria can also use the Research Tax Credit to offset the FICA employer portion of payroll tax, with a credit cap of $250,000 for each eligible year.

 

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Mike Foley is the Managing Partner at Foley & Smith, LLC, a firm specializes in Research Tax Credits.

Mike D’Allesandro is the Managing Director at Research Tax Credits, LLC

 

 

Webinar Offers the Latest in Tech Trends

For the third consecutive year, MCAA has sponsored the JBKnowledge Construction Technology Report, offering MCAA members salient insight on the technology habits of today’s contractors.  On Tuesday, January 30, James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge will present a live webinar showcasing the reports findings and providing further insight to its data.

This webinar will be provided as a free benefit to MCAA member.  The report is already available for download in advance of the webinar.

MSCA Releases Field Service Software Report

MSCA announces the release of the Field Service Software Report, fourth in the MCAA Technology Research Series, as developed by JBKnowledge. This report analyzes the current state of service software deployment and helps demystify the process for evaluating and implementing service software in an organization.

The report is based on data collected through a technology survey of MSCA members undertaken earlier this year. James Benham, president of JBKnowledge discussed the report results at a special session during the MSCA annual educational conference held in Scottsdale, AZ. The report explains features and functions members should expect to find in service software and evaluates currently available service software.

Members can download their free copy of the MSCA Field Service Software Report here.

MCAA’s Construction Technology Webinar on 3D Scanning

James Benham, who led several sessions on new and emerging construction technologies and cyber security at MCAA 2016,  presented his research findings in the first of a multi-part webinar series on construction technology on April 7, at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time during MCAA’s Construction Technology Webinar.

The report, which is now available, provides a comparative analysis of 3D scanning technology. In 2016, MCAA partnered with JBK Labs to release this research.

Each part of the series evaluates and compares the benefits of specific products and software that contractors can apply in their operations.

James Benham, founder of JB Knowledge and its research wing, JBK Labs,  discusses the results of the first part of the study series on 3D Scanning Technology during this webinar. He explores and compares the differences in 3D scanning products, software and processes, also providing a glimpse of 3D scanning solutions that are still emerging.

If you missed the webinar, view our archived version here.

Download the report.