C+S December 2020 Vol. 6 Issue 12 (web)

the middle of the San Francisco Bay and also working on a bid to support teams that are miles below the surface for a research project. In either case, connectivity, power, and lighting are at a premium while the focus on your surroundings is at an all-time high. These are the sorts of experiences that only come from first-hand knowledge, and even the brightest tech minds will struggle to anticipate this kind of environment unless they have walked a mile in the steel-toed boots of the job site. Engineering and construction is quite simply a mas- ter’s course in real-world problem solving, and that takes years to accumulate and fine tune. Because of this, construction project management becomes more of an art than a science, leaving experience the key difference maker in successful construction project outcomes. Take estimating for example. In theory, it is simply a matter of aligning cost data to a set of drawings and ripe for a tech-based, automatic approach. In practice, though, it is something that is learned over time. To become a skilled estimator, you first must get some things wrong, cost your boss some money, and learn from these mistakes to truly understand how to leverage history and adjust historical values to the new scope. Scheduling is similar, in that you must understand sequencing. It may sound obvious to say you cannot hang a pipe on a rack that has not yet been put in place or drop in a beam before the supporting column. But what about knowing when to purchase the steel in the first place? Structural steel often has a long lead time on a project; it is not some- thing you can just run to a hardware store and grab. To someone with construction experience these considerations come naturally, but these kinds of insights are harder to come by for an outsider. Culture clash Finally, aside from the experience differential, there is also a cultural gap between Silicon Valley and the construction site. A tranquil tech campus with ping pong tables, meditation nooks and free food is a long way from the hustle and bustle of a chaotic and occasionally dangerous construction environment. And the widely-adopted Sili- con Valley mantra of “move fast and break things” does not apply when the safety of your employees and the quality of the finished product are your primary concerns. Tech and construction diverge not only in the environment, but in the way they go about business as well. First, construction is extremely Flying Safely and Compliantly: Five Steps to Launch a Successful Drone Program

focused and outcome orientated. Talk to a construction manager about possibilities of artificial intelligence and you will lose them quickly – tell them how predictive analytics deliver insights that can pre-empt their problems and they will perk up. The tech world is more exploratory, full of minds excited about the infinite possibilities of the tech first, and then working to figure out an application for it second (think TV screens on a refrigerator). Like the old saying goes, when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail, but for construction it is all about starting with the right tools for the job. Second, because of the need to create something fast or apply the next idea to the first problem they see, many tech solutions end up creating silos, where a holistic approach is needed. For example, look at time keeping software. There are many solutions out there, all per- fectly designed to do that one job. But in construction, timesheets are not just about payroll; quantities are another key ingredient. Not only that, but the data collected goes to the business manager to calculate earned value, to the safety manager to analyze recordable metrics, to quality control to match with rework codes, etc. Again, it comes down to experience and intimate familiarity with the interconnected nature of construction to draw out the correct solution. The Future is Here Maybe we tend to shy away from the phrase “digital transformation” but make no mistake – the future of the engineering and construc- tion industry is here, even if it is not evenly adopted. While we can agree that a modern technology approach to outdated processes can accelerate all aspects of an engineering, procurement, and construc- tion business, from design through delivery, very few solutions on the market today are infused with the field-tested DNA of on-site experience, and even fewer have the ability to build the intercon- nected solutions the industry needs. In an industry where business survival hangs in the balance between extremely thin margins and tight deadlines, being able to trust your technology partner with the future of your business is priceless. Look past the glimmer of Silicon Valley for a technology partner that has been where you have been - and has the dirt on their boots to prove it.

AJ WATERS is vice president of industry solutions, InEight.

Moss is a national construction management company and an Engi- neering and News Report Top 100 Contractor with an impressive portfolio of projects across the U.S. that range from high-rise con- struction and utility scale solar projects to maritime ports. Moss seeks out innovations which can improve deliverables, mitigate risk, and improve processes. Drone-use in construction has the potential to become a $28.3 billion global market. Like many companies in the construction industry to- day, the team at Moss realized that drones could be valuable tools on

By Mike Morris



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