contractor based out of Geauga County, Ohio, just northeast Cleveland, and is a female business-owned enterprise. They primarily work in the heavy civil market and specialize in earth moving, underground utili- ties, and demolition. What are the future of supply chain and electronic material ordering? With technology like HCSS, you can know where you're at each day. You can know what you've installed for a material type that day, which gives you the delta, the yield of what you've done, and then the delta of what you still need to order. Pretty soon, with a click of a button on an app, someone will be able to release their next order. It'll get even more and more simplified, which can impact everything from accounting to management and can even help from a supplier standpoint. Let's face it. No job is ever coming out where they will give you more time. If you go back a couple of decades, specific jobs might have al - lowed you an additional three months. Well, for whatever reason, those time allotments are no longer there. So, when everything else is tighter and tighter, and we have less and less time to work on these jobs, material delays will impact something. It's on the contractor to get the equipment and us to get the labor force out there, but I can't control my material suppliers. I need to give them as much advance notice as we can. Technology allows our materialmen or vendors to track and watch what we're doing so that they're on top of it, too, so they're not waiting until the last minute to release material. As we know, it does sometimes happen because there's a human element to it. There's so much going on in construction sites. There are more and more things that we are responsible for. Regarding supply chain and material ordering, technol- ogy will be great for catching errors and helping us be more proactive. The Future of Construction: An Interview with Ed Bell’s Phil- lippe Falkner Phillippe Falkner is the Safety Director and Business Services Spe- cialist with Ed Bell Construction in Dallas, Texas. Ed Bell has been a heavy contractor in business here since 1963. They pave for the local DOT and local municipalities. How will automated equipment change the industry? We underwent a first renaissance by automating many equipment functions 20 to 25 years ago. We saw significant gains in cost, quality, and the general scope of work and what we could accomplish in each period. Schedules were improved by the first renaissance when people were still in machines, but the machinery did more for them. As we move into this next phase with fully automated machines, whether they're controlled remotely, where the machine uses artificial intelligence (AI), or the machine has some pre-programmed system, I think that companies will spend an inordinate amount of time and cost to determine how to use autonomous machinery. And hopefully, the machines will work with great success because it solves some of the current labor shortage issues. There are quality issues that people often need to discuss. There is a large volume of new people hired and skills lost through attrition, retirement,
COVID, or other factors. Automated equipment brings a new baseline to creating better quality. Automated equipment streamlines operations and solves labor challenges. Companies are very excited about automated equipment. Our owner has started soft-committing dollars and other resources as he sees the opportunity to add new, automated equipment. From a heavy highway perspective, automated equipment is a big chal- lenge. If you look at some of the successes in automated equipment, they're in sectors of construction or in the industrial world where the type of work is isolated, such as in mining. Some of the mines in Australia and New Zealand utilize 100 percent automated equipment. There is not one single human in the mine. There are some people up top running some control aspects, but otherwise, the mine is fully automated. Our biggest challenge for the industry, specifically the heavy civil and heavy highway disciplines, is that many projects still need ground- based people. Most of the automated equipment and driverless vehicles the world is seeing now are in a restricted, controlled environment. Nobody should be walking down the interstate. There’s nobody in this controlled access zone. The typical work site, however, could be more controlled. There will likely be a longer learning curve than expected because of the tech- nological challenges that this machine must understand and process. How is the 45-ton off-road truck running at what you hope is 25 to 30 miles an hour and currently weighing 90 to 120,000 pounds going to be able to stop when a worker walks in front of it? Is it an obstruction? Is it something I go around? Do I stop? What should I do? There are many people and much small stuff going on at a jobsite, so there are still many challenges. It will dramatically impact the labor force and the quality and schedule of work. We're ready to spend those resources and those R & D efforts toward it. I'm optimistic about that. However, we are a very safety-ori- ented contractor with an excellent safety success record, so I'm going to be very reluctant to dive in full until I know our team will be safe. The construction industry lags other industries when it comes to technological advances. But this needs to change if the industry is to stay competitive. The faster information is shared, the more efficiently customers request orders and materials, and the more productive the workforce can be, the better off the industry will be when the next wave of disruptions comes around.
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