Before the current work disruption, there was technology disruption. Disruption is just a fact of life that we need to embrace instead of resist. One of those disruptions we’ve been dealing with for a few years in the construction industry is the skilled labor shortage, and the odds are good that the labor disruption can be offset, in part, by the technology disruption.
The workers who used to “do it all” are finding they have new demands on their time, and fortunately some of the tasks they used to do can now be done more efficiently using software tools. This isn’t a threat but rather an opportunity for greater heights and abilities.
Technology doesn’t have be complicated either. Investigate the tools available – even something as simple as an app to review drawings in the field – and see how they fit into your company’s structure. As any car mechanic will tell you, if a job seems too hard, you’re probably not using the right tool. Take advantage of third-party applications when they exist.
Of course, with technology come the challenges of learning to use it and dealing with the periodic upgrades. Some companies try to go part-way with implementation and expect to reap an improvement in their processes. Particularly with Revit for BIM, the result can be frustration, and sometimes the technology gets abandoned because of it.
But is that really the fault of the technology, or is it the fact that more patience and pre-planning were required for a successful implementation?
Most experts advise that you jump in and make a commitment to implementing any technology, whether it’s software, drones, augmented reality, or something else that’s new on the horizon. There’s going to be a learning curve, so have patience. And remember that people don’t absorb software simply by being exposed to it. The tech-user interface is rarely intuitive when you are learning. So, when technology is new or when there are updates, it’s important to get support and training.
Not only do you need to allocate time for training and ramping up when adding technology in your business, but you need several champions who will see the implementation through after you invest in technology. Buy-in from upper management is important, but everyone in the company should be involved and bought-in. Look outside your department and think companywide. When everyone is involved in implementing technology, they can all be invested in making it successful. Nothing is built successfully for the long term in a silo. Collaboration should be more than a buzzword.
Another major thing to consider is cultivating talent from within your company. It’s easier and faster to teach someone CAD than to give them field experience. Learn about your personnel. Figure out what they’re good at, then put that talent to use. Know where your company’s technology strengths are. When, as a manager, you slow down and get to know the person over merely the “worker,” you will be amazed at the potential you can unlock. You should know the strengths, weaknesses, interest areas, and desires of your team over and above just their current job description.
While you’re taking “baby steps” to integrate the technologies you’ve chosen, look for occasions to learn from others. Chances are, there are other people who are working through the same scenario you are, and you can learn from them with a dash of humility. There are many people out there who will share their experiences. In the MEP industry, particularly, people are willing to talk about the hurdles they’ve faced and the ways they’ve overcome them. They don’t seem worried about competition putting them out of business – there’s already enough work to go around thanks to the labor shortage. The sense of camaraderie is one of my favorite things about this industry.
As we’ve seen at Applied Software’s MEP Force conventions, contractors are gladly sharing knowledge and stories about lessons they’ve learned. David Francis of ICT Tracker is one of those who generously shares his experience with others in the MEP industry using short videos explaining tips on productivity and efficiency that he’s gleaned over the years in his “Virtual Manager 101” series. David recommends being intentional with your time and committing just 30 minutes a week to learning more about the technology that can improve your efficiency with your trade.
Listen to episode 27 of the Bridging the Gap Podcast to hear my conversation with David. In it, he gives his advice to fellow BIM managers, describes the importance of information in BIM and explains the need to truly learn your people’s strengths and skills.