The MEP Force 2021 Roundtable participants in this first-day session were: Amy Peck, Tim Speno, Jake Olsen, and Scott Ellison.
Amy Peck was adept at reminding us all that construction technology plays a role in attracting talent to the industry, and it will continue to do so. She described the new generation of tech savvy workforce as “digital natives” and pointed out that they will demand the best technology at their fingertips.
Another use for technology is knowledge capture. There is a generation of workers that has deep knowledge about the industry and the jobs that contribute to it. She posed the question, How can we use technology to build a knowledge base from the information that exists within that current, experienced workforce? Tim Speno referred to it as “tribal knowledge.”
Amy also pointed out that, thanks to new technology, MEP contractors now have a talent pool to pull from that is really worldwide and can be connected.
The topic of marketing new technology was discussed. Scott Ellison pointed out that just because something is “cool” does not make it attractive to construction companies. There has traditionally been a high degree of resistance to things that don’t make sense, particularly software. The overarching attitude is, “Show me why it’s better.” The good thing about construction technology is that you can try things out on a local level. For someone who has developed a digital tool, the perfect scenario is to test it out on yourself. Scott advised that developers need to know what pain point they are solving and why it’s better than something that is already in use. An additional piece of advice to people who are into this kind of development, it’s best to test your product under real-world constraints: i.e. where there may be no wi-fi access or even no cellular access.
On the topic of prefabrication, Jake Olsen weighed in. Prefab has resulted in different types of construction sites than the old normal. Doing construction in a welding processing plant, for example, is a far different scenario than what we have typically thought of as a construction site. In addition, different skillsets are needed for prefabrication, and technology may help contractors get there sooner.