It seems very risky that construction projects with budgets of billions of dollars are dependent on traditional business processes. As one of the least digitalized industries in the world, construction is lagging when it comes to utilizing technology and pushing innovation.
Transforming the industry means more than introducing modern technologies, it requires developing tools and software that are easy to use and adopt. It also calls for a mindset shift that technology will help make jobs easier, not harder.
As the director of innovation for Walbridge, an Engineering News-Record “Top 50” U.S. construction company, John Jurewicz identifies, recommends, implements, and optimizes technology solutions that have value across his entire organization. His efforts include development of RFID tracking technologies for material, equipment and assets; integration with IoT devices and systems with super models; and improving the experience of building occupants that integrate with technology.
Hoylu recently sat down with Jurewicz to talk about the role technology plays in the industry, how it is being used at Walbridge, and how it can be used to spur innovation.
Q: What’s your view of the current state of innovation in the construction industry?
Jurewicz: We’re all in an uncomfortable state where we are trying to do more with less. Teams are stressed. A lot of technology is backed with venture capital money spurred by the pandemic, but the industry is still in the early phase of innovation. By that, I mean the technologies are not fully useful. Take for example the bandwidth on many job sites, especially those that are in very remote areas. If we do not have connectivity, we can’t use the apps.
As a tech evangelist, I think about how to thoughtfully deploy the technology versus throwing it at our teams and wishing them good luck. The tech must help our crew do their jobs better, be easy to use, and offer the right support. It is not just technology because it is new or innovative. It’s technology to help us work better, smarter, faster, and safer.
Q: What are the biggest challenges to innovation and how did you resolve those challenges in your organization?
Jurewicz: Time — it’s the most precious resource and no organization has time to waste implementing new technologies or planning extensive trainings to help the team utilize the technology. That is why we’re always looking for tech that’s easy to use and will reduce the burden versus add to it. We’re committed to supporting our teams, shoulder to shoulder, with these technologies.
Q: What role does culture play in innovation?
Jurewicz: Culture is creating an environment that allows for failure, where using new technology is encouraged, when those fighting the battle can see potential value. At Walbridge, we seek meaningful ideas (to use tech) that can be easy to deploy so you don’t even realize it’s there; that you’re even using it.
An example of this is where, before a key morning huddle meeting, a project engineer launches a collaborative session that shows imagery current to the project as an underlay for markups of the daily plan, complete with recent involvement of each trades. Foreman walking into a room like this, see that were serious about using technology that adds immediate value and they begin using it without even understanding how it works. We have daily huddle sessions like this, standard on most of our projects, where we’re using technology to better communicate and collaborate and it’s really invisible to the team. It just works. The teams have become so accustomed to the software that it has made these sessions and easier and more efficient.
Culture is also making it easy to use so they can work with tech faster. It’s a mindset shift where the teams see the technology helping them work smarter and faster.
Q: What tools, processes, and methodologies do you rely on to spur innovation?
Jurewicz: Surveys and digital forums. We have converted our sticky note stations into a simple digital form that is easy to use throughout the job sites where the team offers suggestions. The feedback centers on productivity and safety. Even as something as simple with cameras that see the blind spots of equipment pushes us to innovate.
Technology can increase efficiency by reducing risk, error, wasted time, and materials. While increasing visibility of teams, enhancing collaboration and keeping processes lean and simplified with the most straightforward tools to help achieve greater success on a regular basis.
As construction moves from analog to digital technologies, the industry can realize several benefits, including:
- Higher levels of team collaboration, engagement & transparency
- Timely & less wasteful project completion
- Seamless workflow, alignment & decision power
Hoylu offers an Adaptive Workspace, opening a new way for teams to plan, build, and track their projects. Whatever the management or planning style, Hoylu’s Workspaces are easy-to-use and adapt across the organization. Contact us for more information.
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