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By Tomislav Žigo, Vice President - Virtual Design and Construction, Clayco

Faster Technology Adoption for Dynamic Construction ArenaTomislav Žigo, Vice President - Virtual Design and Construction, Clayco

In an interview with Construction Tech Startups, for a special edition of Construction Tech Review, Tomislav Žigo, Vice President - Virtual Design and Construction, Clayco, says to, "Stay away from temporary patches and point solutions that are void of integration points. This action has the ability to disrupt the industry in a way that will provide lasting value." His experience includes work in the vanguard of BIM methodology implementation on large healthcare, institutional and industrial projects; research work in the field of building performance analysis; optimization and use of mobile and immersive technology. He has also held leadership positions in a number of local and national architectural firms during their transition toward BIM adoption.

What are some of the trends and pain points that you have observed over the years in the Construction Space?

The construction industry today exists in a rapidly changing technology environment. Set against this backdrop, construction companies are positioning themselves in a way they can offer better realignment with principles of the fourth industrial revolution, and specifically of Industry 4.0. They are looking to synergize vast amount of information and advanced technologies like IoT and AI, which are transforming the way we work and live. Organizations are also trying to be more responsive to a rapidly changing socio-economic environment reflected through the reduced access to resources, increased population growth and fluctuating marketplace.

When it comes to challenges, the major issue according to me is the inability of construction companies to allocate appropriate resources to keep up with the changes in manufacturing or information technology industries.

To address the technology transfer issues, most of the large companies in the market are re-engineering their business processes for faster adoption of new technologies and improving not only the pace of delivery, but also quality of delivered products. With manufacturing becoming the focus of the construction industry, prefabrication and modularization are being highly scrutinized through alignment with product life cycle (PLM) and product document management (PDM) principles. This could mark the front of the project delivery and the higher level of integration due to existing technologies becoming more accessible.

How would you recommend industry leaders approach today’s technology shift?

From a large organizations’ perspective, there are two key components that are necessary for successful adoption of technology. One is developing an overall corporate strategy. In the information age, information management and analysis needs to become a strategic initiative. In that regard, organizations have to structure themselves to facilitate knowledge management during technology adoption. 

Currently, the pain point in adopting the right technology is the dichotomy between the pace of the software industry and the traditional construction project delivery​

Considering the financial strain posed by technology adoption, an analytical approach towards obtaining an overall understanding of investment in technology with respect to its benefits on existing processes and projections of gained efficiencies in the future is key. 

Second is implementing tactical solutions to facilitate the overall strategy which requires complete revamping of the traditional roles within the construction industry. The change envisions the transformation from roles like Project Engineer and Project Manager, which are project-based and transactional in nature. The tactical approach would be to create a new type of construction professional that is process driven. The new generation of Process engineers and Process managers will be represented through thoughtful adoption of technology in order to assure consistency from one delivery cycle to another and empower individuals to facilitate ever-changing technology and process paradigm. This kind of technology adoption can be facilitated by reinventing the traditional education model and creating a new one that is more focused on tech-skills career development.  In a nutshell, this is both a technology issues and a financial issue, and both need to be addressed to facilitate an effective technology transfer.

What would be your approach in identifying the right kind of partnerships or solutions that could be implemented to align with technological trends?

Currently, the pain point in adopting the right technology is the dichotomy between the pace of the software industry and traditional construction project delivery. Simply put, the time period of the software industry’s solution development is say between five to ten year and our projects are executed within 18 to 24 months, thereby causing a mismatch in time to reach the required goals. The realignment of delivering the required project at the right time needs to have a qualitative shift to allow pointed and straightforward adoption of technology throughout the project cycle. If projects wait for technology to be aligned with the project delivery cycle, it creates a gap between our expectations and software solution potential. On time project delivery requires software to be developed prior to the construction industry investing in the solution, as opposed to the software industry’s overinflated expectation that we are willing to buy in toward theirs future development.

The next problem is the large inflow of cash into construction industry startups looking mainly toward creating the next best-in-class software solutions, thus very often shifting everyone’s focus from the principles of efficient project delivery. 

Could you tell us how your leadership traits had an impact in taking projects and aligning them with the latest technologies today?

I had a bit of an unorthodox path toward becoming an AEC industry professional. I started my career on the manufacturing side in the shipbuilding industry, then working as a registered architect and transitioning into construction while acquiring   a relatively strong information technology background along the way.

My diverse background helped me foster creative pragmatism and it gave me an insight across the wide spectrum of technology uses in a range of industries.
Based on this experience, I believe in two paradigms around which construction design revolves, the data gathering and the information analysis. One of the most innovative solution we deployed during the past couple of years, was the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions in the project delivery cycle. The benefits of this technology were brought to light with our job-site safety analysis and the overall understanding of how we further improve on our already impressive safety culture. We were the first US corporation in the AEC market approved by the FAA to facilitate drone enabled data gathering and analysis toward better visibility into our projects. We are pushing the boundaries toward monitoring progress of construction in real-time by using machine learning based predictive engines to anticipate either slowdowns or deficiencies in project delivery before their become job-site reality.

Such an approach empowers our executives and all project stakeholders. This deep insight across all projects in almost real time ultimately has a  positive impact on resource planning and our financial bottom line. 

Given its dynamic nature, where do you see the construction arena in the coming years?

Design is an inseparable part of project delivery and it represents all that our clients aspire to get at the end of this process. From my perspective, I see a stronger shift toward a more integrated project delivery approach. The level of integration and better control over a procurement cycle is what will drive this industry forward. This means consolidation of processes recognize the gained efficiencies, smart allocation of resources and better understanding in their availabilities. These will be managed by greater utilization of Big Data and the selective implementation of robotics and automation in our processes. The bottom line is that the bright future for the construction industry needs to be matched with investment geared toward transitioning to a more integrated industry with adoption of proven cross-industry trends. 

What advice would you give various industry leaders in the construction arena in the adoption of technological trends for better business outcomes?

My advice would be to listen and strive to learn from the experiences of those that understand the pain points of this industry. Manufacturing and information technology can inform our views toward creating new and more productive business models, and matching those with investments and implementation of processes. Only in this way will we be able to reap the benefits of such transformation. Stay away from temporary patches and point solutions that are voided of integration points. This provides the ability of disrupting the industry in a way that will provide the lasting value. For startups in construction, besides those that are focused on the infusion of information technology, I believe there is a great opportunity in the process re-engineering associated with planning and execution of our projects, or ultimately our projects.

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