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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, Virtual Design and Construction, Clayco, explains that, "Stay away from temporary patches and point solutions that are voided of integration points the ability of disrupting industry in a way that will provide the 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 and mentorship 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 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 a better realignment with principles of fourth industrial revolution. 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 rapidly changing socioeconomic 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 the construction companies to allocate appropriate resources to keep up with the chances in manufacturing or information technology industries.

To address the technology transfer issues, most of the large companies in the market are looking to re-engineer their business processes by faster adoption of new technologies and improving not only the pace of delivery but also quality of delivered products. With manufacturing becoming a common aspect of construction industry, prefabrication and modular 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.

What would be your approach to industry leaders today to be at par with the technological shift?

From large organizations’ perspective, there are two key components that are necessary for successful adoption of technology. One is developing overall corporate strategy. In the current 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 pace of the software industry and 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 projection over gained efficiencies in the future is part of the strategy.

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, 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 traditional education model and creating a new one that is more focused on tech-skills career development. In a nutshell, this is both technology issues and 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 to be implemented in coping with the technological trends?

Currently, the pain point in adopting the right technology is the dichotomy between pace of software industry and traditional construction project delivery. To put it in simple words, time period of software industry’s solution development is said to be between five to ten years 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. Because, 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 construction industry investing in the solution, as opposed to software industry’s overinflated expectation that we are willing to buy in to their future development.

The next problem is the humongous inflow of cash into construction industry startups that look 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 AEC industry professional. I started my career on the manufacturing side in shipbuilding industry, worked as a registered architect and transitioned into construction while acquiring a relatively strong information technology background along the way.

The diverse background helped me to foster creative pragmatism and 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 solutions we deployed during the past couple of years was the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions in project delivery cycle. The benefits of this technology were brought to light with our job-site safety analysis and the overall understanding how can we further improve on our already impressive safety culture. We were the first US corporation in AEC market, which was approved by 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 they become job-site reality.

Such approach empowers our executives and all project stakeholders to get a deep insight about all the projects in almost real time which ultimately has a positive impact on resources planning and the financial bottom line.

Where do you see the construction arena given its dynamic nature moving ahead in the coming years?

Design is an inseparable part of project delivery, and it represents all that our client aspires to get at the end of this process. From my perspective I see a stronger shift toward 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 the consolidation of processes, recognizing gained efficiencies, smart allocation of resources and better understanding in their availability. 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 construction industry needs to be matched with investment geared toward transitioning to more integrated industry and adoption of proven cross industry trends.

What advice would you give various industry leaders in the construction arena in adopting technological trends and moving ahead for better business outcomes?

My advice would be to be a good listener and strive to learn from experience of those that understand the pain points of this industry. Manufacturing and information technology industries can inform our views toward creating the new and more productive business models, and match those with investments and implementation of processes. Only in this way we will be able to reap the benefits of such transformation. Stay away from temporary patches and point solutions that are voided of integration points the ability of disrupting industry in a way that will provide the lasting value. For startups in construction, besides information technology, I believe there is a great value associated with process re-engineering toward rethinking the way we plan and execute our projects.

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