(Photo: Concord Projects)
For Concord Projects, technology is not the future; it’s the now. President and CEO of the Winnipeg-based design-build company Nolan Ploegman says it’s essential for every company to realize this fact or they risk being left behind.
Not that integrating technology is easy in itself. It requires a return to the drawing board and recreating each process of the business. For Concord, the outcome is worth the trouble. Plenty of other construction leaders agree: In a recent Procore survey, 88 percent of respondents believe technology will either play a significant role in the future of construction or will be the backbone of the industry. So why is construction so slow to introduce new technological solutions?
Willingness Comes First
Ploegman suggests that we can’t consider construction as a single entity—it’s made up of individuals. While the unwillingness to change is often blamed on the average age of leadership in the industry, he said, their attitudes are the real issue.
“It is not an age thing,” he said. “It’s a willingness to learn. It’s an understanding that technology is going to make construction better.”
Once people in leadership roles understand that point, once tech-savvy people get into leadership roles, change can finally happen. Concord is a great example of how technology can change everything for the better. It has affected every aspect of Concord’s business, from accounting to retaining talent.
“The amount of paperwork has been cut ten-fold,” Ploegman said. “We’ve seen productivity multiply. We’ve rewritten job descriptions for certain positions, and they’re able to work on twice as many projects as they used to. Because of Procore, Concord is now able to do more work with the same amount of people.”
Cutting Down on Processes
Even something as simple as signing and sharing a document has been cut from multiple steps down to just one or two.
Freeing up employees’ time by avoiding duplicate or triplicate data entry means that they can focus on analysis, so that the business can make smarter decisions in the future. Ploegman emphasized that avoiding just one mistake makes the return on investment undeniable.
“It doesn’t take long in construction to have a five or six-figure mistake on your hands,” he said. “The ROI is there, but you can’t measure it because you’re being more proactive instead of reactive now.”
Documenting and analyzing workflows has given employees more clarity in their positions. “It’s helped onboard people. Everyone here knows what to do. Our job descriptions now factor in our new processes and protocols. It sounds like a lot of work, but it has improved our efficiency exponentially.”
The Impact of Labour
And the impact will extend into the future. Ploegman hopes that as technology gains a more significant role in construction, it could help solve one of the industry’s biggest challenges, the one at the root of some productivity concerns: the availability of skilled labour.
“How do we get young people interested in construction? Maybe technology is a good catalyst,” he said, noting that Concord’s new hires from Red River College’s construction management programs have appreciated using their education on the job.
The first step is to know where to start. Ploegman’s advice is to focus on mastering the solutions that can have the greatest impact in the markets your business serves and how you can integrate those solutions with existing systems. “The goal is full integration, full connectivity between the different things to minimize data entry,” Ploegman said.
Barrier of Implementation
For Concord, the advantages of technology outweigh the ongoing work that comes with its implementation. However, going forward, implementation is unavoidable. The entire industry is going to have to accept technology.
“We’ve gotta be in this game, or we’ll be left behind,” he said. “In the future, it’s going to be a prerequisite, not a differentiator. And then it’ll be who’s excelling at using the technology.”