Propelling the Construction Industry Forward With Automation
By Alex Zeines, Chief Technology Officer, JRM Construction Management
Alex Zeines, Chief Technology Officer, JRM Construction Management
As the Chief Technology Officer at JRM Construction Management, Alex Zeines comes with an exceptional knowledge of handling disparate data systems while focusing greatly on strategic planning, developing, and building systems that can enhance enterprise operations. Aiming to bridge the gap between technology and people, Zeines identifies several technological trends and helps clients adopt those in order to increase revenue and reduce cost and risk. He also designs and implements several integrated web-based systems while performing process re-engineering to bring about process automation for construction companies.
With a reputed career in several leadership roles, Zeines rightfully concludes that the last six to 12 months have seen a growing importance of risk management within the construction space, especially owing to the current pandemic situation. He mentions that even though the construction industry has always been viewed as a late-adopter of technology, the pandemic has compelled several construction companies to adopt and adapt newer technological solutions within a short time. It has encouraged many to leverage virtual/digital collaboration platforms, SaaS offerings to help contractors and construction management firms realize the value of efficient software solutions compared to the legacy systems and methods. Moreover, these offerings are more like point solutions that are targeted to resolve only a particular business requirement. Even though these are web-based, user-friendly, flexible, and configurable, the construction companies often struggle to select the best point solutions for their organizations. He further concludes how it has become imperative for construction firms to evaluate the supply chain around their subcontractor management and liquidity while also supporting the construction activities, deployment, and workforce management at the job sites.
THE ROADBLOCKS FOR CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES
As mentioned earlier, risk management has been one of the leading concerns among most construction companies, along with the proper management of the subcontractor supply chain.
The most important element within the supply chain is the financial reviews. Unlike other industry verticals that have adopted several software solutions to evaluate the financial nitty-gritty of their operations, construction companies are yet to adopt newer methods to ensure the financial stability of their clients. Especially in the current situation, it has become extremely important to ensure that an individual or a business is not bankrupt or having any cash-flow issues or insurance problems. We help evaluate all those clients and make sure they have appropriate coverages to sustain their businesses in an ongoing manner. For this purpose, we are currently working on our proprietary contractor management lifecycle program to help manage the workforce and maintain relationships with subcontractors at all times.
It has become imperative for construction firms to evaluate the supply chain around their subcontractor management and liquidity while also supporting the construction activities, deployment, and workforce management at the job sites
Another major issue within the construction space is the lack of understanding of any product before purchasing those. In haste for enhancing their capabilities, several companies buy software solutions and products, including construction lifecycle management products, finance solutions, or project course management product, without having complete knowledge of its functionalities and features. After purchasing, they often struggle with its proper implementation and the legalities of its usage. This forces them to often adapt to the practices of the solution providers, which acts as an added complexity for these construction companies.
TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS FOR OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY
Several financial tools and software in the marketplace exist today to help with risk management and mitigation among construction companies. We are trying to integrate with private solution providers via standard API integration so that we can gather information in real-time to understand the current status of any project. We can derive insights related to financial, insurance, workforce, and historical project issues. There are also several solutions available today that can help us qualify different projects and companies and analyze if the information they provide is accurate or not.
We are also looking to integrate with multiple third-party service providers to get all the relevant information within our onboarding process and our annual review process. The inclusion of these capabilities will help strengthen the supply chain management across all construction companies while staying up-to-date on all the information in the back-office as well as on-site.
A STRATEGIC STEP FORWARD
One of the things that need to be realized within the construction arena is the importance of business process analysis. Several construction companies do not really understand the nuances, sub-components, or even the process of analyzing the entire business before implementing any changes. Being a proponent of process over software, these organizations need to understand their own processes and operations as it is difficult to improve things with technology without truly comprehending the resources and the goal behind it. An instance of that is when companies are performing remote field management at a job site that has no internet connectivity, it is easy for the back-office to want to automate their onboarding process for the field employees, but they lack the foresight to analyze and figure out whether it will be logical or not. Therefore, it becomes essential for all construction organizations to look into the nitty-gritty of their business process and the people and then implement a new product or solution to automate their processes or bring about business transformation.
DISRUPTIONS IN THE CONSTRUCTION SPACE
One of the most significant changes in the construction space will be owing to the adoption of AI and ML, especially in the back-office operations, which will be further streamlined and automated. The operation of heavy machinery and repetitive tasks can also be standardized to a great extent. This has already started taking shape as several high-performing equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, and dump trucks can be easily monitored and operated via remote control by one individual. Another area of disruption will be the increase in force multipliers where one worker could perform much more efficiently with a semi-autonomous or a fully autonomous piece of equipment and eventually replace a lot of the human labor in extensive on-site activities. We also expect to see a push toward standardization of certain equipment designs as well to accommodate automation even more seamlessly. Once the construction space standardizes its operations and processes, just like any other industry vertical today, there will be a major transition in increased automation and operational efficacy..