Technology will help alleviate the dearth of skilled tradespeople in the construction industry, a top construction software executive says.
By having tradespeople more involved in the design phase of a building and having more components prefabricated, more work can be done with fewer people, helping to alleviate the void left by the lack of skilled tradespeople, Vice President of Product Management for iSqFt Henry Purdy said.
Today’s Building Information Modelling systems allow more opportunity for subcontractors to get involved with the initial design phase of a building project. Having the input of the people who will be doing the actual physical work on a building is valuable, Purdy said, because they will know how best to use the available space for their components and may help designers save, time and cost.
For example, rather than having a building designer make estimates about how much space is needed for plumbing components, if the actual mechanical subcontractor who will be doing the work is consulted at the design phase, they will likely be in a better position to know what space will be needed for the plumbing components and may be able to better utilize the space allotted for those components and help potentially cut costs.
“There is a huge benefit in getting people who are actually going to be doing the physical building involved in the design phase of building,” Purdy said during a recent interview from iSqFt’s headquarters in Cincinnati.
And on a related note, if the subcontractors are involved in the initial design phase, the components they require can more accurately be prefabricated in a shop prior to being shipped to the worksite, Purdy added. This cuts down on the need for skilled tradespeople in the field, which is a good thing considering the acute shortage of skilled tradespeople at the moment.
The shortage is so bad, Purdy pointed out, that when general contractors bid on a project, they have to consider whether they can actually find the subcontractors required to do the necessary work.
Then and now
These Integrated Project Delivery solutions that involve the input of numerous people on a given project are a far cry from software when Purdy started in the construction industry 20 years ago. Then, it was mostly individualized desktop applications replicating pre-existing business processes, the VP of Product Management recalled.
These applications were highly specialized and had to be run by highly specialized individuals. In the ensuing years, though, the focus has shifted to user-friendly, integrated and mobile applications that can all communicate with each other, compile as much data as possible about a project and mine that data for useable information.
While software developers used to be keen to add on new functions and complexity, Purdy said, developers today are much more apt to concentrate on making their applications simpler to use so more people can master them in a shorter amount of time.
“There’s a much stronger view around usability as there is a larger and larger percentage of people using this technology,” Purdy said. “You can’t exist within a construction company no matter what role you are and not touch technology. And the technology is built in such a way that it’s connected.”
It's this technology that iSqFt excels at. The cloud-based, subscription service provides a platform for all the various parties involved in construction to find projects and get access to information that allows them to be more successful in winning projects and building their business, from architects; general contractors; subcontractors; suppliers; distributors, down through the building product manufacturers.
Purdy oversees project management, product strategy and marketing for iSqFt, which he started at in 2004 after an acquisition by the company.
After 20 years in the business for Purdy and so much change in construction software, one thing is certain: that change will continue for the next 20 years.