Construction Innovation Leaders on How They Keep Their Organizations on the Cutting Edge

May 13, 2019 | 3 minute read
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The world of tomorrow is defined by the creative thinking of today, so it’s no surprise that the topic of innovation was central to discussions at Oracle Future of Projects, held last month in Washington, D.C.

During a panel discussion at Oracle Future of Projects, leaders from Mortenson, Bechtel, and Walbridge sat down with Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer, Oracle Construction and Engineering, to share their views on the state of innovation in engineering and construction.

The trio, all of whom have been featured in our “Trailblazers” blog series and a new eBook on innovation in AEC, also explored how they are working to foster innovation in their organizations.

Mortenson Construction implemented an engagement model to help drive (and expedite) innovation without disrupting ongoing work, according to Ricardo Khan, senior director of innovation.

"Innovation is creativity with a job to do."

Innovation has everything to do with leadership – executives and emerging leaders across the group – and it must be linked throughout that leadership structure, explained Khan. “The story of innovation at Mortenson is really a cultural shift that starts at the top of the organization.”

Creating an innovation culture is an exercise in communication: consistently communicating initiatives and their outcomes to the entire organization, he added.

David Wilson, chief innovation officer and principal vice president at Bechtel, offered a complementary perspective and underscored the need for innovation to be solution-oriented.

“Innovation is creativity with a job to do. It really needs to solve a problem; otherwise it can be a distraction,” said Wilson.

He also cautioned that if you have only one small group at an organization focused on innovation, it’s easy for that to fail. Wilson advised that, when innovation initiatives are spread across an organization, efforts to drive creative change are more resilient.

Incentivizing innovation

John Jurewicz, director of technology at Walbridge, discussed the positive impact that incentivizing innovation can have on overall engagement and buy-in to the culture. True innovation also requires thinking outside the box and engaging the team members who are going to use it – and doing so early and often, according to Jurewicz.

In a separate session, Jurewicz discussed Walbridge’s path to digitization from the perspective of an industrial builder. Walbridge is on a constant path of trial and discovery.

Jurewicz demonstrated modeling technology the company is using to prevent damage to utility infrastructure above and below ground during renovations.

5G: Revolutionizing worksite productivity

5G stands to revolutionize how we deliver projects by tackling today’s major challenge of worksite connectivity. 5G brings a significant change into the application solution space, in addition to advances in air interface, network technologies, and supporting the Internet of Things (IoT).

During a session on the coming impact of 5G, Serhad Doken, executive-technology innovation, 5G ecosystem for Verizon, explored the impact dramatic improvements in connectivity will have on the project delivery landscape.

Improving data capture across project delivery processes

High bandwidth and low latency from 5G will improve data capture across project delivery processes. Increased visibility into data informs decision-making in the design phase, helps minimize issues and changes during construction, and potentially decreases future renovations.

In terms of video capture, 5G will also help organizations inexpensively deploy technology to quickly capture, organize, and analyze massive volumes of video information. “Video analytics will be everywhere in the 5G world,” Doken said.

In addition, 5G will mean sensors can more effectively be deployed to improve safety by tracking individuals’ safety compliance as well as drive supply chain efficiency by enabling better tracking of materials.

A venture capitalist’s view of innovation in E&C

In the last five years, more than $18 billion in venture capital support has poured into the construction industry – a record for the industry, according to McKinsey.

While investment is on a strong upward trajectory, the “industry is still developing from an investment and ecosystem standpoint,” Jesse Devitte, co-founder of Building Ventures, an early-stage venture firm focused on sustainable companies, said during a presentation at Oracle Future of Projects.

He added that we stand at a unique point in time, with a convergence of transformative and disruptive forces.

Devitte cautioned that “not enough focus has been on design” innovation, and the industry needs to think about better ways to do things at that and other early stages.

Engaging stakeholders earlier in the construction process

“The way to change the industry is to enable bigger and better decisions by the key project stakeholders earlier in the construction process.”

Read our eBook: "Innovation in Construction, Perspectives from AEC Innovation Leaders"

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Explore innovation in action at the Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab, a simulated worksite with integrated technologies.



Corie Cheeseman

Corie Cheeseman is a senior content marketing manager for Oracle Construction and Engineering.

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