In our latest Trailblazers discussion, we speak with Matt Lamb, chief information officer at Rosendin Electric.
Lamb discusses his career background, his take on the state of innovation in the construction industry, and how technology can entice future generations of workers to help grow the industry.
I'm the chief information officer at Rosendin. I'm responsible for the IT department and work with the business on technology initiatives, probably one of the fastest growing areas in the construction industry. My career has been all over in the construction industry. I've worked for a general contractor, electrical contractor, I've worked in IT, in operations, I've done procurement, I've worked all over. And that's given me a great overview of the business so that I can provide solutions at all different levels that are meaningful and impactful to growing how we have changed as an industry over the last 20 years.
We are in the middle of the big tech wave. We're seeing a lot of the anchors from other verticals stepping in and making headway into the construction space. We're seeing a lot of long-time construction technology leaders continuing to evolve and grow either through acquisitions or new technology offerings that they're providing based on feedback from the industry. And I think there's a lot of new things coming out with robotics, AI, and just other general tech that has really started pushing us forward. With the iPad coming out in 2010, that gave a new toolbox for the industry as well. The toolbox is not your traditional toolbox of screwdrivers, drills, hammers, or whatever the tool of your trade is. There now is a digital toolbox that provides so much more capability and access to information that our folks out in the field are way more informed than they've ever been.
Some of the biggest challenges to innovation is the human element of change. Humans are slow to change, and in our industry we see that definitely come out when it comes to technology. The adoption of technology has not been as fast and has not been quite as open-arms as we'd like to see. Obviously, it's getting better. Some of that I'm talking from 10 or 12 years ago. It's getting there, but it's still not wholeheartedly embraced, and I think there's still room for growth in our industry and our businesses to adopt innovation and have a better culture for it. As the new workforce is coming in, it's a younger generation who grew up with smartphones and technology, basically plugged into them. They’re craving more of it, and we need to take that feedback and put it into our workflows a little more and create a culture of innovation, as you say, that it becomes second nature to our business. We've all spent decades creating and fostering a safety culture in our industry and in our businesses so that everyone goes home safe, so that everyone can work successfully and happily, and I think technology can augment a lot of that, and we must have that same kind of approach to it.
One of the bigger things in our industry that we're looking at is a shrinking workforce. We don't have as many people going into the trades as we have retiring out, and we need to find new ways to not only recruit new talent. We need to start doing that at a younger age. Technology and innovation is going to be a way to draw them in and show them that construction can be sexy. It's not what cartoons depict it as the guy in a hard hat with a hammer walking around a jobsite. It's people on a jobsite using total stations, using robotics, using AR or VR to see how the world looks. BIM is a great visual representation of a digital jobsite, and if we can start showing them how they can use these tools today, that'll be an opportunity to drive transformational change and using technology to solve a problem we have.
On the flip side, in the short term, with labor shortages, I think we're starting to see the growth of robotics coming out and doing things on jobsites. It's still in its infancy, and still fairly young. It's not fully adopted across the industry, but you're seeing Spot the robot dog who's got this sensor pack on his back. You're seeing different construction industry trades coming out with robotics. You have bricklayers; you have 3D-printed buildings; you have rebar setters; there's drywall machines for finishing drywall. Lots of industries are starting to apply that to augment the workforce. It's also making the workforce safer.
I think it's in our data. As an industry, and as our individual respective companies, we have so much data, and a lot of us don't even realize it. Whether you have a big ERP system or your company is on QuickBooks and Excel doesn't matter. You have a ton of data, and you have some way that you're tracking a lot of the information that you need to have to make smarter and better decisions. And I think some of the bigger guys can do it because they have the funding, and we're starting to see that propagate down a little further.
The key to having these types of systems with AI and ML is having good questions to ask the system. And we need to work on those questions because we're asking them the same ones that we've been asking forever. While we're getting traction with it, there's a whole new set of questions that this technology can answer that we just haven't asked yet. And those are the questions that will change how we do business, not only as our companies, but as an industry. We're going to have insight into so much more information that's really been hidden under the topsoil that's going to allow us to grow, allow us to work more efficiently, allow us to work safely. As we start seeing the value to what we've done with the data we have, it will only further propel us.
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