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Episode 233 is a recap of The ConTechCrew’s – live Q&A recorded August 28th! Check out questions straight from our listeners (some of whom even joined The Crew during the episode’s live recording) and #GeekOut with sponsor TrueLook.
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This week on the ConTechCrew podcast, our monthly talk to the crew live. We are going to talk about all things. BIM, 5G, technology, outsource versus in-house, listen in live!
Construction is the world’s oldest industry but spends the least amount of money on innovation. When we realized people outside and inside the industry did not typically associate construction with technology like virtual reality, apps, and robotics -we started The ConTechCrew. Each week, we bring our listeners the latest in ConTech news and interview the minds behind the technological innovations changing the way we build. So, strap in, enjoy the ride, and geek out! It is ConTechCrew time!
This week is the second time we are doing this talk to the crew live. It is our second month. We are going to do this the end of every single month, all the way through the end of the year. And so, I hope you will continue to join in. If you did not join in live, remember, if you get our email newsletter, you get a chance to sign up. We had some great responses from last month. We decided to do it again. We are going to do it every single month at the end of the month until the end of the year. And you can interact with us live, ask questions, throw comments in, you can call questions in early on, or if you want your voice on the air, that is fine too. Just dial (979) 473-9040. Remember you can text questions to that line. You can also call that line and leave voicemails and we will include it on the show. I also wanted to remind you that you have every episode sent straight to your email inbox by either going to JBKnowledge.com and signing up or texting “CONTECH” to 66866.
Before we get started with our conversation today, I spoke with Roger Yarrow. CEO of TrueLook about their construction cameras. Let us listen in to part one right now.
JAMES: And I am here today with Roger Yarrow, the General Manager and Chief Operating Officer at TrueLook. Roger, thank you for joining us for the show today. What was the original premise behind the founding of TrueLook, and what got you to where you are doing today with construction cameras and much, much more?
ROGER: Well, TrueLook started as an entertainment and media company when webcams were unique and special. If you had a big event, any kind of sporting event, or anything interesting going on, you would want a webcam on it. And that was a big deal. From there we evolved into the construction-specific industry, because there was a very special need in construction to document, see, monitor, and collaborate on a job site. Cameras are everywhere these days, but on the job site, there is so much more they can do. We picture a future where cameras are on every worker for safety, they are on every vehicle. And so, what we are seeing is, there is a need to make sure you can see on the ground, make sure everybody is safe, make sure everything is documented. So, there is a lot of utility for cameras on the job site. And we are just at the cusp of this exciting time period where you can start to see those technologies coming into play now.
JAMES: Welcome. Welcome. Good to see everybody. Greetings for all crew webinar. We do have a fun crew today for our discussion and to go through our questions and answers and obviously topics people want us to talk about. We have got some good ones pending and we would love to hear what you want us to chat about. You can just post them to the Q & A or text 979 473 9040. I will get it. I just got a couple that came in on the text line. So please keep sending those. Again, super excited to have everybody on. With me today, of course, Mr. Rob McKinney, the ConAppGuru himself. Good to see you, Rob.
ROB: Man, it is good to be here. I will tell you what I am getting excited about one thing for sure. We are heading into now what we are going to call virtual trade show season. And James, I got to tell all the crew geeks out there, the bar has been raised on the swag circuit. MEP force is bringing it strong. That box of goodies they sent out to their attendees is amazing. So, we got to think about 2021 because the bar, I am telling the bar’s been raised. Very amazing.
JAMES: Yeah. If we are not back to live events by the end of 2021, then we have some pretty huge issues.
JAMES: So, I am just giving you a fair word of warning. We are going to talk about that later. You can just basically write off the entire hotel and airline industry if it is not thereby 2021. The end of 2021. But it is so good to see you, Rob. Glad to have you from what appears to be the virtual mountains of Georgia. With us from real mountains, that is right. The mountain man himself, the Ironman of IT. Mr. Jeff Sample. Jeff. Good to see.
JEFF: It is great to see you guys, man. I love my Friday mornings with this group, the pre-call fun, chatting about the industry. It gets me going. Then see our friends jump on and see what virtual background and music that James is going to pick for today. I have to say, I like Minecraft. I am into it. I did not have virtual. I want you all in my living room today.
JEFF: Like a fireside chat style. What do we want to talk about? I am kind of happy, man. No smoke in my valley right now. The fires, we got some rain, the road got open. So, supply chains are not an issue, so things are good. So, I am trying to find the positivity in 2020, that seems to come with a big test once in a while, but hey, we still got our microphones. We still got our virtual connections. So yeah. I am stoked.
JAMES: Outstanding. Yeah. The Minecraft background is off. You can see my then my real-life Minecraft. That is Lego baby. It is my entire Lego city. That is my masterpiece from quarantine.
JEFF: I want you to laser scan it and then make it your virtual background.
JAMES: No, dude. Do you know what I am going to do? I am going to actually set some scenes up and get my iPhone down there and take some pictures down at street level inside the Lego city.
JEFF: Is it going to be Benhamville like Pattenville?
JAMES: Yeah, yeah.
ROB: Or put it on the table. Out of the garage.
JAMES: Benhamville USA. No dude it has tot to stay here.
JEFF: And then you are going to be The Kragle!
JAMES: Yeah, exactly. And with us today, and we are so excited to have him on from NECA now. The last time… oh, my goodness. When we had you as a dedicated show guest, you are at Wisconsin. You sent us all squeaky cheese to eat before the show, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have never viewed cheese curds in the same way. Mr. Lonnie Cumpton. Lonnie are you in Wisconsin right now? Where are you at?
LONNIE: So, I am in Wisconsin. So, this is actually my home office, but I actually am getting ready to relocate since we are moving down to Southwest, Missouri in the Joplin area. And I do have a background of what my new office is going to be.
JAMES: Oh, that is awesome.
LONNIE: My new space.
LONNIE: It is interesting that Rob mentioned virtual conventions, because right now at NECA, we are preparing for the NECA 2020 event, which is going to be virtual. I mean, it’s actually kind of an interesting thing for the physical, when it was going to be a physical event, we had put together a concept where we were going to do workflow tours and have a space set up for, going from design, into pre-construction, into offsite, into the field, and then into service. And we were going to run literally guided tours through that process. And so, with it being virtual, now we get to do the same thing, but we get to actually record and prerecord multiple versions of those workflows. So instead of just having one tour, we are going to have six tours and be able to walk people through how to connect technology across the entire workflow for projects.
LONNIE: So, we are pretty jazzed about that, but that is my main focus right now. So, thank you so much for allowing me to take my head up from that and do something a little bit different for a day or where a little while anyway.
JAMES: Nice, yeah. I mean, necessity is the mother of invention, isn’t it?
LONNIE: Oh yes.
JAMES: And we are seeing a whole lot of innovation taking place, both out in the field on job sites, in the back office of construction companies. And certainly, the associations that support them, like NECO are no exception to this. They have had to flex and accommodate in a big way. I know MCAA has as well. There are a lot of people had to be very really flexible. Well, what has been interesting about this time, and I am just going to throw this out there as our first brief discussion, is to see solutions that have come up that I genuinely do not believe will go away, once we have a vaccine and we can completely take all the masks off and go back to what we remember as somewhat normal. There are been quite a few solutions that they have come up with. Oh my goodness. I mean, one of them that we discussed in the last all crew webinar was remote inspections. I mean, city officials maximizing the number of inspections they can do in a day by doing them remotely. And so, you are seeing them getting knocked out faster. And then the officials do not have to travel around a lot more.
I mean, some things are going on you know, of course, there are bells you cannot un-ring in Texas. A bell you cannot un-ring has nothing to do with construction and that is getting all of your alcohol delivered. I can have my favorite restaurant, my favorite margarita delivered to my house now. And that is, I do not want that to go away. Our governor came out and said, hey man, it looks like we are going to keep that one, cause this is popular which I love. So, you are going to have some rules that are fundamentally rewritten, both on the consumer side where we have alcohol delivery, which is a big deal. Do not underestimate that this is a multibillion-dollar industry. And that is a major issue. But you are seeing some walls broken down positively.
So, for our first set of topics… We have had a few that have come in, that I’d like to talk about. And some are going to be technical and some are going to be more practical and pragmatic around the construction field and construction operations and cultural issues, et cetera. So, I would actually like to talk about a very technical topic first, because this one has come up a few times, we get asked about this on a fairly regular basis, is to talk about differences in different applications for VPN and cloud storage. This is an important one for a lot of people during this time. And Lonnie, you have something unique to add there that you said that you wanted to talk about. And so, I would love to hear what you are hearing from NECA members. I would love to hear what you are hearing for NECA members on this whole thing. So, what are your thoughts on VPN cloud storage and what you have seen the electrical contractors doing?
LONNIE: Yeah. So, it is such an interesting topic and I do not know, some of you that know my background know that I co-founded a business called BIM9 years and years ago, which was based around cloud computing. And one of the things that we learned as we launched that business was it was not so much; it was all about trying to move data all over the place that was the bottleneck of the conversation. And even with 5G. Whenever you get into large files, and it just slows everything down. It is still going to be the bottleneck, no matter what. So, cloud storage to me is a very obvious choice, but it is interesting to hear the comments and the resistance to cloud storage. There is just a lot of folks that like On-Prem and they are very resistant to the idea… And I apologize, I say On-Prem, that’s On-Premises Storage. So, you are having a server in your office or in your location that is their storage. But the problem with that is you are then bottle-necking all of your interactions with that storage based upon what kind of bandwidth that you can get into your actual facility.
And some people are willing to spend the kind of money needed to be able to have the bandwidth going into their facility to support the movement of big files. And I just going to say in general construction, it is big files. Period. You are not going to get away from it. I do not care if you are small projects or big projects, does not matter. You are going to have big files. It is just a requirement. So, whenever you go to cloud storage, all cloud storage is primarily based in data centers and data centers spend millions of dollars for their connectivity. And that is one of the reasons that the connectivity is so much faster, so much easier to move the data. And then if you can combine your cloud storage with technology that is doing that stuff for you as part of the storage, I think a great example of that is a company called DADO.
And what DADO does is it’s not just cloud storage, but it actually, every time you upload a PDF into DADO, it actually has OCR in all of the information in all of the documents, which basically instantly makes all of your documents totally searchable and totally hyper-linkable. So, if I open a file, any file inside of DADO and I see something that references a piece of equipment or anything, I can highlight that and say, search the project and it will go through every other document and find all the information for every other document, and display that back to me so I can then quickly jump to everything that is associated to it. But having technologies that do stuff like that as part of the storage, I think is a critical part of the conversation. Getting to cloud storage is important, but then making sure you are looking at technologies that do something with it.
JAMES: Sure, but having the file stored is nice, but being able to do something with it, like search, is as much nicer. And you have seen folks like Dropbox and Box really add a bunch of ancillary feature functionality on top of just the block storage of the file. And look, I think Dropbox does file sync about better than anybody else. Just from all of my tests. Where we are an Office 365 shop, we are on One Drive. One Drive is not so great at file sync on large files. It actually kind of sucks. Then you see a hybrid solution, like Ignite come along and bring cloud content to the edge and they put a local appliance, so, that syncs down to your job site. And they looked at the problem and said, hey, let us do the best of both worlds. I know that like One Drive did this update where they turned off local storage and it just sort of called files on demand. And they did not ask me if they wanted me to turn it on. They just turned it on and wiped out my local copies.
And I went on a flight and was several months ago. I went and jumped on a commercial flight and none of my files were stored on my local computer, and I about lost my crap. I was so angry at Microsoft and I said, never, ever, ever reach out and delete a file off my computer without permission, but they did. They deleted gigabytes of files off my computer without my permission. They turned files on demand on without my permission. And so, you got to be careful with cloud storage because stuff like that will happen to you. It is a real challenge. So, I think that VPN, by proxy is where you are just securely connecting back to your home office, where all these files are stored. You do not get the benefit of the DADO’s of the world, or the Ignites of the world that does a synch. You do not get that benefit. You are still having to transmit the entire payload over a secure channel.
If you know anything about VPN, a VPN connection is inherently slower than just a raw connection over the internet because it is encrypting all the data. So, there is more overhead in each packet of data. And so, it slows down your bandwidth. So, you cannot sync those files as fast. It is good. It is secure, but it is not optimal. Jeff. I know you have something to say about that.
JEFF: Well yeah, I mean that is the classic VPN, right? Cause you are using some sort of concentrator somewhere versus using a subscription service as SAS, which is still going to tax you a little bit, but at least…
JAMES: It is just slower.
JEFF: It is not multiply taxed by the number of people that are trying to hit the appliance. So, you guys know if you have a hundred people in your company and they are trying to hit your VPN on clients in their office, that thing is going to be stressed too. It is got a CPU and it is got a job to do. If at least you can go cloud with that VPN, then that has a little bit more of that elastic approach to growth. Like Lonnie was talking about the storage groups do so at least you can get some more throughput. I am still a fan. Do not do get me wrong. I am not saying go that way completely. I am saying go that way so that you can serve us up to certain applications, right? We are not going to lift certain applications right now, no matter what 2020 throws at us, we are still not going to lift some accounting systems out of our back office. It just is not happening.
But if you can do what you guys are talking about and eliminate a lot of that inflow traffic, then at least that loosens up, if you can offload some of the CPU on the VPN, that is a great idea too. But James, I was actually going to jump on you there, cause I am with you. It was a little bit of a crazy thing when they did the switch, however, what I love is the wars. I have always loved wars in every technology. And so, Dropbox was the first one to do it. And I noticed it. This is a way back. I noticed it. I went to copy something from somebody shared with me on Dropbox and they said, well, do you want to take a copy of it, or do you want us to just go Dropbox to Dropbox and then we will sync it local. And this was like a three-gig file. And I was like, well, yeah, go Dropbox to Dropbox. Then I have it. And then wherever I am, it will continue to sync until I get all the bits and bytes in.
JAMES: Yeah. But Dropbox saw through that though. One Drive not.
JEFF: They offered is as an option and then they offered the ability for you to go out to the cloud and right click and say, save. I think they call it smart sync or something now in Dropbox. I cannot remember which one it is. You right-click and it will let you do it. Actually. I could look online and do it. Although Nick got to bring my boy Nick up here. Nick is not a big fan of Dropbox. Something has got him worried. And so, I want to dig in, like I got to have like nine phone calls…
JAMES: He is referring to Nick Espinosa, our favorite security expert.
JAMES: Let us move on. Let us move on.
JEFF: Wait, before you go, you guys know took that, right? So, anybody shares you anything on , you can copy it from your to , and then what I really like James, is it does that same thing of clouding it locally for you. So, you can work as you go as you need on different connections. So, if you guys did not know it was there, it was super cool. Like I had to get a huge package of files from one of my guys yesterday and I was like, just share it with me on . Pushed it to my other , set up my sync for that one, and left it alone for the night, and I got it.
JAMES: Yup. Let us move on. We have a question live for one of our members here of the webinar on Zoom. Again, once a month, we do these, and you can join us on zoom. Tim Milstead said, I am curious as to what AT&T means by nationwide 5G coverage. This is a July 23rd announcement by AT&T. It said AT&T and 5G. Today Nationwide. Awkward punctuation by the way. It was like, I would have put a period after today, just to emphasize it, but somebody in marketing decided that they were going to exclude a period from that this statement. But it said all current, and this is a big deal. We can talk about 5G, why it is important. Because we get massive amounts of speed, theoretically.
Theoretically, if you read the reports coming out of South Korea, it is not so massive amounts of speed and the early tests, but massive theoretically massive amounts of speed and lower power consumption. So, there are multiple components to 5G that you can actually consume less power and higher speed. There need to be some obviously significant overhauls and upgrades to their antenna. Their hardware, their software. And so, this is from July 23rd, which was just five days ago, it says AT&T’s 5G network is live for consumers and businesses across the country as of today. And this is their CEO says, hey, it is live, it is active. Now you have to check AT&T and 5G availability. I find this hilarious. They say it is available nationwide. And then that the first step of checking it, is to check availability. Like if it is nationwide, would not it be available?
Number two; select a 5G capable phone. That is right. Many, many, many phones are not 5G capable. So, it does not matter if they are network upgrades. And then, of course, bing-bing-bing, pick a plan with 5G access. Womp, womp, womp, they are going to have to pay more money. So, there are three steps to this. 5G speeds mean fast downloads, you can say faster, I love the language they are couching in this release from AT&T and very little lag time. So, they are trying to decrease something called latency. That is the amount of time it takes for a packet. So, if you think of like, bandwidth is how big the pipe is, how much water per second can move through, latency, how long is the speed at which the water is moving through that pipe. How long it takes the water to get from point A to point B.
And so, you are always looking at those two numbers. Starting August 7th. I said they are adding, this is on July 23rd. I am sorry. This is this from July 23rd. I am sorry, not August 28th. So, this is from a month and five days ago, where they said starting August 7th, they are adding 5G access to their AT&T business. Unlimited web only and starter plans. There is a lot of cool devices they say, which of course, you are noticing that in their device list, is missing the most popular device that AT&T sells, is not in that 5G list. No, no, no. The iPhone is not on that list. And so, they are saying, of course, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, the Samsung Galaxy X20 family. So just trying to brief everybody on the deal. This is about a month and five days ago. What are your thoughts on this? Rob, I know that as the ConAppGuru, as somebody who tried to bring mobility to the field of several years ago, bandwidth was a major issue. Are you fired up? Are you leaving Sprint for AT&T? I forgot if you are still on Sprint. I know you are a long-time Sprint guy. I forgot where you are at now.
ROB: I consolidated them all to Big Red because they had that amazing Father’s Day sale. So, I got the buy one, get one free. So, they hooked me, living in the rural parts of North Georgia. I will tell you. Yeah. 5G something I am very interested in. Cause it is amazing. When I am here in the town center so to speak, my signal is fairly good because of where the towers have been placed. And I go to my house five minutes to the West, it significantly drops. A couple of times this week I tried to just take a short walk with the dog, and as soon as I got away from the house and away from my Wi-Fi signal, it is a goner. And even driving down from Clarksville, down into Atlanta, there is still a lot of those dead spots because of where the towers are. So that is still a fairly common space I think across the United States. You get further and further out in the rural areas where they are trying to build the new infrastructure or the power plants, and it will be very interesting to see if one network or all the networks can actually truly turn this on for our industry. But James, what I really would be more curious to figure out at a nerd out level, when we are in these big buildings in the big cities, how will they figure out, the whole problem of the “canyons” as I refer to them
You remember we have spoken many times in Chicago or New York, Denver. When you get in those urban areas and you get on a building 40 stories up, your signal is not that much better either. So, I mean, there is a lot on the plate for us to think about. Not just building on the ground but building up or building inside of buildings. How do they transmit the signal inside places through all the concrete and steel?
JAMES: Yeah, exactly. And this is interesting. Jeff, when you look at the speeds of some early tests, and this is from AndroidAuthority.Com from August the 15th. So, just 13 days ago, they did a bunch of tests in New York City on AT&T’s coverage and they saw a wide variety of speeds coming down from as high as 185 megs a second, which, is pretty nice. Now it is not getting close to the gig speeds that we kind of hoped we would see, and it is actually not getting remotely close to the 600 megabits per second. The same user that wrote this article for Android Authority got on Sprint and T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G network last year. So, he got 600 megs down Jeff, last year on Sprint’s network. The most he got in New York City, which is one of the prime 5G testbeds for AT&T was 185 down. And then moving just a couple of blocks away, he got 1.79 megs down on the same network. So, from basically 2 megs to 185 megs, this will drive construction folks crazy if they have this kind of an inconsistency in speed. Jeff?
JEFF: Yeah. I mean that fluctuation you cannot have, but Rob, you kind of hit on it. There is a lot more to this than just 5G into the world. And it is good to go because there are things that are going to interfere with it. There are other concerns you have to have. And this is where I just have to pivot. Cause I pivoted a minute ago and said, I love competition. And this is where the race to the end is a marketing race, not a technology race in some respects. And so, they are just not getting it right. They are totally, they are fighting for something, and I cannot blame them. Let us be honest here. Like it is like the new. It is not that I have to be right. It is that I have to be first. And that is the ultimate problem here.
We want people to be right and out there in the league, like, is not that how it used to be? Like I was right, and I probably did not optimize, so, somebody comes along and goes past me and optimizes. Okay. And so, we start this battle, but right now, I do not think the 5G world is totally ready. I do not think the devices are ready. I think that guy, I do not know a ton about the actual reception inside of the devices, et cetera, but it could be the two different devices. A year ago, he could have been using a different device. So, there is none of this like industry-standard either. There is, as far as I know, there is nobody who is like, you cannot say that AT&T because X. There is nobody out there doing that. So, they can be like, what, tomorrow somebody is going to go, I got the 6G!
JAMES: They had this big conflict over AT&T. They did this 5G Evolution over a year and a half, two years ago. That was complete garbage. It was not anything different than the 4G LTE.
JEFF: Yeah. Haven’t they upgraded the backbone, is what they had done?
JAMES: Yeah. Exactly.
JEFF: So, the backbone technically was on a newer 5G available, but the towers were not updated? So, it is just a big load of marketing. Whoo-whoo haha!
JAMES: And meanwhile, Alex Lee brings a good point up. Who is going to win 5G or Starlink? You have heard me talk about Starlink many times. This is Elon Musk’s effort, to launch a bunch of low earth orbit satellites. If you want to find out more information, go to Starlink.com. That is the website for Musk company. Now Starlink is just a division and inside of SpaceX. And he has not gone public with SpaceX for very good reason. He does not believe the investing public has the guts, and I am listening, by the way, I am almost done with this biography. It is so good. If you have not read or listened to the Elon Musk biography, you must listen to Musk. It is not an autobiography. It is a biography that was written about him with his consent and with a whole lot of interviews with him, it is really amazing. It is much more likely he is going to go public with Starlink as a separate spinoff company. He does not believe the investing public has the guts to go to Mars. And I think he is right, by the way. They do not have the guts to invest and wait long enough that ROI. But Starlink is a now play and it is going to generate huge cash flows.
Get this guys, as of the latest data I could find, Starlink has now had 422 satellites that are in space right now. Now mind you, the largest network before this was the Iridium network of 66 satellites that I use on my little sat phone, whenever I am flying. I use my little, my Garmin inReach that goes over radium. Those are 66. He has 422 that are currently in space. He plans on sending tens of thousands. And Alex, to answer your question, I think it is going to be tough to compete with Starlink for certain types of applications. Mind you, you have to have like a little pole and a little pizza dish, so it’s not like we’re all going to walk around with this little umbrella unless they turn it into an umbrella, which there might be some, there might be a little play there to turn a Starlink receiver into an umbrella. So, you can walk around and get some shade. That would be a good little invention, Lonnie.
JEFF: You did not think you would be walking around wearing a mask either. It is not going to surprise me if, in 2021, you are walking around with a mask and…
JAMES: And an umbrella.
JEFF: You know a Starlink umbrella.
JAMES: Oh dude, okay. Combine the two, do what they had, I remember the Japanese had those long umbrellas that were clear plastic that would go down in front of you. So, you put a Starlink satellite, there you go Lonnie!
JEFF: There you go!
JAMES: Lonnie did it. He put a face shield, you know I have heard those face shields do not do jack squat, by the way. I have read some reports that they literally do nothing.
LONNIE: They do something great whenever you sneeze, and you have it on.
LONNIE: So, it is complicated.
JAMES: Did you see the squatter? So back to Alex’s question, I mean, who is going to win? I think Starlink’s going to win in some cases, 5G in others. I think that Elon’s pushing for gigabit over satellite. If it’s remote and for our contractor friends that do work out in the oil field, if you’ve got oil platforms, if you’ve got people that are in North Dakota doing you know, Canada and Oil sands work, I think Starlink’s going to be hard to beat. They are targeting service delivery this year. Do not do think that Starlink is some distant point of the future. They have said, you know Musk is famous for aggressive deadlines. They have said that this year is the year for them to deliver Starlink. And so, on this broader topic, what does the AT&T mean? Well, we do not exactly know. Because there are huge gaps in their coverage nationwide. So nationwide is not so nationwide. They probably have sections of all 50 States, which might be how marketing wise they got away with that statement.
JEFF: That is what I was going to say. This is when you call up. So, this is like a warning, Tim, to everyone from a marketing perspective, it is the same thing as has an ocean view. Has an ocean view could mean you could get out on the balcony, lean out unsafely, turn your head around the corner and see the ocean. That is still an ocean view. So, it is a matter of, yes, we have something in all 50 States. So that means nationwide coverage. Technically we are not lying. We are just you know.
LONNIE: Technology and the fine print thing drives me crazy because right now, as you guys have stated, it is just a massive race to who can announce first. And it does not mean that that is actually in place. It does not you know, just in our side of the world with electrical contracting, there are hundreds, if not thousands of contracts out right now, to upgrade the towers that they are saying are already in place. So, it is a bit of a marketing hype right now. That is the real challenge, is when will it be, when will the technology actually be in place to be stable nationwide? There is a lot of energy. There is a lot of money going into that energy right now. But I think the comment between Starlink and 5G as well, Starlink solves the conversation about the valleys that solves the contours of the earth because it has access everywhere. But then it does have some limitations because buildings and things like that can get in the way of satellite signals as well. So, it is an interesting debate, but just right now with 5G, I try not to pay too much attention to what the AT&T’s and the Verizon’s of the world are talking about, because right now it is just that marketing race to be first.
JAMES: Yeah, it really is. But look, pay attention to Starlink. Because what I love, and this comes up in the book all the time. Musk says there is a lot of people who talk about doing things and then there are those of us that do them. He is big on action. Of course, he has a huge flare for the dramatic in his marketing. So, do not rule out the amount of information there. Let us switch topics and go on to BIM. I told you we are going to pop between highly technical topics and some other questions.
We had a question that came in that said, our company is small. We never used BIM VDC until this past year. So, they have been fairly late adopters on BIM VDC. We have to outsource all of it. I keep telling my partners, I think it is time to invest in, in-house BIM and VDC. They think it is just a coincidence that recent projects require it. What do you think? Now personally, no, no, no, no. Let us be honest. There is a lot of people who really believe this. And so, let us take it seriously. You have a lot of old school builders who think that it is either a fad or coincidence or maybe just owners think it is popular now and will realize that the error of their ways in the future.
Lonnie, you have got a fairly good pulse on your members here. I would be fascinated to know your thoughts on, first, we kind of have two topics in this little onion of a question. We have to talk about outsourcing versus in-house BIM and VDC. And then we got to talk about whether this is temporary and if backlogs disappear, we go back to Hard Bid, because that is what happened in 2008 and we are probably facing that again. If backlogs are diminished like they are doing, and we go back to Hard Bid work, is BIM VDC going to take a back seat for a while? So, let us start by talking about BIM versus outsourcers in-house, and then you can move on to the other topic.
LONNIE: Sure. So, outsource versus in-house, I mean, all of these topics, they always ask the question, what are you BIM-ing to? So, there you BIM-ing to meet the requirements of a contract, are you BIM-ing to coordination? Or are you BIM-ing to be able to fabricate or are you actually BIM-ing to be able to coordinate your actual job site and run your job site based of what your BIM-ing effort is, or your VDC effort is. And the answer to that question really determines that conversation. You can outsource BIM to coordination. That is fairly simple, fairly easy. Most of the outsource BIM companies can handle that conversation, but if you’re actually BIM-ing to improve your workflow, so if you’re going to do a prefab or if you’re going to connect your model to RTS’s out in the field and use that to do a layout and you’re going to connect the field in the virtual space, you are really going to want to have control over your model. You really truly are. It does not mean you cannot outsource some of the energy and some of the effort, but you are really going to want to have control of that. Cause you are going to need to coordinate those areas of your business and the workflow in your business to that model, and it is going to be very hard to do that in an outsourced environment. Coming from somebody that is done a ton of outsourcing.
JEFF: RTS, Robotic Total Stations?
LONNIE: Yes. Sorry.
JEFF: Just being your three-letter acronym cop today.
JAMES: Yeah, no, that is awesome. I actually had to have a chat with one of my team members yesterday. I am like, I need you to stop all the acronyms. Because he sent an email and I counted seven in the email and I said, they all have to go including ASAP. I just want to actually write out as soon as possible from now on, because it just, you know one thing leads to another. All right. So, let us go back to this Lonnie, you bring up a good point. I found in the almost 20 years I have been in business, that if I take something seriously in my business if it is strategically important, I have to have at least one full-time staff member on board who owns that. And you and Lonnie, you are someone who, before your time at NECA, did a lot of outsourcing of this. You said it yourself. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing. I just do not think it is binary. I do not think it is outsourced or in-house. I think it outsources and in-house.
Think of it this way, in the system we use to build, to run our company, EOS, we have a tool called the delegate and elevate chart, and that’s where you identify the things that you’re not good at and you don’t like doing, and you try to delegate those out so that you can focus on the things you’re good at or great at the things that you’re, that you like doing or love doing. And so, certainly, you want people just like real estate, you want the highest and best use out of every hour of every person. And so, if you have some real like low-level modeling work or some taking of plans and producing some basic model, that is a great candidate, either for some programmatic designs, like some computational design, which we have seen some great computational design tools out there, or sending it over to India or sending it offshore, sending it somewhere else offshore to have them do that modeling at a much lower rate per hour. Lonnie, I am assuming that’s kind of what you blended that in, right?
LONNIE: Yeah, absolutely. There are certain tasks that you can push over. Sometimes tasks that you think are the good ones to push over to outsourcing, are not always the good ones. So, like a lot of people want to push over content development over, and if you have got strong control on your content development, you can do it, but most people do not have strong controls on the content development. So, they end up getting back something they have to put a bunch of energy into, but definitely, a blended environment is definitely the way to go whenever you are going to do outsourcing, and as you said, is it important to my business or not? I mean, am I doing it because the contract says I have to do coordination, and then after I do coordination, there is nothing in the contract for controls or anything like that associated with that? Then it is just a task that needs to have a checkbox next to it. And that is a whole different conversation. Then I am going to actually use this to help improve my planning and workflow and coordination across the entire project.
JEFF: So, Lonnie, I wanted to ask you this too, because like I have a different philosophy on it a little bit on the outsourcing part is like, it’s great when you get that internal and you do have to have people that are dedicated to it, I believe that. But it is also a way to learn, right? Like, I mean, sitting down with different groups over time, like Building Point others and just talking about their philosophy behind teaching people how to fish, instead of just giving them a fish and it’s a great way to check some of those boxes, but also gain those in-house, get a second eye and yeah, you have to own it and grow it, but it is how do you feel about them going about that? And did you go about that, that way so that you are teaching them how to fish and grow.
LONNIE: Yeah, and so much of it, when you outsource, so much of outsourcing has to do with how you manage the outsourcing. And I think the problem that most people run into and I personally have done this myself with companies and then learned my lesson is, you cannot treat the BIM outsourcers like they are your engineers. And just say, okay, just go and model and then give us something back. You have got to give them very specific direction on, this is what I want you to model and how I want you to model it, so it fits the things that I want to be able to do. And I think that is the reason why the coordination of BIM to coordinate, is a topic that often gets outsourced because there is a distinctive goal. Hey, we want to coordinate with all the other models, we are going to model to that. The real challenge in that is owners are starting to get very aware that just because somebody did a model and did a coordination, and it was clash free at coordination, does not mean they are using any of that to actually build the building.
JEFF: In the field, yeah.
LONNIE: So, owners are getting very aware of that opportunity or that situation. So yeah. I mean, I agree. It is how you interact without sourcing needs to be very much like how you interact with an internal team if you want it to be successful. You cannot just throw it over the wall and expect them to do it, and you have no knowledge of what they are doing or how they are doing it, and think it is going to actually improve or help your business in a significant way.
JEFF: And that is why I laughed earlier, James. It was not at the question itself, but it was at the fundamental, first of all, BIM’s not going anywhere like if you believe that, then we can laugh a little bit because it really is not that. It is like saying computers are a fad, that Google’s going to go away. These things are here to stay, and BIM is here to stay. Is it going to be at all penetrating every job, everything you ever do has been… No. Actually, it is not. And, but you cannot do, I mean, I just had a long talk this week on the show about precast concrete. You cannot do precast concrete coordination at the level they are doing it without BIM-ing it and being coordinated together and working together like these larger extensively difficult buildings to build that require prefab and offsite are huge. They are going to require it, right? I mean, you cannot get DFMA and BIM does not happen. And if DFMA does not happen, this industry cannot continue to function in all honesty and keep up.
JAMES: Yeah. So, one of our listeners just said BIM2theCumpton, Josh who? A great answer Lonnie! So, there it is gentlemen. A little Josh Bone smack talking. Josh, if you are listening, we still love you. It is just one of our listeners doing a little smack talk. Not me. Have you ever been totally satisfied without outsourcing BIM? And this is another good question. Certainly, we work with a lot of consulting clients who have done some variation of them BIM outsourcing and there always seems to be some conditional statement they put on using it. But they have the same condition statements when you say, are you totally satisfied with this? They have the same ones with our in-house teams. So, I am not sure in general, I am not sure that anybody is ever totally satisfied. I mean, they use the word totally satisfied. I am not sure that anyone is ever totally satisfied with anything in construction, much less BIM, much less in-house, or outsourced. You are always going to have hair on the deal.
In outsourcing, you are going to have, and certainly, some challenges that we see, there are challenges around communication, around the time of delivery, around missing details that might have gotten lost in translation. In particular, if you have language gaps, if you are doing offshore outsourcing. There is always going to be some type of challenge in-house around capacity and their ability to get things to turn around quickly enough. There are always going to be gripes. So, I do not think it is fair to say have you been totally satisfied with outsourcing unless you ask, have you been totally satisfied with in-house. And certainly, in-house you do have better control of the results. Absolutely. Because you can walk into the office and directly supervise and manage if that is what you do.
But I will be honest. There is a lot of companies that do not track time internally. They do not track time on their VDC, but they track time on outsourcing. So, they give the outsourcers a ton of flack about how long it took to design a model. Because they actually get a time report, but they do not even do timekeeping on their own in-house VDC team. So, it is like, well, how do you even know that your guys are even better because you do not do time tracking internally for your VDC team, but you do it for your outsource team. Lonnie have you seen some issues like that?
LONNIE: Oh, no, absolutely. And I am going to go back to, my very first job I had coming out of tech school, was at a design firm and one old school guys made a statement to me. I call it one of the rules of thumb, which is, a project is never finished. There is just a day it has got to go out the door. I think that is just a reality, right? I mean, you are never going to be a hundred percent satisfied. I have seen multiple companies try to outsource and they’ll say, oh, we have a couple of people in VDC and we’re going to outsource the rest of it, but they expect the people that are in VDC to still put in full time, modeling efforts. And they have nobody managing that outsourcing relationship. You have to have somebody that’s full-time managing that outsourcing relationship, verifying what is going out and verifying what is coming in, making sure that you are efficiently giving the information in an efficient manner so they can model efficiently.
I mean, every time I have had worked with a company that had issues with outsourcing, when it really came down to it, it was not about the outsourcing company not doing what they are being asked to do. It was about how the company that was feeding them their information was providing them the data so that they can efficiently model. And you cannot just spoon-feed them. You cannot just give them little bits of information and expect them to be super-efficient. You have got to put measures in place to do that. So, you can have a lot of success without outsourcing, but you have got to really commit to it. And it cannot be that initial idea of, hey, we do not have anybody so, we are just going to have somebody else do it and expect that it is going to be fantastic. Because it is going to be as good as the energy you put into it.
JAMES: Sure. And we have a question here from one of our attendees, it says, when do the biggest contributors to BIM VDC project start leading the overall design instead of the architect? Or would that even happen?
LONNIE: It is already happening.
JAMES: I was going to say, there is already… We have mechanicals who are already the lead on all of the BIM work. And the architecture is just playing a role in that, in the mechanical. Not the GC or the architect of the engineer, the mechanical contractor is actually steering all the BIM and VDC.
JEFF: So, I got called out, DFMA sorry, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly. So that was in the chat over there. So, I got to take your own medicine sometimes when you do that, but you are right. We are seeing that move James into the MEPs, taking over specifically the mechanicals really. But I think it is when it becomes part of the productization of actually what you are building, and we have to be respectful of the architects too. I do not want to take it away from the architects in saying that look, there is a part of this we are never going to do. Like your mechanicals are never going to be your artistic people that care about how the feeling of the space of the building is. What they care about is what is between the walls, right, and how it gets, and how it conditions that environment. And provides power to that environment or provides all those things that are essential. But the architects are part of that.
So, it is when all of them come together and we mix that, what is only about 20% of the building is the design and the field, and the other is the productization. And Lonnie, you and I have talked extensively about this is, is productizing what you do, is laying out all the things that you can do in offsite construction, trying to be good about the terms here, at an offsite construction manufacturing facility to then provide which then fit inside the walls to change the delivery model of how we do it. And that does not say architects do not have a play in it. They do it. And it is this all or nothing, that is going to kill us. It is everything. There is not all or nothing. Nobody wins. Nobody loses. Nobody is gone. The disruption of your environment is a great term to get people’s heads listening to what we talk about, but ultimately, really it is about getting them to change the paradigm into this new collaboration model to make this available. And there are lots of things you know. The MEPs are coming to the top and are making what we can productize and prefab and offsite available.
JEFF: And that is really key. They could, my architects could model if they could consume raw, you know Lonnie, one of your clients, versions of products, then great. Model the whole dang thing then you know. You can have it if you want, but I will tell you most of them do not want to do that detail either cause it is not the fun part anyway.
JAMES: Man, this has been a great conversation so far. Just a quick break for station ID and to listen to part two of our awesome conversation with Roger Yarrow. CEO of TrueLook about their construction cameras. JBKnowledge podcast network. And here is the conversation with Roger
JAMES: And I am back with Roger Yarrow, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of TrueLook. One of the important things, when you are dealing with any type of imaging, you have to have great world-class integrations. I believe you are integrated with Procore, Autodesk, PlanGrid. Like these major project management platforms, you are integrated out of the gate. Correct?
ROGER: Yep, absolutely. All of our customers use some sort of software to manage their day to day. And they just want to be integrated. They want everything in one spot. They do not want to have to log into multiple tools. We make all that easy for them. We give all their data from the camera and that is right in the platform they use every day. And that way everybody involved in the project can see what is going on as well. It is not a secret.
JAMES: And speaking of setup, can you walk me through how easy it is to set up TrueLook cameras and use them?
ROGER: Yeah, absolutely. Basically, our cameras come completely turnkey, ready to go right out of the box. When powered up the system will come online automatically and connect via cellular. So, you will just see the camera right then and there when it is plugged in. We make all your current jobs and past jobs all available right there in your dashboard, and everything is easy to hook up. But we also offer a full-service installation. If you do not have power, we have solar options for every situation as well. This is what makes our system accessible to all users. We back it all up with the lifetime hardware warranty and a money-back guarantee. And then, we also give you free forever cloud storage. So, you can come back years later and access your data all at no additional cost.
JAMES: Wow. So how to project managers and other teams in the organization, how do they actually use them? So, the setups easy, right? They are done with the setup, they are installed, they are recording data, and maybe they have integrated with Procore, maybe they have integrated with PlanGrid. But using your portal, how do they get in and actually use and look at these?
ROGER: Sure. So, a project manager will log in and they will be able to see their camera. And the best part about that is they can monitor multiple sites at once. It is going to become a valuable tool for them. They are going to be able to check-in, know what is happening, and spot problems before they happen. It is great for them to coordinate what is happening on the site, direct others, and basically keep an eye on the heartbeat of their job.
JAMES: Roger, if people want more information on your product, where can they go to get it?
ROGER: Just head on over to TrueLook.com and we will take care of you from there.
JAMES: So, let us keep pushing here. Do you feel like you can maintain a manufacturing approach to fabrication with outsourcing the BIM VDC? I am going to reference my Elon Musk biography. The reason Tesla and SpaceX would have been able to be so successful in their manufacturing is that they brought everything in-house. And I do you want to reference that. But again, this is a guy who had hundreds of millions of dollars of funding to figure it out, but he did not use funding, he used his own money, by the way. He only got outside funding later. Then he got government cheese after that. But as a client, remember he had to earn those contracts and he still got awarded a fraction of what Boeing got awarded and then he delivered ahead of them. So, you have this person who has demonstrated to all of us that when you control every aspect of the fabrication and manufacturing process for rockets and cars, that you can do something far cheaper than the established players can. But he did not do it with outsourcing, right. He brought it in-house.
But when you’re dealing with a small to medium contractor and that’s who the original question was from, was a small to medium contractor, outsourcing is a great way to get their feet in the water to start using BIM and VDC without having to hire and cultivate those resources. And it gives them time to identify what resources are best suited with their company and their team and their type of projects, to bring those staff in-house. And remember the answer is not one size fits all. Ever. You have got to identify what kind of clients you have, what kind of work you do, what kind of skills you have, to identify who is going to need to come in and be in-house.
JEFF: And could you take everything James just said and apply that when you outsource your IT too, please.
JEFF: If you do the same thing to IT, your BIM, and your IT, you are going to have the same fate. It is not going to be right for your business.
JEFF: But it is not that the outsourcing company is not thinking about you, but if you allow them to only think about themselves, what are they going to do? They are going to do what is best for their business. Same as in the BIM world. So, you have to have a driver. Somebody who is fully on your side, that is aligned with your vision as a company. So please do that with IT too. Like I think IT, and BIM is why I love the BIM world so much right now because I think they have so many parallels.
JAMES: Yeah. And look in IT, yeah, like you said, outsourcing, you should still have in-house IT staff. As a software outsourcer, we have hundreds of people that work in software outsourcing for JBKnowledge. The most successful client engagements we have is when our client to have an in-house IT person that we can interface with. It is always trouble when a client has zero IT resources in-house for us to interface with. Because then we end up reporting to people who do understand what they are outsourcing. And so that is the general rule is, if you can financially, at least have one IT person, if you can financially, at least have one BIM and VDC professional, that can be your in-house expert. And what I like to say about my own staff, because we manufacturer three products, three software products ourselves, is, I want their sleeping hours. I do not want them to work during their sleep; but I do want their brain cycles while they are sleeping, thinking about it. And that is what you get with in-house staff. I want them to at least be cogitating deep back in the recesses of their brain. Even if it is not active processing, there is a lot of things that are going on in your brain all the time. And I want them thinking about how they can make that product better.
LONNIE: I wanted to provide an example similar to the Elon Musk one, but actually something that is in the industry. So, if you follow Frank Gehry at all, and look at some of the crazy Frank Gehry designs, the only way Frank Gehry the company can actually do what they do, is that they manufacture, they model to a manufacturing level, all of that skin, all of that stuff that gets put together, but they do some modeling out and they do a lot of modeling outsourcing, but they also created their own version of a modeling tool. So, they went with a modeling tool, and then they customized it to a point to where for a while they actually turned around and tried to sell it as Gary CAD. But that is a great example of all the things that we are talking about.
Using a model for complete planning and fabrication, using outsourcing as part of the modeling effort, and then using that to create, essentially structures that most people do not ever consider to be something that would be prefabbed or from fabric, you know prefabrication conversation. But that is exactly what those things are. And the only way they can pull it off is because they modeled to that level. They do it in a way where it is completely coordinated. They worked directly with the manufacturers and then they can produce that kind of thing. But Gehry has been doing that for quite a while. I mean, that has been going on for somewhere close to a 10-year timeframe. So, what we are talking about is the same process. We are just talking about it at a trade, you know trade construction level conversation, as opposed to coming straight from the design side of the conversation.
JAMES: Awesome. So, let us move to our next topic. Because I think we have had a good conversation around this, but certainly there are some other things. I want to talk about Microsoft Excel for a second. And this is a great text question that came in from our good buddy Brett Young. And he referenced a BBC article and he says, does tech make this kind of error? And I am going to talk about what the error is, in the article. Does it make this kind of error more or less probable? And the error that he is speaking of is from a BBC article from the 26th of August. So that would be two days ago. Spread, and this is the title of the BBC article. This is from England, or actually Scotland and Edinburgh. Spreadsheet error led to Edinburgh hospital opening delay.
And if you wind down in NHS Lothian commission review, you found a human error in a 2012 spreadsheet with the specifications for airflow in critical care rooms was missed, and what auditors described as a collective failure. It was only when the hospital had been handed over to the national health service, and the monthly repayments had started, that the independent checks found the critical care rooms were operating with the wrong airflow. And so, it created a lot of work, $16 million of remedial work has since been carried out. And that area was severely delayed in opening. And there have been all kinds of problems and it all happened because of an error in a spreadsheet. Now we have seen this before and I have talked about, by the way, this is a spreadsheet called the Environmental Matrix Data in 2012, that had literally a cell error. I mean, that is what it really what it all came down to.
And I tell a frequent story. When I first started speaking at construction events, back in 2006, 2007, I went down to South Florida in a pretty well established, and I have not told this story in a long time. I used to tell it all the time it has been so long. I have not told it in a while. A pretty well-established general contractor came up to me after the speech and said James, I really appreciate the talk about the future of technology and of course, my future of technology 14 years ago looked a little bit different than it does today, but he said, we have gotten rid of Excel. And I said, great, great. What application did you move out to get rid of Excel? And he goes, we went back to paper. And I am going, okay. This is not really where I thought this was going. And he said, yeah, we lost a project because of an error in Excel. And so, we decided to go back to the manual paper tabulation of our bids, and I said, well, how do you calculate your bids? He said, well, we have one person with a calculator. They add from the top down another person with another calculator adds from the bottom up. And if their totals match that is the bid amount we submit. And I am like, ‘Oh, dear Lord.’
And so, they had an Excel error, they left one cell out, they submitted that number. The number was numbers are wrong and they lost a project. It was a big mistake. And so, they went the wrong way with this whole thing. But this my point. Excel because of its flexibility and strength, allows for an un-quality controlled, and particular, if you do not put QC checks on your Excel sheets, you miss a cell, you have to go and check every single formula you have plugged in. And there is a lot of data validation checks that Excel has, but you got to program those in, you can end up missing cells like this, and have to do $16 million of remedial work later, or in the case of the contractor that came up to me afterward. You know, you end up making some huge mistakes.
Now, the question that Brett ask is, is the advent of technology making these types of errors more probable. Well, certainly it is making this type of error more probable. A technology exclusion error, right, where they have excluded, they fat-fingered something, and I was on the line, this morning with one of my customers who is undergoing a significant amount of pain because one of their people inadvertently moved a decimal 0.2 places in an Excel spreadsheet. And so, the use of Excel as an enterprise computing tool, and I am going to open this up and I want to hand it off to Rob. We have not heard from you in a minute. So, I want to hand that off to Rob.
The use of Excel certainly makes these types of errors more probable because they do not have the proper engineering controls on the formulation of the Excel sheet. They do not have the proper quality controls on the actual cells themselves. They do not validate all those formulas. They do not check them enough. They do not put a process around Excel like a professional software operation most likely would. And so, I think, we need to isolate the conversation first to Excel. And paper. There where there were all kinds of problems that happened all kinds of times because people miss them all the time, cause there not a way to automatically calculate and tabulate and verify your columns versus your rows versus your totals versus your actual, and then check your formulas. You cannot do that. And so, there are all these manual errors. So, Rob, I am curious as to your thoughts specifically around Excel and then around the software in general, introduce the probability of more errors.
ROB: You got to go back to the basics and talk about your company processes. And by that; I mean, when I was a little boy learned how to play golf and I would hit a bad drive or a bad put or anything, I would throw that club 50 yards down the course, cause I was mad. My dad would remind me, it is not the equipment. It is the player. So, think about that analogy. Any technology can have a problem, but if you use it as your crutch to replace your process, does not matter if it is Excel, if it is a software or if it is an app. James, the people have to still go back and double triple check things. Especially when you are talking about moving a decimal point 2 places, that is big ‘uh-oh!’ That was a manual error though. Who did not go back and check it? You cannot assume and trust that all this technology is going to do what the human is still supposed to do. At the core, our brains are still supposed to go through the process. Double-check it. Make sure you got it right. Do not blame the software. You got to look at the deploys, the workflow, what humans are still doing with the software. That would be my take.
JAMES: Yeah. Okay. Jeff?
JEFF: Well, is it going to eliminate the problem? No. We are never going to eliminate human error. It is not going to happen. But a lot of what Rob’s talking about too is if the people in the process are right and the checks and balances are built, that’s where technology really can help. Not eliminate, right? I never want to say that because we say eliminate right, Lonnie, and then we get into, well, we did it in BIM, but that is not how we did it in the field. We are always going to have the disparate peace between technology and the implementation of that solution. So, is it going to get rid of it, Brett? Probably not. Can it be organized in such a way and built as a stack to prevent these things from making it to installation? Yes. That is with proper teams, proper collaboration, and proper toolsets for checks and balances. That is, if there was some sort of technology therein, looking at the air handling systems, from a BIM perspective and that was balancing out what they found in that Excel sheet, then that problem does not happen.
But there is this and Rob, you alluded to it. And I do not know how you handle it cause we are techno-optimists, but there is this idea that technology’s infallible. And there is always a wing nut between the chair and the keyboard that is fallible. And by that, there is an opportunity for errors. And so, we have to have checks and balances. And I do not know, in that instance, Lonnie, that gets beyond my MEP, my mechanic abilities to understand what a good check and balance could have been from that, but you would think if they were modeling to the level they should have been, somebody somewhere should have said, this does not look right. And somebody went, well, it matches this Excel thing. And so that should be like, and by the way, here is a little warning.
If somebody says, Hmm, this does not look right. And the other person goes, well it matches this Excel thing. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. You should really look into that one. Because I mean, gosh, you have it, James. I am sure Lonnie, you have it, Rob. You have it. I have it. I was at a drywall company that a little missed cell, doubled the number that they were carrying versus half of it was what they needed, and it could have been really devastating to the business. So, these things happen, but Lonnie, what do you think about it?
LONNIE: Yeah. I mean, Excel is a fabulous technology that allows you to do all sorts of things, but there is a ton of people, a vast majority of people know how to do basic Excel stuff. Very few people know how to do an Excel sheet that is completely QA’d, that has everything set up in it to where things are blocked, and you can only edit the cells that you are allowed to edit and edit them only in the way that you are allowed to edit them so that all of the formulas all work perfectly. There are not that many people that know how to do that. And when you, if how to create a formula in Excel and you are super excited, even a simple sum formula, and you are super excited, and you send that spreadsheet to somebody that does not understand it, one of the first things they do is they kill all of the formulas. And so, then it is just hard numbers in the sheet, and they change the number up here that is supposed to total up, but it does not total up.
If you do not know enough about how to protect the cells and make sure all those formulas are always QA’d and they always work, then sending an Excel sheet out as an enterprise-wide solution to kind of cover a process, probably is not a good idea. Because the people that receive it and start working with it, they do not know what you know, so they are going to start poking at it and try to figure out how to make it work. And they are going to just make it work. And so, Excel, although it is fantastic, it does cause a lot of challenges because the people that use the spreadsheets that get made by others, they do not understand how they were built. And if they are not protected and properly QA’d, then they inadvertently break it. I would call it a picnic error. Problem in chair, not in computer. And, it is not a friendly term, but that is often the scenario and that is not just true with Excel. That is true with all technology. I can create the greatest BIM model on the planet, and I send it to somebody that does not understand how I modeled it or why I modeled it the way I did, they may completely jack it up just because they do not quite understand why I did the things that I did. And I think that is just true with all technology and you just have to be cautious of that. And before you start using a tool like Excel as an enterprise-wide solution, you got to make sure that it is safe to go as an enterprise-wide solution.
JAMES: Awesome. So, let us dig into the, oh, wait, wait. I have a couple of questions from last time. And I will wrap up this particular episode with one last question. And let us dig in. Do of a good map of information flows in construction? Including owners, architects, GCs, and subs. And I am actually going to have a Lonnie wrap this because he focuses so much on contractor education. This is good again. Do of a good map of information flows in construction, including owners, architects, GCs, and subs. Now they are obviously trying to look at this because they want to get kind of a jump start on it. I mean, to produce this from the ground up to see if there are any others out there that have already mapped out all the information flows of what data has to map out.
Now, look. Before you answer it, I am going to say, go onto the Plexxis social media account. And there was a brilliant map of information flows that our good friend, Chad from Plexxis just posted. And now mind you, he is just marketing. Because he is showing the map of information flows without Plexxis and with it. So just understand you are going to get his perspective on things, but he did a really, really good job of mapping out all of the different data that has to pull together, for a contractor to get things done. Lonnie, what are your thoughts on this?
LONNIE: It is not, is there a good one? It is the challenge that there are thousands and thousands of good ones. But information flow is so dependent upon your specific organization and the organizations that you are working with, what tech they are using, what tech they are not using. It is very hard to see. And I am doing that right now with the NECA convention where I am putting together those workflow tours. It is so hard. I am doing six workflow tours. And it is so hard to narrow it down to six because there are variations all over the place with just, you know are you using BIM, or you are not using BIM? Are you in a contract that requires prefab or you are not required prefab? There are so many pieces of the puzzle that one minor, one piece of the puzzle changes, and it affects the entire workflow process and the entire flow of information. So, it is a matter of looking at the ones that are available and figuring out which one is close enough to your organization, that maybe you can make some alternate alterations, but I give a word of warning. And I do not mean to be negative to our software brother and anyway, shape or form, but software companies always build workflows that match their particular product.
JAMES: Yeah, of course.
LONNIE: In so many cases, and I can speak to one in particular, in the construction manufacturing arena, we have asked contractors, start turning into manufacturers, they realized that they need some sort of, kind of ERP system. And whenever you are going to implement an ERP system, they are so happy to provide you with a workflow that works with their ERP system. But if you are a company and you have not documented your workflow and you just think you are going to adopt the ERP systems workflow; you are in for a rude awakening. Because it is going to change every aspect of what you are doing. And you and your folks are not going to be able to adopt it because those processes were built for manufacturers of cars and manufacturers of huge manufacturing organizations. So, you have to just be careful, you cannot bypass the energy of documenting your own process and just adopt a piece of software as a process.
You can adapt it with augmentation to it, as long as you understand your process, but if you don’t understand your process and you’re expecting the software just to automatically create a process for you, you’re really looking for a dangerous, dangerous path that was going to most likely, negatively impact your business in a very big way. So, I know that software companies do not like to hear that, because, as I have been involved in software companies, we build out these workflows and our intention is not to create a negative scenario. Our intention is to help companies and help clients. But at the end of the day, there is no way you can predict all of the possible variations with a given company has workflow. So, all you can do is do your best to try to figure out a standard process that is neutral enough to support the different scenarios that are going to be put into. But you have got to look at your process for your business and understand your process before you start looking at other workflows to mimic or to copy or to augment your workflow. Without it, it is just very dangerous.
ROB: Yeah, you are right. Lonnie. But what is nice is if you go through that exercise, right. And then you take yours and I go back to, I got to use an FMI reference here because this is where I saw it. I walked into a place that I was doing a software gig for and they had FMI’s, mapped out processes. And I was like, that is gold. I want that. You get that, and then you overlay that over the prescribed, we will call it from the software company, and then you see the deviations, right? You see yours and theirs and you see the deviations and then you sit down, and you go, okay, this is your optimal workflow in your world. This is how it works in my world. Is it flexible to fit me or do I need to flex? And it is that flex something I am willing to do? And all of a sudden, we are having this educated, remapped conversation that is around facts and around, look, there is no software that you are going to implement, that you do not have to change yourself some. But it should not change you fundamentally. There should be things that you say are nonnegotiable. That is just how my business works and I need that. And that will help you rule out some software and help you pick other software’s. And that is just a great method.
And, if you guys are struggling with it, if your Office 365, you can get a Visio subscription real cheap. You can get Lucidchart. If you do not know how to use it. It is pretty simple. There are lots of like free ones for mapping your processes out. Shoot. I hate to say this. You could use One Note. You could use Excel. Here is a good one for Excel. Because yeah. I am just throwing it out there, but really just mapping the process and then, that is separate from mapping your requirements too, by the way, for software. So, map your requirements too, but map your process over your requirements and laying the two together, it becomes powerful. I know Chad would agree that he would love to show up somewhere with his, which by the way, I have just had it up on LinkedIn when you already sent it James. So, and then he would love to come in and put that across to what you have mapped, to see how it fits. And I think that’s critical no matter what you do, right. Do you buy a piece of equipment, it better does the job that you need it to do? Not just be the fanciest coolest piece of equipment you know. James, just because it is AI-based and autonomous, if I do not know need it, then why am I buying it?
JAMES: Yeah, exactly.
LONNIE: Yeah. I preach a conversation that I say people process and then technology. And I have augmented that recently to say people process and then technology with a backbone of data. That is a method. And it is important to understand that it is not just the terms, but it is the order. So, evaluate your people first, understand your process, and evaluate your process, and then start looking for technology that can actually support and help you in the areas you need help in. And then creating a data flow that is the backbone of how that works, is such a critical part of the conversation. I used to refer to it as the CEO’s on the airplane, and he reads the little magazine that has all the cool little gadgets in it. And they show up at work and like, oh, we got to buy one of these. And so many people approach technology that way, where they just, they see technology and they get excited. And that is great, except for the fact that that may completely reverse the process in your business if you actually adopt that. So, you really got to understand your people’s process and then start thinking about the technology aspects of it.
JAMES: Rob, bring us home. Your thoughts on this to wrap up?
ROB: You always got to start with that process. If the process is not right, no matter what, someone else is trying to sell you. It is just not going to fit, but a lot of people want to get the easy pill. How many easy pills have we seen, tried to be sold to this industry in the last few years?
JAMES: Yeah, exactly. And a lot of easy pills, a lot of easy buttons. Unfortunately, nothing is easy. And on those notes. And on that note, we are actually going to wrap up, thank you all for attending for our live attendees. Those of you who have been submitting questions and comments. Thank you so much for attending. We really appreciate you. I remember you can always text questions any time of day or night to (979) 473-9040. And you can always email does email me. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org if you like. And we have another one of these a month from now, so it will be the last Friday of next month, in September. Hope you all are finishing out the summer months, technically summer is running for another three weeks or so. I hope you are finishing out the summer well and enjoying yourself, staying safe, staying healthy. Thanks for joining us today. And for all of those who are listening online, thanks for listening to the show this week. We will talk to you next week.
Thank you for tuning in today to geek out for episode 233 for our Monthly Talk to The Crew: Live! Remember you can join in every single month. Join us next week for episode 234 with Anthony Corrado from Spectar. To read all of our news stories and to learn more about apps, workflows, and hardware, please subscribe to our newsletter at jbknowledge.com. Or text “CONTECH” to 66866. Big thanks to Jim Greenlee, our Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton-Arro, our Creative Producer, Tish Thelen, our Ad Coordinator, & our Transcriptionist, Adéle Waldeck. To listen to this show, go to the show website at thecontechcrew.com. This is The ConTechCrew signing out, until next time…
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