Geek of the Week
Construction Tech News
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 with technology like virtual reality, apps, and robotics, we started TheContechCrew. 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!
JAMES: Man, halfway through September. What is going on? It is like, this year is flying by now that the kids are back in school and they are having a schedule. It is totally different. We went full–back in person; and they have been in school for a whole month now, Wendy, and it has been delightful. Everybody is so much happier around the Benham house. The kids are in school. It has been good. Are schools over there in California, are they actually face to face, or are they virtual? What are they doing? a
WENDY: They are partially face-to-face, but most are virtual. And I hear you. I do not have young children at home anymore, but most of my employees do. And those four walls get to be really small when you have got those kids there.
JAMES: It is like they shrink in on you. I will tell you what, the face to face, has been amazing. We have got a full month, no infection so far, everybody has been fine. They wear masks all the time and stuff. It has been different, but my oldest started playing volleyball. She is 13 and she has always wanted to play volleyball. I am having a blast. I think she is having fun too. I am having a great time.
WENDY: That is good support.
JAMES: I am a line judge and I do scoring and stuff, and it has been a trip. Lonnie Cumpton, Lonnie. How are you doing buddy?
LONNIE: I am fantastic. How are you?
JAMES: Doing great, man. I have not had any squeaky cheese in a while though. I will tell you that. It has been a little while.
LONNIE: Yeah. Been a little while. Well, I am no longer in Wisconsin, so, I cannot readily get those anymore.
JAMES: I know. I have to order one online and stuff. Have them shipped them to me. I am into cheese curds. I am. I know you have moved! You are out of there. You are on the East Coast.
LONNIE: I am actually in Joplin Missouri now, so…
JAMES: Oh, that is right. I am sorry. I thought you’re working for… Obviously, Lonnie Cumpton is at NECA, which is obviously over there in the DC area, but Joplin, Missouri. And I have been to Joplin Missouri multiple times back in the day when I used to drive up and back to Michigan, every year. That was a regular stop. How are things in Joplin today?
LONNIE: Oh, they are good. The sun is out. It is nice and cool, so the heat is not here anymore, so that is good.
JAMES: Yeah. Amen to that.
LONNIE: This time, maybe I can package up a tornado and send it your way.
JAMES: Do not do that. Do not do that.
LONNIE: It would just be a little one.
JAMES: Just a little one? We had two hurricanes come up and, I am from Baton Rouge originally. And Baton Rouge was barely spared by both of them. It was literally just East of the Lake Charles hurricane, just West of the Mobile Alabama hurricane. And they barely got any rain, which was great. My parents are still there. So was like, I kept calling them. I will come to get you. You can come to Texas. And they were like, we are fine. We have been spared. It has been a little bit of a nutty hurricane season. We are already in like… This was Sally. We are mid-September, and we are in the SS. It is a lot of hurricanes, Wendy.
WENDY: That is a lot of hurricanes and you are right. Actually, my mother in law is down in Baton Rouge with her sister, at the beginning of COVID. She lives in Newport Beach, California, and we send her off to her sister’s house and we thought she might be there for a couple of weeks. That was at the end of February.
JAMES: It is an adjustment going from Newport beach to Baton Rouge. That is like going from 72° and sunny every day to 98° and 95% humidity with a swamp and mosquitoes everywhere. I can tell you, because that is what I grew up in. It is an adjustment she has had to make, hasn’t it?
WENDY: Well, you know what though, she is 90 years old and she is with her sister. They are practically like twins.
WENDY: And the thing about Baton Rouge is everyone is so nice.
JAMES: Yes. Excessively so.
WENDY: Everyone is bringing food all the time. They have got all kinds of different types of food that are being delivered all the time. And as long as you have got that and your sister, I guess you are good, right?
JAMES: Yeah, it is called Southern hospitality for a reason. I will tell you that for sure. So, we do have today, Lonnie Cumpton my cohost, Wendy Rogers, the CEO of eSub. She is hanging out with us. We are going to talk with her in just a minute.
Remember, never miss an episode by having every one of them sent straight to your email inbox when you text ConTech to 66866. You are getting the show notes, all the links to articles by texting ConTech to 66866. Remember if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, you can text or call us (979) 473-9040. It is our Google voice line. You can leave a message. Yesterday, just for fun, I actually got a call, saw it come in and I just went ahead and picked it up, which was a lot of fun. I got to talk to one of you. One of our listeners. And he was like, James? Oh okay, I was just going to leave a message. I am like, let us talk! How is it going? And we had a great conversation! I get a lot of activity on the text line. People asking questions, sending comments in. So, remember we are available there.
Our cause of the show, you know I like to start every show talking about this because it is a really important topic. According to the CDC, construction occupations have the highest rate of suicide, as well as the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups. To combat these statistics, contractors, unions, associations, industry service providers, and project owners must work together to stand up for suicide prevention. The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention is raising awareness about the risk of suicide within the construction industry and providing suicide prevention resources and tools, to create a zero-suicide industry. Visit PreventConstructionsSuicide.com for more information.
Before we get started with our interview with my very good friend, Wendy Rogers, I spoke with Roger Yarrow, CEO of Truelook about their construction cameras. Here is part I of my conversation with our sponsor today, Truelook.
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 to you 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 Jobsite. 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 any 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 this exciting time period where you can start to see those technologies coming into play now.
And back to our interview. Our special guest, Wendy Rogers, joining us from eSub. Of course, in beautiful San Diego, California. You are in San Diego, right? I just want to make sure.
WENDY: Yes. Absolutely.
JAMES: Yeah. Did not know if you went to another part, or you have like a little weekend house or something, because you are in San Diego. What do you do when you live in paradise? Where do you go on vacation? It is like California is like San Diego. They go to Hawaii because it is like the only place that could possibly be more beautiful than San Diego, right?
WENDY: Yeah. It does not suck. It is not bad.
JAMES: No, it does not suck. I love it there. I love San Diego.
WENDY: You know and the other thing that is nice about San Diego, first of all, it is 72 miles of beaches, which is pretty cool. And the weather’s pretty much the same sort of all year round, which can be a little bit annoying cause you miss the change of seasons. Cause I did not grow up here, but you do miss that. But the other nice thing is the people are friendly. It is not like LA.
JAMES: No, it is totally different. LA is a kind of urban sprawl. San Diego because I think maybe because it is a military town, it has got like pockets of little towns that are just sort of connected and everyone has like a small-town feel. So, it is a great place to live.
JAMES: It is. My mom lived in San Diego. Her dad was a Navy officer. He was a pilot in world war II. And afterward he was a reconnaissance pilot, flew seaplanes. And they were stationed in San Diego and she lived kind of in that little neighborhood that is on the hill that overlooks Mission Bay.
WENDY: Point Loma?
WENDY: Probably. Right?
JAMES: I even drove by her old house. She remembered the address, which is amazing to me cause she had 12 places in her childhood that she lived, 12 schools she went to, but she was in San Diego for long enough, a few years to remember it and just adored it. And, my dad, interestingly enough, a few years later, my dad did his Navy training there when he joined the Navy. They sent him to San Diego for his initial training. And so, it holds a dear place in my heart. I am glad that you are on the show. Now let us talk about you for a minute before we jump into talking about tech because you have a really fascinating background in media and entertainment, which I think is worth talking about. I mean, talk about an industry that has been completely disrupted, it is media and entertainment and news.
JAMES: I would say the news industry is an industry in crisis right now. And we can talk about that. I would like to talk about that for a few minutes. Cause I think it shows that disruption hits every industry everywhere, no matter whether you want it to or not. Well, you came to California for college. Where would you grow up?
WENDY: I grew up in Northern California. So, I grew up in Sacramento.
WENDY: Before that, my dad was in the air force. So, I am an air force brat.
WENDY: So, he is a Colonel. My first language actually was German because we lived in Germany. So, I went to German schools and did not know much English when we came to the United States.
JAMES: I have a lot of friends who are air force and who are air force brats, and there is almost always some type of tour through Germany at some point in time.
JAMES: The Us Air Force Europe command is over there. And, certainly as part of the NATO Air Command, which is a pretty neat way to grow up to and a way to see the world. So, you went to Berkeley.
WENDY: One of the best.
JAMES: Absolutely. Berkeley was on my list of colleges that I was really considering because UC Berkeley has been pivotal in the development of internet technologies and there is an amazing software program that I was attracted to when I was looking at colleges. You went there for Mass Communications. So, did you always wanted to go into news and entertainment?
WENDY: I did. Yeah. I was not so much drawn to broadcasting, but I am a writer, and I am a journalist at heart. I think the one thing about true journalists if there is such a thing anymore, is that you are curious. You have just a mind that is constantly asking questions and wanting to know sort of the why behind people and trends and all of those types of things. And so, when I was at Berkeley, I wrote for the newspaper and back in the day, that was when we had the apartheid protests, and things like that. And so, I got kind of in the middle of all of those and got to write about that type of stuff and just have always been fascinated by kind of what is going on around me. I was actually pretty involved in politics too. I worked in Washington DC years and years ago, and I am going to date myself right now, under the Reagan administration when he was president.
When, by the way, he was president and he had Alzheimer’s. And it was kind of one of those things that was an open secret, sort of back in DC, and I will not say which party I worked for, but I actually worked for a media center of one of the parties. So, politics, journalism, all of that, is in my blood. And, which I think is a natural segue into becoming an entrepreneur in some ways, because as an entrepreneur, you’re kind of taking ideas and figuring out, how to kind of run with it and always asking the why’s and how you should pivot within your business operations and things like that. And so, so yeah.
JAMES: That is interesting. Yeah. And, politics, I learned how to sell, running for office. When I was a fifth year, I was just finishing up my master’s degree at Texas A&M. I ran for city council in 2002 and I lost. I mean, I got my butt handed to me. But I walked like every neighborhood in town. I think I wore through two or three soles of shoes. It is amazing how much cold calling I had to do asking people for votes. And it literally broke me of my fear of asking for business. I was about a year into JBKnowledge at the time and I literally just stopped being afraid of asking for work, because I had to ask people for votes, which honestly was far more intimidating because it’s such a personal decision to walk to someone’s front door of their house and ask them to take the time to vote for you and put a sign in their yard you know?
JAMES: And, eventually, I lost that one. I actually ended up winning the election in 2012. So, a full decade later I got into office and serve two terms and had a lot of fun. A lot of fun is a very interesting way of describing it. But it was a challenging learning experience. But politics teaches you a lot about business and I feel like Wendy, that news and media because you have to be so self-motivated in news media. I mean, you really do. You have got to get up and hustle and learn about things before anybody else does. And in politics, it is the same way. When you got to be a promoter, you have got to be a salesperson. Those are very translatable skills to business.
WENDY: Yeah. I will never forget my first job in television. I was going to Cal, so my parents made it clear to me early on that, okay, you have got four years. We are paying for four years and that is it. And you get your tuition paid for, and you get your books paid for and everything else is on you. So, I was a hustler. So, I had at one point five jobs. I had like a social job at the yogurt shop, a frozen yogurt shop, where I could see all my friends, I had a library job. I had all sorts of different jobs and worked the entire time when I was going to college and I will never forget, when I decided to do my first, it was an internship in television. I went in and I was interviewing, and they said, where are you going to school?
And I said, well, I am going to UC Berkeley. And they said, well, why do you go there? Cause it was not well known as kind of a broadcasting type of school. And there was not that question about, like, what type of skills do you have or why do you like journalism or anything like that. And that was the introduction. And from there, when I got into broadcasting, I did everything from literally, working for free, and having people tell me early on, well you are in the glamour business, so you do not need to make any money. And it is like, well, it is not very glamorous living at home with your parents when you are 22 years with a college degree from Cal. But you had to hustle, and you had to work your way up. But it was great. Great lessons for never stopping at life.
JAMES: So, let us pivot to construction. 2008, you assume this role as president CEO of eSub. Tell me about how you got into construction technology and the origin story of eSub.
WENDY: Sure. So, I actually sort of married into construction. I was, again, I was working in broadcasting. I got married. My husband was an attorney, and he owned a consulting business. He started… The industry’s kind of the first construction claims. Because he became an in–house attorney for an electronics company and started to see that their company was losing money because they were not documenting what they were doing. And so, he started sort of a construction claims business as a consulting business. And we had that for, oh gosh, 15 years, I guess. And when I left broadcasting, cause I kind of got to a pivotal place in my career where I was either going to have to sort of move to the East coast and have a long-distance marriage, New York–ish area, he was in California, or kind of choose a different career.
And so, I begged him for a job, and I went to work with him in the consulting business. Learned everything I could about construction, knew nothing about construction, so did what every journalist would do. I grabbed everything that I could do to read all about it. Worked with him in the consulting business, flipped up our business model from basically construction claims to take everything that you need to do to document a project properly, and put that on the front end so you are avoiding claims. Cause James, you know me very well. I am not a confrontational person at all. I like everything to go really well. But the flip side of litigation is transparency. So, if you are doing things upfront and you are doing it sort of in a lean environment, where everything is visible, and you are doing things preemptively, proactively documenting things, then you are setting yourself up for success instead of attempting to recoup money after the fact.
So, we did that. Worked together for several years in that capacity. And then just started to see that software was becoming a thing. And so, did the same thing that I did when I went into construction and just read everything that I could about software. And there was this new sort of cloud-based type software. It was not even called that back then. And so, I researched that, and that was the beginning of eSub.
JAMES: That is awesome. So, tell me, what does eSub do?
WENDY: So, we are a true cloud based, I like to say business operational platform for the trades. So, we start field first, because that is where the trades make or break their profits are in the field off of their labor, and we combine field apps that are tracking labor productivity. Getting folks in the field involved in those field apps. And then what I like to say is we are kind of a whole bunch of different sorts of point solutions, whether daily reports, time, labor productivity, tracking field notes, all sorts of things. All of those types of what you would consider being sort of point solutions that also have a backend home that links into a structured data platform, for the trades with purpose-built designed workflows that are relevant to trade contractors.
JAMES: Okay. Awesome. There are so many areas we can go with this, but what was the major problem you were trying to solve in the very early days? Like with me with SmartBid it was really straight forward. Cause I got in a similar time. 2006 is when I started SmartBid and we had a big problem because everybody was having to manually dial fax numbers at a fax machine. So that was the one problem I was trying to solve was to get these limitations to bid out and allow people to download plans easily. It was a pretty simple software in the beginning. What was the original problem statement?
WENDY: So, it had to do with connecting the office in the field. If you are looking at, in construction, you have a centralized office and then you have all of your dispersed construction sites, right? And again, the trades make or break their profits off of their labor. And so, back in the day, and we still suffer from this to a certain extent, we did not have the cloud and we did not have mobile technology. We were some of the first out there with cloud technology and mobile technology, back in the day. And it was about how do we get the information from the field into back then, and even somewhat today, accounting platforms so that we can monetize what it is that we are doing, right? Because oftentimes there was no transparency or visibility into the field.
So, back in the day and still arguably today, we are trying to, in some ways, conduct our business operations through our accounting platform. Because accounting happens in the office, communication from the field happens in the office too, but how do you get the information from the field into the office? And back then you were hoping for people from the field to come and travel to the office and let us know what was happening that day so we could bill for what was happening in the field. And that was what we attempted to do with the cloud is to connect the office and the field so we can work in tandem with each other so that contractors can basically get paid for the work for they do.
Because with changes that are happening with design as you go, designs and things like that, oftentimes we are not documenting what we are doing in the field, but unfortunately, we do not get paid for the work we do. We get paid for the work that we document. And so, we need to make it so that there is not a catch 22, where you have to choose between one or the other. You need to be able to do both. You need to be able to capture what you are doing in the field and still at the same time, be able to be productive in the field to keep the construction project going.
JAMES: Yeah, absolutely. Awesome. Lonnie?
LONNIE: Yeah, so super interesting background. I resonate with a lot of things. And part of what you commented on your background relates to my first question. The question I had is, as the president CEO of eSub, what energizes you every day to get out and fight the battles and face the challenges of the industry? Being innovative, we all play an interesting role in that, and it certainly takes a great deal of energy to do it. So, what is it that energizes you to get up and make it happen every day?
WENDY: I am so fascinated by buildings and architecture and looking around at everything around us and thinking about the human element attached to that, the people who actually build the buildings and the legacy that that creates, and how impressive that is. And one of the things I know, James, you and I have talked about this, I have talked about this with Josh Bone and a bunch of other folks is, those are the trades that are building these buildings. When you talk about the true builders, it is the trades, it is the skilled trades. And I always say that it is almost like they are the Rodney Dangerfield of the industry. They do all the work and get none of the respect. And so, for me, it is being passionate about supporting the trades and coming out and looking at how incredible it is. The advances that we have had in the architecture, in the building, and the fact that it is our people that are getting out there and doing the work every single day.
And oftentimes, unfortunately, in the environment that we have today, coming from sort of my legal background side, it is unfortunate that there is always this sort of fight for profits. That the stakeholders, the vertical stakeholders in construction are oftentimes fighting for who is going to make the money. And I think that we need to be able to do the work. We need to keep our projects going. We need to try to align our vertical stakeholders in a better contractual environment and things like that. But at the end of the day, our trades should be respected, and they should be paid for the work that they do. And so, what we try to do is to up their operations, to give them the ability to be able to track what they are doing. So internally, their labor is more productive. And by nature of that, the project is more productive. And that is exciting. It is exciting.
And also, from a technology background, it is amazing how quickly that technology train is moving these days. How many advances there are that are constantly changing and shifting. And so, being able to work with incredible engineers and take a look at all sorts of different types of problems that are happening in construction in ways to go about solving those problems for our people, that’s exciting stuff. It is a unique opportunity to be able to influence that.
JAMES: Yeah. And Wendy, let us talk about, I call it the sub dilemma, right? Like you have this big… And we obviously advise subcontractors and general contractors on technology strategy and with SmartBid we served both the GC and subcontractor community. We connected them. So, I have spent almost 15 years now in the middle of this discussion about do subs need their own software, or should they just use the PM software that they are general contractors make them use? I cannot tell you how many times I get that question. Like my GCs are mandating that I use XYZ or ABC or I, II, III. Why do I even need my own software, or do I need my own software? Do I just use theirs? Do I adopt theirs, but it is GC software? So, this is like a loaded question, right? I guess my initial question is, do subs really have different software needs than GCs? IE why does GC software not just automatically work for subs?
WENDY: Because it has to do with the fact that a GCs project management needs are completely different from a subcontractor’s project management needs. So, a general contractor is a hugely valuable force in the industry. No question about it. But it is their job. They do not perform the labor. It is their job to go in into coordinate the project, to be able to coordinate with the stakeholders above them, namely the owner, the consultants, the designers, the architects, the engineers, all the folks up here. As we are looking at an industry where now projects are becoming more and more complex in their design, and less and less complete in design when they are actually going out to bid. So, what we are doing is we are designing as we are going throughout the course of the project, right?
So, the general contractor in a position to go in and to coordinate the different trades, to keep up with the schedule, to communicate any changes to the construction, to the design, to the proper stakeholders. Keep the project going. So as such their project management needs revolve around schedule coordination and communication between multiple different stakeholders. So, they are pushing a lot of paper. That is their collaboration needs. Very collaborative, right?
When you come down to the trades and their project management needs, my project management needs as a subcontractor, are to track my bid at the beginning of the job, and then to coordinate with any changes that are happening with my labor, to be able to keep the job going, but also not to sacrifice my profits in the meantime. So, my project management needs are around coordinating my labor, coordinating the productivity of my people in the field, being able to preemptively stay ahead of any changes that are happening in the field or anything that is affecting our progress in the field. And then communicating that to the general contractor as quickly as possible to either with RFI’s, get things asked and answered, or being able to track delays or impacts to our progress, being able to track work we are doing above and beyond.
I call it the Delta between what we bid and what we did so that we can monetize that work. Because if we are doing the work, which is rework and I mean, we all hate that word. It causes I think $16 billion a year in the US alone. We need to make sure that we are not getting involved in that, but if for whatever reason we are, that we are getting paid properly. And for us to do that, we are not coordinating a pinch of paperback and forth. We are tracking our labor in the field. We are making our field accountable to our own business operations. And then we are communicating preemptively and proactively to the general contractor.
JAMES: Yeah. And that is an important point, right? There is a lot of different data points to manage as a subcontractor that has to be dealt with in a completely different way. You are coordinating with the internal labor; you are dealing with productivity issues. I mean, when subs get squeezed, they get squeezed. Cause they are the ones who have this massive workforce. They cannot just pick a different vendor, right? I mean, they have these human beings that are there. So, it is a different set of challenges they are faced with. I know that union and nonunion labor can be both challenging in different ways. You all have had to span that gap, and you deal with both union and nonunion contractors and the software and all their different challenges, correct?
WENDY: Yeah, we do. Yeah. Cause ultimately, you are still facing the same challenges, whether you are union or non-union. So, we deal with both sides of the coin. I know Lonnie may not like that. But we have had, of course, really longstanding relationships with NECA. I mean, my relationships with NECA go back to, goodness, the 90’S. Back with our consulting days. But it is about just, the same way that NECA comes in with amazing apprenticeship programs and incredible training and commitment to the productivity and the efficiency and the success of your NECA contractors.
That is how I feel about us coming in and embracing all of the skilled trades and then helping them to increase the productivity of their labor and operations in the field, and the transparency into that, and the preemptive and proactive communication. So that number one, we are improving our efficiency in the field. In fact, we have four pillars at eSub. Number one is we are in the field. To create apps that are relevant to the field, that they can easily do the work and not be interrupted by overly documenting what they are doing. So, develop simple apps for the field.
And then labor productivity. Capture what it is that we are doing. Capture how effective we are against our baseline budget at the beginning of the project. And if there is anything that is impacting our labor productivity, what is it, and how do we communicate it, and how do we become more productive? And for instance, in some ways maybe it is our estimates that are off. So maybe if we are getting those insights, and how are we getting those insights? We are getting them through data. So, I know James is a huge, backer of… It used to be the cloud was number one. Now it is sort of analytics and data.
WENDY: So, we are a structured database program. As such, we have a tremendous amount of data to be able to see what types of projects were effective on, what types of projects were not effective on. Are we more effective on the first floor than on the third floor? If so, why? So, it is all about that data. And then of course, also the fourth pillar at eSub that we have, has to do with integrations because you cannot have one software system that does absolutely everything. So how do you connect through open APIs, through data exchanges, through things like that, to have the relevant people at the relevant time using their own platform, and then integrate with other sources that are out there for technology, so we can take the 2,600 technology solutions that are available in construction, and make them more effective to be able to work together for the greater good of whatever stakeholder they are working for.
JAMES: Yeah, absolutely. Lonnie?
LONNIE: Yeah. No, I really like that. Just so you know, my background, I actually worked at Faith Technologies, which was a merit shop before came I to NECA, so I have actually got both the union and non-union experiences in my background. But I agree. I often refer to that structure on what is the differences, through the process where, as you get through the process, designers’ kind of, they are focused on more of an overall general level of complexity and detail. And then the GC’s is a little bit more detailed and then the subs are the most detailed and the most complex.
And so, their needs just vary a great deal, between those different cycles. These days, I hear on a regularly basis of, well, why did not the designers understand that or figure that out, and I often have to say, well, because, technically, they did design intent, which they did. They did do what they were supposed to do. They are not contracted to figure out how the specific detail of something goes together. But it is a challenge as the different levels… I could not agree more. And I liked the comment about the integration part of it. I typically do not use the term, point solution if something is connected to other things via a database. I usually leave that term for people who do a point solution that does not connect to anything.
WENDY: Right. Right.
LONNIE: It is just that one thing.
WENDY: Yeah. And that is the downfall, unfortunately. And so as you’re seeing the advancement of technology into the industry, I like to say what appears to be a whole bunch of point solutions, but they’re starting together with a backend home, with a platform, with a database of structured data that can gain these actionable insights from the field to create the data, to make us all better moving forward. And so that is really a focus of eSub right now, is collecting the data. We have been collecting data from subcontractors for many, many years. And now it is about how do you gain those actionable insights from that data to make us all better. Yeah.
And what I love Lonnie, and another one, and James, you know this. Another one of my pet projects, that I’m always trying to champion, is just how amazing the trades are, because they’re truly the constructability experts in the continuum, and to your point, architects, number one are protected by the Spearin act, because, it is a case law. James, I know you are familiar with it. That says you design to what you know. And architects do not know construction. And there is nothing wrong with that. They know lots of other things. In fact, a little-known fact, my uncle was, previously the head of the AIA in Washington, DC. He was one of the executive directors that were back when I was working in DC. So, I love architects and I love architecture and I geek out over all of that design. I love design, love it, but they do not know construction.
They do not know constructability. It is the trades that know the constructability and to be able to be successful, I am always pushing for, hey, let us get those people, the constructability experts involved in the design process earlier on, because when you are looking at a building where 80% of the cost of the building is in operations and maintenance, after it is built, how amazing would it be for the trades to get involved in the design of the building so that you are keeping the costs down for later on, right?
WENDY: To be able to have that level of impact into the design. And so that is another, pet project that I am always championing with my skilled trades.
JAMES: Yeah, and that is awesome. I mean, you cannot help when you are in the technology business but get it involved in the real issues that your clients are facing, right?
JAMES: I mean we talked to subs. They certainly have highlighted a lot of the challenges that you have brought up today, but also, I mean, one of the biggest challenges in the subcontractor community is getting paid. A significant portion of the construction industry is financed on the backs of subcontractor company owners because they have to make their payroll on time. It is a bit of a nutty system. The owner pays the GC, the GC will often hold funds or, sometimes there is a lot of things that happen there. And the GCs like getting paid, the subs really like getting paid, and meanwhile, they are having to pay all this payroll out every week or every 15 days or however they do their payroll. It is a giant crunch. It is a stressful life daily, for sure.
One of the core goals that I have had over the 15 years of speaking to construction industry conferences and 5 years of running this podcast has been to get margins up. I think the best thing we can do for this industry is to drive up profit margins. And one of the only ways to do that is through effective use of technology that enforces a better process that drives higher margins.
JAMES: Margins fixes a lot of things. Amazing. Cash fixes all kinds of problems, right? Lonnie?
LONNIE: Oh, I was just going to add on. I am sorry I jumped in there. I was just going to say it is one of the secrets that I talked to subs about with the offsite construction, is offsite construction, when you finish the offsite construction process before you deliver it to the job site, you can actually bill for all the things that you have manufactured in your offsite construction facility. And so, it allows that billing to happen way earlier than whenever you traditionally just purchase materials and then install them, you get an intermediate level of saying, oh, I can bill for all of this stuff that I have now manufactured. And it is one of the key, you know that financial piece is one of the key reasons why offsite construction and construction manufacturing is becoming such a critical path in the overall discussion in the industry.
WENDY: Yeah, I completely agree. There is no question that we need to move more towards sort of industrialized construction DFMA but to do that, especially because of the skilled labor shortage and the challenges that we are facing. So, we need to effectively be able to do more work with fewer people. But to do that, you have to have rock–solid designs that are constructible, because it does not work any other way.
JAMES: Well, you brought this up earlier Wendy, when you said that complexity is going up, completeness is going down. In other words, the completeness of the information, the complexity of the project is going down… And it is, I mean, if you look at projects now, they are getting really technically complicated. And compliance is much more challenging. Just the amount, the size… If you just look at the size of codebooks. And so, they have far more to comply with, they have a far more technical product, and they are getting less information than they did when this was all manually drawn. It is like Alice in Wonderland jumping down the hall. Like, what are we doing here?
And that is certainly something that we have had a lot of discussions around with computational and generative design. For some reason, these things are moving in opposition to each other. Ideally, when complexity went up, the amount of detail you have in your drawings and your specs and your models would go up with the complexity, but it is actually going the opposite way. Well, out of curiosity Wendy, what do you think is at the core of that? Is it that people are squeezing engineering and architecture budgets and giving them less and less time to actually draw this stuff out? Is it that people do not care anymore? Is it that they know that the contractor will just figure it out in the field? What is at the heart of that problem?
JAMES: All of it. All of it.
WENDY: Well, I go back to the contracts, right?
WENDY: Follow the money in any industry that you are ever in. We do not start fundamentally making a change in any industry until our margins are pushed down so far that there is a final push back. So, what happens when you have these, what I call robust contracts (and robust means bad, not good), is that you are passing risk. Risk and accountability go downhill. So, the owner’s passing risk off to the GC, the GCs passing risk off to the sub. The only way for subs to be able to combat that risk is to push back and to be more transparent and accountable and better in the field. But the problem is, you have got these construction designs that are more complex and not constructible.
Why are they not constructible? It is because the right people are not getting involved in the process at the right time, and the stakeholders that are involved in the process have no downside risk. And you cannot do that. When you continue to get more and more complex designs and you have no downside risk. In fact, arguably many of the stakeholders are monetizing that and making money off of that. That does not make them bad people. It is just the way that the contracts flow. So, it is all of those things combined that are creating this. And there are better ways of accomplishing it. But fundamentally again, I am going to go back to the trades, because they are the constructability experts, and they are not invited to the party guys. They never have been.
JAMES: Yeah. Lonnie, go ahead.
LONNIE: I was just going to say, I am so excited to hear you say that Wendy because for years I have commented about, as design organizations pass the risk down to GCs and as the GCs pass the risk down to trades, inevitably from an owner perspective, you are going to put more stock in the people who are taking the biggest risk. It is just natural behavior, but the contracts are driving that conversation. People are trying to be… Everybody talks about being risk–averse and getting that risk out of their business, but there is an aspect of risk that is associated to a process. So, I am so excited to hear you say that cause I have felt that way for years where the contractors are just pushing risks to the next stage. And of course, the trades are the last one and that is in the process, so, they are catching all the risks, which inevitably is slowly building the owners respect for the trades up, but is why you are starting to see things like the co primes and multiple primes on projects and things of that nature where trades are getting involved a little bit sooner, way sooner.
LONNIE: But I definitely appreciate that conversation a lot.
WENDY: Well, because at the end of the day, in this type of environment, who are the two stakeholders that lose? And whose interests are most aligned ultimately? The owner and the subs.
WENDY: The owner wants to get a better design building faster to be able to monetize. So, in this environment, they are losing. They are losers. And the trades, unless you’re documenting what you’re doing in the field and any Delta that we have between what we bid and what we did, and communicating proactively versus just getting things shot down at me doing the work, and then trying to figure out later how to get paid for it, or logging into a GC system to basically try to get information. It does not work. I need my own system of record. I need to be able to track the productivity of my people so I can be more productive on the job. It is for the benefit of the entire construction.
JAMES: And you have to have your own analytics.
JAMES: So, how can you possibly improve? And this is something Lonnie really reinforced for me when he was at Faith Technologies, and we talked about their productivity measurement teams they had at Faith, that went around and measured and managed their own data on their own projects. And they drove primary trade productivity through the roof from 2009 to 2018. It went up from 40% to 64%, I think. And they did it with their own data. So, you have to have your own data collection. You have to have your own analytics. You have to treat your business as a separate individual unique business that is yours, right? I mean, you, at JBKnowledge, we have two sides of our business. We have our product group, which has… Did have SmartBid, but we sold that. But we have SmartCompliance TerraClaim. We have our own data on our own labor. We know how much labor we put into those projects.
On our professional services, we do outsource software development and consulting. We track all of our own labor. Now our clients also make us track labor in their PM software. So, we will use their software project management software. But we created data exports to export from our data tracking to theirs. So, they get all the data they want, but the primary tracking is in our software because we measure productivity. We measure our output. We analyze that. And if I use just their software, I will not get nearly the level of data analytics that I would get. So, it is an identical parallel. We accomplished it by having our own PM software and then creating a data export that would dump, and we did an integration into the software that our clients use, Wendy. I mean, it is the same thing.
WENDY: Exactly. And why is that important? Why were you guys successful well at that? Because you were the originators of the data.
WENDY: I had a really interesting conversation with someone and I am not going to name names, but someone who I respect incredibly in construction a couple of years ago, who is very into data analytics, and the possibilities for insights into the construction process. And they are creating data that is coming from the general contractors and from input from the general contractors. And I said, do you know what, that is good data. That is good. That is good. But it is not great. Why? Because as soon as you put it through the filter of a GC, it is filtered data. It is not from the originators in the field of the people that are actually performing the labor. Those are the originators of the data. Anybody else in the process is an interpreter of certain data points that they have got. But it is not the originators of the data. And the reason your data was so good James, is because you guys were originators of the data.
And so that is where the trades need to get more in tune with labor productivity, a work breakdown structure that makes sense, taking a look at specifically, whether it is into cost codes or multiple phases, whatever way we are breaking down the job, that we do that more granularly and that we can be ahead of that data for actionable insights. But then, when there is anything that is impacting our labor productivity, that we are tracking it. So that we can preemptively be ahead of it, or if nothing else, at least get paid for it, right?
WENDY: That is like the minimum.
JAMES: Yeah. At least get paid.
WENDY: We are not a charity!
JAMES: No, no. Like this is not a nonprofit. And I have used this analogy, I do not want my construction clients to be ATMs either, where you collect a $100 and you pay out $99, you take $1. I mean, that is not a great a business to be in. And that is something I have had to get them off–center on. Like, it is your volume does not matter, your profit matters, right? At the end of the day, your profit matters and you have got to drive profit. And a lot of construction companies get distracted by ENR rankings and volume. And I am like, that does not matter. I would rather run a $10 000 000 subcontractor that threw off $3 000 000 in profit, then run a $100 000 000 subcontractor, that threw off $3 000 000 in profit.
Why? Because the $10 000 000 subcontractors sleep better at night because he has way less risk because he has a lot more margin to work on things. You have two guys from the outside world. One of them appears to, two guys or girls, one of whom appears to have this $100 000 000 company and the other one who appears to have this very small $10 000 000 company. At the end of the day, they both make $3 000 000. And one of them sleeps better at night. Profit has to matter. And the only way to drive profit is to drive efficiency. The only way to drive efficiency is to have technology and process improvements. It is like gravity. It is going to apply to you whether you like it or not.
WENDY: You do not have a choice.
JAMES: No, you do not have a choice. We do need to move on the news, but Wendy hangs in with us for the news, okay.
JAMES: We are going to take a look at the news here. There is a lot of outside news we could talk about. The world is full of news right now. Full of something. It is full of news. We could talk about TikTok for the next 45 minutes if we wanted to, but we are not going to.
WENDY: Only till Sunday.
JAMES: I know right? We are not going to talk about TikTok. We are not going to talk about the election. There is so much… We are not going to talk about that virus. We are just not going to cause because there is a lot of interesting…
WENDY: Let us do it.
JAMES: No, no. We got a lot to talk about here. That is another podcast, right? Go to go listen to another podcast for that. By the way, my favorite news is Reuters. I love Reuters news because they still just report the news. It is fantastic.
JAMES: No opinions. I watch it on an Apple TV. It has that Reuters TV app. It is my favorite thing. You pick how much time you have, and it gives you the news and then it moves on. I love it.
WENDY: Oh, so they cover hurricanes and the Coronavirus then?
WENDY: That is the only news there is.
JAMES: Yeah, they cover a lot of stuff and they cover global news. Wait. They cover things that do not happen in the United States, which is amazing. I know!
WENDY: There is a world outside this country?
JAMES: Yeah, I know, there is.
JAMES: I remember the first time I lived in Mexico when I was 15, and I went down there and my friends in Mexico that I made, because I went down there and lived there for a few months, each summer. And they knew all of our news and all of their news and all of Spain’s news and all of Argentina’s news. And I went back to Louisiana and they were like, what? I mean it was, Americans are so myopic about our news. We should look globally. We should, because we can learn something.
Look, before we jump into all of this, part II of my conversation about construction cameras with Roger Yarrow, CEO of Truelook, about construction cameras. Really interesting conversation, I had with Roger right here.
JAMES: And I am back with Roger Yarrow. General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of Truelook. One of the really important things when you are dealing with any type of imaging, you have to have great world-class integrations. I believe you integrated with Procore, Autodesk, Plangrid, like these major project management platforms. You are integrated out of the gate with, correct?
ROGER: Yeah, absolutely. All of our customers use some kind 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 them all their data from their 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 setup 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 there on your dashboard and everything is easy to hook up. 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 up with a 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 anytime all at no additional cost.
JAMES: Wow. So how do project managers and other teams in the organization, how do they actually use them? So, the setup is easy. They are done with the setup, they 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 really 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 co-ordinate 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: And we are back with our news stories. Lonnie, what you got today, buddy?
LONNIE: My first news story is from Hilti. So about two weeks ago they released their EXO-O1 wearable exoskeleton, which we have seen exoskeletons before. We have seen those in the news before, but I found it really interesting that Hilti now is releasing their own version of an exoskeleton. And for those of you that are not familiar with exoskeletons, they are essentially mechanical–assisted devices that you wear, that prevent you from having to have fatigue. Especially in the electrical trade, which obviously I have spent a lot of energy around the amount of time that electricians in the field, the field personnel, spend with their arms over their heads drilling and doing all sorts of other things. It is amazing that they can do that for the length of the day that they can. But this, Hilti exoskeleton, I find intriguing cause it is designed specifically to help in those types of areas, which is pretty awesome. So, yet another company jumping into that exoskeleton space.
JAMES: These are awesome. They are not powered; you do not have to swap a battery pack. What I like about exoskeletons, and I feel like it is news now, this is one of those many things that are news now, and it is not going to be news 10 years from now, because everyone is going to wear them all the time. Because it prevents so much repetitive motion injury. It is amazing, the studies… As they start to come out, you read the studies on how much it helps joints not get overstressed and overworked because it reduces lift, it is quite amazing. There is a lifespan to everything that moves. Just in general, by the way. Every part, whether it is biological or mechanical, has a lifespan. If it is a knee or an elbow or a wheel or everything. Everything is life limited.
I am a pilot. We have life–limited parts on airplanes. And it is going to break. It is going to happen. And the same thing, believe it or not with your body. Everything on your body’s life is limited. I was talking about living forever. Like they call it, Peter Diamandis calls it a longevity escape velocity, where you can live long enough to live to the next thing, where you live long enough to live to the next thing where… You know his goal is to live forever. That’s Diamandis, right? I mean, he is a big thinker. And I was talking to some of my physician friends about it. They are like, that is all great except for your skeleton. Unless you start replacing your bones, that is not going to happen. And so, that really comes home for me here, Lonnie, is that our parts are life limited. And I think exoskeletons like this, are going to be the de facto standard on all workers. Wendy, I mean, I have seen a lot of nods there.
WENDY: Yeah, yeah.
JAMES: Because it not only reduces stress, but it also increases what you can lift by 30 or 40%, right Lonnie? These are major improvements.
LONNIE: Yeah, it is significant improvements. A big improvement on what you can lift. A massive improvement on fatigue, massive improvement on repetitive injury type things. They do a substantial amount… And the Hilti one in particular. I mean, all of them are getting less and less… Some of the first ones were pretty bulky and to me, it was like, man, I do not know if I would want to wear that all day, but this Hilti one is pretty straightforward. It has got a waist strap and then it has got some pieces on the back and then just straps that go on your arms and the rest of it is all driven through cables. So, it is not a real bulky exoskeleton like some of the first ones were, so I really think this one is pretty nice.
JAMES: Yeah, they partnered with Ottobock on this, and Ottobock is a big global leader, prosthetics orthotics, exoskeletons. They do a lot of things at Ottobock. And you look at Ekso Bionics as well. There has been a lot of these have come out and really the modern exoskeleton looks nothing like what science fiction said it was for us. They are largely fabric. They are covered in fabric. They are very soft. They are very, very lightweight. We think of like avatar, right? Where you jump into your… And that is not at all what these are like.
WENDY: The other ones were pretty cool though, but they just were not particularly functional right?
JAMES: Yeah. They are not practical to wear for 8 or 10 hours on a job site. Not sweat your butt off too you know. Lonnie?
LONNIE: Yeah, I was going to say, I always think of the forklift robot from aliens, the first aliens where she was in there in the forklift robot which was really cool, but not from a work standpoint, not overly practical. But whenever people say exoskeleton, that is what I always initially thought of. So, they are vastly different now, which is pretty awesome.
JAMES: And far more practical and much more affordable. Thankfully, innovation and technology win here, and who else wins? The worker. The worker wins. Their backs, their knees, their ankles, their elbows, their wrists, their joints win. And that is awesome. And productivity, right? But I feel like some folks who like to argue against progress and change in technology, they act as if technology only one-party wins. But the one thing I love, no, one of the many things I love about being in the technology industry for so long, is that every party in the transaction can come out ahead. That is actually possible.
If you use a good subcontractor management software, PM software, then you can win, and your GC can win, and the owner can win. Everybody wins. No one. Literally no one loses. No one has to lose. It is not a Zero-sum game. It is it is not. These are not mutually exclusive outcomes in these exoskeletons, I mean, literally, everybody can win cause the employer has lower work comp costs, and they have higher productivity. The worker has better longevity and lifespan, and they go home, healthy. And then the owner has fewer claims. Everybody can win. It is amazing. What else you got today, Lonnie?
LONNIE: Well, the next one is interesting cause I was looking for something else that Nvidia has done, and then I came across this, which I was super excited about, cause I heard about it a while back and I had not seen it yet. It actually came out today, I believe they announced. But it is the Nvidia Broadcast app. And so, it is yet another broadcasting app, which… We only have a few of those that we use every day. And interestingly enough, it uses AI. And today on this broadcast, I was using AI as well. It was me, Lonnie, hitting the mute button every time my dog started barking. So, I was filtering out the background noise with my mute button, so I was the AI. But what makes the Nvidia Ge-Force Video Broadcast app so interesting, it is actually having embedded AI in it, to actually filter out all background noise.
Which is super intriguing from a construction standpoint, because if you’ve ever been on a call with somebody that’s at the job site trailer, or on their phone walking around the job site, 9 times out of 10, you can barely hear them because there are so noise going on in the background. So, I really find this very interesting to use the AI to help remove background noise on the fly, as you are actually doing a web-based podcast. So, it is a pretty intriguing piece, to help that process… The video that they have on the site actually shows the guy talking and then his girlfriend or his wife, I do not know which one, comes in and blow dry her hair. And he hits the filter button, then you can no longer hear the blow dryer that is 3 feet away from him, which is pretty impressive feat to do that on the fly, as you are doing a broadcast.
JAMES: I can tell you as a podcaster, I am insanely excited about this.
WENDY: And especially now that we have all gone through COVID and I am sure, just like you guys, I live in zoom meetings or whatever Teams, whatever, Google Meet, whatever. And it is so funny because it is always… you talk about needing that because all the different people, if you are in a meeting of 25 people, or today I have got an all–hands meeting with my entire company, so, it will be a 100 people in this zoom call. And do you talk about background noise? Unless people are muted, you got all sorts of stuff going on. You got crying babies, you got barking dogs, you got just everything. So that is amazing.
JAMES: Yeah. It is awesome. And what we are approaching, and this is important for construction because, I would like to say that on TheConTechCrew podcast, this is important for construction. After all, we have noisy environments, we have a lot of meetings, we are doing a lot of remote meetings. People are working from home; they are working from noisy environments. The job… This is going to be a complete game–changer for construction. What we are looking at between this and virtual backgrounds, if you look at the augmented reality, and virtual backgrounds, you know Lonnie has one on right now, it is a virtual background right there, and you cannot tell that is not his office.
There you go. So that is this virtual background. Between virtual backgrounds and this technology, you are creating a digital bubble around individuals. So, you can just literally take all of the distraction out of meetings, all of the distraction out of face to face virtual work and this will extend far beyond COVID. There are innovations are going on right now because of COVID that will be absolutely transformative for society moving forward and are going to radically change some things about the way we live. Not everything. Many things are already returning to the way they were before COVID, but there will be some things that will never go back. And that is why I am excited.
The other news… Let us not leave out the other big news around Nvidia, that ARM holding sold to Nvidia for $40 billion. That is massive. Nvidia is becoming as big, bigger, maybe more important than Intel. I mean this is wild news. ARM Holdings out of the UK, which was a SoftBank holding. SoftBank is trying to dump everything they have because they have made some bad investments and they are upside down on WeWork in a big, big way, so, they are trying to raise cash. So, they are going to net about $8 billion. Cause they bought arm for $32 billion. They are selling it for $40 billion. They need the cash. They sold it to Nvidia. Nvidia is out in California. Nvidia‘s saying that ARM is going to remain UK based. They are going to expand there... We will see if that happens. But this is a huge deal. You are talking about Nvidia rivaling Intel in every way you can. GPU’s now are pretty much more important than the CPU. And then with ARM being the mobile CPU of choice, this is a massive transaction, and it has huge, huge implications for the semiconductor industry. Wendy?
WENDY: Yeah, it is amazing. The way that… You know there are so many sorts of roll–ups that are going on right now, especially during COVID. There are massive amounts of pivotal moves to be able to add additional companies for high–level roll-ups and SoftBank is a great example of that. Who would have known just 6 years ago, what would be happening with SoftBank now? But this stuff happens when you are combining the proper technology and you are putting together or a whole package deal, it is incredible what is happening right now. And it is happening all over the place in every single industry. So yeah. Very exciting.
JAMES: Yeah. By the way, Nvidia sells laptops, Ge-Force laptops on their website. And computers are so good now that you do not have to buy them every year anymore. I checked out the latest Alienware with the latest Ge-Force RTX. These laptops are just smoking fast and what is hilarious is, they feature the GPU so much more prominently over the CPU. They are like, oh, well it still has an i9, like Intel core i7, i9 technology has not evolved that much over the last several years. But GPU’s has and so, these guys have 32 gigs of DD4 Ram. They have got 4.5 terabytes of solid-state storage on a laptop.
WENDY: It is insane.
JAMES: Yeah, for all of our BIM nerds out there, this is what you can get now, in a laptop, is absolutely mind–blowing. We have to move on. We have to move on. I could talk all day about laptops and GPUs. Construction Dive researchers receive patent for prestressed concrete innovation. I do not want to leave out that construction technology extends beyond semiconductors and goes to really–really important… This is Swiss researchers. That is right. Switzerland. Home of chocolate and watches and mountains and all kinds of beautiful clean towns. I loved visiting Switzerland. They have patented a process that could lower the cost building and lower the environmental footprint of prestressed concrete. This is fascinating. They are using carbon fiber reinforced polymers to produce a type of self-prestressed concrete. In lab tests, they were able to show their concrete could bare loads comparable to those that were conventionally prestressed around 3 times more than non-prestressed concrete elements. I mean, much stronger loads on this concrete using this carbon fiber reinforced polymers.
Now, using fiber polymers, I actually had a friend 15 years ago who was doing this with athletic fields. He was using, I do not know if they were carbon fiber reinforced polymers, I think it was just polymers that would mix in with the soil. And, I think the business was called Fiber Soil at the time, and they would substantially increase the strength of these athletic fields. And there is a lot to do with carbon fiber reinforced polymers to replace steel reinforcement because obviously, it does not corrode. You do not have to worry about the steel corroding inside the concrete. So, this is fascinating stuff. Go check it out. It is on Construction Dive. Concrete is a really important building material and any ability to dramatically reduce cost, reduce the lifespan of that concrete.
Obviously, we have a problem with bridges and highways in the United States because of the lifespan of concrete is a huge deal. Now they do envision a completely new field of application. I believe they can easily prestress in several directions at the same time. For example, so, for thin, thin concrete slabs, curved, concrete shells, they actually believe they can do some wild things with concrete. Wendy. I know you; I am sure you have seen a lot of stuff we thought we would never be able to be done with concrete that is being done now.
WENDY: Yeah. Yeah. It is amazing. And, to that point too, the conventional thinking was that more is going to be stronger. And that is not necessarily the case because you can have thin layers and with the reinforcement and all that, it has huge implications into, again, the way construction buildings will be designed. The way that our infrastructure will be designed. And, especially now, oh my goodness. Our infrastructure is just crumbling everywhere. When you start to look at something like that and the ramifications that has, it is huge.
JAMES: Yeah, it is awesome. Really awesome. I get just as excited about new material announcements, as I do about new software releases because you know it is going to change literally the shape of buildings and the shape of roads and the amount of concrete we have to use. I feel like people forget that technology helps us solve incremental changes, but also in big leaps. Because they were worried about all kinds of things to do with cars. And then Elon Musk comes out with Tesla and he dramatically reduces the number of parts in a car by what 95%, fewer parts are in a Tesla. And so, they do not even need maintenance... They do not even need a dealer network for maintenance. Cause there is no scheduled maintenance. That was not an incremental change. It was a massive leap.
By the way, the other major luxury car manufacturers announced this past week there they are setting records sales records. So, I looked at the new Porsche. Was it the new… new Audi? Electric, luxury car? No. It was the new Porsche. The new Porsche luxury electric sports car is sold out, backlogged, massive waiting lists, electric vehicles in the future, man. They are here. They are here. It is it is awesome. We got to jump.
ICC offers guidance for remote virtual inspections. We have been talking about virtual remote inspections, through COVID because obviously, it became much more important. We were already talking about this beforehand. Like why we have to drive to every job site to do some of them, not all of the inspections, but some of them do not need someone to drive them. The International Code Council (ICC) said 60% of the building department surveyed said they could not yet have the capacity to perform remote inspections. So, there is a capacity problem. So, they published recommended practices for remote virtual inspections. First standardized program to offer guidance on this.
And call it an RVI program, Remote Virtual Inspections. They think plumbing repairs and rough-in could be remote virtual, re-roofs and new roof installations, swimming pool excavations, exterior repairs, and upgrades. This is the first list I have seen. It might not be the first list that has been published, but you got to pay attention when the ICC publishes something because that is the stuff that municipalities pay attention to. I know because that is what we would pass in the law. And what is interesting is they started identifying, okay here is the type of inspections. We think you can start doing with RVI. It is a big deal because now, municipalities are going to be a lot more comfortable if they can lean on the ICC’s recommendations.
They did say of course that the job site needs good connectivity, right? A good 4G, 5G, or Wi-Fi. It needs good lighting, to make sure the lens portion of each device is clean, and you can get clear shots of work. I mean, all these things. Obviously, you have to cameras, you have to have connectivity, you have to have the ability to access it. Onsite personnel have to have the necessary physical tools. A flashlight, tape measure, a selfie pole to get some elevated areas. This is great. So, go read this, because this is actually like a good kit for how we are going to do RVI and what it is going to look like and how we are going to solve what was already a problem before COVID Wendy. Inspections have been a problem forever, right?
WENDY: Yep. And I feel like, to that degree, I mean, if you look at, these were all things that we are starting to just come to the surface, right?
WENDY: And then COVID happened. And look at what is happening with telemedicine these days. And it is happening in... And that is a huge industry across sectors too. It is not just construction where things are being done remotely now. That is getting an accelerated leap because of COVID. And that is one of those things, James, to your point, that is never, we are not going to go backward. Because the efficiency levels are too profound. What it does is, is it creates such efficiency and such savings, a cost–saving, that that is one of those things that we are never going to fully go back to.
JAMES: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It is awesome. Now, Lonnie, this last one, I wanted to rope you in The most in– demand tech jobs in construction. Again, this is from Construction Dive, talking about the sheer volume of high-tech jobs in the construction business. And of course, the massive challenges with finding anybody to take them, right. I mean, finding really good, skilled technology workers that can actually work, in these roles. And there is a whole new suite of job titles literally did not exist a decade ago, right? Construction technologist, operational technology, BIM & VDC technology leads. I mean there is a whole suite of jobs that never existed that are now there. But there is a problem. A lot of them are sitting empty. They are having a hard time filling many of these positions. And so, this job really talks about the construction technology being a sought-after skill set, as a career path and promotion path in its own, right. Lonnie, you are at NECA now. You were a technologist at Faith Technologies. You are at NECA, really promoting this. What is the industry, what are your associations doing to address this?
LONNIE: It is such an interesting topic because there is this train of thought where these technologists need to come from school with technology, kind of a technologist mindset and background. And I think one of the things that we focus a lot on is, you can teach somebody technology, relatively simple, but what you cannot teach somebody is, decades of in the field experience and constructability and all that sort of stuff. So, we are focusing a lot of energy on taking folks that are in the field, that has all of that, field knowledge and then helping them transition into a lot of these technology roles because if you take somebody that just knows the technology and you bring them in, so if they come straight out of college and they jump in the technology role, they’re going to be driving a lot of things that they just aren’t going to get from that education that they may have come with.
So, it is an interesting balance. I feel like the trades in particular, often are out looking for an external entity that they can bring in that already has that technology expertise, where they may need one or two of those, but what they could very well be doing. And also, what we did at Faith, is bringing people from the field into those technology roles and helping and educating them on how the technology works. It is not as obvious as a path. I think people just are like, okay, I want to put this job description out there and then you have people apply. But I also give a shout out to the folks in the field to, you know when you see those roles, do not think that just because you’re not a technology guy or a girl or, or whatever, that you don’t fit those roles because you do. You have knowledge from the field that those folks coming out of college, they are just never going to have until they spend this energy in the field.
So, in many ways, you have so much more knowledge coming from the field that will transition directly into that technology conversation so easily. Many people that I know in the industry that has been affected, furloughed, or laid off from COVID, they had been stunned because I have been able to take some of them that are from the field and have all this experience and turn them and flip them into a technology role that they never would have thought of that they would have been sought after. But they absolutely are. That expertise is so valuable. So yeah, that is my comment to field folks man. Do not sell yourself short. You have got knowledge that is so desperately needed on the technology side. And then also to the companies. When you are looking for that, do not just look to external and do not just look for college graduates that have technology experience because internally you have got such a more valuable resource that you can teach that technology piece.
JAMES: That is awesome. Great comments. We do need to wrap up. Wendy, it has been absolutely delightful to talk to you and have you on the show today. Thank you for coming and talking about, all things, subcontractor tech today.
WENDY: Yeah. You know what? This was so much fun. Thank you, guys. I really enjoyed this.
JAMES: Yes. I knew we would have a good time. For those of you out there and listener-land, I have known Wendy for many, many years. We have worked side by side in many capacities and I encourage you to get to know her. She is a very good friend, to many, and she knows how to be a good friend and she is doing some great stuff as well with eSub. I did not even mention Wendy. I want to close on this. You raised a bunch of money last year, which I just want to mention. Congratulations on the big round. Congratulations on everything going on with the business itself, not just the technology. A 100 staff, I remember when it was far smaller than that. You have got a big customer base. You have got a really great growing staff. You had a great fundraising round last year. Congrats and all that.
WENDY: Thank you. Thank you. It is really fun times right now. Very fun times. I have got a great team of people and at the end of the day, we are solving problems and that is what makes it special. And to your point, Lonnie, you got to get the input from the field, from the people. You need that tribal knowledge.
LONNIE: Try and find a programmer that can create anything without talking to people who are the end–users. So, it is always exciting between trades and technology. It is a fun place to be. And of course, James, it is a pleasure being with you too. Always fun.
JAMES: Awesome. Thanks a bunch.
WENDY: And it was great to spend time with you, Lonnie. Thank you.
JAMES: Alright. Well, and then that is it, folks. Thank you for joining us today for tuning in to geek out episode 236. Our interview with Wendy Rogers from eSub.
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