The ConTechCrew 228: Every Job is a Prototype with Amanda Comunale from GTP Services
Construction Tech News
Construction is the world’s oldest industry but spends the least amount of money on innovation. When we realized people outside the construction industry, did not typically associated 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 it.
Strap in, enjoy the ride and geek out. It is ConTechCrew time!
JAMES: Happy, happy, happy Friday to everybody out there!
AMANDA: We made it!
JAMES: Woo. Yay. Another week! We survived!
AMANDA: One week closer to the due date man!
JAMES: Yeah right. Tauhira is like, what virus? I have got a baby virus inside of me.
AMANDA: The 3D printing. We have talked about.
JAMES: You are 3D printing.
TAUHIRA: I think the first one is always late, right?
JAMES: No, no, no, no, no. Many, many are on time. I was three weeks late. God bless my mother. Three extra weeks.
AMANDA: She gave birth to a toddler.
JAMES: She did it. I was nine and a half pounds. And I had the head of a six-month-old because I have a colossal noggin. I am 41 now. So, this was in 1979 and she still talks about this.
AMANDA: Like being late?
JAMES: Just the entire horrific experience. First off, it was giving birth in the 70’s. It was not exactly modern medicine like we think of it now. Secondly, gigantic baby, three extra weeks of pregnancy. So, on my birthday, she always expects like a congratulations back still, after 41 years for having done this.
And I am like, you know what? You deserve it. So, congratulations mom. And I always thank her.
AMANDA: You should give her a present your birthday.
JAMES: I do. I often do, just cause I am thankful. I am like, ah, I mean, first off, I was a pain then, and I am still a pain in the butt now, you know, so…
TAUHIRA: Oh my gosh.
AMANDA: But you are her favorite. I know it.
JAMES: Well, I am the only boy and my sisters are 9 and 11 years older than me. So, I was by far the baby. I was the oops, but they say I was intentional, but there is no way. I was an oops. I was an oops baby.
AMANDA: Oh, I was an oops too. My older brother is June 30th, 1978 I am September 1979, and then my little brother is June 25th, 1981.
AMANDA: And I was like, mom! And she goes, do you think I wanted to have you? I was like, oh do not say it that way!
JAMES: Oh my gosh, unwanted child. So, Tauhira are you going to do version 1, version 2, version 3.0 like you can do annual releases or what?
TAUHIRA: Well, the trick about annual releases is you have to explain what is improving about each one. So that could be a little 10 years, but I will say, my older brother, who’s two years older than me, he and I have the exact same birthday. So, he thought I was his present when we were children. He thought I was like the birthday present he got. So, I do not know if I can plan that well. We will see how this goes.
JAMES: That requires an incredible Gantt chart to pull that one off.
TAUHIRA: I have got really, really dialed in parents.
JAMES: They were like, this exact date, we could have two kids with the same birthday. We are going to save on cake.
AMANDA: I am pretty sure you probably have a spreadsheet on that. You could do it.
TAUHIRA: Oh gosh, but I will say, as you get closer to your due date, everyone wants to tell you their most horrific birthing story or the scariest things they know about children.
JAMES: Oh, it is just like when I tell people I am a pilot. They tell me the last three airplane accidents. I am like, I do not tell you about the last car crashes! Or if I just drove from somewhere. Oh, did you hear that 20 people died in the last hour in the United States on car? No! Look, I know I could die when I fly.
I know. I do not want to. Like I do not want to die. I do not want to die when I drive or I when I fly, but do you have to remind me? My mom’s that way. Total, total, just morbid. Before I went snow skiing, sent me three articles on people that had died snow skiing. Before I went to China, sent me four articles on strange things that could happen in China. Before I went to Australia, sent me two articles and all this stuff that could kill me. I am not kidding. That is my mom. And my dad, his favorite phrase, was only the paranoid survive. I am not kidding. And he told me this, my entire childhood. So, I have the mom that is telling me all the ways the I could die, the dad that tells me only the paranoid survive. It messes you up a little bit.
TAUHIRA: I am just impressed that your mom has all these articles on hand. It is like she is a researcher. She googles!
JAMES: She is got the world encyclopedia of bad things that could happen to you when you stuff. It is hilarious!
AMANDA: I went to Kenya during the Ebola outbreak and my dad was like, do you know how much this phone call costs? Because it was expensive back then. I was like, dad, everyone is, you know their parents are saying they should come home. And he is like, yeah, you will be okay. What does it do? I was like, yeah it is fine.
JAMES: That is wild. So, we are going to have some fun talking about construction tech today, about 3D printing. Not 3D printing, you know children, but that is happening. It is happening literally it is happening. During the show, there is 3D printing during the show. She is literally 3D printing during the show, but we are not going to talk about 3D printing today. That is actually not on the topic list. Believe it or not. We are going to have a great time talking but before we do, before we jump in and to all our troubles, there is a couple of things to cover. Never miss an episode of the crew by having it sent straight to your email inbox. Text ConTech to 66866. You will get the audio; you will get the video link. You will get the weekly email with the show notes and the articles. It all comes in one weekly email for your convenience. We do send you all the articles and all the show notes and everything else. Text ConTech to 66866 and text me 979-473-9040. That is our crew voice line, Google voice line. You can call and leave voicemails. Got some good suggestions for the upcoming webinar that I am really excited about. So, we are going to have a good chat about topics people have texted in.
And, that just reminds me, we have got a webinar coming. We are doing a live crew webinar with me and Josh and Jeff and Rob, are doing just a four part, and that is for that week’s episode, we are not going to do an addition to it. It is the episode, but you can actually attend the episode, if you want, and you can ask questions live, you can watch us live, you can interact with us if you want. Because unfortunately we are not doing our Road Show this year. As you can imagine, the travel situation has got some people nervous. And while, many people are ready to have events and hang out like, in Texas people are pretty much doing what they want. Even here in Michigan, I was doing takeout, picking up takeout at a bar yesterday. It was like a bar restaurant kind of situation, and it was pretty much full. I came in with my mask on to pick up takeout because I am super cautious (you know I am a germaphobe) and everybody is just hanging out. But look, not everybody is ready to get together for the Road Show and we totally respect that.
So, we are going to kick it to 2021. We are going to have some fun next year. I am kind of taking 2021 like a do–over a year. Like we are just going to do over 2020 in 2021. We are going to have a good year in 2021. So, we are going to have the Road Show then. So in lieu of every month, we are going to have a live webinar with the crew where you can hop on and ask us questions. And we are going to do a topic and hang out with you. It is what we would have been doing at the Road Show. It is going to be like an hour, hour, and a half, totally free to attend and hang out. And we look forward to seeing you there. And where you can text me topics you want us to cover at 979-473-9040. A quick word, 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 stats, contractors, unions, associations, industry service providers, project owners, podcasters 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 industry and providing industry suicide prevention resources to create a zero-suicide industry. Visit preventconstruction.com for more information. And a big thanks to my friend, Cal Buyer for championing that entire cause and introducing me to it. We are really serious about preventing construction suicide so go check that out.
Again, a reminder next week’s all crew webinar podcast episode is going to be Thursday, July 30th, Thursday, not Friday, Thursday, July 30th, from 10:30 to 12:30 central standard time. So, we have allocated two hours. We will see if we go to two hours. We would love to have you join on. We would love to have you hang out. We would love to have you watch, ask questions, interact with the crew. We already have some topics that have been sent in by our listener base and we are going to talk about what you want us to talk about. It will be fun. Onto our interview. Amanda, from Akron Ohio, joining from home, like all of us, pretty much.
AMANDA: From my beautiful basement.
JAMES: From your beautiful basement. I see pipes and I just thought you really liked exposed infrastructure. Now it is the basement!
AMANDA: It is very open concept.
JAMES: It is very open concept. Like super open.
AMANDA: This is HGTV at its finest. I am sure that this is a look.
JAMES: I would love it if you did like a Bob Vila moment for us in this old house, because you are in a very old house You are in an 1890s. Is that right?
AMANDA: Oh no it is not that old. It is 1940.
JAMES: 1940 farmhouse.
AMANDA: Farmhouse, and the basement has its high lights.
JAMES: Yeah, highlights and lowlights. It is interesting. I bought a 1940s, little beach bungalow here in Michigan. That was my first place I ever got. I really like real estate and I ’m into Airbnb. I am an Airbnb host, if you did not know that. And so, the first one I got was a 1940 beach bungalow and it is not exactly a six-foot height in the basement. Exactly 6 feet and I am I am 6’1. So, I just have to slightly do this, you know? And so, it is really quite interesting. And it is a little creepy, like the basement’s a little creepy. They call it a Michigan basement, which means that it leaks water you got a drain and there is all kinds of stuff. I grew up in Louisiana. We do not have basements because like right under the slab is water. So, you do not do basements there.
AMANDA: Well, I took this place down to the studs.
AMANDA: It started with a little kitchen remodel and I am like, yeah, might just we will do all the windows. So, 36 windows later, I have all new windows. I am like, I have always wanted a metal roof. That is why I bought the house. So new roof. And then I was like, ah, new siding, might as well do the electric while I am there.
JAMES: Oh my gosh!
AMANDA: So, the only thing that is untouched is the basement. I put down that you know, block flow flooring. And I have my peloton and stuff in the other room it looks so homey.
JAMES: So, you left the framing there. That was it.
AMANDA: I left the framing and all the quirky rooms. No one would have done what I did. Like, one of the bathrooms… You could shower James, but nobody any taller.
JAMES: Yeah, that is that is the way it was. I stayed in an old in the last week and it had really tiny… I had to duck down…
AMANDA: But it has character. So, I kept the character. I just made sure that windows did not allow the rain in.
JAMES: People were literally smaller 80 years ago this is the wild thing. I know this has nothing to do with construction technology and we have some listeners right now that are going get to the topic!
No, no, I am sorry because this is interesting. The average height, of the American male is 5’9. That is from December 2018 and it is gone up every single year and it is either the HGH in the milk, or it is like, they put human growth hormone in cows for a long time, and I am convinced that that created some larger taller people, but it keeps going up. And so of course, designs of houses change too.
AMANDA: We should look at that and see the growth, like as the average height of the person has gone up, you know in construction, I would say that the average size of the person has gone down because my first job was replacing 10-inch grooved pipe on a job that my mentor had put in when he was apprentice, and I was like 10-inch grooved pipe And we put in a 6-inch piece of grooved pipe.
AMANDA: He was like, why would you do that? And then one of my other jobs was like throwing away all the stuff in the shop we would never use, because the materials had changed. I am like, what am I going to do with the 4–inch threaded fitting
JAMES: It is wild.
AMANDA: And I could do the job! Like before they are like, oh, she is too small. She cannot do it. And I think that is cool about tech too, is like, it enabled me to do things that somebody that has brute force could do. I am like, I do not, I think I am strong, but I can use a tool in combination with a good schedule. It is easier.
JAMES: Get an exoskeleton and it is on like Donkey Kong. I totally want to buy… There’s a couple on the market that I really, really want to buy just for personal use. I know that sounds nutty.
AMANDA: You should. I can’t believe that you don’t have it already.
JAMES: You know that would be like me, right? Like to have an ExoBionics, just for personal use.
TAUHIRA: We do not all have ExoBionics?
JAMES: I know. When’s Milwaukee going to sell exoskeletons Tauhira?
TAUHIRA: What a question for this week, especially. Here is the thing about exoskeletons. I think that to Amanda’s point, it is all about working smarter, not working harder. And so, there is that ability to put something on your body and be able to pick things up. But there’s also that ability to be able to pick something up without putting on a robotic coat. Although robotic coats are pretty cool. So, there is a lot of exciting things coming down the pipeline. And I think about once a week, I get that. When’s Milwaukee going to do the exoskeleton, so…
JAMES: Yeah. You already into battery packs. You can do powered exoskeletons. You have the battery technology, you have the motor technology, you have got it all! You already make wearables. You make gloves, common!
TAUHIRA: We should just make the iron man suit, I think.
JAMES: Just do it!
TAUHIRA: Or have we? Or have we?
AMANDA: Does James have one?
JAMES: If I do not have it, it does not exist.
TAUHIRA: The next time you guys come up to Milwaukee, I will show you behind the curtain.
JAMES: Exactly. That would be awesome. Yeah. Just do not let me sign an NDA beforehand. That drives me crazy sometimes. When I go visit, for the podcasts back when we had them, we had events. Back when we had events, I would go visit and they know I run a podcast, and they would ask me to sign a nondisclosure. I am like, I literally talk for a living. Like, I am not going to sign a nondisclosure. Then I have to keep track of what I cannot say. And when you are on every week, you cannot remember all you are in. I am like, I am not signing an NDA on your product. I am not going to sign and I ’m like…
TAUHIRA: Amanda and dear listeners, you should see how much of a struggle it is for James when he comes up, because all he wants to do live stream everything.
JAMES: Exactly. They are like, you cannot live stream that. I ’m like, why? You bought a media day? Come on, let me…
AMANDA: Do you just pick it up and take it home with you then, it would be like, well, you did not say I could take it home with me!
TAUHIRA: We got to check his pockets when he leaves the Milwaukee R & D.
AMANDA: That is my dad. My dad was like, oh, let me walk through. What is this new sprinkler head or something? And I am like, dad, take it out of your pocket, put it back on the table.
AMANDA: It was not for you to take home today.
JAMES: You cannot have it.
AMANDA: It is not a free gift or your door prize.
JAMES: When my in laws come over, they are like, do you have any iPads that we can have? Like, no! I do not keep extra iPads around. So, a hundred years ago, the average American was 5”7. Now the average American male is 5”10. It is three inches in a hundred years. And they largely attributed by the way, to diet and nutrition, improved diet nutrition, you know?
TAUHIRA: Like milk.
JAMES: Yeah. I think it is HGH laced, milk personally. Average Dutch men are 6” tall. The average is 6” which is just crazy. They are the tallest in the world. The Latvian women are the tallest women in the world. Latvian.
TAUHIRA: They have huge buildings.
JAMES: Yes. It is I think it directly impacts buildings. So, Amanda, let us talk about you. We have had you on the show before, but it has been a minute. It has been a couple of years, so, and you work for a different company now, so we are going to do a redo on you. You are in Akron, Ohio. You have got a background in building and then you spent some interesting time at Victaulic and well, let us just talk about your background. Because, you went to Union College, graduated around the same time I did from school. You graduated in 2002, got an MBA from Case Western Reserve. Great university. Just walk me through, that is your educational background. Just tell everybody, what would you dream of? Did you dream of being into building when you were growing up and if not, what was your dream career and then what got you to where you are at today?
AMANDA: Yeah, we were just talking about this the other day. My father owned, well now runs a large mechanical and sprinkler contractor. It was a family business and he was one of nine. And I think eight of his brothers and sisters, or seven of his brothers and sisters worked with him and my grandmother, and I was like, I am never coming to work here! So, went to college. I am like, I am going to be a lawyer. Graduated. Day after graduation, my dad says, work starts at eight, had a little bit of a hangover. Went to the office and, 13 years later, I was still working for him. It I was like, wait, I was going to be and M & A lawyer. I was going to do patents. And so, I must have been a little bit crazy, and loved construction. So, I like buildings, I just redid this house. I love to buy and sell things. And so, stayed in construction.
And, after working for my dad, I did not want to compete with my dad, but I wanted to do something a little bit different. Had some family changes, so went over to Victaulic and then went from contracting to manufacturing, but still ran their VDC team, and VDC at Vic is like estimating its fabrication analysis. It is software development. It is content, it is speaking; it is all that sort of stuff. So, it is like being a contractor, but without having to deal with the field labor. And that really everything I have always done has been more techie. And how do you use process and technology together to make the job easier? And now I am at GTP, which is a software company. And Stratus is our main product, which is fabrication logistics procurement.
JAMES: Victaulic had a software side too, though, right?
JAMES: So, I mean, this is not your first bit at… Let us pause for a second. How did working in the family business, I mean, truly family business… The fights, thanksgiving must have been epic, with everybody working…
AMANDA: Family members only got fired on birthdays, typically not on Christmas because my grandma would not allow that , but yeah. That is what I love about construction, is, it is the ultimate family business and it was fun. I mean, you loved it. Some days I, after college, I lived with my dad, I think for six years. My mom went to Florida and she is like, Oh, we will see you on the weekends guys. But yeah, no, I mean, ultimate family business about, and it was a big family business. I mean, it was a big business, a thousand people, so, it was fun. And then it was private and then M Corp bought Comunale and went public and taught me so much, but still had that family atmosphere. And that is what I love about companies. Like I like to work for people that love their people. And yeah. So then, went to Vic and learned from the manufacturing side of it.
JAMES: That is awesome. Yeah. And, what did be a builder teach you though that got you ready for what you are doing today with a software company?
AMANDA: Oh you had to have the foundation. I mean ,I have run a fab shop for 13 years. I ran purchasing and I ran a fab shop, I ran the guys in the field by project management and all of that stuff, taught me the foundation to build the right software. So can get the smartest developers in the world, but if you don’t understand the processes and think about what it is today and what it could be and build in all that nimbleness that contractors like and need, it makes it makes it better.
JAMES: Awesome. Tauhira?
TAUHIRA: Hey, what I love Amanda too, about your story is that, like so many of us, we, we kind of had a vision of where our future went and then construction called us home. Construction called you back in. And, I think, what is really exciting as we see here, transition into GTP is that, there is so much going on in the world right now, and there is so much that really makes us want to be more grounded. And so, I think something that I would love to dig more into is how has GTP seen changes in the industry due to everything going on? And what are your big goals, from a GTP standpoint, as construction starts to pick back up?
AMANDA: Yeah. So, I think that that is great. Like, so at GTP, we are a business like any other, that requires interaction. And we are service-based company. We sell software, but it is really about our relationships and our people. And we are used to going in and being on the fab shop floor, being on the job site, and really working hand in hand with our customers, but we are also a technology company. So, we understand that you can enable the job to get done, if you just had a few tools and you collaborated a little bit differently. So, at GTP we have had to adapt our training practices and really up our game there, because it is all about the learner at the end of the day. And with Stratus being cloud based and enabling, when you don’t have a paper based workflow, you have social distancing built in to the product.
When the software is driving the machine, you have that ability to, deal with the chaos of the job site, because you don’t have that in the shop. So, it allows you to really focus on the issue that you have to focus on and not have to worry about it. Like, what I love about software and tech in construction, is you do not waste the capital you have on something that you do not need to input your brain power into. So, our Stratus links with TigerStop. Why have someone over there with the tape measure, bringing us all down on a piece of copper, when you can feed the machine, print the label and it just goes to the next station. And that is where, it is really about knowing the process and where we built in the brains into our software is it will tell you where to go next in your shop. So, it has been interesting, and we are really see customers willing to invest in tech right now and take their jobs the next level, because some have had some jobs on hold, but others, construction deadlines, they do not like to change.
AMANDA: So we might have to social distance, we might not always be on the job site, but they still want the building built, by September 1st. So, you got to figure out how to do it in a more efficient, method.
TAUHIRA: Awesome. Yeah, I think, like you said, it is this ability to bring everything together with software and with lean process and then also keep everybody safe. So, there is a lot of power there.
AMANDA: And it is about, I mean, it is not even just with COVID. It is about safety in the shop, safety in the field. The further you can stay away from a tool and allow the tool to do its job, then that’s success. And it is really interesting. So now with what we are doing at GTP is, you are allowing the shop, the field, the PM’s, all to see the same information, and then they can drive that schedule in the shop and it going really well right now.
JAMES: So, let us back up for a second and tell everybody what Stratus does, so they understand the feature functionality. I think. many in construction, know what Victaulic did and it is pretty good-sized company. And that is great. We know your background’s in construction, Stratus is a different beast, right? This is a pure software play, has integrations with hardware like TigerStop, but just walk through what kind of fab to field means and just walk through all of that life cycle and all the things that Stratus does.
AMANDA: Yeah. So, Stratus is a piece of software and it focuses on the VDC team, the procurement team, the fabrication team, and the project management team of the field. So, some will say Stratus is a fabrication software. Well, we are a non-paper based shop workflow that we connect to the shop tools. So, TigerStop being a piece of cutting, measuring device that is attached to your saw or their saw. And so, for your copper, or for your carbon or for your hanger workflow, or if you are running a Watts 5 access machine or Vernon. So, we have those integrations with that tooling, so that your information from the model, directly drives the machine. So, you are not typing stuff in at the machine or pulling out the tape measure anymore. The software is feeding that information. So, you are really saving that non value added time of translating information out of the model and giving it to the shop.
JAMES: Let us just dive down that… We are going to get a little technical for a second. So what modeling software do you integrate with?
AMANDA: So AutoCAD or Revit.
AMANDA: Most of our customers are Revit, but we still have a lot of fabrication CAD customers.
JAMES: And do you have an add-in to those products, or do they have to take the files and upload them?
AMANDA: Oh, it is an add-in, in is a button. So, we are built on the Forge Viewer with Autodesk. So, we have a partnership with Autodesk. Were built on the Forge platform. We are really heavy into BIM 360. It is the document management side that enables Stratus, and really that is what we see is like Stratus, is like this nucleus where you are getting side benefits. So, like when you implement Stratus, document management is definitely a need in most of our customers. And it is a byproduct of what you get when you implement the Stratus workflow. So, Revit or AutoCAD, BIM 360, Forge Viewer, Stratus, iPad, Raspberry Pi tablets.
JAMES: Okay. Walk me through the Raspberry Pi. What does that do for you?
TAUHIRA: That is exciting!
AMANDA: Ah, cool. So, it is basically, so in the shop, we are running a monitor, 27 inch to 42-inch huge monitors up there. And the Raspberry Pi allows you to get access to Stratus, which is a cloud based system.
JAMES: Yeah. So, for those of you who do not know, I know many of you listening know what a Raspberry Pi is. It is a really small computer. We have built some really interesting solutions. We built a job site environmental monitoring solution off Raspberry Pi 5 years ago.
AMANDA: Oh really?
JAMES: Oh yeah. It was amazing, but you know why I built it Amanda, it because Wi-Fi on the job site sucks. And so, I actually had my R & D team take a Raspberry Pi and put Wi-Fi monitoring on it. So, it would constantly monitor the strength signal and packet loss on the Wi-Fi connections around the job sites. We put these Raspberry Pi’s all over the job site and we can tell them where they had Wi-Fi issues and if it were a Wi-Fi issue or an internet issue, cause we would connect one of them through a hardware connection near the router, so, we could tell them if the issue was a Wi-Fi issue or an internet like a carrier connectivity issue. And then I was like, you know, while we have all these Raspberry Pi’s on the job site, let us put environmental monitors on them. And so, we put a dust monitoring system on, we put noise monitoring to monitor decibel levels, we put everything cause you can just bolt sensors onto Raspberry Pi’s. And we created this Frankenstein of a job site Wi-Fi and environmental monitoring system out of a Raspberry Pi. It is really amazing. They are less than less than the size of an iPhone for the entire motherboard.
AMANDA: Like a deck of cards.
JAMES: Yeah. It is like a deck of cards for a motherboard and the CPU Ram, everything. You just add a mouse monitor keyboard and you are set. So that is what a Raspberry Pi is. That is why that is how they are using it. You can run all kinds of operating systems on it. It is pretty amazing.
AMANDA: It is cool cause all of our customers… We are like hey, what do you want to use? And we will help you out.
AMANDA: And there is a lot of really, really cool people that come up with some awesome ideas with how to get your information off the cloud.
JAMES: So that your goal is to connect the fabrication shop with VDC, so you are connecting VDC with fab by doing add-ins with all your design tools. So, you have Revit add-in and then CAD add-in, and then you have your integration with Forge, which allows you to sync with the cloud and then do model viewing.
AMANDA: In the viewer.
JAMES: Yeah. We can talk about large model viewing sometime. LMV with Gorge. Do you want to talk about that or not? And then you can connect all of the design with the people that are making it, and then you actually take the next step and connect the fabrication shop out with the field, so they can track production and installation?
AMANDA: Yeah. So, we do production installation, but we also do procurement. So, we have a link with Ferguson right now, so you can procure direct from your model, on our supplier portal with Ferguson.
JAMES: Only with Ferguson?
AMANDA: And we will do it with any supplier, so we are in the process of setting up other suppliers.
AMANDA: So, what we do is we talk with our customers and say, who are your suppliers out there, and we will work, and so, we are the platform. So, we are not solving content. We could go into forever about solving content in the world within. But we are providing in that platform, for that one to one link and then it learns. So, you only have to link at once, and then you can procure with any of your suppliers.
JAMES: That has been the dream for a while. And Tauhira, I know you and I’ve had these conversations too, where like the dream was to have, and SketchUp was the first one to really do this where the SketchUp integrated, they started to go down this road and then I think… Maybe they are doing it, maybe they have not, where you can design things in the model. And they had partnerships with large manufacturers like Whirlpool, where if you designed their parts and components and pieces, you could order it from inside the model in SketchUp. You’ve actually done that now.
JAMES: And so that’s something that’s really interesting too, is you are connecting back to the supply chain, you’re connecting forward to the installation and then you’re connecting kind of sideways to the manufacturing, the people that are actually making it. So that that is what Stratus is. It is sitting in the middle of all these different things connecting them together. Which is obviously a lot of value. Tauhira, your thoughts?
TAUHIRA: Absolutely. I think what is really interesting and it kind of, it might be the theme of this podcast altogether, right, is the ability to take a lot of different pieces, the size of people and rebuilding a house and construction technology and bring them all together. And that’s kind of what you are doing. And what is really powerful also with, with Stratus and with GTP and your bigger role is that, you guys are really listening to the users, listening to the contractors and the field and understanding a lot of what they want. And that I think is a really powerful thing as well. And so, for Amanda, I think, we touched on this a little bit at the beginning of the show. You have had a lot of different roles. You have been a leader in the industry for quite some time.
And we do have so many listeners out here who are, tech experts and field experts, and then also listeners who are just starting to dip their toe into what construction technology looks like for them, for their organization. So, what recommendations would you have for our listeners who are just starting to explore this space? Would you tell them to go buy a Raspberry PI tomorrow? Cause they are pretty great. I think we have all programmed on them, but where would you tell people to just kind of start as they go down this journey or what’s a good next step for those who are already on that construction technology journey to make sure they are they are going in the right direction?
AMANDA: So, I think that is interesting. I mean, like, so I started this saying, hey, I was going to be a lawyer. And now 20 years later, I am the CEO of a software company. I did not think that I would do that. Maybe, the CEO of a construction company, but I think with tech it is cool. With our industry, you can come in as an expert that does not know the industry and you can really help. So if you’re already a techie and you’re not in the construction industry, open your eyes to applying for that job that you might have like one 10th of the resume may or none, and just say, hey, here’s how I can apply my tech to your industry. But if you are in the industry, you know, dabble. Play around. Like curiosity is what drives innovation.
And it is not expensive curiosity, too. What I love about the tech that is out there, is there is so many, like, you know, this podcast, it is great. Like you can go listen to people and then just pick up a few things and take it back and try it at your office. Like try it in your process. And the generations are changing. So, we are going through this whole different generation shift I think in the industry, where there is… You know, I am 40, so I am considered old now. And my dad is still in, but he is closer to retirement now. And, but we are all like, put the tech in the budget, like, and then buy it and then say, hey, this is what it is going to solve. So, like always in my career, I have used technology to help me move forward. When I worked at a contractor, I programmed because I ran a distribution. I had $8 million worth of inventory and I wanted to know what I had. So, I coded. So just try it.
TAUHIRA: So, when you say you put the tech in the budget, I think something that also helps us, it is not necessarily put the $500,000 in the budget, right, it can be put the couple of hundred dollars in the budget or put the thousand dollars. I think we have all had experiences with that as well, right?
AMANDA: Oh yeah. We are not talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yes, you can spend that, but think about it. If you are going to buy a truck for somebody and it is 50,000, why wouldn’t you buy a scanner for that same person? Do not buy the truck. Buy the scanner because everybody is going to use that scanner. Only one guy is going to drive the truck. So, have him double up for a little bit. And it is the price point? They are not are not crazy. I think why people get nervous in our industry, is there is so much, and it is at that time, and it is how much, how much…oh I do not have time now. So, I am going to wait for the perfect job. There is never a perfect job. Just try it. And you won’t lose.
JAMES: So, I got started in construction tech in 2006 is when I really dove into the deep end of the pool.
And I have heard that as a consistent refrain for 14 years now is, oh, well, it is just not that this is not the right project because, this is not the right time because… I am like, come on. When is, if not now, when? If not here, where? You have this beautiful thing in construction called projects that start and stop so you have this opportunity to experiment and iterate in a way that many businesses don’t, but there really is two big fears people have when they call us because we have our consulting and advisory group. And I was on the call yesterday. I was on the call this morning, right before the podcast with an electrical subcontractor. And I was on a call yesterday with a prefab construction company. Both of whom were advising right now.
And it is fascinating, the kind of the hurts habits, hang-ups that hold them back and they are largely emotional. They are so afraid of picking the wrong technology. They are they are afraid of picking something that, well, there is going to be a release next month, that is going to come out by this other company, that is going to make this one irrelevant. I ’m like, well, maybe. I mean, you do not know. I mean a lot of release literature is marketing BS. So, you have to like, get your hands on it first and test it. And then secondarily, like, does it add value right now? Will you make your money back on this technology? If the answer is yes, in particular, if the ROI is under a year, what is the decision? Even if you go pick something else a year from now, you have still made your money back.
AMANDA: My mind is blown sometimes when someone wants to wait for the right job or it is too expensive now, I am like, okay, construction is the ultimate gamble. Would you want it? Okay. In Las Vegas, we know the house wins. So, if you are going to open up a casino, you are pretty sure you are going to win. In construction, we make pennies on the dollars. We gamble every day, all day long. But when we go to buy a piece of technology or something new, it is like, oh, I do not know if I can handle that. Well, you just cut a half a million dollars out of your bid with a Sharpie and said, oh yeah, I will do it for half a million dollars. There was no thought. It was a gut. Use your gut. Like you guys are good.
JAMES: Like great book.
AMANDA: Do it! And if something new comes out tomorrow, do that then tomorrow. It is okay. Like you get a new car every two to three years. It is fine to get a new piece of technology.
TAUHIRA: To that point, every job is a prototype, right? Every project is a one off and you are going to learn from it and build on it. And that I think is the important part too.
AMANDA: And then we have a sense of community.
JAMES: And you can do a point counter point of this all day, because then people will come in on the counterpoint and they will say, yes but we have so much risk. We cannot change everything, every job, because then we will screw with our process and then we can lose money because we have really thin margins. Then you say, yes but you have really thin margins because you are not investing in technologies that will drive higher ROI. Because I have clients who make 15% on their projects. I have clients who make 22% on their projects. I have clients who make 3% on their projects and I will tell you that largely the difference is whether or not they are willing to invest in new technologies and new processes that save money and preventable mistakes. And that is one of the things that I think is really important to not just fixate on labor savings and hard cost savings, although, it is kind of irresistible when you are looking at the TigerStop Plus Stratus. When you look at that combo and you read Ryan Hogget’s case study on UMC and see that they saved like 90% on their copper cutting… Insane amounts of money, and you are like, well, let us just focus on that.
But then you have to focus on the fact that they make less mistakes now, too. And what destroys most profit and loss statements for contractors is preventable mistakes. It is the beams that they put in, they had to cut out and then replace. It is the HVAC they put in which they had to take out and replace. It is the wall they put in, it is the building they put in the wrong, they put two inches in the wrong direction cause they did not do their layout properly. Those destroy P & L statements. And you are right. When they are bidding, and 15 years in bidding software. When they are bidding, they make half a million-dollar decisions in a heartbeat, and yet they cannot decide on $10,000 a software. It is a wild dichotomy that I feel kind of sorry for them, because it is so hard to overcome. It is kind of so hard to overcome that for them, so, it is a really, really interesting world that we live in, in particular, in construction, in particular with technology purchases and their view on it.
AMANDA: Well, I always think about it. It is like nimbleness, like contractors are the ultimate, like nimble machines. In their mind, they are like, okay, we are going to, whatever the weather throws at us, we are going to adapt. If somebody does not show up today, we are going to adapt. If the pipe’s in the wrong spot, we are going to adapt. And then when you ask them to buy a piece of technology, they worry that some of their nimbleness is eroded. And it is like, is that nimbleness the reason why you have the air and looking at that and saying, hey, you can still be nimble, but probably sometimes when you are being so reactive and so nimble, you would get a lot more mistakes. So, it is a very interesting. I am going to take a line item out and say, hey, I am going to make a guy do something in 20%, less time, in two seconds, the minute before the bids do, but I am going to wait until 22 people tell me that this technology has proven, be it ours or anything else.
JAMES: Have you read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell?
TAUHIRA: Oh yeah, that is a great one. The ability to have that agility and to go from the yes but, to the yes and…
JAMES: Yeah but when people thin slice… and in Blink, he talks about thin slicing. Humans thin slice all the time. Then slice, meaning you make rapid decisions from very little amount of information and the impression that you get, and the scary example they used was, they had 90-minute interviews with married couples. They found that in 90 minutes, 90 minutes of recording a conversation between the two of them, they could tell within a 95% accuracy if they were going to get divorced in the next seven years or not. And then they shrunk it. They said, well, what about the first 60 minutes? And what about the first 30 minutes? What about the first three minutes? And they found that in the first, in the first three minutes of the conversation between the couple, they had an 85% accuracy of whether or not they will get divorced or not within seven years. It was wild amounts of accuracy from such a tiny little sliver of conversation. And so, what Gladwell argues is that, you can train your thin slicing, you can train your gut feel through experience and through actual training, but you can also learn to trust your gut. And make decisions quickly and you can have very little difference in positive outcome between three minutes of analysis and three weeks of analysis if you learn to really manage this part of your brain and the way that it works, because it turns out our brains are really, really, really, really, really fast CPU’s. And so if you have not read Blink, go read it. It is all about what Amanda just talked about.
AMANDA: But I think it is cool too. It is like use your gut, the data. And like, what does tech allow you to get? It allows you to get quick, easy access to your data at any point in time. And that is what I love is, you could still use your gut, but check it every once in a while, have that check in. And I am not talking 10 minutes. I went back during the last crisis in 2008, that is when I went and got an executive MBA, youngest person in the class. I really looked young. I did not have any gray hair back then. And they wanted me to write a business case, and I go, my boss is never going to read past paragraph two. Like, why do you want a 27-page novel you know, in my mind, and I went with all these bankers and healthcare administrators and they are like, oh, okay.
But I have 52 pages and I think everything good on page 48. And I was like, no, that is not what we are going to do in the real world. Like, just give it easy access and the quicker you make valuable information and close out all that noise you know, you get so much noise! I just want to know, is it going to be here or not? That is it. The guy is going to show up and he is going to have what he has to do, or is he not? Is he qualified or is he not? Do not tell me when he is going to be qualified and what he could do to be qualified and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Today all I care about is, is he or she qualified?
TAUHIRA: Are they here?
TAUHIRA: Like, are they physically present?
JAMES: So, let us let us talk about the future. Tell me, everything we have talked about is the past to present right? Where we have come from and what is going on now. I want to hear what Stratus is planning. Tell me what you can tell me about the future of Stratus. Where is it going? Are we going to be building things in space with Stratus? Walk me through it. Are you building rockets?
AMANDA: If you want a chop–shop in space, I will get Stratus there for you.
JAMES: Yes, we had a whole episode on space construction, so, and by the way, I am watching the series Mars on Netflix. If you have not watched it, amazing! It is awesome. It is all about construction. It is all about construction on Mars. It is so cool. Tell me what the future is.
AMANDA: Yeah, so we’re really going to double down on the purchasing side for our customers, but I think the future of Stratus right now is, getting it into our hands, getting it into our customer’s hands as quick as they need it. So, functionality wise, what is awesome, is our customers give us all of their ideas, they ask us to talk to other people. We just announced a partnership with Evolve, because we talked about that. Some of our customers, once the spool, and they are offering software, but also, they want to be able to work with Evolve and Stratus seamlessly. So, they are like, hey, could you guys go talk? So, what is that partnership? It is just a more formal conversation where we make sure that our products work well together. And the future is more tooling integration, like we want to know what is in your shop, and we want to connect to it. And we also want to know through our API is, what are your accounting systems? What other pieces are you using? What do you want to pull out and we will drive like, I used to have to drive the whip, and oh I hated it. Like, what does Stratus allow you to do? I do not have to have a Sharpie out in the field, knowing what I put in it put inside. So, we are going to focus a lot more on those reporting and those workflows. So, I think it is all about the workflow and bring that forward.
JAMES: I love that you are I love that you are driving more integration with vendors though on the supply side, because you could literally have a separate business just connecting supply side. Even if they did not use all the other features of Stratus, you could delete, you could literally just isolate model to supply side ordering and still revolutionize the way people order material, right?
JAMES: So that that is big on its own. And it is something that I think a lot of other industries have already figured out a long time ago, on B2B e-commerce and construction just continue to use a phone and a fax machine to place orders. I mean, it has been a frustration point of mine for sure.
AMANDA: And I will put a little teaser out there. Cannot talk much, but, November, we are going to have a pretty cool release of, something new. So, stay tuned. To people out there that might know what I am talking about, but we have got a cool product coming out to the market.
JAMES: Cannot wait to hear it. Tauhira, a wrap up question before we jump into news.
TAUHIRA: Awesome. I think, yeah. I think again, that end to end piece is so important. And you mentioned, you guys are looking at integrations, you are looking at getting involved with the users, more in delivering what they need. So, how do people get involved with you? What does that look like? There is the Stratus, but there is also GTP. And so how does that relate and how do people get involved with moving forward on their processes and being embraced?
AMANDA: Yeah. That is awesome. I am on LinkedIn, so Amanda Comunale, I am on our website, you can get ahold of us. Just give us a call. We are really looking to partner. We get calls from our customers all the time and saying, I am going to buy this tool. Can you integrate it into our shops? So, like on the razor gauge, and yeah, give us a call. We would love to talk and figure it out.
TAUHIRA: Awesome. Good. It is so great that it is a journey too.
AMANDA: Yeah. And it never ends. And that is something too. If your business changes, we will change with you. It is software, but we are customer service, so it comes with a lot of really smart people behind the scenes.
JAMES: Well, the entire software is a service industry. One of the key pivots, other than that you are paying for software, over time rather than upfront, you also have a very different relationship with your software company because the software constantly evolves. So that is why it links. One of things I love about being in the SAS business and, after selling SmartBid we immediately started TerraClaim. We built up SmartCompliance. We rolled out SmartEnterprise recently. So, I am all about SAS software. I love it. It is a really neat relationship. We are going to wrap on this and move to news. Before we do, just a reminder that this is JBKnowledge Podcast Network. We are a family of podcasts here in new course if you want to listen to all things risk management, if you are involved in risk management or insurance at your company, listen to our other podcast, the InsureTech Geek that I run every Friday as well. You can check that out. It has been a lot of fun. Before we move into news, I want to remind everyone that our annual, our ninth annual, listen to that, you can tell that I ’m in Michigan. Annual. Annual. Ninth annual! Oh, my goodness. Ninth annual construction technology survey is open. We use the survey to create our annual ConTech report. The report will be released this winter. It takes us a few months to do the analysis on all the data. We cannot do it without your participation in the survey though. The perk to participating in the survey is you get the report early. Plus, you might get an iPad because we are giving away a free iPad Air to one lucky survey participant. It takes 15 minutes. Take the survey, jbknowledge.com/survey. You can even take it on your phone or pause it and finish whenever, any time before the survey closes. I am going to switch back into Texas. I am going to have to re-affect to the Texas accent after I leave Michigan. I remember when I was in England for a while and I came back, I had like a little accent sponge.
AMANDA: British Twang
JAMES: Yeah, it did. It did, exactly. And I come up here and he hacks it and then I go back home to Louisiana to see my parents and start talking about Boudreaux and Thibodeaux down in the (mimics Cajun accent) We are going on the swamp! My mama says, my mama always check the window. My mom has the most beautiful little accident.
AMANDA: I really think like everyone in the US should have to be subtitled, because of our accents, because I spent a lot of time overseas and everyone has to speak to English because I’m in the room, but I’m like, hey guys, you all don’t speak the same language anyways, cause you are from like six countries. So, but when you come back to the States you are like, what did you just say?
AMANDA: I mean, come on. I am from Ohio. I am so nasally anyways.
JAMES: I think you should have to have a passport to go to Louisiana myself, but that is just because I am, I think it is like a different country. I grew up there. It is wild. So, we are going to rock and roll. She is the greatest. She is a self-described human 3D printer. Tauhira Ali with the news.
TAUHIRA: Awesome. Ready to go. With that intro, I could do anything right?
TAUHIRA: So, let us keep on this theme of software as a service. Let us talk about one of our great friends, great partners, Autodesk. So, they have been very busy this summer. And the first article I want to share with you guys is from earlier this week from Construction Dive and it is about Autodesk’s newest acquisition buying the construction software company Pype. So, we will go into some more of Autodesk’s activities later on in the podcast, but they just acquired Pype. They made a second investment in a Factory OS and they also led an investment in Bridget, the workforce planning software. But really, let us dial into the Pype piece. It is all about AI and machine learning to extract project plans and specifications that can drive these inefficiencies, or drive these inefficiencies out really, through the project life cycle. So, it is all about automating those workflows and connecting that people and data across the building life cycle. They are doing again a lot with Factory OS and Bridget that we will get into. But again, it is all about how do they continue to bring in more partners to this construction cloud and creating this whole end to end ecosystem. And that has been kind of a theme for us today. So, I guess from your perspectives, Amanda and James, what are your thoughts about the big moves that Autodesk is making and what is happening and where this can go for contractors, for workers in the industry.
JAMES: Let’s talk about Pype for a second and make sure that everybody knows what they do because they rip through spec files, and they built machine learning robots, software robots, not hardware robots, little software robots that pick through the spec book. And that is really where they started. And, and they are helping you take something that has no structure, or very little structure and extract structured data from unstructured information. And it is powerful. When I first saw Pype, I told the few companies that were in the takeoff and estimating space, like you should really look at this, because it makes sense to have bidding takeoff, estimating and this together. Because spec books, they are just so big, they are so big, there is so much information. And so, they got really involved in this.
And when you look at the products, AutoSpecs, takes specs and submit a log in a few minutes. That is really like their summary of it. It is a very powerful piece of software, and it helps you identify design creep. By the way, they had already connected with a bunch of project management software’s. It automates the submittal log generation. It takes stuff that takes people weeks of work and automate it. So, Pype really was onto something with this and they still are. And then they got into closeout. And closeout is another really favorite topic of mine because closeout is such a pain in the butt. It is such a big deal for construction companies. It takes them weeks of time and they accelerated that down from days to hours. They took these really manual processes and then they started digging into plans where you could automatically extract some middles and project schedules from the drawings themselves. So again, really where they put their flag in the sand or their flag in the rock so to say, is in taking unstructured data in all this freeform text and freeform plans and turning it into structured content that you could use.
Because in construction, human beings constantly are translating structured data and unstructured information. A significant portion of the construction workforce does that, they waste their time in doing instead of, because they have to, they are not wasting cause they want to, they are wasting cause they have to, they have no choice, but to read through these things. And so, they built a hell of a product suite around plans and specs and submit a logs, and closeout and binders. It certainly rounds out Autodesk suite Tauhira, and I know Amanda, you are every familiar with the Autodesk suite of products, cause y’all have such an integration with Forge and BIM 360. Autodesk now has bidding and they have plans with PlanGrid, and they’ve got all the other parts of this, and this fills a key hole in the middle.
AMANDA: I think it is really cool. And what do contractors typically not do? Read the spec all the time. You skim it. So, the tech is cool, what it does, and I think what Autodesk does well is look for things to fill. They acquire gaps in their portfolio, and then they also partner with others to fill gaps that they know that they do not have and cannot solve themselves or do not want to solve themselves. So, I think that is what is really cool. A lot of contractors did not have any idea what Pype was. So, I think it is a really cool thing for the industry to know. And now that Autodesk, now that it is an Autodesk product, it will actually become a mainstream product.
JAMES: Yeah, well it will get bundled into their enterprise agreements and then they are going to bundle it up and sell it together.
AMANDA: Yeah, they will bundle it up. But the tech is there and that is what they need. And what would you said, it is like taking something that is unstructured and putting it into a format that can be consumed because there is a lot of words and not all of them mean anything. It only means, a little bit mean something to each person in the construction timeline.
TAUHIRA: Exactly. That digestible information I think is a really big part of being able to make those actionable decisions. So, kind of pivoting in a different direction, going back a little bit to the beginning of July, the next thing that I would like to share with you all and talk about a little bit is, Procore, another dear friend, has launched a construction job board. So, this is from foronstructionpros.com. But Procore is basically working with Arcoro, which is a human resources management software, that is dedicated to the construction industry. So not only is there this online job board where employers who are looking to hire can post their open jobs for free, but again, talking about machine learning and AI and being able to crawl through data, there is a machine learning kind of backend here that will automate recruiting, automate kind of the next steps in that process and posts are also automatically routed to other traditional career sites. So, like the glass store and the Indeed’s of the world.
And the other thing that is really cool about this is it is not just, hey, use this draw board sponsored by Procore, which again is in and of itself a really great way for delivery, but their talent acquisition team is also offering training on recruiting, hiring, and retaining new talent. So that is something, the construction workforce, the shortage, the problem, the ability to drive efficiency, so much of this goes back to having the ability to have the right people in the right place. So, the thing that’s kind of kind of on my mind and what I would love to hear your thoughts on is, how can we, especially now attract and upskill new talent in the industry? It is not just about attracting the right people. It is keeping them in the industry and kind of as we have all seen, how do we continue to help people elevate their skillset and explore new things?
AMANDA: Yeah, I think it is really a great idea because it is all about training. It goes back to that hesitancy of, I need a person, but can I find the right person? So, I love the idea of being able to go to one spot to find that talent, but then to be able to onboard them, and to know what I need to look for. You asked earlier, how do you get new people interested in the market and how do you get your own HR to look outside of their own narrow lens that they are already looking at. So really excited on that side.
JAMES: Well, I get a lot of contact forms and text messages and emails from technology companies that want to be on the show or want to talk about stuff. And I cannot tell you how many I have gotten, that are trying to build a job board and they want to be the LinkedIn of construction and they use those exact words. There have been a lot of them. And I have had a couple on the show, and they have gone out of business. It is been a really, really, really hard segment to crack into because there’s already mainstream job sites that are, the big one. You know, the Indeed’s, like you mentioned, the Indeed’s of the world are out there, and it is hard to compete because for a job board to work, you have to have serious scale. Like you have to have a lot of people that put their resumes in and keep it current. And you have to have a lot of people that post jobs. Otherwise the job searchers give up or the people’s searchers give up if there is not enough volume. So, there is only so many companies that could really pull this off that have enough scale and enough data and enough clients already there, that might be able to have a chance at pulling this off. But certainly Procore is one of them. So, look for this. This is like a feature of Procore that will literally wipe out other companies just to be clear. Sometimes companies are really a feature of another product and they do not realize it. And then a company rolls out that feature and then it wipes out the market in that area. So, this may or may not be a category killer. But I think that Procore certainly has the size and scale actually be successful with this. I have seen a lot of companies try and fail. It is it has been it has been interesting to see how many have not been able to crack the nut on this.
TAUHIRA: Absolutely. And we have seen, especially, kind of in 2020 a really, really refocusing with Procore on that workforce development and understanding how people are moving around, and what that traction looks like in the construction industry. So definitely want to keep an eye on. If any of you are job hunting out there or looking to hire more people, I would encourage you to check that out. And then, the last piece that I am excited to share with you all. This is from home. This is from Milwaukee Tool directly. So, in June actually, we updated ONE-KEY with Multi-User feature, and this is something that actually replaces the legacy guest accounts. And this is something that’s been in high demand since we started ONE-KEY, and it’s basically the ability to empower multiple users, to have a single joint, ONE-KEY account, to where you can each have your own password, your own username, but you have account administrators that can assign each user a role, that has different access and permissions in your organization.
So, it brings us closer to the enterprise users. It broadens the reach of ONE-KEY further in the back office in the field. A hell of a lot easier for integrations, but it also allows your administrator, whether it is your toolkit manager or your foreman, it allows you to have more control over your own micro-tracking network. So, you can have visibility over which users have downloaded the app, which ones have turned location services on, and what is really exciting, giving you that ability to peek behind the curtain is, this is something that we have tested out with over 130 different end users, to dial it in, to really make it exactly what people are asking for prior to the public release. And especially now as we move into this more distributed workflow with everything that has been happening with the virus and social distancing and working remote, cybersecurity has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds. This is something we have all had to face in our own pieces of the construction industry. And so, having that ability to customize employee data access and how that relates to information security, I think that is something that is important for contractors and for tech providers of all sizes.
JAMES: Yeah. I remember when we took SmartBid and we really up sized the authentication credentials for Enterprise, we did Azure AD integration, and we did a multi office management. So you have users and offices, and then you had roles inside of each office, and then you had office-based data security and then company-based data security. It took us a long time to build this out, but it is a must have. ONE-KEY by the last time we measured it, the largest network of locations of tools and materials in the world, and so it would stand to reason that this would be a high priority for Milwaukee and its users.
TAUHIRA: Absolutely. And getting it right too.
JAMES: Yeah, exactly. So, I am excited to hear about it. It is an enterprise inventory management platform, not just an individual inventory management platform. So, I am excited that you can do, preset rolls, you can have account access and permissions, you can do all kinds of good stuff on, permissionings and you also got rid of small guests stuff that really does not make sense anymore since you have multi-users, so, that is great. Congratulations on that! And that is a big step forward. It is going to be really big for adoption at large companies.
TAUHIRA: Yeah, we are excited on that. And stay tuned! There’s a couple other ONE-KEY announcements coming in the next few months that I really wanted to push into today.
TAUHIRA: I know, I know!
JAMES: You will have to come back on!
TAUHIRA: Big to come!
JAMES: The thing that excites me, cause I am red and black in my garage, you know this, is the number of ONE-KEY enabled devices now. It is getting serious. They are wiring this in to pretty much everything they make. Power tools, hydraulic tools, equipment, site lighting, tags and tracking products. I got Milwaukee in my airplane too. I got Milwaukee lights in there. That is my emergency lighting at night if the lighting fails.
TAUHIRA: What is powerful is, it is not just about let us throw Bluetooth or let us throw connectivity into every tool, it also let us customize some tools. It is the scheduling, some it is the reporting, some is putting that back into BIM. So, it is a lot of really powerful things coming down that waterfall.
JAMES: Yeah. Awesome. All right. Let us move on. Onward, onward! Chinese hackers. You know it is not just Coronavirus that comes from China. That is right. I said, it is July 24th and Coronavirus is still from China. Do not ever forget that. It is also a whole bunch of hacking, and China has now been added to the list of state sponsors of corporate hacking. Finally! We have known they have been doing this for a while. And largely because those of us who measure hacking attacks, and of course, my intrusion detection and prevention system, actively notifies me of auto blocks when it sees sequel injection attacks and all kinds of other things come across the way. And for a long time, China has been actively trying to get in everybody’s data systems, but what has been really interesting, and this is an article out of Wired.
They have now identified defense contractors to video game companies. There is a huge array of US victims of now what we can pretty definitively prove is not just independent hacking, but state sponsored hacking of technology systems, sanctioned, supported, and encouraged by the country government of China. And so, this is major news and there is a lot of construction business in China. We have to pay attention to what is going on in China. They have a kind of a rob replicate and replace strategy detect development. They have been proven now to be providing a safe haven for criminal hackers who are not only doing corporate hacking into data systems for their own personal gain, but are also helping out the state of China. And they are doing some pretty gnarly things. And so this came out and I just thought it was good to talk about since we’re in a tech show and we got to be aware that when we use technology, we are making ourselves susceptible to anybody who’s connected to the same networks our technology is connected to.
And so, this is a really big problem. 10% of our survey respondents on the ConTech Survey, a full 10%, had some type of hacking intrusion, or Crypto Locker attack in the last year. From the previous report. It is a substantial percentage of construction companies are getting attacked. And so, you got to be aware that it is not just people attacking for profit, it is also people attacking on behalf of the government of China. Now they are not the only government doing this. Russia has been connected to state sponsored hacking and terrorism. Iran has been connected to state sponsored hacking and terrorism. The Chinese are on this list just as well now. And so, just be aware that when you build data systems, we should not avoid technology and software because people might hack into them, but we have to prepare ourselves mentally, emotionally, financially with good cyber liability insurance, and practically. And understand that is not just for profit. There is a rob, replicate, and replace strategy by the Chinese officials on acquiring technology from other countries and then replicating it internally with our own domestic manufacturing capacity. And we have got to really pay attention to what they are doing. So, if you have a company that has a lot of really good IP, it is not just attractive from a financial perspective, it is attractive from a country strategic perspective.
TAUHIRA: Absolutely. This takes the six hackathons to a whole new level. It is this idea of not just pulling in that information, but actually taking it and spinning it out. And like you said, the rob, the replicate and the just producing it.
JAMES: Replace. Yeah.
TAUHIRA: Yeah, replacing it under a whole new umbrella. And so, I think no matter the size of your company, everyone is susceptible and that is the piece that is really important I think is, whatever you think you are doing for cyber security, make sure that you are reviewing that plan, make sure that you have resilience there.
JAMES: And to add insult to injury. Not only now there’s proof, and I have watched all the 60-minute specials about the Chinese government suppressing information on Coronavirus, where it was impacting them long before they let anybody know, they did the same thing with SARS back in the day. And I was watching a special on the SARS outbreak where the Chinese government lied about it for months before it became an issue. To add insult to injury, one of the prime targets that they are trying to hack into is vaccine companies. So, they are literally, and this is from the FBI deputy director, David Lance Bowdich on Tuesday’s press conference, the sale and scope of hacking activities sponsored by Chinese intelligence services against the US and our international partners, is unlike any other threat we are facing today. Quote, and this is from the FBI Def deputy director. China’s steals intellectual property and research, which bolsters its economy. And they use that elicit gain as a weapon to silence any country that would dare challenge their illegal actions.
This is this type of economic coercion is not what we expect from a trusted world leader. It is what we expect from an organized crime syndicate. This is from the FBI deputy director this week. They also have identified key attacks on US companies, developing vaccines for Coronavirus. And they are trying to go in and steal all the formulas so they can replicate them in China. Cause they detected China’s disruptive COVID-19 hacking back in May. They started picking up their activity and into these manufacturers so, this is real. Just like Coronavirus is real. And by the way, I wear a mask. I am a germaphobe. So, Coronavirus is real, it is happening. So is the hacking. This stuff is real and you have got to deal with this. One of the best podcasts you can listen to, Security Fanatics, we have had Nick on here before, he will blow your mind. He does a daily video on LinkedIn, so I encourage you to watch that, and get some more information on that. I got to move on to the next story. I am sorry. I ranted on that one.
TAUHIRA: It is important.
JAMES: It is it is really for all of us in technology to be aware of. And if you don’t have an intrusion detection system outside of your software product, if you’re a tech company and you’re listening to me right now, get one immediately, and make sure that it auto blocks any attacks. You would be amazed how many software companies do not have intrusion detection and prevention systems. It is it is scary. Next one from BIM plus.co.uk on a totally positive note. I started with a negative. So, I would like to finish with the positive stuff. Cosmic Ray Imaging. Yes. I love that there is such a thing as cosmic ray imaging. Number one. Pinpoints defects and structures. This is a university of Surrey, hosted company has won the coveted Institute of Physics Start–up Business Award for developing tech that can improve the safety of railway tunnels. It is called Geoptic. They developed an invasive scanning system for large engineering structures. It uses cosmic rays that naturally impact earth from space to effectively scan large buildings and structures, allowing them to rapidly identify unusual changes in density or other structural defects. This is so cool.
TAUHIRA: Science fan?
JAMES: Science, Amanda, you are lifelong builder.
AMANDA: You could have built that.
JAMES: You are a lifelong builder. You are a lifelong technologist. What do you think?
AMANDA: That is cool.
JAMES: Yeah. So, I want to point out…
AMANDA: I mean it blows your mind, does not it?
JAMES: Yes! It does. So cosmic ray scanning…
AMANDA: Definitely blows your mind.
JAMES: Yeah. My previous article on cosmic ray scanning, Amanda, was on the pyramids of Giza because as soon as this technology really started getting used, a group of scientists went to the pyramids and put these cosmic ray scanners and the pyramids, and they found a room they’d never discovered. Isn’t that amazing?
AMANDA: That is so cool.
TAUHIRA: Well, what I love, not to rain too much on this parade, but the phrasing of the novel approaches as cosmic rays, that naturally impact the earth from space to fit efficiently.
AMANDA: The novel?
TAUHIRA: Yeah, the novel approach, efficiently scan, large buildings and structures, allowing you to rapidly identify unusual changes in defects. Also mean sunlight. You could be describing sunlight, like being able to allow you to visibly see cracks or deformities, but this is on a whole bigger scale. And that is the exciting part, is now you can see things. It is like giving you a whole new level of vision. That is the exciting thing here.
JAMES: Yeah. And I go look up the article. it was from Nature Magazine in 2017 on the use of cosmic ray scanners, where they found a previously unidentified chamber inside the pyramids of Giza. So, pretty amazing stuff. It was above the King’s chamber and they discovered it and of course had a bunch of theories on what it was, and you can read more about it online. But pretty amazing stuff. So, go Google cosmic ray scanner and you will see that there is some tech commercializing in this space that is going to help us identify what structures are going to fail before they do. Not after they fail. That is big for safety and it is big for builders. The question is, will governments allocate enough money to actually fix all of it? That is that is the question. It is like, will they provide the budget? You know it is interesting. Sometimes governments don’t do these type of assessments because if they don’t know they have plausible deniability. And I have actually seen this, when my own service in government where sometimes in the measurement of something, I remember I was talking to the folks at SPOT-R Triax and I said well, why wasn’t this tracking technology successful? Because they started tracking high school athletes, and the impact, cause they were looking for head injuries and they wanted to track the force at which they collided, so at least they could predict who had a concussion or head injury, and that is really what they started. It was all tracking wrapped around athletes. And they said, well, a lot of school districts did not want to know, because if they actually had the data, then they would have to do something about it. And I was like, oh, that makes me so sad. And so that is why they pivoted into construction and nobody benefited from their technology. So, there is the observation effect. Once you start scanning something, you have to do something about it right Tauhira?
TAUHIRA: Absolutely. Absolutely. But I think again that awareness gives you power to make the right decisions.
JAMES: If you have the right perspective, it does. For sure. If you have the ostrich perspective, it does not.
TAUHIRA: Bear your head away.
JAMES: Just bear your head away.
AMANDA: Well, the good thing about Michigan, Ohio, you can just drive out of the bridges and see, oh, is that a good one?
JAMES: Exactly right.
TAUHIRA: Cosmic rays, the sun helped you there.
JAMES: Exactly. So, last one, this is again on Autodesk technology. This is from July 14th. This is just 10 days ago. Autodesk lead $7 million investment in construction software startup. We did have Bridget on the show, so you can go back and listen to their episode with Mallorie from Bridget, pretty neat technology that Mallorie Brodie, COO, Lauren Lake, integrates data the contractors and construction site managers need to understand current demand and plan for the future. So, with an Autodesk investment, that means that somebody in Autodesk believes that it could supplement or augment its current technology stack. You are seeing Autodesk is doing this where they will kind of identify early stage companies that are not ready to acquire yet, and they will invest in them, and then often come back later and just take the rest of the apple.
So just be aware. They integrate with solutions like Autodesk Construction Cloud. Autodesk Construction Cloud has construction IQ that uses some form of machine learning to evaluate safety and regulatory compliance. Again, if you go to look at this, Bridget had a big pivot. They kind of pivoted into their current project, Bridget Bench, that considers factors like workforce utilization rates, hiring needs, profit and contracts, to try and really provide an analytics suite. They are based in the same town that Blackberry was founded, Waterloo, Canada, and they have raised a 15 million to date. So, this is another construction AI startup. I want to point out, Pype is really using a specific form of AI and machine learning. Bridget is doing the same thing. Tauhira your thoughts?
TAUHIRA: The first thing I thought of was construction IQ and the ability to be able to be more predictive and be more intentional about, where is your workforce being utilized, and that is something that we have seen with ONE-KEY as well. People are so hungry to be able to find out that information and know, is my team working efficiently? Are they using tools, are they sitting on the bench? And so that is the thing that is exciting about this as it is another step towards enriching, the information that allows you to know, are my crews working in the right way and how can we dial that in? And how can we again upscale, or give people the right information to do the job at the right place at the right time with the right crew, right staff. So that I think, is really exciting. And again, like you said, it certainly helps to elevate Bridget because we have seen with Autodesk, this pattern of investing and supporting and bringing things into their network and then coming to scoop up the rest later. So t’s exciting to see. It is a little bit like a Pac-Man situation.
JAMES: Yeah. So, they started with Bridget Field, which was punch list and inspection management, and then they added on Bridget Bench, which is the analytics suite that I think Autodesk is really interested in because Autodesk already has punch list and inspection management software. I think it is really the bench software that is interesting. And they do have a remote planning suite that helps people plan for quarantine tracking, essential project tracking, manpower meetings, COVID-19 tracking. So, they have done some interesting feature functionality for COVID. Amanda, your thoughts?
AMANDA: I think it is a great product. I think it is a ripe for Autodesk to take the rest the pie, but it comes down to analytics. It comes down to meeting that data in a consumable way and that is what they are doing. So, it is the theme about what we have talked about today.
JAMES: Pay attention analytics companies, it turns out it is a pretty hot topic right now, with construction companies and with tech. And that is our show for the day. Amanda, thank you for being on again. I really appreciate it.
AMANDA: Well, thanks James.
JAMES: I am excited. And where can people find more information about Stratus?
JAMES: Yeah, got it.
AMANDA: Check out, I mean, obviously Google GTP Stratus and we will pop right up. Pop me into the search engine and give me a call and we will touch base with you. So, I thank you so much. Thanks for the phone call.
JAMES: Yes. Awesome. And Tauhira, thank you for being on today.
TAUHIRA: Thank you. The next time you see me, I will hopefully have finished my 3D printing exercise.
JAMES: That is so exciting. It is going to be a great baby.
TAUHIRA: Oh my gosh.
AMANDA: I was so bothered if I was going to be able to see to your, well from a window or something last week. And then I got isolated with COVID.
JAMES: Well, we are excited for you. We are proud of you and you are going to be a great mama.
TAUHIRA: All right. Well, he will sure learn about our data analytics.
JAMES: Yeah, you are going to project manage the heck out of this baby. It is going to be amazing. And so, thank you, today our listeners for tuning in to geek out episode 228. Our interview with Amanda Comunale from GTP. Please join us next week, episode 229 for our monthly webinar. Again, this is our crew webinar. Ask us anything. Hangout. It is going to be awesome. 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 & Ad Coordinator, Tish Thelen. This is The ConTechCrew signing out, until next time…
Enjoy the ride and geek out. See you next time!