The ConTechCrew 240: So You’re Saying There’s A Chance… For Data! with Britton Langdon from MSUITE
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 construction technology like virtual reality, apps, and robotics, we started The ConTechCrew. Each week we bring our listeners the latest in ConTech news and interview the minds behind the technological innovations, changing the way we build.
So, strap in, enjoy the ride, and geek out.
It’s ConTechCrew time!
JAMES: Man, having college football every weekend, I did not understand that the two things that would be so important in everyday life. Number one, that my kids get out of the dang house and go to school. I did not place enough value on this before. And number two, that I have got college damn football to look forward to on the weekends. Now I am feeling a little chirpy because my Aggies just laid the beat down on the University of Florida. And I was there, and the coach of Florida got so angry about our noise. Because we messed them up, Josh. I mean, we messed them up. They did not practice for noise at all.
JOSH: No, they were not ready for the silent camp.
JAMES: They were not ready for that. And we mess them up so badly. They got messed up on some false starts, delay of game penalties, all the stuff that is related to crowd noise, it just got laid on them. It was good seeing the Aggies win. This weekend try number 21, for Nick Saban’s assistants, to try and beat the old ball coach. Come on Georgia boy, are they going to get it done or what?
JOSH: So, you are saying there is a chance?
JAMES: He is due.
JOSH: Kirby is the guy of all the ones that can beat him. Kirby’s the one. I will tell you what. I was watching the Braves game last night, James. Braves had not made it to a world series in a while, and I am sitting watching the game. And I am like, you know what, this does not matter. If the Bulldogs can just win this weekend, beat Alabama, nothing matters. Nothing matters. As long as the Bulldogs can beat Alabama this weekend.
JAMES: They could literally lose out the rest of the season, which is not going to happen, that is not happening, but they could, and it still would not matter. Because if they can beat Nick Saban. I think he is shown cracks and just cracks and fractures in his facade. And he lost his mad genius. Lane Kiffin had his number dialed in last week. Oh. But Britton, you are an OU guy, right?
BRITTON: Yes sir.
JAMES: God bless you for beating those dirty Texas Longhorns. God bless you.
BRITTON: I appreciate that. They did not play a great game. I am nowhere near as chirpy as you because it took 4 hours and 49 minutes and 4 overtimes and 2 missed field goals to win it, but a win is a win, right?
JAMES: It was not a great victory. It was a victory.
BRITTON: It was a victory that will go down in history as the longest OU–Texas game ever played. And I watched every minute of it.
JAMES: Still does not hold a candle to the seven-overtime victory, A&M had over LSU two years ago, but that will never happen.
BRITTON: They changed the rules.
JAMES: I was going to say that will never happen again. We will always hold the record.
JOSH: Now they have to go for two.
BRITTON: You have to go for two all the time. After the third.
JAMES: Yeah. It is wild. They are never going to go to seven overtimes again, but that a good thing. My daughters go to a small school that does not have enough kids to field 11 minutes. We play six-man football and I love six-man football. Okay. Get this. If you run it in, you get one point. If you kick a field goal, you get two. Because they just do not have any kickers. So, no one tries to kick it, because they never make it.
BRITTON: I saw something this week actually. There is a new, or maybe it is new to me and not to everybody else, but there is a new tackle football league without hats or helmets that is seven on seven.
BRITTON: And these guys are legit laying each other out.
JAMES: It is like rugby.
BRITTON: Suck it up.
JAMES: That is dangerous. Six- and seven-man football, you have so little coverage that you end up with big explosive plays. It is 15 yards for a first down in six–man in Texas. And only an 80-yard field because fewer people and they shrink it up. But before we get back to football, I mean construction technology, reminder that you can never miss an episode. I got Josh Bone and Britton Langdon on. I got Bulldogs and Sooners and Aggies all here. Anyway, never miss an episode of this show by subscribing to our podcast. Text ConTech to 66866. Not just the audio. You are getting the show notes, the weekly email, the articles we talk about, text ConTech to 66866. If you have a question, comment, or suggestion, text The ConTechCrew on our Google Voice line. It is (979) 473-9040. And I always love getting feedback from you all. I get a good bit of it. A whole lot of questions. I get lobbed across the fence and certainly, there is a great one from this week. Usually, I just respond to these folks, but a great article got sent to me by one of our listeners on the text line.
This is from WIRED Magazine, the British version of WIRED. Meet the Excel warriors, saving the world from spreadsheet disaster. Our listener, who has listened to me for a long time on the show, knows that I consider Excel the cancer of construction. So, he said I thought you would love this one. It is literally about a group of folks who are experts at solving Excel spreadsheet mysteries. One of the big ones was a converted date–time format that ends up getting reformatted into a money field. An employee mistakenly got a $40,335 bonus because somebody misconstrued a date–time field in raw format for a dollar field, reformatted it, and lumped that onto the employee’s bonus in the spreadsheet. Oh, my goodness. They have countless examples of how much money people lose.
This was another one. A Canadian marijuana grower Canopy Growth had to correct its quarterly earnings after incorrectly posting a 40-million-pound loss. The real figure was 88 million pounds, and it was miscalculated by a formula error. And their stock fell 2% as a result of the mistake. Go figure. And Boeing leads employee’s data in a hidden spreadsheet column. It keeps going on and on. They provided countless reasons. Thank you to our dear listener for sending this on to me. Always appreciate that. And that is Doug Adams from Shiel Sexton. Thank you, Doug, for sending that in. Appreciate it.
Onto our cause of the show. 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 industry and providing suicide prevention resources, and tools, to create a zero-suicide industry. Visit PreventConstructionsSuicide.com for more information. And please share it on your social media.
I am so excited to have our special guest on the show. I have watched this guy go from the very early days, pre-revenue, no clients, different company name, through now. That is the great thing about running a podcast for a while. What Josh, when did we start this? Five years ago, roughly?
JOSH: 240 episodes ago.
JAMES: It was almost five years ago. It is for almost five years.
BRITTON: Hang on, James. Do you know though, that I was in the 40th episode?
BRITTON: Exactly 200 episodes ago. November 1st, 2016. I was telling Josh earlier, I think my ConTechCrew’s shelf life is about four years, so I got to make sure I re–up for about four years from now.
JAMES: Yeah. Well, let us get you on sooner than that. I tell you what Britton, it has been exciting watching you all grow and prosper and build something that people want that solves a real problem. And do it the right way too. And you and I have had talks about this. There is a lot of ways to build a tech company and, I have made my opinions extremely clear about the ways I think companies should be built around their customers, around profitability, around delivering value, and solving real problems. It should be about the customer and not just about whatever else. Whatever the noise is getting in the way of solving customer’s problems. And that is what has so impressed me. I just want to do a recap. It has been 200 episodes since we have had you on. Let us just recap a little bit about you. The cat is out of the bag. You are a Sooner. Exactly. Right there, right on the wall behind you. I am at the home office. The degrees are over at the office-office. But let us just talk about this for a second. I want to talk about where were you were born and raised, what did you dream of doing when you grew up, and I think you played some football? Let us talk about that and what you studied and then how you wound up here.
BRITTON: Absolutely. Well, I am originally from Oklahoma. So, I am a Sooner born Sooner bred. There was that. And for whatever reason, as a teenager, I wanted to escape Oklahoma. And go to the bright lights of Los Angeles. And I went to UCLA and attempted to play football for the Bruins for a year. And let us just say that, division one, college football is a different animal, then high school football. So, after a little bit, I transferred back to Oklahoma, the reverse Troy Aikman route, and was on the team in Oklahoma for a blink of an eye and said, nah, this is not going to happen. And enjoyed my studies there. I got an International Business Degree (BBA) there and went into politics, believe it or not. And hated that like you would not imagine. And suffering now in Iowa, I put myself through not only the caucuses; but it is a relentless election season in Iowa. It never stops. The moment the elections go down next month, we will start in for a 2022 election of senators and governors, and they will all become an Iowa. Even though I hate politics, I somehow moved to the epicenter of the beast.
JAMES: Political epicenter of America. And all because of a wackadoo schedule. I bet you, I think they knew what they were doing when they wanted to slot Iowa in early. I am not sure they understood how deep the consequences would be for the political exhaustion for the people of Iowa.
BRITTON: Well, and then you put in the robo–callers and all that stuff. They are not a person, and nor should there be any more, but there is not a person in Iowa that has a landline anymore. You do not have landlines here unless you are a glutton for a punishment.
JAMES: Yeah. Politics is a broad description for a job. Does that mean that you were working as a staffer in the state legislature or federal? What were you doing?
BRITTON: I was in the state legislature. I was the lead assistant to the speaker of the house for the state of Oklahoma. I was basically in charge of helping him pass the leadership’s agenda as it went through the house of representatives.
JAMES: Yeah, and it is tiring. I spent six years in the local government. I did two terms on the city council and it is an interesting and exhausting profession. The hours are long. And the pay for staffers is usually pretty short. And, for the city councilman, when the pay is zero, so it is a volunteer effort and, you got to love it. You got to want to do it.
BRITTON: You are making change happen there.
JAMES: Yeah. You pass laws that become the factor of laws right after you pass them. Or whenever they are said it is going to be effective. What led you from that to being a District Manager over at Victaulic? What was that transition in those three years?
BRITTON: Well, I realized I want to get out of politics. My family has been in real estate my entire life. My mom was a residential realtor. My dad develops affordable housing assisted living centers across Oklahoma and Texas and Arkansas. We have sort of been in that business my whole life. And then I happened to see an opportunity come up at Victaulic to be a sales guy in Oklahoma, in Texas. And I said you know what? I love construction. I will be honest. It had a nice pay in a car allowance, or I think it had a car that they would give you. As a 23-year-old kid, I said, you know what? I am going to do this, and it changed my life. I ended up, going to work at Victaulic for about six, seven years. And I got to be a Regional Manager there. And then my wife and I had our first child and moved to Denver when he was five weeks old to be a Regional Manager at Victaulic. I got the opportunity to move to Iowa, to come work for a company called Modern Piping when he was about two years old and I took it. And never looked back. And I ended up managing the fabrication shop and the BIM and VDC department for them after a year and grew it from about a $40 million company to a little over $100 million a year in revenue. Went from a 7,000 square foot fab–shop to a 70,000 square foot fab–shop.
JAMES: Wow. That is a big change.
BRITTON: It was a huge change. We got ISO 9,001 certified and I was the Management Rep for that whole thing. In a very short time, we went from the average mom–and–pop mechanical contractor in the US to a mid-size fabrication shop that served companies like Shell Oil and DuPont Chemical around North America. It was a pretty exciting time to be a part of Modern.
JAMES: Yeah. And I like the Modern Piping story in general. You are growing and building something organically. And then there comes an opportunity that I guarantee you did not identify before you left Victaulic for Modern Piping, to end up running a tech spinoff from a construction company. And look at Britton, I have been studying in this space now since 2005 is when we started diving deep into construction tech. And there are very few successful construction tech spinoffs from construction companies. A lot of them build technology in–house. Very few of them can successfully commercialize it. Walkthrough what that looked like, where you are at a contractor, you are building in–house tech, and all of a sudden, they say, let us go sell this.
BRITTON: Yeah. And that is where the story is truly a kind of a fateful story. We were very fortunate to be a spinoff from Modern and the owners of Modern. I always tell people they were the greatest angel investors we could have ever asked for because they never asked for sales. They were not saying, oh, you need to go get new a hundred new customers tomorrow. You need to push this product. They understood that what we developed at Modern, was for Modern Piping. It was not for anybody else in the industry. And when we brought on our first six beta customers, we took it on the teeth. It did not work at all for those people. It might have worked perfectly for Modern, but for those guys, it was an entirely different workflow. And it is amazing how different contractors around the United States do the same thing. Everyone has sort of a snowflake with their processes, even though at the end of the day, they are making piping systems, plumbing systems, sheet metal, electrical.
JAMES: The output looks the same. You walk into a building and it looks pretty darn similar. And the input looks pretty similar. You have these raw materials that come in and then you go look at it, installed in the building and you are like, okay, how different could it be?
BRITTON: And it is all about standardization. Even as an industry, we have no standards when it comes to fabrication and design for fabrication yet. And it is going that way. We are getting better. But every contractor from the billion-dollar mechanicals out there to the guys who are just building their very first Fab shop, struggle with the same stuff. It is all, how do we get better at producing this at a high quality, at a quick rate? And you try to implement manufacturing principles to that, but it is not the same thing. It is always a struggle and it is an interesting paradigm for each company to get over that hump, for them to see, okay, this is making us more efficient. This is making us more successful.
JAMES: I have a loaded question for you. And then I am going to hand it off to Josh. Because Josh knows more about BIM and VDC and prefab in his pinky than most people I know in their whole body. I am going to hand it off to the pro here in a second. I do want to understand. Was the problem in those first six beta clients, was it with your software, or was it with the fact that those companies had not standardized their process? Or was it a little bit of both?
BRITTON: It was both. It was certainly with the software. I will give you one example. I come from a union chap, right. And we have guys like apprentices and journeymen and foremen, and we have all the titles that you are used to. And at Modern, we set up the permission structure for the software based on those titles. Because it was for Modern. It was not for anybody else. The very first beta partner was a merit shop, an open shop. And we went in there. We said, okay, journeymen on the shop floor, have permission structures that they can do this. And they go, we do not have journeymen. We have welders. I am like, oh no. Alright. Called up my developer and said, hey Ryan, how quickly can we change it to a tiered structure instead of a titled structure? And he is like, ah, how quickly you need it? Like now. Like right now. I am not joking about those first days, the first day of training at every single place we went to was just like a catastrophe, and yeah, so it was part us, part processes at the companies. And, honestly, we are kind of figuring out together with a lot of these guys.
Here is one interesting thing. When we set up every single customer, we work through a process roadmap of how they fabricate, what they fabricated. The percentage of contractors out there that do not have that roadmap in place would blow you away. And just because they have never had to. They get an order for a bunch of plumbing work. They solder up the copper pipe, they glue up the PVC and they send it out to the site, but you never ask them like, okay, well, what size goes to your chop saw? What size goes to your tire stop or whatever. And they are like, well, I do not know. Let me get this guy. He will tell us. And it is just amazing when it comes to that. It is always a little bit of both. Process, software. Always a good combination of a partnership we have with our customers.
JAMES: Oh, I had the same thing. I designed SmartBid in 2006 around my very first client. And then I went to my second client and found out that my very first client had some very abnormal practices. And it was not until we had eight customers. And I tell all companies that are coming in at tech, startups. I said like 6 to 10. You need 6 to 10 really good, different beta clients. And then you can develop. Because most of my work is getting those first 6 to 10 onboard. And then you are going to have incremental steps along the way, like your first big whale of a client. Like when we got our first ENR 100 client, that was a huge leap. But then the second, third, and fourth were pretty easy. Your assumptions get blown out of the water pretty fast.
BRITTON: It took three years of beta to get it to where it could be commercially ready. That off the shelf, it is going to work for any contractor out there. Three years of development. And that was something that only Modern Piping would have afforded us to do. If we had gone to a VC or a traditional funding mechanism for that, they would have been like, oh no, you need to have sales. Let us get out there. Let us go. Modern said, now let us get the product right before we go push it. Now we have close to a hundred customers, so it worked.
JAMES: Yeah, it works but it requires a ton of patience. And for us, it took about the same amount of time to really dial our formula in and get it beyond 20 customers. And the same thing with my product SmartCompliance now. It took us a few good solid years of iterating, but I think more than three to dial the formula in, and we had to wait for the market to catch up to where we were at. Investing in a product that requires a lot of patients for sure. And certainly, Modern showed that. Josh, you have been around the block in VDC and prefab and technology for that. I know that a lot of things that have gone on with MSUITE have really checked some boxes for you that have long been pain points for you.
JOSH: Definitely. And I want to come back to this conversation around standardization. We have got to end with this because I want to come back to it. It is a very important topic for the listeners, but I want to start from the beginning here. You came in, you were starting the Fab shop at Modern. One of the things, a lot of us that have been driving from BIM to Fab, you look back at the days of when you were just doing BIM contractually to meet a contractual obligation, around coordination. And a lot of us now look at that and we almost give it a bad rap for whatever purposes. If we really look at it, there are still good things that come from that. Britton, I would like for you to talk about that journey and the stories. How did you get from that contractual obligation of coordination to driving Fab? Because I think it is so important. If we are not incentivized ourselves to do BIM, you are just meeting that minimal contractual obligation. And we are limiting our capabilities, what we can do in the BIM and VDC SPACE.
BRITTON: Yeah. I think a lot of it has to come from the realization that BIM facilitates your own increases in productivity in the process. I remember when I was a Victaulic, Victaulic sells 3D modeling packages, right. And back then it was, hey, we are going to model out your mechanical equipment room. We will create schools for you and all that. And we come in with a price and everyone is like, you are out of your mind. I said, well, how are you doing any cheaper? And they said, well, you just have a third-party guy, draw it up for us. And I am like, well, but you are not fabbing off it. No. And you are not building off of it? No. Well, why are you paying for it? They said, well, we have to do it for the contract. Like, wait a minute. You got a whole model here that is allegedly going to be the finished product but is not even close. It takes that light bulb to pop where you start to realize, wait a minute. If we just took this to our fabrication shop and started building some of this off–site, and it does not have to be the whole job. You pick and choose where the low hanging fruit is for you. What is the biggest pain points you have? For some underground for some hangers for some, other stuff. It is just kidding things sometimes. It is even a huge jump for productivity in some places.
But getting that light bulb to pop that it is no longer just a contractual obligation, that you can leverage the power of the model to make your process exponentially more efficient is something that we try to work with customers every single day. And generally speaking, the guys who buy MSUITE are the ones that that light bulb has popped. But we still in our conversations every day, we are still having conversations about, okay, well, how do you convert the model into that fabrication and install workflow? How do we keep that federated integrity all the way through the process? And not easy, but the good contractors out there that work at it every day, it is a continues improvement type thing. There is no end to that journey. It is something that you just get better at incrementally every day.
JOSH: That leads me back to James when we were doing BIM services from JBKnowledge and we were working with TVA and we are working on some of these big, large projects. One of the things I would always try to do is temper everyone is expectations. As soon as you started talking about LOD 350 or 400 and people panic on that, you realize, well, they are not doing it. It can go both ways, but when that owner wants that LOD 400, and you can tell that mechanical or electrical contractors panicked. So, that is going to cost us more money. You know right away if they are doing it for their purposes and they are doing BIM to Fab, that means nothing to them because they know they are going to meet that obligation due to their own needs internally. So, you are you doing BIM to Fab. You start having those conversations. One of the things I think so hard is that investment, like Modern had to make, of moving contractual to BIM to Fab is, you have got to invest in people that know how to build. That know piping. That knows electrical. That has had time in the field. There has to be a balance there. You cannot just bring in all these young kids that know how to model, but that does not have this real-world experience. How do you get over that hump before we even start to talk about standardization, that is a massive hump where most people fail?
BRITTON: It is, but the whole thing behind this is that you are going to fail. It is going to happen. You got to fail fast and fail forward in everything that you do. And knowing that you are going to bloody your nose, is just something that you have got to accept and move forward with it, learn from it. You got to find people and Modern did a great job. They found a lot of special people that were not afraid to fail. Fail openly. And, I always say, an old phrase, but bad news travels fast in good companies. You have got to be able to communicate with the problems quickly and as close to real–time as you possibly can, and then learn from those problems and grow from them. I think that the journey for that it starts with, oh, hey guys, this is going to go bad. We know it. Let us learn from it and let us push forward because at the end of the day, even the ones that go bad, are usually more predictable and are less bad than just doing BIM for BIM‘s sake. And just looking at it from a contractual obligation. If you can look at your process and take that model and leverage it through the rest of the life cycle, even when you fail, you can fail fast and fail forward.
JOSH: But what is the mindset to take that bloody nose? Because most contractors are not willing to take that bloody nose. They just want to get by and continue to stay on the course that they are on right now. To take that path, what is the motivation? Why did Modern decide we are going to take this bloody nose because on the backend, what is it going to do for you?
BRITTON: At the end of the day, we did it because, we are in a small town, Iowa. And we had to do everything from a plumbing job in an OR at the local hospital to an elementary school rebuild, to the nuclear power plant down the road, and everything in between. And being in a place like this, where you have the full gamut, and we have got food and beverage and pharmaceutical and industrial power, you got it all. We had to figure out ways to try and standardize our deliverable to those projects because everything cannot be an R&D project. You cannot do that. You cannot continually be successful and grow a business when you are winging it. You are building the airplane on the way up when you are doing it.
So, from our perspective, it was survival. It was growth. We wanted to be able to, as a company, make things right more predictable and make it to where it was not guesswork every time, we did an estimate. That was our motivation. But as the industry has changed and evolved over the last decade, you see a lot of companies that have now proven that it is incredibly successful to take that sort of business model. Now the guys who are not doing it, you risk being left behind. You risk not being able to go after the elementary school that the other three contractors in town can do with BIM and Fab. And, even to the point of taking VR in some cases, at least on a flashy level right. Now, VR is at the state that BIM was 10 years ago. It is this flashy nice thing that you can use to build your way into the workflow, but for the most part, it is still trying to find its fit.
JOSH: Yeah. James, you told me something once upon a time about, do you want to have a lifestyle business, or do you want to grow? That is the mindset of these contractors that we work with at NECA at MCAA and SMACNA. There are those individuals that want to grow; and they are willing to take the bloody nose to grow from a $4 million business to a $20 million business or a $40 to a $100 million business. You got to have something behind you. We have been trying to lead the horse to water for 240 episodes, but you cannot make him drink. It has got to be in them at some level. You have done this with your own business, James.
JAMES: Yeah. At some point in every person’s business life, they have to decide that. Do I want to have a growth business or a lifestyle business? And a surprisingly large percentage of construction companies actually falls in the lifestyle business category when you get down to talking to the owners and that is okay by the way, it is fine. If that is a personal choice. Being an entrepreneur running your own business is about having the freedom to choose the lifestyle that you want. Period. End of story. Like is about choice. Like you have to give, Josh, your members at NECA are probably split down the middle. Some are happy the way it is and do not want to drive a lot of changes. They are not heavily incentivized to go out and risk a lot of capital to improve the business, when the lifestyle they built actually makes them intensely happy. That is okay. But there is an inherent risks with a lifestyle business. When you are not growing and evolving business, you are very susceptible to being disrupted by people who are growing and evolving their businesses.
If the entire business moves to VDC, for example, a personal example of my term on the city council. I finally got us to where, we were seam at risk, by my fifth year in council. And as part of the RFP we put out for our seam at risk contract for city hall and police station, you had to have VDC capabilities. The CM had to have VDC capabilities. You had to prove you had VDC capabilities. Could not just have a license of Revit on the shelf. You had to have projects; you have to prove you have done it. And that cut probably half of the respondents out of the gate. All these very traditional hard bid contractors that have been submitted a hard bid, low bid, do it on paper. It is going to be fine. I am going to retire this way, guys got cut out of the opportunity on $66 million of public work because they could not meet the technical requirements of an owner that had gotten more sophisticated.
JOSH: Boston’s requiring prefab now. Not only are they requiring BIM, now they have gone to prefab. You have to have a prefab plan.
JAMES: Correct and you need to prove you have it. You actually have to take them on a tour of the prefab plant. I am sure as part of the interview process. And I wanted to get us there, I got term limited before I could, I think there are benefits in prefab, and that kind of brings me back. We did our listeners a disservice, I did our listeners a disservice because I did not ask you, just summarize in a short 30 seconds exactly what MSUITE does.
JAMES: What does it do? And what problem does it solve?
BRITTON: MSUITE is the management suite for the construction life cycle for specialty contractors. Everything from BIM to Fab to field, we automate processes. We track how long things take and our success or failure of those things. And we can give transparency into that workflow, unlike anything else.
JAMES: How is that any different than a project management software that says they specialize in subcontractors?
BRITTON: That is a great question. One of the things we do is we collect data at the grassroots level. At the source. Whether that is a machine on the shop floor or the Revit model itself, we are collecting data passively. And what that does is it creates an objective set of data. Like last week you had Bassem on and he was talking about, people making decisions on intuition. We help people make better decisions because we are making it on better data. When Bassam talked about Briq using the day data lake to make decisions, we are the ones that are creating that data lake. We are the ones that are gathering that data for them.
JAMES: Yeah, you are literally snapping into hardware and you are pulling data off of it. But then you also have to look at like traditional, I say traditional because we can actually say this now. Maybe the construction tech industry is old enough to say there is traditional construction tech software. Traditional construction tech software is about people entering data in forms and it is geared around Fab in the field. If you look at their screens and their software, it is geared around, let us ship a bunch of sticks and bricks out to the field and let us assemble it on site. There is been a big gap. That is what you stepped into in managing the fabrication process, dealing with the fact that you are now a manufacturer and a builder, and that you can snap into this data that is being generated off the machines. Is that correct?
BRITTON: Absolutely. It is the logistics of the life cycle. Like you said. The traditional method was all this stuff just magically shows up on site. We do not know where it came from. We do not know who bought it. It just showed up. And now we have to put it in based on these drawings. To now there is a design for manufacturing principle that takes it and says, okay, we are going to chunk out this building into these things we can build off–site, ship those as assembled components, and lift them and install them. And at the end of the day, about removing a lot of that complexity on–site and bring it into a controlled environment. And that is what we leverage. And we just so happen to track everything that happens in that process so that, when you are making decisions like, hey, we are going to set a due date for ourselves for November 1st on–site. Is that realistic or not? It is not guesswork anymore. Not just the gut feeling of, I think we can get there. It is, yeah, we can get there in this many hours. Bring me some more work.
JAMES: You are almost a traditional mindset ignoring how, I love how you said it. It magically shows up on the site. You are literally ignoring your supply chain, even if an internal supply chain.
BRITTON: It is too much noise.
JAMES: Yeah. And you have to acknowledge that there are about 5,000 out there to go to Texas Aggie. There are 2001 things, because I am class of 2001, there are 2001 things that happen before you can do the work on the job site. A manufacturer somewhere probably in their country has to manufacture components that have to get shipped. Then the shipping companies have to execute their supply chain. Then it has to get received and distributed. And you were part of that lifecycle of distribution, and then it has to arrive and get stored and get sold and then we have to take it and then everything has to get assembled they are kitted or prefabbed. And then it has to get shipped, which of course is been one of the major sticky points that people have pointed out as a downfall of prefab and modular is the shipping and logistics to get it there. That continues to be a pretty sticky wicket. And then, eventually, all that stuff shows up on the job site and you can build a building.
JOSH: Let me just say this. Do not get the field engaged. See what happens. You try to go through this process. If you do not communicate with VDC to the shop, to the field and you do not get input from the field, you do not get that buy–in, what happens is you ship that thing out to the field, they do not realize how supposed to be installed. They start cutting. They already start taking things, now that you realize, dude, that did not go there, that went there. You just made a hundred, now we have just added 15 cuts that have to be made in the field because you put A where B was supposed to go. And that is the thing that MSUITE is trying to do is help that flow of communication. You have got to get buy–in from the field. If you do not have their buy–in, you are going down the wrong path. And a lot of people struggle with Britton and even the shop back to the VDC department and all three of these things have to be in sync. If they are not pulling in the right direction, you could create more ways to more problems and more confusion than if you would have just gone stick building it out in the field.
BRITTON: Well, it is just the one sheet of music principle, right. And everyone in the orchestra has to be playing off the same sheet of music or it is going to sound really bad. If you are not bringing the field and bringing that full life cycle into the decision-making process as to what we are going to build, how we are going to build it, and when we are going to build it, things go south real fast. And I think at MSUITE we are making that workflow achievable in an easy way. And there is just nothing else out there that is doing that.
JAMES: Let us dive a little bit. Because Josh, thank you so much for interjecting. I love your thoughts on this. Like, is chaos the standard state in construction? I almost feel like it is the default state unless someone comes in and organizes it. Because we talked so much about this, are construction job sites naturally chaotic, or are they naturally organized, and something interferes with it. I almost feel like, because of the complexity of the project, it is naturally chaotic. And it takes an incredible amount of people, processes, and technology to make it not chaotic. And prefab, unless approached appropriately, prefab offsite, or just offsite construction in general, can actually, and we have seen some pretty major failures recently. Financial failures. I mean, Scandore, they are some big modular guys in Canada, just went out of business. Some people had some high–powered folks that went out of business recently and it makes you wonder, like, if it stands a chance, long-term or if just naturally so chaotic, that is going to be hard to move the needle on this. Josh, what do you think?
JOSH: I think we are industrializing; and it is already going down this path. Going forward, those that figure out this process, we are going to see in construction, what we have seen in agriculture. How we see Big Ag and we see the big manufacturing and know–how these companies are growing. We are going to see massive M&A opportunities in the construction industry because you are going to see consolidation. You are going to see the super sub. You are going to see carrying more trades because they can apply what they learn. And you are starting to see the trade contractors, starting to require, just pulling it all in under one umbrella because they are figuring out this process. And they are going to grab a lot more work. The big ones are going to get bigger. We are going to see it. They are going to refine this process. There is no way of going back. And they are going to start to gain enough momentum. The fact that now they are going to be able to educate and talk about DFM, DFA, and how these things are going to come together.
The toothpaste is out of the tube. The owner’s expectations are changing. And if you cannot play in this space, you are not going to be able to compete on a lot of jobs on these big jobs going forward. You are going to have to have some way of showing visibility and transparency of how you are going to do DFM, DFA. It is coming. There is no way of going back to it.
BRITTON: And I want to chime in there. I believe that the construction process is, siloed control, and outside of those silos, it is absolute chaos. And until you can get those silos to be larger so that eventually they envelop the entire workflow, you will have an individuals that are making decisions that are in direct conflict with other individuals in the same workflow, in the same company. And when that happens is when that chaos starts to spin, and it starts to gyrate out of control and people lose processes, and they just go back to the old way where, I am going to do it this way because this is how I know how to do it.
JOSH: You know let me add one thing to that, James, really quick because that chaos is controlled to a certain state, but what we need to be able to do is better communicate that, if you make a design change at a certain stage in the process, the ripple effects that take place and what that does now. So, we were being proactive at, maybe we have a way of measuring. We have been proactive, 75% on this job. That is measuring healthy on this job. But you make a design change now that reactive state takes over. Now, we cannot be proactive anymore. Now we are playing from behind. The owners, the GCs, everyone has to have some type of way of understanding what these decisions, how they impact others in this process were too siloed. And the better that we can understand what these decisions are being made on job sites all across America, how it impacts the others on the team. Because this is a team game. And if we were not paying attention to that, you are going to set yourself up for some big failures.
JAMES: Britton. First off, I like talking about hardware integration because I think one area, it is easy to build a mobile app. It is hard to build an application that is integrated with hardware. The fusion between the physical world and the software, the digital world, is really important. Apple has repeatedly demonstrated that when you can control both the hardware and the software that you can drive substantially higher adoption rates, and you can do a lot more. The same reason Google makes their phone to challenge their own hardware partners. I think this is probably one of your Ninja strengths because you guys have paid attention to the hardware and the equipment. Has it been a big challenge to integrate with all this equipment and to pull data feeds off it?
BRITTON: Absolutely. And in large part is, because the equipment infrastructure, its own software was built before API’s existed. And without ever the thought that anyone would ever need to know an arc on arc off time or what amperage a welding machine used or any other information like that. We have started with the low hanging fruit, the good folks that people like TigerStop and RazorGauge, and Watts and HGG and Pipes over in Vernon. All those guys get it and they have got it for a long time. When it comes down to a TigerStop or a RazorGauge machine, they have opened up their SDK, their software to allow companies like us to control the machine. Now our mobile app, the guys are walking around the shop floor, they can walk it over to the TigerStop, plug it in, and we can control the machine and the saw, and everything involved in the process. And then all of that data pulls back to us. The challenges, some hardware technologies out there are still making that progression into the more connected digital world, and then others have kind of done it already and it is really easy.
JAMES: Some might be fighting it because they will want to build their walled garden. Where they do not want to give you access to control their machinery because then the customer is not using their software to control the machinery.
BRITTON: You know it is funny you say that. There is a lot of companies that are like that, but when you look at a company like Watts or HGG that sells $400,000 machines, the software is a tiny little chunk of that. The magic and the art behind what it does is; being able to take that plasma and cut a hole at its exact correct dimensions in a couple of seconds. And now the guys on the shop floor who would normally be building a pattern, placing the pattern over the pipe, manually cutting the hole that could take, depending on the size of it, an entire day to do, they do in a couple of seconds. So, our software they are like, yeah, we do not care about the control of the machine, as long as you do it right. And in those cases, we do not even want to control that machine. We just want to pull data from it.
JAMES: Since you are so heavily involved, and Josh, I want your feedback first. And Britton, I want you to close us out before we move to the news with this question. Is prefab offsite, modular, is this accelerating, or have we plateaued?
JOSH: I will go. And then you go to Britton. What Britton was just talking about is moving from prefab to construction manufacturing. And what he is doing is automating processes. It requires more investment, but that investment can have a very measured ROI. And what we are seeing now is, this is going to lead us to standardization. That the tools that Britton is building are going to force us to have these tough conversations. Standardization is a very tough conversation to start with any organization that is starting to make this move. It takes a certain level of maturity. But as you see these workflows that are coming together through the software, I believe it is going to take us through this automation. And it is only going to get better, James. Everyone is starting to write software now through the cloud so that we have the APIs and only going to get easier. We are in the early stages of this and Britton‘s had to plow some tough ground right now, but you are starting to see those walled gardens being broken down because they know that is not their strength. And I think going to open up so much opportunity for us.
BRITTON: I could not agree more. I look at it. I will make a football analogy. Back when the run–pass option was brand new, everyone was like, whoa, what is this? Why would we do that? The NFL looked at it and are like, no, we are not doing that. And now if you cannot run the run–pass option, what are you doing? And I think from a fabrication perspective or prefab perspective into the true manufacturing world that Josh was talking about, there is absolutely an acceleration that is happening. You are looking at about 10% to 20% growth in companies every day that are looking at doing this as a part of their workflow. And you are looking at companies now, we used to say, if you are not doing 50 million in revenue, we are probably not going to talk to you because you are probably not in that journey yet. Now down to 20 and even close to 10 million in revenue. Where they are looking at opportunities and say, hey, if we bag and tag these things and send them out, our guys can easily install it. And that is the first step.
Those are the first kind of incremental things to fabrication. And you go all the way down the road to somebody like Katara or Blox or any of those groups that have looked at it and said, we are going to turn this logistics supply chain into a manufacturing workflow. We talked with Blox the other day. They can build an 8,700 square foot Walmart Health Center in 11 days. 11 days. And or every 11 days, they are building one, and from their whole life cycle, from the beginning of the design of that facility to the moment it is brought on site is 45 days, and they turn the lights on at that point. I think, yes, it is going to accelerate even faster than it is right now, but at the end of the day, it is all about taking that first step.
JAMES: Well, that is amazing. And I am excited about the future of building. Generally, the entire move to constructing, you know fusing it, and taking the best things from manufacturing and the best things from the field and construction. Because I have run into this recently. I am trying to build a metal building right now Britton.
BRITTON: With walls and a roof?
JAMES: Yeah, I am trying to build it out. I am trying to build a metal building. It is a fairly straightforward 65x65 metal building on a slab. And there is a lot of companies out there that build those kinds of buildings. I will be honest, there is a lot of them, but they want nothing to do with the install. And you know the big pain in my butt right now? I cannot find a company that I will install it correctly. So, it does not do me any good that everyone has moved to prefab for metal buildings if no one will go put it on site.
BRITTON: Exactly. It should be part of the supply chain.
JAMES: I will be honest. It is like, okay, great. You figured out prefab metal buildings. You are no good to me if you cannot help me with the installation. So, I think that is where the secret sauce, the magic is, is being able to take to get that building on the ground. Walmart does not want someone to prefab their buildings. They want someone to prefab and put it on the dirt. And for me, just in my most recent personal experience as a purchaser, it is like, I can find a million companies that will prefab and pour it out. By the way, surprisingly not cheap. You would think that it would be cheaper, as I am comparing this against, and this is where I think one of the downfalls is. As a buyer of these, I am comparing the price to prefab and have someone assemble it versus just have someone build it. And the price is not that much better. And neither is the timeframe. If you look at Blox, that is the answer. They are addressing the entire supply chain and it is probably not, I do not know, Britton, maybe you can answer. It is probably not cheaper. It is probably, it is just a lot faster. And speed is money.
JOSH: Or more certain. Even if not faster, at least you have the certainty like Victaulic. They have figured this out. How do they manufacture it? Prefab and whatever they need to do. And then how does it get installed out in the field of fire sprinklers. Figured this out quite a while ago.
BRITTON: All you do is a simple calculation. What is your expected revenue for a month? And any month you can get that opened earlier is money in your pocket.
JAMES: Exactly. Right now, for me, time is of the essence. I am okay paying the same amount if it can be done faster, but if I got to spend three months looking for a contractor to get it installed because no one understands how to install prefab buildings, it does not do me any good.
BRITTON: You have a supply chain issue.
JAMES: They have a supply chain issue. At the moment they are making their problem, my problem. And that is where, building owners, they do not want to hear that. They are just like; I am going to write a check. I am going to wire you money. I need a building to show up on this piece of dirt. We can keep going, but we do not have time. Stick around for the news. We have some good news, that we picked that was related specifically to you and did it to this topic. BIM2TheBone, Josh Bone himself, get us started my friend.
JOSH: I am going to kick us off on the news this week with a very interesting conversation that I wanted to bring up is the New Prefabricated Contract Document Eases Use for Prefab and Modular Buildings. We should have a loud cheer going there. Believe it or not, consensus docs, most of us use the AIA contract language that is out there, but if you have not paid attention to consensus docs, it is supported by everyone in the industry except for AIA. And completely understand why AIA makes a lot of money off their contracts, but this has addressed new standards around offsite construction. The language is now starting to be addressed in the contracts. We talk about this so many times on this show that the contracts are the root of all of our problems and our ability to address prefabrication of how communication needs to take place. This is very exciting. Well overdue. I am anxious to see when the AIA is going to have this in there. The day that we have this in the AIA contracts, boy, that is amazing that we started to consider that. Because that is the real root of where we are going to go with DFA and DFM. Britton, this has to excite you. This aligns so much with what you are trying to do at MSUITE. And it lines with what our NECA contractors are trying to do. And the trades partners in general, that are trying to do offsite. This is a big leap forward.
BRITTON: Yeah, it is a huge win. I think at the end of the day, it is a step in the right direction for the process itself. At the end of the day, the industry starting to see the importance of understanding and putting in writing what prefabrication can do for the life cycle of construction. And this is a round one. People are going to get a bloody nose on this. And we are going to get it right. But going to take a little bit, so if you do not like it on day one, do not worry. It is going to change.
JOSH: Yeah, James, what are your thoughts on this? I think this is a wonderful thing. A lot of people may be concerned because, hey, now, we always have kind of stepped, there was no legal language around this, but now at least we are setting some guidelines and we can understand it. At least create some level of standard of care to know what the expectations are.
JAMES: All right. There are not many things I hate spending money on more than legal expenses. And I think pretty much everybody out there who has had to pay legal bills feels the same way. One of the things that I love about both consensus docs and the AIA docs is that they are trying to, and of course, lawyers around the world would much rather, we all use nonstandard documents because then they could drive millions and millions of dollars in bills on every single company customizing all their contracts. And they all act like they have the secret sauce to a contract. So, I hope I am answering your question, Josh, in a roundabout, but direct way. I am very excited at any attempt to bring standardization to contract language. I am very excited at any attempt to get a group of people, to agree to a common set of terms that are reasonable and equitable to both sides of a contract. I am very excited at any attempt to get owners, GCs, and subs, to agree on a set of contract language.
We had a huge issue at the city of the College Station with this. And they were going down. I cannot go into all the detail, but I am just saying that I was routinely referencing the fact that there was an industry body that was set up, explicitly to shortcut months of legal work and hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills by trying to agree on a common set of equitable terms. And that is the key to a good, contract set in my opinion, Josh, and that is why our associations play a pivotal role. Even when the associations representing maybe their members, as they have to think, what will cause the least amount of revisions in a contract review with both sides? I think if you ask yourself that question, not what will because of the least amount of revisions with the owner. Because then a lopsided contract. Or what will cost the least amount of revisions with the GC, of the sub? But what will cause the least number of revisions with both sides? And what can we agree on, that is as close to 50/50 fair as possible. I hope that every aspect of building, it is a little frustrated, be honest, a little frustrating. There are two competing contracts docs that are out there. I will be honest. I wish there were one industry body, not two.
JOSH: You look at consensus docs. It is ABC, AGC, NECA, IEC, it is the owners. It is CFMA. Everyone, the finishing contractors. There are tons of people that support the consensus docs because it is considered a very fair and neutral contract. I do think from a standpoint though, I would love you said the upfront and massaging these contracts. Sometimes I wonder though. Could attorneys be more cost-effective if we have them more proactive than reactive?
JOSH: I think a lot of times, we have got to figure it out.
JAMES: Cost–effective is not a class in law school, and neither is project management. And I will tell you this. I have looked at law school curriculums because they do not teach these guys how to manage projects. You have to manage your lawyers. And this is from someone who has been around the block on this for a long time, you got to manage it. I am excited. Thank you for bringing this up as a news item number 1, because it deserves a number 1 really.
JOSH: Absolutely. Number 2, ecmag.com. That is our Electrical Contractor magazine. Affiliated with NECA, but any electrical contractor should be picking this up and looking at it. Residential Energy Management System sees Rapid Growth. Guys, here is the thing we keep talking about. So often you talk about a lifestyle business or growing business. The thing is you can have a lifestyle business that can look at ways that you can grow. There are so many new opportunities and I have been watching this trend around battery storage around the residential market. And you talk about long term service implications. You talk about an industry that is so cyclical, the ups and downs, there is a new world out there that you can keep a lifestyle business, but you can grow it in a way that is so sustainable. You go out and you want to build a big Fab shop. There is a lot of investment upfront and there is a lot of risks, but some of these new opportunities and seeing these markets around energy management solutions and understanding the long term ramifications, guys, when I see things like this, I have been watching this trend for the last few years and a hard trend. That this market is going to grow. How do you in your business, see these opportunities, not see them as threats and approach these? This is exciting for me. This is what makes this industry so great and where we should be. It should not be winning. What do you guys think about when you see this?
BRITTON: Well, I think it is exciting. And this particular topic, I can remember James talking about it years ago. About the connected Home and the Nest and all those things. And I will be honest. Five, eight years ago. I do know how long ago it was when Nest came around. When it first came around, I was like, that is the dumbest thing I have ever seen. Why would I try to connect my home, to my air conditioning unit, and let it control when it turns on. I am a dad. I want to keep that thing nice and warm so that the energy bills down. But then you realize, well, wait a minute, this stuff is helping me manage this process. And now just mainstream. You are seeing now I think a lot of people are looking at, how do we get more energy efficient in our homes, because it comes down to the money. You can see the effect of this and tangible. There is an effect on energy management and residential communities today. And I think that is a cool thing that is happening.
JOSH: James, anything you want to add to this one? There is a cool factor to this, but there are tools out there today. I can go out and download something and install this device that reads, the harmonization right now on my panel. And I can look and see on my phone that when my wife turns on the microwave or when she turns on the oven and tends to leave it on for two or three hours after. Those are things I can now control. It gives us the ability to be a dad and, use our power. Hey, I am in DC this week, but I see the Oven’s been on for about six and a half hours. Is there any reason for that?
JAMES: To me, this is like hashtag, ultimate dad tool. Britton, I have started talking most about IoT and about the internet of everything a long time ago. And I have had connected devices for several years now. I have 61 devices in my house that are connected to the internet. I just checked on my app. I have 61. And I have remote control over most of them. And it has made it so much more hands–off to do the things I want to do, which is basically turning every light off and lock every door. That is my number one dad‘s goal is to turn every light off and lock every door. And so, I do a lot less of that. And in the spirit of my favorite book on 2 Second Lean, I have eliminated a lot of things I used to have to do manually. And I will tell you what. I have got a couple of rent houses that are like, short term Airbnb rentals and having, and I do not put cameras on them for a lot of reasons. People do not like that, but you can remotely monitor fire, smoke, temperature, water. It gives you so much peace of mind, and I am astonished that people do not want peace of mind with arguably for almost all people, the largest asset in their portfolio is their real estate and they do not monitor it. I have put every sensor I can get my hands on, and I think that a huge deal for all facility owners. And I have done it both corporately and personally because I want to monitor all our corporate assets too. A big deal. Yeah. I have been talking about it for a while.
JOSH: You think about the data from the back end of this, James, when you can start to tell somebody, hey, you just say no, your refrigerator is about to go out. We see the way that it is turning on more frequently than the efficiency is coming down.
JAMES: Nest did that the other day. They texted me and it said, your upstairs heater is turning off on too much. And then a few weeks ago it said, your AC has been running, but not cooling enough. You might want to have it checked out and sure enough, a fuse had blown, but no one had complained. It is an Airbnb deal. And I was able to get someone in and fix it. Nest is substantially improving its analytics capabilities, by the way. That is why some people love to hate Nest for some reason. And they are putting more time into analytics on your home than anybody is.
BRITTON: And they are doing an amazing job too.
JOSH: I see a time in the near future where your HVAC provider can tell you in College Station, Texas, that this is the most efficient unit. We are monitoring 800 of these units right now in College Station. And they perform better. Now that unit may perform better in Iowa or Atlanta, but this one performs the best, and this is the best bang for your buck. And you come to me for that knowledge.
BRITTON: So, I am in the market right now. We just had a du–ratio. I do not know if you guys know what that is, but it is straight–line winds. 140 miles an hour wind. Knocked out my condenser unit. Now I have got to get everything replaced. Fortunately, it was 30 years old. I do not know what the best AC unit is in the whole business today. I would love something like that, but you would get Google and you get the top 10 ads, whoever paid the most money to be on it.
JOSH: That is right. So, guys, I am going to wrap this up here with my news. BIM provider gets a boost from Fortnite developer. Tridify has received a grant from the developers that use one of the country’s most popular video games to create a BIM streaming service to enable construction prep professionals to stream BIM models on mobile devices. Epic Games has just pledged a hundred million to support game developers, enterprise professionals, and others, and finding new utilizations for the Unreal Engine. It is a gaming engine for rendering images and environments. This is exciting. Tridify’s new service will automatically publish any IFC, which is a neutral file format for the BIM world, it is an open file format and it will open the file format for building models used for BIM programs through the Unreal Engine and stream it to users via a URL. The more that we can make this consumable, the more doors this is going to open. Britton, this has got to excite you.
BRITTON: Oh, this is awesome. This along with Unity Reflect, the quicker we can get the model in the hands, as you said, of the field guys in the real world, have it be live and have them say, oh, that is not going to work because we do not build like that. Or we have to do this to make this happen. And to have that life where you can make changes back in the model and the guys are seeing it an instant way is incredibly powerful. And I think, again, this is just another step in that right direction, and I am excited to see what they do with it.
JOSH: Yeah. James?
JAMES: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Thank you so much for the news. We do have to move on to the next one, but I could not agree more guys. Okay. It was a big week for news. Oh, by the way, I should comment on it, Josh. I am sorry. I mean, it is Fortnite.
BRITTON: Yeah, exactly.
JAMES: I should comment on it. It is Fortnite. We are a little short on time, but I cannot just gloss over this. Do you all know who Marshmallow is? DJ. Remember that?
JAMES: Okay. He did a concert in Fortnite. Did you all know this? And he had a few hundred thousand people attend a lot of concerts. He did a concert in Fortnite. I am a marshmallow fan. I am super into techno. If you all did not know this. And I am super into all music. I like it all. But I really like techno. And Fortnite is pushing limits all over the place. And that is what I love about gaming, is that gaming is bringing so much value to the building industry because they have to simulate large environments and they have to simulate what that environment would do when you interact with it. They had to simulate physics, applied to large 3D structures. They are solving so many problems for us. Unity and Unreal Engine solved so many problems for developers that I am excited about it. This is inevitable. I think almost inevitable that it will lead to value for them.
JOSH: Let me say this, I am going to make a statement. A real big statement that the reason I brought this up, is I believe this is what is going to tie into our virtual reality world. Listen, I truly believe, I do not know how long going to be, but we are going to have virtual cities and you are going to be able to go on virtual dates in that building and go have these, I am not kidding. I believe this is the Genesis of having a virtual College Station, a virtual Ames Iowa. I think this is going to honestly lead to something much bigger. They have got some incentives for this on the back end, too. It is going to help us along the way, but I cannot help but think that there is something bigger planned for this. Because we have already seen digital Shanghai and some of these other cities around the world that are already doing this.
BRITTON: Just imagine if you could go into Kyle Field in College Station when already got 100,000 people and sold out, yet, you are now in a virtual world, in a live football game.
JOSH: Exactly. With all of it there.
JAMES: It is happening. Hey, the announcement this week, I am going to jump, I am going to take that and use it as a segue. Apple. Okay. Let us just talk about the Keynote this week. Their announcement with Verizon, they are bringing 5G to the iPhone. Finally, they are a little late to the game on 5G, but they are doing it the right way. This is Apple’s MO right. They let everybody else get the bruises and nicks and they do it right. Verizon is bringing multis–stream video to football games, but this is going to directly enable. This type of technology we need in construction. If you want to multi–stream video feed of your job site to your phone, the NFL has already figured out how to do it. And they are interpolating. There are some wild things they are doing where they are interpolating player views based on a network of cameras in the stadium, that then use mathematics to interpret what a view would look like from that player’s helmet.
And then you can feed that as one of your live feeds. You can have like the Skycam, the on the Field Cam, you can have a Player Cam, all through, and get this, the speeds they published. Four gigs per second of data on these 5G connections. Absolutely incredible amounts of connectivity. You combine it with the NFL live stream data with multi-party cameras, with augmented reality. All this technology is clashing together, and then not only that. But now there is LIDAR on your phone. We had LIDAR on the iPad, which was cool, but kind of hard to carry an iPad around on the job site. Now we have got LIDAR on the phone. So, they brought their iPad LIDAR sensor there. I mean, oh, holy crap. The future’s now. We are talking multi–gig connectivity to your cell device. You have got wild amounts of local computing with they are new chips that they just released. The resolution on the screens is phenomenal. Britton, I am hoping you watch the Keynote because, by the way, it was the most brilliant Keynote for a COVID Keynote.
BRITTON: Yeah it was spectacular. I loved all the feedback afterward that everyone hates Apple. Because now they got to go to buy a new phone. Which is true. The features they roll out are incredible and LIDAR on your phone, I genuinely think that that is one of those little things they release out that no one understands yet from a consumer side, but when you look three, four, five years down the road and construction, that will be like, well, of course, we use LIDAR. Why would not you use LIDAR on our phone? What do you mean?
JAMES: How else would you do positioning? They are mapping 3D spaces from their phone. Guys, I loved as a construction technology geek, I loved that a couple of the examples that Tim Cook gave were construction examples. There was an example of an app that was automatically producing an as–built drawing with a bone. I was like, yes, it is mainstream. That is what we need though.
BRITTON: Construction is sexy. We just have not figured out how to position it yet.
JAMES: Exactly. Oh, man. I was so fired up. I was so excited. All right. Onto the next news. Balfour Beatty sees the potential of augmented reality glasses. They are using AR glasses on job sites, and it is not who you think it is. It is not HoloLens. This is the Vuzix Blade smart AR glasses. Now I have been reviewing Vuzix for quite some time. Several years because they were pretty early to the game. They cost $900 a pair, which puts them cheaper. And what they have identified as the short, as the highest ROI item, and I always like looking at the ROI, like where is the money going to get made back is, is the shortened response time for RFI’s. They said that is the single biggest benefit is they can reduce the time that they need for formal writeups and it shortens the response time for RFI’s. And I was like, my goodness. That is fantastic. It is a hands–free set of glasses. Again, this is the Vuzix Blade smart glasses. They look pretty cool. I will say, and they have dual displays. They do not provide all the feature functionality that the HoloLens provides. I want to point out that you kind of have to take AR glasses in stride. There are also AR glasses that are not AR glasses. They are more heads up displays.
Like Google Glass is not an AR glass. That is a heads-up display that has a camera and a voice interface. I had a pair. Yes. I had a pair of the very first ones. It was a glass hole. That is what they called us. The people who had a Google Glass really early on and heads–up displays are different than AR glasses. So just keep that in mind, but also keep in mind that Balfour Beatty, a very large construction company is seeing the value in these. I want to move on because we are super short on time.
DroneDeploy. My favorite drone app. You guys know they are my favorite. They are my drone app I personally use. DroneDeploy has partnered with Jim Greenlee’s favorite robot. The snake–headed dog, Boston Dynamics. They have partnered together to create a unified 3D model of the building. So DroneDeploy handles the outside, and the aerial Spot handles the inside. This is what we were waiting for to produce a kind of a fused as–built model of the job site. They are combining this capability with fixed cameras on the inside of the site and they have the robot walking around. Then they have drones flying overhead and they are integrating all of the data coming off of these. Josh?
JOSH: Yeah, this is so exciting to see this technology and what we are going to be able to get from this on these daily job walks, because one of the things, when you ask a Phillip from StructionSite, you ask him, it is such an easy workflow, what is the biggest problem? One, they are not taking enough pictures. We have seen this now. And we have seen the drones launched themselves. Now we have got the robots that can go in and they can do their daily walks and capture this. Guys just documenting a job site and having this information is so valuable. It is going to help us manage a lot more measure, a lot more of these processes so that we can see productivity and get real–time feedback, as opposed to, hey, have you done your monthly report, looking at these monthly reports and tracking productivity yourself in isolation. I see it opening up a lot of doors and having conversations around this data.
JAMES: Britton, are you going to integrate with Spot, become a partner, and get yourself in the DroneDeploy app store so you can pull this data into your app?
BRITTON: I will not comment on that, but yeah, we are looking forward to a lot of those types of technologies, and yes. Just as much as we integrate with machines in the shop, we will be integrating with machines in the field.
JAMES: Yeah, you have to. I want to point out, by the way, if you are interested in the Spot the robot dog, the Actuators Conference from Boston Dynamics is on October 20th. It is only 3 days, 18 hours, and 59 minutes away. And I wanted to point that out. It is coming up very in the very near future. And they have some great speakers that are going to be talking about what is going on with Boston Dynamics. So, check that out. To wrap up the show today, I just want to do a quick rundown. The Construction Technology & Software rundown from Marla McIntyre at Construction Executive. I will let you read her email at constructionexect.com, but Safe Site Check–In is a touchless app with advanced administrator capabilities for checking on the job site. GCP Applied Technologies,’ concrete calculator app provides dosage rates for STRUX 90/40 micro synthetic fibers. Users of tool watches, a platform for tool equipment materials can build and schedule customized reports now.
Reality Capture’s Cintoo Cloud digital construction job sites to produce accurate as-builts that can be shared with teams and contractors. SmartSite US contractors can optimize how they capture, organize, and track sub labor resources. Raken’s had an update on mobile field management for segmented daily reports that allows field teams to submit multiple daily reports and timesheets. Trimble SysQue version 8.0 has a new electrical pipe and duct workflows for MEP contractors. A lot of cool additions. Check that out. Acumatica, the construction ERP software has been trying hard to push it into construction. Their construction edition cloud-based construction accounting software, they say that it is ready for construction accounting. I would go and check that out. If you are looking at ERP, that is Acumatica and there is a lot of other interesting deals here. But I am going to close with Skyward, which is a Verizon company, and Parrot, the European drone company, are partnering on delivering a Parrot, ANAFI drone, with Skyward drone program management, flight log seat training to US enterprise clients.
So, they are getting serious about enterprise drones. Lots of movement in the last week in the construction tech sector, people are kind of getting back to work, getting back to innovating. Getting back to their software release schedule. You are starting to see a lot more software and hardware releases and has been encouraging. So, go read that at ConstructionExect.com. That is all the time we have for our show today. Britton Langdon, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you for beating Texas for me this past week. And thank you for innovating and building awesome software that helps companies to move forward.
BRITTON: Thanks for having me on guys. Appreciate it. Always a pleasure.
JAMES: Yeah. And Josh Bone, now the Executive Director of ELECTRI, we are so excited to have you, and just a reminder for everybody out there. ELECTRI is a part of NECA. So, he did not leave NECA. He is still with NECA. It is the foundation for NECA. He is the Executive Director there, and we are so excited for you and so excited to see what is going to be coming out of ELECTRI shortly.
JOSH: A lot of fun things to come guys. And you know what, I think we are going to have to think about the 40th episode in 240th episodes, we got to get Britton back on again before that long, but you know what, James, one day I think we are going to look back and archive, we may be in the archive one day for ConTech, thinking about how far along we have come. Think about some of the conversations we have had. Maybe one day we do a throwback show and just bring it to the attention. These things are happening, listeners. They are really happening. This is not futuristic anymore. We are right here in the middle of it. And so dang exciting.
JAMES: What one day is innovative, one day will be a right to play. And it is good to always remember that. Thank you, our listeners for joining us today to geek out episode 240 for our interview with Britton Landon from MSUITE.
Please join us next week. That is episode 241 with Brendan Dowdall from Hilti Group. To read all of our news stories, learn more about apps, workflows, and hardware, subscribe at jbknowledge.com or text ConTech to 66866.
Big thanks to Jim Greenlee, our Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton-Arro, our Creative Producer, and our Advertising Coordinator, Tish Thelen, and our Transcriptionist, Adéle Waldeck. To listen to this show, go to the show website at The ConTechCrew.com.
Until next time, enjoy the ride and geek out!