This last week I went to the MCAA annual conference and was able to see Brian Helm of The Helm Group/Mechanical Inc. take his place as president for the upcoming year. I think it would be obvious to anyone that has been reading my articles or knows me that I think that technology adoption and integration is the number one factor in deciding whether a company or even a group of companies, will be relevant in construction over the next decade. We are seeing trends across the board of more and more tech sector investment coming into the construction ecosystem. These investments are not simply motivated by the huge amount of money involved in construction each year but are also motivated by the lack of technology adoption that seems to permeate the industry. Companies that are fluent in technology know what an overwhelming advantage high-tech processes can be and can easily see that construction is ripe for technological disruption. So, for me, it was a huge encouragement to see the presidency handed over to such a technologically progressive person and company.
For those of you who are not aware, Brian Helm was the chairman of the MCAA technologies committee and intimately involved in building that group, and the MCAA technology convention, into one of the premier conventions for technology in the mechanical construction space. Even some of those outside of the mechanical construction space see it as a model for how technology conventions should be. I say this because I talked to people from other parts of construction in attendance at the tech convention this year and they were blown away by the overall cooperative learning environment and technological enthusiasm they saw. One of them showed me a notebook full of notes not on the technologies being showcased, but on the culture and format of the convention, and while the success of that convention rests with many, ample credit needs to go to Brian’s leadership.
Beyond the committee leadership, his business is at the head of the pack when it comes to technology. It was one of the first to build out not only a separate R&D function but also one of the first to assign committed staff to tech development. Travis Voss is currently construction technologist for The Helm Group, and along with building technological advancement within the company, he has been committed to sharing and evangelizing technological advancement for the entire Mechanical industry. If you’re in the construction space as far as technology goes it’s almost impossible to not have heard or seen Travis. Travis himself talks often on the value of collaboration and coopetition, values highlighted by Brain’s involvement commitment to leadership within MCAA.
I think this type of leadership speaks to an understanding that if we are technologically aggressive or even intimidating, we as an industry are much less likely to be targeted by those looking for opportunities for high-tech disruption. Had retailers focused on cooperative advantages within technology we might not have seen so many of them taken down by Amazon. Had the National Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA) collaborated and built technology to address and maybe even preempt Uber, could they still be a real force within their industry? What if Marriott and Hilton had decided to build software and maybe even staff support to allow people to easily rent homes in popular areas the way that Airbnb has done? Certainly, the collaborative nature of construction is a challenge in terms of building strong technological advantages but working together in groups like the MCAA and with solid leadership, I think we will be capable of meeting that challenge.
I also think having a leader that is technologically ahead of the curve is a great encouragement to those who feel left behind even within the MCAA. I am a member of the technologies group and can tell you that we are committed to helping MCAA companies build strong and profitable technologies within their companies. In talking to people over the course of the MCAA national convention I was confronted by the fact that many companies are still just starting to move down the path towards technologies that are already commonplace on a construction site. My hope is with Brian in leadership these companies will find the help and encouragement they need to quickly move down the path of technological readiness and even leadership on the jobsites of today and tomorrow.
I have heard several times that a rising tide raises all ships in reference to technology. I hope with Brian at the helm of the MCAA over the next year we will see the technological tide lift our companies to greater heights.