Industry welcomes more technology insights from MCAA

Last year, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) hosted its first Construction Technology Conference. Due to popular demand, MCAA is bringing the conference back on June 6-7.

This year’s conference will take place at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana. The conference has been expanded to include more content, exhibitors, case studies, speakers, sessions and roundtables. Many well-known exhibitors have come on board, such as AutoDesk, DeWalt, Greenlee, Milwaukee Tools, Trimble and Victaulic.

The “Second Movers” luncheon is also a new feature of the conference. The goal of the luncheon is to provide a space for new professionals in the industry to learn from veterans about the successes and pitfalls they experienced with technology spending. 

PHC News reached out to Sean McGuire, director of Construction Technology at MCAA, again this year about the conference. Following is his sneak preview of the new and improved event.

PHC: Are there any changes to the conference this year? 

SM: Absolutely. I wouldn’t go so far as to call last year’s conference a beta version, but every time we put together an educational resource, we try to improve upon it the next time. There is so much new technology out there that we were able to essentially revamp the conference this year and expand it significantly. We kept a couple of things that really worked last year, like contractors presenting their case studies, but we added in a lot more content this year for the two days.

PHC: What should attendees expect?

SM: I think attendees can expect real life solutions. We changed the focus this year to showcase solutions that can be utilized now. It is interesting to learn about techniques and tools that are coming in a few years, but most contractors want to bring home some ideas that they can start implementing right away.

PHC: Are there any tech “rock stars” scheduled to speak at the conference?

SM: We have a few headliners for this year’s conference, starting with James Benham. James is the Elvis of construction technology nerds out there, and he brings a level of enthusiasm that is just not present in the industry for technology. He is going to lead off the event, and help out with a break out session for owners as well. 

There are two more outside speakers  who work with James named Rob McKinney and Josh Bone. Rob is a construction application expert and Josh is a BIM expert on multiple platforms.  They are fantastic additions to the conference. I don’t know about rock stars, but they do have their own podcast called the “ConTech Trio.” 

I don’t want to sell our other speakers short. We have a couple of innovative contractors who are willing to showcase some innovations that their companies have. Chris Weaver, from Andy J. Egan Company, and Britton Langdon, from Modern Piping, will be great assets for attendees.

PHC: Will there be any hands-on activities?

SM: We have two hands-on activities scheduled. The first day, we are working with a construction technology media company called BuiltWorlds to do a session called, “Tech Tools Test Drive.” They are bringing in four startups that focus on construction technology to demo their products for members. Additionally, we will have an expanded exhibit this year that has twice as many exhibitors as last year. If we had more space, we could have probably added another 10 exhibits. But, this is the right number for the size group we have.

PHC: What tech trends are you all focusing on?

SM: I like to break down trends into near-term and long-term trends, depending on their development stages. Near-term, I am focusing heavily on BIM use and implementation. The software is very established. Yet, manufacturers, like AutoDesk and Trimble, keep adding new layers and integrating it with more external hardware and software.  

Another near-term technology I am focusing on is 3D scanning. As more contractors start using BIM, they are going to be looking for ways to reduce the time required to model existing space. Tripod-based laser scanners are incredibly accurate, and the software being used to harness point clouds is getting better and smarter. I also think that there will be a big improvement in the accuracy of handheld scanners in 2017. So, I am keeping an eye on some of those companies.

Long term, we are watching technology like augmented reality and exoskeletons. I think Daqri has shown us that there are some real possibilities of AR on construction sites. But, I think it will be a few years away. The same goes for the Hololens in terms of jobsite use of AR.  Exoskeletons are interesting, but it might be a bridge technology that quickly gets replaced by jobsite robotics when they come to market down the road.  

PHC: You all did a survey on construction technology last year around the time of the conference. Are you all doing that again this year? 

SM: This year, we are focusing more on research. We found that many of our members were spending a huge amount of time researching new products, evaluating them, and really worrying about making the wrong choice. With some tools, going down that wrong road isn’t too costly. But, if you are changing your operations and procedures based on something like BIM software, you want to make sure you are getting the right product for your company. We are partnering with JBK Labs this year to produce a series of research papers that will provide a comparative analysis of products like 3D scanners, BIM software, Total Stations, Safety Tools, Service Software, etc.  

PHC: Is there anything else that you would like to address?

SM: The construction industry is really starting to see dramatic change in technology and keeping up with it is extremely daunting. I recommend that everyone take a look at their operations and see if there is anything out there that could help you do things better. Some of the easy targets are documentation and paperwork. There are a bunch of solutions that can make everyone a little more productive, but you have to look for them and be willing to change the way you are doing things.   

For registration  details, visit www.mcaameetings.org/2016CTC. 

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