Touchplan's President Michael Carr joined BOND Brothers' VP of Operations, Healthcare, Tony Nigro for a BLDUP Spotlight discussion of how technology is changing the AEC industry and how companies can improve their operations with the Last Planner System. Read their conversation here or down below.
Michael Carr: As a little background between myself and BOND Brothers. I visited with a few people at the company about two years ago, in the early Touchplan days (before we even had a name) to show them what we were doing.
Tony Nigro: I’ve been with BOND Brothers for five months now so that was before my time. However, I will pay you a compliment because whatever conversation you had with them stuck. At that time, they were in the process of building a strategic master plan for the next 25 years at BOND. As part of that plan, they created six pillars that support the company culture of excellence. One pillar began with “lean…”. When I started talking to BOND, at the beginning of this year, their six pillars and the mission statement that was developed around that time were influential in my decision to join the company. I knew I was aligned with their values: integrity, commitment, teamwork, innovation and excellence and their vision to build a better society through enduring relationships.
Michael Carr: I’m glad to hear that. When we visited we had a vision of what we planned to develop and just two iPads with a prototype showing how changes on one device updated in real time on the other. We put up this trial balloon with BOND Brothers, Suffolk, Tocci and a few architects and got such a good reception that knew we were on to something. Our mission from the start has been to fill the technology gap in the construction industry by creating specialized tools that everyone can use to improve efficiency.
Michael Carr: One of the bigger things we are trying to do now is frame our messaging in terms the industry recognizes. Where do you see challenges that the industry is facing and or things you are trying to solve at BOND and ways we are aligned with BOND?
Tony Nigro: This journey that our industry is on…well, there are a lot of different perspectives; particularly around data and technology. What data should we measure? And then what to do with the measurements and all this other data that we are collecting? The amount of data is overwhelming. What it really comes down to is the need to be able to collect data that is useful. You have to slow down and understand and communicate so that you can start to measure things that have value. You can’t let yourself get lost amongst a sea of data.
Michael Carr: I’ve been thinking along the same lines and we are working on this question as well. I see Waze as a good example of a company that is doing a great job with data. They combine the data you can grab automatically, that is reliable, with the data users are self-reporting. Within their community, the self-reported data is being reinforced by users so there is validation that is built into the system. What really jumps out at me is all the data they are collecting from people, people benefit from that data. Because they benefit they want to provide accurate data.
With those thoughts in mind, it affects the way I’m looking at what we capture, what would be useful in making people's lives easier. Enter the Touchplan collaboration environment and the next question is what can we do with this information and how do we bundle it to advance the industry. Everyone on the value chain would get better results if they received value in return for providing data.
Tony Nigro: I love the Waze analogy. It hits on what I’m thinking. It’s not just “automatic” data but also user data that I can begin to trust in and then I can repay and participate. That validation of the data is exactly what we are looking to do. It’s not wasteful or robotic. It’s sincere and real when you can engage people in any process that they value, they recognize it and participate eagerly.
Michael Carr: If you get some value by providing data you are more likely to give data and if you do this in a community setting you open doors. If there is too much data you can get overwhelmed but let's start with providing value for everyone.
Tony Nigro: Yes, that respect is important and in our experience with Touchplan, the process that it facilities is respectful of the people in the room. What we are seeing is that there is all this data going into Touchplan, going to the “cloud” and we can pull the data when we need it. More importantly, there are humans back there in the “cloud” that are watching all of this real-time and then they email or call us-giving us a heads up about how they are interpreting this data. That human interaction is very different from other sterile robotic processes we have seen to date.
Michael Carr: That is a recent phenomenon, the humanizing of interfaces and technology and I think that is a key component as to why technology hasn't gotten so much traction to date in the construction industry: because construction is so dependent on people. People are a big part of the process, you can’t automate them away, it would be detrimental.
Technology for construction needs to be respectful of people and needs to be accommodating and accessible to everyone. I believe that most traditional tech in construction has been menu-driven and folks in the back office might have been ok using it but the person involved in doing the physical construction might think that was crazy. New apps have humanized the connection and given people a superpower since they are not impossible to use.
Tony Nigro: When you humanize the technology then people are more open to it. We have very few early adopters in our industry unfortunately and a lot of holdouts (relatively speaking). Either group will need to build trust before they will engage (some quicker than others). I am watching BOND as a company, at a project level and an individual level, building trust with Touchplan. I personally want to use it everywhere…immediately, but not every individual or every project is ready for that. When you are in a large organization or community you have to be patient. At the best level, we are seeing Touchplan be not the just the tool, but we see them as part of the team…because we are thinking of it that way in the room. It makes collaboration easy, a lot easier than sticky notes! It becomes part of the team dynamic.
Michael Carr: Technology providers for the construction industry have done a disservice by not initially making software that is approachable and usable. But we are more like an app for your phone not a piece of software. And I like to tell people we won’t be as disruptive as you might expect.
Tony Nigro: This is why I’m a huge fan and we are picking up some traction within our organization. For the healthcare group, I’ve mandated that all our projects will be using Touchplan by the end of the year. I’ve communicated this as a risk management issue. I look at it this way because all my current projects using Touchplan are having much more predictable results than projects that are not.
We are pushing into our education group as well, an even larger segment. I expect that once they start using Touchplan it will create the pull so by 2019 we have built trust across the organization and Touchplan should be a mandate on all projects. I am already seeing this, the staff goes through one project and they want to use the product again.
Michael Carr: Discussing this as a risk management tool is an important point. Risk management concerns at times force decisions that are not beneficial to the project as much as the company shedding the risk. In this new environment with people open to Lean thinking, we can work together to mitigate risk more effectively.
Tony Nigro: We all know there is no such thing as a free lunch. As an industry, we keep pushing risk down but the buck has to stop somewhere and usually it winds up with your least sophisticated person because they don’t understand or don't value the risk… and are you really doing yourself a disservice thinking that way?
In this environment, the best risk management is not to push it away but to pull it in this collaborative way. At our recent Lahey project lessons learned meeting, I was talking to the foreman for one of our trade partners and he mentioned there was a much different tone on this particular project. “Instead of pushing everything to the foreman and making him figure it out”, he was “pulled into the process and treated like the expert in his field and then the group made the decision, led by BOND.”
Michael Carr: That is one of the reasons people start using a system like ours. There are also these intangible benefits: working more collaboratively, getting home at a decent time, not as much time spent in meetings, lower stress level. They are byproducts of a well-run project and that comes from working together.
It’s exciting to be in this space. I tell folks all the time, if we were trying to do this 10 years ago it wasn’t the right time. This whole idea of working together was just starting, it’s a much better place to be in right now with technology and a great opportunity to transform the industry.
Tony Nigro: That is what it's all about. The best compliment is for the group to say, wow that was great. Let’s do it again!
About Tony Nigro:
Tony has more than 25 years’ experience building complex projects throughout Greater Boston. He is an integral member of BOND’s healthcare leadership team, where he oversees the operational efficiency of the healthcare group utilizing a collaborative Lean philosophy. Prior to joining BOND, Tony was Vice President of Construction for Mill Creek Residential Trust, LLC, as well as Vice President of Healthcare for Suffolk Construction and Senior Project Manager at William A. Berry & Son, Inc.
Tony is passionate about building in a way that makes a positive impact to the greater community and often commits his time to charitable volunteerism. Tony also enjoys camping, running Spartans, biking with his family, and spending quality time outdoors.
About Michael Carr:
Michael is the President of MOCA’s software products division, Touchplan and a co-founder of MOCA. He has 20 years of construction management experience with significant expertise in project controls. He currently leads the development of Touchplan. Prior to launching Touchplan, he served in multiple leadership and operational roles within MOCA providing construction management services to owners.