In this week’s episode of Work Done Right, we are joined by Jay Snyder, a military veteran, construction industry expert, and digitalization consultant, to delve into the dynamic landscape of technology in construction. Jay uncovers the pivotal role of AI in the construction sector, shedding light on the necessity of robust data sets for AI to truly transform the industry. As corporate mandates drive AI adoption, Jay also dissects the challenges posed by an array of technology options, illustrating the importance of navigating market confusion.
Jay also discusses the evolution of technology acceptance across generations and reveals unconventional approaches to technology budgeting. Tune in to learn more about a systematic approach for technology adoption, career growth in construction and beyond, and challenges that threaten the future of the industry.
About Jay Snyder
Our guest today is Jay Snyder. Jay is the president of Big Blue Innovations, also known as BBI, a construction technology advisory and M&A planning firm serving mature and startup tech and construction companies.
Jay has been in the engineering and construction industry throughout his career, and his experience is certainly unique. He has led nearly a billion dollars worth of projects as a construction professional, participated in M &A of tech companies, assisted in venture capital fundraising, advised contractors on spinning out technology companies, founded multiple companies of his own, and has been published in dozens of thought leadership articles and research papers, all while serving in the United States Air Force.
Top 3 Episode Takeaways
- The Role of AI In Construction: As the industry increasingly sees corporate mandates to begin leveraging AI, Jay explains the building blocks needed in order to get there, stating: “In order to be able to truly get the most that artificial intelligence has to offer, we need to make sure that we’re building adequate data sets. In construction, because of the variability project to project and project team to project team and site to site, the data sets need to be extremely large for any artificial intelligence platform to be able to deliver what I would say would be highly accurate and trustworthy guidance to contractors.”
- Technology Challenges: Jay outlines the market confusion that has resulted from the multitude of technology offerings and brands. He also explains the importance of bridging the gap between digital natives and tech-uncomfortable workers, which he stresses will come with time. He also explains that budgetary constraints for technology can often be resolved in unconventional ways, such as finding waste and underused resources in other areas.
- Digitalization Framework: Jay provides an organized framework for technology’s role in construction, including information organization, process simplification, and improved data flow. He stresses use cases for technology that include early warning systems, risk avoidance, and labor augmentation through tech.
Jay, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Wes. We’ve had a couple of conversations leading up to this session, this episode, and it’s been great. I’m looking forward to talking more with you today.
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to giving everybody the opportunity to hear some of the nuggets of knowledge that you have in your brain, just because, as you said, we’ve had a few conversations now.
You are a very interesting and very well-informed man. I’d really like to dig into, I guess, first, to cover over that background again, because it was really hard to summarize. You’ve done a lot in your career. I don’t think I’ve even begun to hit the tip of the iceberg, ranging from anything from your long military career to civil engineering, consulting, and everything else in between.
How did you get into the construction industry, and where all has that ended up taking you throughout your career?
Yeah, geez. I’m not an arrogant guy. I try to be as humble as I can, but we could probably have a whole episode talking about all of that. I’m a young 44 years old, and I think 10 years ago, when I still had most of this experience, folks thought that I had some sort of attention deficit problem or something.
I’ve just been really fortunate over my career to work with great people and have great bosses that have helped steer me and open up doors for opportunities. In many cases, where it didn’t even benefit them or wasn’t a benefit to the organization, but they were just genuinely interested in my success and knew my strengths and just helped me out.
At a college, I joined the Air Force. I was commissioned as second lieutenant. It was a really great career. I was a little over five years active duty. I’m still in the reserve. I’m a lieutenant colonel. Just crested over 22 years and contemplating when I need to hang it up.
I don’t want to be that old guy holding on to something when my time has come to move on. When I joined the Air Force, I was a part of an engineering unit called Red Horse. They’re not as well known, but something, a unit similar to them would be in the Navy, the Navy Seabees.
This is a unit that deploys on a moment’s notice to open inner fields and build up bases and these sorts of things. I was commissioned in December of 01, which means right after 9 -11 kicked off, or a response 9 -11. To show up to my unit, seven days after being commissioned, my squadron had been deployed to the Middle East.
My squadron commander called back and he said, AJ, we heard that in college you started a bit of project management. He said, I got a bunch of civil engineers over here and they’re fantastic designers, but none of them know project management. Would you mind, I know you haven’t gone through your technical school training for the Air Force yet, would you mind jumping on a plane and coming over here with us for nine months?
So after being on active duty for seven days, I hopped on a plane and I was headed over for a nine month deployment to the Middle East. Just I was no hero in this. I was just helping the more experienced officers understand things around project delivery, project management, scheduling, resource management, logistics, these sorts of things.
It was a great opportunity that really catapulted everything else that happened in my career. So after I left the Air Force, I joined the civilian world with Je Dunn in healthcare and I was a project manager there. Again, sort of serving in a capacity that had a purpose for me, a higher calling if you will, healthcare, helping people in my own way.
And did some healthcare work there and moved over to the owner side and became a corporate director of healthcare running a real estate portfolio and construction program. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I was frustrated with how we were doing certain things in construction.
So I left that side and started a tech company and exited that company. And my joke is what do you do when you have an MBA and you don’t know what to do next? You become a consultant. So I joined Capgemini for a brief tour of duty and that was fantastic.
And then I was reminded of FMI because I wasn’t doing much in construction with Capgemini. So I joined FMI and they asked me to stand up their tech innovation department. And I led that for six years and that was an absolute honor and a blessing.
And then kind of coming out of COVID, I had the opportunity to launch my own firm, which is BBI as you’ve mentioned. And kind of the rest is history, but it’s been a great career and at 44, I hope I’m just getting started, you know?
Yeah, I mean, it sounds like you, the world is still kind of your oyster with everything that you’ve learned from all of your experiences along the way and being only 44 years old. That’s, you still have another 40 years of working in you.
So you have a lot left that you could be doing. What was going through your head at seven days in that you’re finding out that you’re already deploying? I mean, I imagine at that point, you’re still very much, you know, your drive and morale is really high.
So were you nervous? Were you excited? What was going through your head?
Gosh, it’s interesting. You asked me to think back to, you know, back quite a long time ago. So I’ve always been all in, right?
And anything I do, I’m not gonna do it unless I can commit to being all in. And that goes with our clients today as well. We don’t work with everyone that we come across because we wanna make sure that we can deliver on what we can do for them and we believe in what they’re doing.
But to your question, in that moment when you’re very green and you don’t really have any reference point for what a deployment is or what you’re just gonna be asked of you, you just really need to go with it. You need to focus on the task at hand in front of you at that moment.
And at that time when I was asked to go, what was in front of me? Well, what was in front of me was going to the different units at my main base to get the gear I needed, to do the processing that I needed to do, to get my affairs in order for being away for nine months.
And so you just focus on the task at hand when you’re really not quite sure what the future is going to hold and do your very best in those tasks so that you don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff when you’re downrange in this case, when I’m helping the squadron and doing good work in the field.
So I didn’t worry too much about what was gonna happen when I arrived. Of course in the military, I mean, you’re taught to trust each other. And if I have a commander calling back from downrange, I know that he’s going to make sure that, however I get from point A to point B is going to work out.
And then once I hit the ground, there’s a plan for putting me to work. And I just kind of trusted that. And I know that not everyone in all situations has that privilege, but I think that also speaks to the types of opportunities you pursue and the types of people you surround yourself with.
Yeah, I mean, just the idea of being kind of all in in everything that you do is just wise words to live by in really in all ways. And now I’ll be thinking about that now for the rest of the day. Well, you know, life’s just too short to only be sort of dipping your toe in or half committed, right?
Even if you’re in a situation where you don’t quite agree with it or it’s not necessarily the ideal circumstance for you, everything’s temporary, right? So just power through it, do the best you can, know that there’s going to be some positive outcomes of that for you to build on top of afterwards.
And that’s kind of in the kind of mindset that’s kind of pulled me through. There’s certainly been some tough times in my career and some dark days where you’re like, geez, what am I doing and am I committed to this and should I keep doing it?
But put one foot in front of the other, know that on the other side of it, you’ll be better for it, you’ll have some experiences, maybe you’ll be more interesting and sometimes that’s enough to get you opportunities.
You touched on, you’re now the president of BBI. Could you tell us a bit about what it is that you all do there and what your mission is?
Yeah, sure. We’re a young firm. So I wouldn’t say we’re freaking out as we go, but we’re always finding opportunities to either expand our services, you know, in small ways.
And in some ways, year to year, we’ve been looking for large strategic pivots. But essentially, the best way to explain it is that we advise the tech lifecycle for construction. We assist contractors in technology management and tech strategy.
We help them build a roadmap and then execute on that roadmap for how best to adopt technology in their business. And that can mean a lot of different things. It can mean just being a coach. It can mean bolting on inside of their team and actually augmenting their team or in some ways leading their team through tech initiatives.
We advise tech startups on responsibly coming to market and scaling. You know, there’s a lot of technology founders, startup founders with great ideas that maybe don’t exactly know how to develop that idea or proof of concept into a minimal viable, a minimal sellable product.
We can help them with that. There are a lot of folks that maybe already have a very strong MVP, but they haven’t really formed a business around that product or service. So we can assist them with that as well so that they’re building resilient, lasting companies that continue to evolve and deliver value to the industry.
We also advise mature technology companies through growth growth curves, particularly when they’re delivering a new product or service to market. I guess one real quick plug I’ll make is that we just launched some news that we are starting a cohort for a tech accelerator that will start in August.
So anyone that sort of has an idea or proof of concept maybe has a couple of clients, but is really trying to still figure out how do I form a business around this? How do I have some consistent messaging and marketing in the industry to win trust and continue to be a value player?
They should think about jumping in its accelerator.
Yeah, I mean given the amount of experience that you have, we’ll say on project and just kind of the different angles that you’ve seen it at, I imagine there’s a lot that you all can bring to that conversation to help these companies to better understand even the value that they’ll provide to their customers so they can better understand their messaging and how to position the product and who to go after and all of that.
So that’s, yeah, that’s I’m interested to see how you all end up doing with that and the sort of business that you attract because I think that it’d be valuable for anybody looking for some of those services.
We’re pretty busy. We’ve got, you know, she’s probably 20 different client projects happening right now.
Between contractors and technology companies and so anyone listening that’s interested in getting into tech consulting, happy to talk to them.
Yeah, that’s awesome. You know, I’d be really interested in asking you kind of what your perspective of what the real role of digitalization and construction is because you’ve, you’ve been, you know, in construction and engineering, you’ve managed projects.
You ended up spinning out, starting your own tech company that you ended up, like you said, exiting because you clearly saw that there was a need. And now with the positions that you do, given all the consulting experience that you have and what you do now, you, you have a really.
You approach this issue from several different angles and seeing a bunch of different sides. So what would you say the primary or secondary roles of digitalization in construction would be?
I don’t know if anyone’s actually asked me this question like this, but I think it’s a really good question to ask.
I think that companies, contractors should ask themselves what they think the primary role of digitalization is in their business, by the way. I think it’s a really, it’s a reflective question. So I guess I would say we should look at it in three ways.
We should look at it as what’s the role today as we’re putting work in place. And then I think that there’s a transitionary period, the transformation, if you will, of the industry and what role does it play through that transition.
And then if we’re looking at like a long -term horizon, what would be the role of digitization in construction sort of long -term? And so if we start with the here and now, we’re still at a point where digitization or let’s say technology solutions that are assisting with digitization are really focused on, appropriately so, organizing information, simplifying processes and enabling cross -flow of information, both internally into a company and externally among project stakeholders.
It sounds very maybe elementary to say that right now this is still what we need in tech. But it’s moving quickly beyond that. However, I guess what I’m trying to say is there are still many opportunities in the work that contractors do to simply organize information, improve or simplify or standardize processes and encourage that sort of, cross -sharing of information across entities and getting out of silos.
I think that’s immediately what the role still needs to be. But very quickly, and there are some in the industry that are already in this transition, but very quickly, those that will transition to using technology in digitization’s role should be around bringing greater business and project performance awareness to executives and to project teams.
Acting as, I like to say, maybe it’s a military term, acting as like an early warning system for potential problematic areas both in the business and on projects. And then allowing for awareness of more efficiencies in operations that could be had or maybe ways to reduce risk on projects.
So right now, most people are, again, that here and now piece that I talked about, some are transitioning to be able to use data in a state of digital transformation to be able to start getting a higher level of awareness and intelligence from the data that’s gleaned by organizing information and that sort of thing.
And then we’ll eventually get to the horizon would be, let’s start leveraging technology to automate risk avoidance. Let’s start looking at technology to help us simulate how a project is going to occur maybe in pre -construction.
Let’s start doing what if analysis during construction to figure out how a decision might affect the performance of a job or the outcome of a job. Let’s start thinking about technology that can actually be staff augmentation.
Now again, we’re talking about a horizon here. We’re not talking about the immediate, but to be able to use technology or the role of transformation in construction should be eventually around staff augmentation via technology.
So not just automating workflows for the ease of the staff, automating mundane tasks or repetitive tasks, but also maybe augmenting the job site. So job site automation to reduce that gap of the available general labor force. I mean, that’s a problem right now.
I don’t think we’re ready as an industry to leap into augmenting a labor or replacing a labor with technology. But let’s be honest, there’s not enough people to do the work that we need to do. And I don’t see owner demand for construction reducing.
So we should be looking at technology eventually to fill that gap and truly do staff augmentation in the field.
You know, it seems like really that idea of how it is that we fundamentally change the way that work happens hasn’t really been a focus with most technology companies.
Obviously, you know, we here with Cumulus, we have SmartTorque and that does, we’ll say change certain ways that things happen. We have our other smart products that we’ve released here recently. But even with that, right?
I mean, we’re one of few companies that has even entertained some of these products, but they’re still like you’re saying, even thinking about the last 10, 15 years on project, there’s a lot of opportunity in order to, I guess thinking about some kind of reducing down what it is that you said.
say, standardize the way that we do projects and also just make things more transparent. That way we can start making better decisions midstream or earlier in the project where we don’t get so far off the rails. I wonder how do you think it is that some of these AI and machine learning tools are going to end up playing into that to be able to help to do some of that predictive analysis earlier on?
How do we build up enough of a decision -making matrix or data set to help us to make these better decisions in the future? You think that’s going to be a limitation?
Yeah, it’s a question that’s fundamental to really leveraging AI eventually.
So in order to be able to truly get the most that artificial intelligence has to offer, we need to make sure that we’re building adequate data sets. And in construction, because of the variability project to project and project team to project team and site to site, the data sets need to be extremely large for any artificial intelligence platform to be able to deliver what I would say would be highly accurate and trustworthy guidance to contractors.
If we’re just talking about an AI tool that’s scraping drawings or scraping specs or doing some very specific automation of a function, well, not automation, but very specific application, then you maybe don’t need as large of a data. But when we’re talking about AI being able to actually provide prescriptive analytics and guidance for us to take a particular action across a project, we need to make sure that we have the mechanisms in place that are actually capturing that data, sharing that data.
It can be anonymized by sharing that data with context so that machine learning can occur in these AI platforms can be relevant, I guess is what I’d say. So what we’re doing now about organizing our information through technology platforms and standardizing processes and work so that anything we get out of this technology can be applied because it’s based on standardization.
I think when we’re doing that data collection, we’re actually enabling the foundation from which AI will really be able to just explode in construction. So I think initially, I think AI’s best payback to construction is probably in helping us structure and manage data.
No one’s really thinking about that, I don’t think. I know that there are some folks that are trying to leverage OpenAI to do that, to understand your ecosystem and then help you structure and manage the data. Let’s try to do that first.
And then also, let’s look at AI being used in a way to reduce risk exposure. I mentioned project simulation earlier. Let’s simulate project performance during pre -con. Let’s leverage AI to predict issues during construction. Let’s model out expected material or assembly failures during building operations and maintenance well after construction.
Let’s model out how these materials are going to perform and try to get a longer lifespan out of those buildings. These are ways where I think AI can assist with that modeling and knowledge.
Yeah, I especially like that last aspect because this is what’s going to enable one project to continue to go forward, but two, for us to help to maintain a better infrastructure to where some of these projects aren’t going to be as urgent.
We can start focusing on other areas to be able to really improve the global marketplace in many different ways.
Yeah, that’s a good way of thinking about it and structuring. We’ll say a little bit of a roadmap to where we can eventually get to the point where we’re really picking up steam and how it is that we do things in the industry.
You know, I do want to say though that In order for us to be able to mature AI in construction, we need a lot of different people testing it in a lot of different ways, right? I’m one opinion, I’m one idea based on my perspective in market access, but we need contractors to explore different use cases and determine where is the best fit for AI at the tactical level and then at the strategic level as well.
So, I wanna encourage anyone that happens to be exploring advanced technologies to try to find that safe space, that sandbox, to test it out and to be partners with technology companies to advance that because it’s only going to be for the betterment of the overall industry down the road.
I would like to touch on some of the work that you had done whenever you were at FMI, you had touched on that earlier, that you spent some time consulting with them. Something when going through some of the papers that you had authored and been a part of that really stuck out to me was the cost of miscommunication or a lack of access to information.
And I was wondering if there was anything from that study that you could bring forward that you could kind of educate us on and then also if you could just kind of give us a brief over of how it is that you all conducted this study.
Sure, yeah. Well, a big shout out to FMI first of all. I’m surprised about folks in the industry that still aren’t familiar with FMI, but FMI is probably the industry’s most effective management consulting and investment bank to contractors and building product manufacturers in the space.
And it was a real pleasure and privilege to be a part of their team while I was there. And while I was there, I got to work with really, really great, great folks like Jay Bowman, who’s a principal over there. And Jay has deep expertise in research.
And so we were asked to conduct some research for a planning grid at the time prior to the Autodesk acquisition around inefficiencies in the field, if you will, and to kind of get at how big is the problem and what are some of the causes of that problem.
So under Jay’s or working alongside Jay, I would say Jay Bowman, that is, we were able to do some really great work there. And it was several years ago, but what’s funny is that if anyone read that report today, the issues in that report are just as relevant today as they were, you know, whenever it was four years ago.
So it’s a very sort of timeless report for now anyways. And at the point where it’s not timeless anymore, at the point where it’s not relevant anymore, that’s when we know we’ve made some really good progress here. But it was a report that was a, it was an international report.
Most of the responses in the US, but we had a total of 3,000 responses to our research globally. And in addition to surveys, there were interviews done, and of course, FMI has very, very good internal experts that have a perspective on this topic as well.
So we were able to take the surveys, and we were able to take those interviews, and we were able to take internal expertise at FMI, and really get to what’s going on here. So the thing that was surprising to me, as we talked about in my past, I’ve been on the operation side, right?
A practitioner in construction, if you will. And, you know, I was just kind of surprised because we know the industry is inefficient because every project’s bespoke. There’s no two building sites that are the same. There’s no two design teams that are identical.
There’s no two owners that have the same ambitions or intentions. But I was shocked to know that the root cause of like diminished profitability in a contractor and the key challenges for project performance is really tied to a lack of accurate and up -to -date information shared across teams.
You could say it’s maybe a lack of training, or you could say that it’s because of teams switching in and out of the project. But fundamentally, even if you take those two things, why do those two things exist? Those two things exist, an issue with training or an issue with teams swapping in and out of the project, exist because we’re not really good about sharing information, right?
So when you think about it that way, it makes a lot of sense to realize that the lack of availability or access to data and the lack of sharing of data is ultimately the root cause of why we have so much rework, why we have so much time spent on suboptimal tasks and activities.
Frankly, I’m trying to recall from memory and I may get the number wrong, but I’m pretty sure the report said something like 35% of a worker’s week is spent on non -added value activity, that being some sort of maybe conflict between the team around information or looking for information or conducting rework because someone was working off of bad information.
So that is 35% of the work week, okay? That’s a tremendously big number. I remember in those days being on the road, kind of spreading these insights and I would ask teams, do you think 35% is higher or low compared to what you experienced in your business?
I was shocked to find first of all the openness, but also shocked to find out that many contractors would have estimated it to be much higher, 50%, one contractor said 75%. I’m not sure how we can run a business where we think 75% of the hours on a project are non -added value hours.
Now, of course they were being pretty pessimistic about the efficiency of a team, but really eye -opening.
That number strikes me as being pretty accurate. Even if you consider people are doing the best they can to be as productive as possible, whenever you, even if you think about going from the beginning of the day or the morning toolbox talk and go from this position to this place to this place and get to the work front.
And after the time you get all of your tools and everything’s rolled out and everything else that’s going on just on a typical day -to -day basis, 35% is very easy to consider that it’s just, it’s gone. We accomplished nothing out of this time.
And then you add in all of the time and all of the days where you have a wasted day because you couldn’t get access to the work front or you didn’t have the right information or somebody told you the wrong thing, had to go and fix what somebody else messed up, not that we would ever mess anything up, but somebody else probably did.
And all of that, it’s not unbelievable to consider that that a third of the time is going to nothing, absolutely nothing. And what is that doing to margins? What’s that doing to progress? I mean, it’s mind -blowing if you really sit down and think about it.
And again, anybody that’s ever been on a project, you know, we’ll try to, we’ll say effectively, pinch pennies in certain areas and we’re failing to address the real problem. So when hearing this number, when hearing this information, what sort of reactions are you getting from people?
What are they doing in response to this to try to improve some of these issues?
So this is an interesting question, actually. You know, I wanna circle back on something. Yes, we’re an industry that is seeing on average 3% margins, net margin, maybe that’s creeping up a little bit as folks find efficiencies, but realizing that the grocery industry is a 2% to 3% margin industry, same margins as construction.
Yet, yet construction, we’re creating art, right? These are unique facilities that we’re building. These should not be treated like commodities. The margins should not be commodity type margins, frankly, to no offense to the grocery industry, but grocery stores are sort of a commodity, right?
Tomatoes at this one is not gonna be much different than tomatoes at that one, you know? And everyone has organic these days. And so the idea that we’re treated like a commodity industry is really gonna be something that’s difficult to fix, but I think a lot of it is going to be realizing that we’re probably not priced as a commodity industry.
We’re just really inefficient to the points that you mentioned earlier. So there’s probably, it’s probably a 7% or 8% margin business if we could get our act together and be more effective in how we operate as teams, right?
So when I have talked about this study or just the general inefficiency in the industry, in particularly the need to maybe reach out and leverage technology in a way that helps solve part of this problem, there’s no dispute about it, right?
The dispute that I tend to run up against is, how much should digitization play in solving that problem, right? How much of that problem is just rooted in inconsistent process before we start letting our technology to assist with it?
And that is a true statement. So if you had an amazing technology that’s been proven in some sort of an environment and you apply it to your situation, but you have some really suboptimal processes, you’re not going to reap the rewards of that technology like maybe other companies would.
You really need to look first at the people and process side of it. Make sure that you have done your best there to hire talented people or people with potential. Make sure that you’ve looked at your processes to strip out any sort of inefficiencies in process, back and forth, workarounds, loopholes, these sorts of things, create that standardization.
Once you’ve really done that, once you’ve, and you don’t have to be perfect at it, but once you’ve really solved some of those bigger problems there, then you can start laying over technology and you will start to see the rewards of technology as a part of the solution.
So I think that when we approach the conversation that way with contractors, there’s total alignment. The problem though, Wes, is that contractors are so busy working in the business and putting work in place, it’s very difficult for them to find the extra time.
It’s kind of funny to say, as it’s sort of this paradox, right? It’s very difficult for them to find the time to improve the business because there’s so much inefficiency taking up their time, putting work in place.
But one of the other things with this, because I will agree with you that I don’t think that digitalization is going to solve all of that. But I’ll disagree in the sense of actually referencing back to what you were saying earlier and kind of the role of digitalization in the modern time is around, we’ll say, standardization and transparency.
I think we can do a lot of that with kind of work instructions and engineering data. And I’d actually like to quote something else that I heard or that I read in one of these studies. And that is that I’ll read, I’ll quote it here from from an FMI study that more than 75% of respondents provide mobile devices, smartphones or tablets to their project managers and field supervisors.
However, less than one fifth of companies consistently, more than 80% of the time use apps aside from just email, text and phone calls to access project data and collaborate with project stakeholders. This findings suggests that many construction leaders are equipping field teams with technology but aren’t getting maximum return on investment by leveraging mobile software and apps purpose built to help construction companies reach their full potential.
And the thought that comes to my mind is, it’s interesting, you know, we all we all have mobile devices these days. And not only most mobile devices, you can get pretty well for a dime a dozen because there’s so many, you know, gen one or gen two versions that are out there that they’re on gen 11.
So the older ones are they still exist, you can buy them for cheap. And the area where we where we could have a high volume of these mobile devices is with craft. We don’t provide that to the craft for multiple reasons, but some of them are kind of arcane reasons at this point because we don’t want people just standing around on their on their mobile devices and texting and doing all of those things.
But I feel like there’s a there’s a real opportunity in order to reach people with again, with procedures, with data, you know, with with it and honestly, really well revised data to what we have in the moment, because you can control that all digitally read better than you can with paper.
But but I’d like to hear what your thoughts are again, given your involvement in all of this, do you think that that there’s a place for digitalization to play a role will say at the craft level just to just to provide, you know, clear and transparent information?
Yeah, your insight there is really astute, actually, because especially with, you know, the the the majority workforce right now, right, that’s what we call in the younger group, right? They are digital natives. So to be able to get a heightened level of employee engagement does require us to make sure that we’re equipping them with the technology tools and the applications to be able to like foster that engagement.
They engage with companies in a different way. They engage with their employers and with each other in a different way. And so to your point, technology can actually be adopted to gain that engagement, which has all sorts of immediate and downstream effects from better collaboration to again, better knowledge sharing.
Also, I will I will totally acknowledge, excuse me, that a well built technology built around best practice process can be very effective in a contract or adopting the technology to drive acceptance and standardization of a process. I do want to make that point because that is true that that absolutely can happen for sure.
So I like this idea that you’re talking about of really enabling and equipping particularly the field with technology, because what that study actually found out that the backstory to the backstory on that stat you mentioned is that One of the big issues around the field, not adopting the solutions that are being acquired for them through companies, is that the companies aren’t actually asking the field what they want and need.
So there’s a lot of assumptions happening at the top. Instead of a bottom up sort of a feedback loop to ask the foreman or even the general laborer for that matter, right? It’s often discounted, but ask the general laborer to the foreman, the assistant super, the super.
What do you want in the field, right? What kind of solutions, don’t say brands, but just tell me the capabilities that would really help you in your job. That is really the type of technology that should be pushed to them, rather than someone, let’s say, maybe at the VP level or even at the senior project manager level or general superintendent level, thinking they know what the problem is, which they probably have a good understanding, choosing a solution without vetting it with the end user and then pushing it down just to find out that, oh, guess what, that device, I can’t use it when I’m wearing gloves, right?
Or that application on this phone, things are too difficult or too small to read. Or I need connectivity at this job site that I can’t get with that device, right? These are the things that we don’t realize until after we’ve deployed it.
I would like to say, before carrying on to the next topic, that I’ve actually quoted you on this 35% number a couple of different times on podcasts that I’ve been on or when talking with other guests. It’s actually really nice to meet, put a face to the study, and I’d like to say thank you because I’ve used that study a bit and it’s really, really insightful and really a lot of the work that y ‘all did with FMI, there’s some honestly pretty astonishing information that comes out that, again, once you hear it, it’s kind of like, yeah, that passes the test, they do a quick little sanity check, that’s right.
But it’s staggering to read on a screen that whenever you actually have numbers down, that is, to put pen to paper, that is tremendous amounts of money that’s wasted every single year.
The positive side of it is, if you just increase worker productivity by 10%, just increase it by 10% and reduce that 35% of suboptimal work down to 30%, there’s a lot of real money to pick up there.
That goes right to the bottom line. So it’s encouraging with an optimistic lens on it.
Yeah, I like the positive spin on that. That’s, I even see it in the sense of we have this worker shortage right now and we need X number more people.
But if we have, that 35% is really like an opportunity. So we have an opportunity to make a lot more people a lot more efficient. So to me, that provides as a delta in taking away actually how many people were deficient because we have an opportunity to effectively gain, we’ll say up to 50% more people on project just by making these people optimally efficient.
Something I’d like to ask about real quick though is how you see, we’ll say the relationship between quality and technology and performance. A lot of people will be focused on, like we were just even talking about, margins and performance, progress and performance on project.
But they don’t necessarily consider the longevity, like you were talking about earlier, the longevity of these facilities that we end up building or even just the, the inefficiencies that occurred due to rework or something of that nature whenever we’re on project, which contributed a high amount to that 35% figure that we were talking about earlier.
So how do you see the relationship between technology and quality and performance and how they’re all kind of married together?
Man, I hope that this kind of stuff is now being taught in like construction management programs because it’s so important.
You know, thinking a little old school here, but still holds true today. You know, I grew up learning that project performance is based on really three levers, schedule, budget and scope. And you can’t compromise quality.
So if we assume that there’s a baseline level of quality that’s acceptable, that means like adhering to industry standards, adhering to regulations, adhering to manufacturer recommendations. If we assume that quality is fixed, then it’s really the three levers you have is, you know, schedule, budget and scope.
So if you think about that, quality and performance like that, technology kind of becomes a part of like means and methods right alongside the people, process, tools, equipment, data information. So I think like technology brings us a little closer to be able to achieve low cost, high quality, efficient schedules, right?
And when I say low cost, I’m not necessarily saying low cost to the owner. I mean, we can maintain price and schedules, but low cost for the cost of work being performed by contractors, right? So low cost, high quality, efficient schedules.
Technology has a place there as a means and methods play, right? But there are many drivers that are going to prevent any one of these means and methods, you know, the people, the process of tools, the equipment, the tech, the data, from being solely responsible for project success.
Even though we know technology can make a big impact here, it’s still really kind of unproven how big that impact can be. And I mean that almost like in a, it’s probably got a wheel stop in terms of how little it can do, which it can do quite a bit, but the potential for how big of an impact I hear is still unseen, right?
We haven’t seen the full potential yet. And it’s clouded like many things like rapid R&D causing some market confusion around the solutions offerings. You know, so there’s a lot of good technology out there that can really move the needle for contractors, but we got to be careful because there’s a lot of stuff out there vying for the dollar, vying for the attention.
And so it’s really difficult for contractors, and I don’t even want to limit this to contractors, design firms as well, right? To really understand what are the technologies out there, both on both some of my category of tech and frankly the brand of the solution that’s really delivering on, you know, on those improvements or efficiencies as a means and method.
And then of course we’ve got to deal with the bifurcated workforce between the digital natives and those uncomfortable tech. And that’s just going to come with time. And I don’t mean that in terms of like, let’s just wait the old timers out.
That’s not what I mean. But over time, even those folks that are sort of older generation are becoming more and more familiar with technology because their personal life even dictates it, right?
And then we have to deal with lagging budgets to fund good technology. Technology is the second or third largest spend item in a contractor’s company. If you second or third only until like labor and equipment really.
So if you think about how much they’re already spending, you got to, they have to ask themselves, it’s not really about pulling back from what we spend on, but we may be, that spend may not be responsible spend. We may not be handling renewals properly.
We may have licenses that are being unused. I mean, there’s lots of ways where we can maybe take that spend that we already have and reallocate it towards very effective solutions. So these are all the different things that like, if we can figure out how to use technology in the best way in our organizations, we can maintain quality and we can improve, you know, those three levels of scheduled budget in scope, in my opinion.
If you think about what poor quality is, what it ultimately results in, is ultimately rework in a large amount of times. So you consider that as actually part of scope because you just kind of tack on doing this function again, really undoing it and then doing it again to the overall project scope.
And then so really it gets back to again, the basic three levers like you were talking about that you can pull in order to maintain or to manage any project effectively. I really like that kind of reduced down view of looking how all of this kind of plays together.
It’s very, very wise and insightful. Well, it’s their old school, those three levers have been taught, I think, since the dawn of construction. And I think they’re still relevant today because, because, well, they’re still around today because they are relevant, I’ll say it that way.
Rapid Fire Questions
Jay, we’re coming right up on time. So I’d like to roll into our rapid fire questions to get to know Jay Snyder, the man, not just Jay Snyder, the professional. What advice would you give somebody who’s just starting off in their career?
So take any project thrown at you and use it as an opportunity to learn. During my first year in the Air Force, I was asked through difficult things in very difficult environments and I learned a lot. And during my first year in the civilian side, with Jay Dunn, I was asked to do very small but complex projects, but I gained a ton of experience doing those.
So I would just say, embrace whatever you’re asked to do and realize that you’re gonna be better on the back end for it. It’s very good. What keeps you motivated? I need to stay busy and I have endless curiosities. That’s what motivates me ultimately, but along with that, I like to create opportunities for people around me that’s driven me in my military career, my civilian career, and I like to help people grow and be successful.
So these are the things that just have always motivated me to show up.
What would you say is your favorite quote?
There’s a quote from Churchill. I’m gonna use a Churchill quote. There’s a quote from Churchill that goes something like: “Success is not final, and failure is not final.”
It’s the courage to continue that counts. So I think that that’s right in business. I think that’s right in mature companies versus startup companies in personal life and in your professional life. So just having the courage to wake up and keep going and trying your best.
What called you to serve in the military after you got out of college? And what has kept you in at this whole time? Because that’s quite the dedication with everything you’ve done along the way to still be serving.
And I gotta say thank you for your service, sir. But what kind of called you to do it and to stick around?
When I was growing up, my grandfather was a big influence in my life. And my grandfather was a Marine and he saw combat in the Korean War and was in a battle, a famous battle called at the Chosin Reservoir, where I’ve learned now over the years that he came into some very, very difficult situations.
I also had two uncles that served in the Army. One was a great uncle that I looked up to tremendously growing up. And another was my mother’s brother who served in the Persian Gulf in the First War. And I also grew up in a very patriotic town as well.
It wasn’t near a military base, it just happened to be very patriotic. So my military career has made me very comfortable having convictions and a strong belief system for what I value. It’s also given me confidence early on about my strengths and awareness of my weaknesses as a leader.
And there are a ton of stories I could tell you about my 22 years in the Air Force and I’ve always gained for sharing them, not because I like to brag, because I think that there are nuggets of wisdom that I can pass on.
So maybe another show, right? But second to my upbringing, the Air Force is probably the biggest thing that shaped my personal and professional life the most.
I mean, just through the conversations that we’ve had, I definitely see it in just your mannerisms, the way that you talk, how you reference things and even some of the phrases that you use.
So again, Jay, thank you for your service. Thank you for joining us on the show. I had a blast. I look forward to doing this again sometime, really.
It’s been fantastic. Thanks for having me.