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Propelling The Construction Industry Forward With AutomationAlex Zeines, Chief Technology Officer, JRM Construction Management

As the Chief Technology Officer at JRM Construction Management, Alex Zeines comes with an exceptional knowledge of handling disparate data systems while focusing greatly on strategic planning, developing, and building systems that can enhance enterprise operations. Aiming to bridge the gap between technology and people, Zeines identifies several technological trends and helps clients adopt those in order to increase revenue and reduce cost and risk. He also designs and implements several integrated web-based systems while performing process reengineering to bring about process automation for construction companies.

In conversation with Construction Tech Review, Zeines mentions that the last 6 to 12 months have seen a growing importance of risk management within the construction space, especially owing to the current pandemic situation. He states that even though the construction industry has always been viewed as a late-adopter of technology, the pandemic has compelled several construction companies to adopt and adapt newer virtual solutions within a short time. Even though these are web-based, userfriendly, flexible, and configurable, construction companies often struggle to select the best point solutions for their organizations. He further mentions how it has become imperative for construction firms to evaluate the supply chain around their subcontractor management and liquidity while supporting the construction activities, deployment, and workforce management at the job sites.

What are some of the challenges faced by most construction companies today?

Risk management and proper monitoring of the subcontractor supply chain has always been the most overwhelming concerns among construction companies. Most organizations also struggle with financial reviews within the supply chain.

Unlike other industry verticals that have leveraged several software solutions to evaluate the financial nitty-gritty of their operations, construction companies are yet to adopt newer methods to ensure their clients’ financial stability. Especially in the current situation, it has become extremely important to ensure that an individual or a business is not bankrupt or having any cash-flow issues or insurance problems. We help evaluate all those clients and make sure they have appropriate coverages to sustain their businesses in an ongoing manner. For this purpose, we are currently working on our proprietary contractor management lifecycle program to help manage the workforce and maintain relationships with subcontractors at all times.

The use of AI and ML, especially in the back-office operations, will be one of the significant disruptions in the construction space as it will help streamline and automate all the processes  

We have noticed that many companies fail to understand products before purchasing those. In haste for enhancing their capabilities, several companies buy software solutions and products, including construction lifecycle management products, finance solutions, or project course management products, without having complete knowledge of its functionalities and features. After purchasing, they often struggle with its proper implementation and the legalities of its usage. This forces them to often adapt to the practices of the solution providers, which acts as an added complexity for these construction companies.

Please shed some light on solutions that can improve operational efficiency for the construction space.

Construction companies have several financial tools and software that they can leverage to help with their risk management and mitigation endeavors. We are trying to adopt those tools via standard API integration to help gather information in real-time and understand the current status of any project. We can derive insights related to financial, insurance, workforce, and historical project issues. There are also several solutions available today that can help us qualify different projects and companies and analyze if the information they provide is accurate or not.

We are also looking to collaborate with multiple third-party service providers to get all the relevant information within our onboarding process and our annual review process. The inclusion of these capabilities will help strengthen the supply chain management across all construction companies while staying up-to-date on all the information in the back-office as well as on-site.

What is the most viable strategy for enhancing construction companies’ capabilities?

 One of the things that need to be realized within the construction arena is the importance of business process analysis. Several construction companies do not really understand the nuances, sub-components, or even the process of analyzing the entire business before implementing any changes. As a proponent of process over software, I always advise clients to understand their own processes and operations. It is difficult to improve things with technology without truly comprehending the resources and the goal behind it. One such instance is when companies perform remote field management at a job site with no internet connectivity, it is easy for the back-office to want to automate their onboarding process. What they do not realize is whether it will be the logical step forward or not. Therefore, it becomes essential for all construction organizations to look into the nitty-gritty of their business process and the people and then implement a new product or solution to automate their processes or bring about business transformation.

How will the construction space evolve over the next few years?

The use of AI and ML, especially in the back-office operations, will be one of the significant disruptions in the construction space as it will help streamline and automate all the processes. The operation of heavy machinery and repetitive tasks can also be standardized to a great extent. This has already started taking shape as several high-performing equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, and dump trucks can be easily monitored and operated via remote control by one individual. Another area of disruption will be the increase in force multipliers. This will help a worker perform efficiently with a semi-autonomous or fully autonomous piece of equipment and eventually replace a lot of human labor in extensive on-site activities. We also expect to see a push toward standardization of certain equipment designs to accommodate automation even more seamlessly. This step will help us evolve into a fully-automated industry with enhanced operational efficacy.

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