By Phil Hauck, Envision Board Member
(watching signals of Artificial Intelligence)

Remember when construction projects started with a draftsman wielding a pencil and a straightedge? Today a homeowner can buy software that helps her size and orient rooms to get the best view from her new house. And the contractor now has scanning devices and software that drive exact layouts – to the quarter inch – that integrate plumbing, electric, mechanical, and other design features.

So, how can you use this mix to make more money, both for yourself and for your customer?

Appleton-based electrical contractor Faith Technologies knows how. The team used these capabilities in a recent plant re-design that resulted in construction time cut by 50% – time cut in half, thereby cutting costs by more than $100,000! Labor savings were cut by 45%. More importantly, the early finish allowed the customer to begin producing and shipping more than $1.8 million of goods well ahead of schedule.

How can this happen? Imagine technology elements from various providers combined to elevate sophistication of the total process. For Faith Technologies, it begins with a 3-D scanner (a special “camera” using photographs and lasers) to create a “point cloud” (measurable picture) of the area.  With this information, Faith uses Autodesk software that integrates its electrical application requirements with the physical area and then designs the conduit/controls map that will be required. Faith then uses a highly accurate measuring tool called a Robotic Total Station to translate the information for laying out the electrical equipment from the Autodesk software to the site.

Nothing here that other contractors can’t use, applying technology provided by suppliers. So, how is it strategic?  In the past, contractors used this information to provide supplies to the job site and then begin installation. Faith, however, created its own construction manufacturing organization called Excellerate. This allows them to manufacture what is needed based on the metrics from the software, and combines everything into modules that can be taken to the job site and installed en masse. Result: design capability in a fraction of the traditional time coupled with more efficient manufacturing and job-site installation – 20% of the time it used to take! With these metrics – faster project completion and lower cost – the customer can start taking advantage of the improvements sooner.

Faith Technologies has developed video and PowerPoint presentations to explain these advantages to prospective customers.  Word of mouth and stats like those described above make it all work. The key, says Darin Marsden, who spearheaded these improvements for Faith, is creating relationships with the equipment and software providers. At various points, he also used the expertise of experienced electricians to work with the equipment to ensure the software guidelines would work for Faith’s business. “We’re in the construction business, not the software business. These relationships are key to us, not only to make things work well right now, but to be on top of what will benefit us in the future.”