Leading the pack means being distinctly different and innovative. In a technical field like electrical construction, innovation is about more than solely pursuing the latest technologies. There is a place for technology leadership. However, to truly innovate organizationally, and do so on a sustainable basis, requires an appetite for more than the newest and hottest.
Innovation requires the pursuit of organizational improvement, and it takes place in a continuum of engagement within the larger advancement of technological progress. Now standard practices, Pre-Construction planning, Design-Build, Design-Assist and Constructability Analysis services weren’t even considered specialty contractor strengths as few as two decades ago. Take Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, for example, which emerged as a means to manage the challenges of constructability while virtually eliminating costly and time consuming clashes between construction trades. Companies that have embraced its value made modeling technology central to the design process in every segment of the construction industry. Modeling immediately made design implementation more accurate and easier to perform, and it offered the additional advantage of saving money for their customers.
When innovation is this useful, it rapidly becomes integral to the culture of the company, which in turn encourages an appetite for embracing additional best practices. However, it’s not just a question of discovery and invention. Being new doesn’t always make a solution best for customers. For service providers, the task is not to experiment—but to analyze and understand, and then use the best means available to realize customer objectives.
Innovation at the speed of today’s business has increasingly meant knowing how to navigate the complicated process of technology adoption on behalf of customers as well as ourselves. Under most circumstances, innovation involves both mastery of new tools and new software; but it’s also about combining a range of best practices in new ways that save time, promote safety, and generate savings.
It has meant looking more holistically at building processes, and asking new questions about how we can do more under increasingly ambitious schedules. On one hand, this has led to the adoption of tested industrial solutions such as prefabrication and modularization that can keep some forms of assembly off-site entirely. Prefab, in turn, allows schedulers to leverage “just-in-time” deliveries of a host of pre-assembled components, saving space on the job, reducing on-site work hours, as well as dangerous waste and clutter.
Innovation extends to the adoption of new forms of project management, in which separate crafts and disciplines are organized into teams of highly collaborative partners following a unified construction process shared by all, including ownership, architects and consulting engineers. Additionally, this kind of teamwork offers the advantage of early contributions of expertise from specialists in the electrical, mechanical and plumbing (MEP) systems, for example, to the front-end design. The net effect is a better design overall, that can be built more quickly and accurately under specifications which are fully integrated into the overall design vision for the facility. Joint venturing thus becomes a shared enterprise, where what formerly were individual silos of effort. It means that effectively resolving changes becomes a matter of collective deliberation and consensus. And because risk is shared, and constraints are addressed jointly by the entire team, there are fewer issues to contend with.
Innovation also means that everyone has a responsibility to listen carefully to customers, especially when they’re investing in new facilities which they expect to realize new capabilities or significantly improved performance. Innovation means aligning your team and services with customers and their organizational objectives. In such cases, innovation happens across a range of settings and stages of the project—from procurement through commissioning—because the processes of construction involve more steps in their realization than simply following drawings and specifications.
In the end, innovation means anticipating, understanding, and envisioning what success looks like.