By Michael Gustafson
I had the opportunity to attend the Lean Construction Institute Congress last week in New Orleans. It was my first time at this event and I was looking forward to learning about LCI’s mission and the mindsets of those attending. The first thing I noticed was the future-oriented vision and energy possessed by the attendees. Everyone was open-minded and solutions-oriented, attributes that are necessary for implementing change across organizations. I reflected on this mindset and its relationship to Qnect’s vision, noticing several parallels. Whether implementing lean principles on the construction site or to steel project delivery systems, building trust, ensuring accountability and delivering value for each stakeholder across the supply chain is paramount.
One particular breakout session I participated in was organized by Herrero Builders. During the session we explored the topic of structural engineers delivering integrated steel delivery (ISD) and how teams can overcome the barriers for instituting this steel delivery method. One challenge we covered was the process of ensuring that other trades are on board early in the project life cycle so everyone can participate in early stage coordination. This means, for example, making sure the architect is providing slab edge details or the MEP team is providing elevator shaft opening geometry early on in the project.
I really appreciated hearing these insights at LCI and other motivating stories shared by the keynotes. It reminded me of why I joined Qnect in the first place and the opportunity that sits before the AEC industry as a whole to transform itself.
So why now fuel this transformation in the structural steel industry? One could argue ISD has been teasing the AEC industry for years but hasn’t yet reached mainstream. While working for AISC years ago, I was part of a team of regional engineers with a mission to foster and scale “steel teams'' across the US. Our goal was to fuel integrated design-to-fabrication synergies that would make steel frame construction more competitive. We saw lots of success with a core group of early adopters like Thornton Tomasetti, Walter P Moore and GPLA Associates. But only recently are we finally seeing the industry embrace constructability-led design at a larger scale. I see three reasons why ISD is nearing critical mass to become a core part of what structural teams offer which stand out to me in particular:
- Market forces are disrupting project cost predictability like never before, requiring deeper insights into supply chains to mitigate risks and prevent waste
- Vertically integrated design-to-detailing delivery methods are gaining momentum as they de-risk supply chains and deliver compelling savings to owners
- Project decarbonization and other competing project goals are challenging established rules of thumb for what constitutes the “best” design and require more data-centric decision-making
These trends tell me the industry is hungry to leverage data insights earlier on in projects, and deeper collaboration across the supply chain is a vehicle to achieve this. The data insights provided by Qnect and collaboration benefits of ISD are readily available for the industry to take advantage of. We have reached a point in time where structural firms need to reset their mindsets and upgrade their toolsets to stay competitive in today’s evolving industry.
Why is Qnect so well-positioned to fuel an industry-wide transformation that utilizes early collaboration and advanced data insights? I decided to join the Qnect team for reasons that center around their uniqueness in the marketplace with their integrated services and cutting-edge technology. The capabilities of Qnect’s product offerings and the company’s vision resonated with me not just as a technology veteran but as a structural engineer:
- I see existing AEC tech as very production-centric. Few tools can truly optimize designs to support decision-making, especially at the fabrication level. Qnect provides fabrication-level BIM data insights that are super fast so they can be used in the early stages of design when they’re needed most.
- Qnect’s business model includes not just its software but a service called Integrated Steel Delivery (ISD). This hybrid business model (SaaS + service) showcases the benefits of ISD in combination with the technology Qnect has built. The model serves as an example for the rest of the steel industry of how ISD combined with advanced optimization technology solves the problems the industry faces today.
- Qnect’s patented optimization tech is particularly disruptive in reducing cost, waste and risk. It is positioned to redefine client expectations as we know them.
It is becoming imperative that tech companies do more to help decarbonize the construction industry. One way for the industry to reduce carbon is by reducing inefficiencies and waste created through a disconnected supply chain. Qnect implicitly reduces CO2 emissions by reducing material and waste through its optimization engines and integrated delivery process. In the recent Hines Embodied Carbon Reduction Guide | April 2022 (adobe.com), the authors talk about the importance of reducing not only Product-based embodied carbon but Construction-based embodied carbon for the jobsite (see figure). Qnect is shortening erection schedules and labor, thereby helping the industry better measure Construction CO2’s impact. It is inspiring to see how we at Qnect will help structural professionals measure and achieve their carbon targets. (Image courtesy of Hines Embodied Carbon Research Guide, page 13.)
I’m excited to see how we move the industry forward with a more collaborative mindset that includes engineers and contractors, along with fabricators. I think ISD is a proven process to achieve this and we must shepherd the industry to embrace it. In my upcoming blogs, I will dive deeper into the trends reshaping the practice for structural professionals. In the meantime, I will be reaching out to industry leaders to understand their needs and goals in the structural industry, and I’d love to hear from you as well. Please reach out to me to set up a time for us to chat.
Vice President of Strategy and Business Development