Power Design, Inc.
How one contractor is leveraging technology to overcome labor challenges.
Faster. Leaner. Cheaper. Gone are the days of simply meeting expectations when it comes to construction budgets and timelines. Contractors today are challenged to produce higher quality products, on fast-track schedules, with economically-driven costs, all while facing an industry-wide labor shortage. With more workers leaving the trades than joining, the push for innovative ways to attract and retain skilled labor is at an all-time high.
As Fortune reported last month, despite rising demand, 60 percent of contractors have faced difficulty in the third quarter of 2017 finding skilled workers due to the ongoing labor shortage. Ninety-one percent of contractors are at least moderately concerned about the skill level of their workforce as well.
“Recruiting top talent has always been our No. 1 focus,” says Marlene Velez, chief people and culture officer at Power Design, Inc., a national electrical contracting and engineering firm. “We’ve never wavered from our core values or quality expectations, which makes finding the right candidates even more of a challenge.”
The next generation of tradesmen, which the construction industry is now dependent on, are banking on companies that invest in their people and in the technologies that support working smarter, not harder.
Leveraging Tech Investments
Power Design has always embraced technology, often pushing the limits before it is widely adopted in the industry. From creating BIM models, to utilizing Total Stations, issuing iPads to nationwide field staff, developing collaborative software in-house, and soon to include the use of virtual reality, these investments are paying off now more than ever. “Not only is cutting-edge technology appealing to new recruits, but it’s helping to cut down our ramp-up times,” says Dave Hughes, director of coordination at Power Design. “We’re investing in software that allows our new hires to become more productive at a faster pace.”
All Power Design superintendents have been provided iPads with real-time access to software apps and tools, creating a more productive environment. BIM models with a focus on constructability and coordination components help to identify potential issues before anyone steps foot onsite, allowing field teams to hit the ground running. Combined with Total Station technology, the accuracy of deck layouts and team efficiencies are even further enhanced. “The easier we can make it for our field guys to work smarter instead of harder, the easier it is to keep them on our team,” Hughes adds.
Office employees are also reaping technology benefits with several collaboration tools, such as a proprietary project dashboard, available at their fingertips. Using a schedule of predetermined milestones and deliverables from project award to closeout, this software provides complete visibility to project progress and potential issues at all times.
Bridging the Training Gap
A major part of Power Design’s recruitment strategy is to target recent university or tech school graduates looking to build their careers from the ground up. Many of these candidates possess the soft skills that make for a good culture fit, but lack the level of technical skill or training required to start contributing to the project team immediately.
That’s why Virtual Design Manager Brad Moore recently implemented a free, seven-week course that meets twice weekly to help train individuals who want to work at Power Design but don’t have the technical capabilities. “We teach them at a high level how the building, design and construction industry works, how to read architectural, structural and MEP drawings, and what the expectations are at our company,” he explains. “All of the students have already been approved via our interview process and demonstrated great potential. So we pair specific technology training with software like AutoCAD and PlanGrid to help get them up to speed, with the intent of offering them full-time positions in our preconstruction department at the end.”
With more than 15,000 units under production in South Florida, a few stand-out projects currently utilizing Power Design’s technology and approach include:
• Auberge Beach Residences & Spa, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.;
• Brickell Flatiron, Miami;
• Miami World Center – Luma Tower & Paramount, Miami;
• The Bristol, West Palm Beach, Fla.; and
• All Aboard Florida – Brightline & Parkline , West Palm Beach, Fla.
Tech of the Future
As for the future of technology in construction, experts at Power Design say the sky is the limit. “We’re currently building workflows to be supported through VR and AR,” Moore says. “We’re working with software giants and participating in university-level research to test virtual reality products and help develop and improve the technology in its infancy. This wouldn’t be possible without forward-thinking leadership that lets us dabble and prove the value.”