Attention "Old School" Construction Guys - It's Change or Die Time!

May 2, 2016

By John Zink, Foundation VP of Education and Programs and Kirk Alter, Fast Management, Inc.

The person on the phone asked, “Do you guys still have that in a book I can buy?

I smiled through my answer, “No, the last time we printed that publication on paper was 16 years ago. We even stopped putting it on CDs four years ago – it’s all a digital download now.

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Oh. Well…you don’t happen to have any old copies of the book sitting on a shelf there that you can send us maybe? We’re kind of ‘old school’ around here.

No, but it’s time for your guys to start using the software. I can help get you started on that…

I have this same conversation every few months and each time I can’t believe that there are still companies doing millions of dollars of work with employees who don’t use the computer on their desk for anything but e-mail (sometimes even having someone print all their messages for them to read).  

A few proud anti-technology holdouts may be thinking “Yeah, that’s right, and we still make good money doing it ‘old school’ mister!”

Well, maybe - but not as much as you could be making, and definitely not for much longer.

Critical Point

The construction market has traditionally been slow to change, but we have reached a critical moment of ferocious development of new technologies and processes.

It’s an exciting time for the companies who can capture the benefits those developments can bring. But for companies where everyone is getting along just “doing the job” the way they’ve been doing it for years, the story is quite different.

Look around – if you see outdated technology, cumbersome processes and employees who are reluctant to change, it’s time to close shop. You’re already out of business – you just don’t know it yet.

Technology Tsunami

We are at the most significant technological shift in the construction industry since the steam shovel and the internal combustion engine. The last few years have seen a host of technological improvements that have radically revolutionized our business, with much more coming soon.

Foremen armed with iPads or tablets that can communicate with systems back at the main office is baseline; we’re past the point where everyone should be doing this. If you’re not, your company is missing an easy opportunity to boost productivity via better communications between the office and field.

Beyond Baseline

· Are you collecting installation progress and materials usage data continuously from field employees?

· Is BIM a standard part of your project management process?

· Where is your company at with becoming a Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) firm?

· Do you have an employee with a FAA commercial drone pilot license so you can get overhead jobsite imagery?

· What can you offer a customer looking for integrated building systems linked through the IoT (Internet of Things)?

· Are you coordinating with other subs to prefabricate entire walls or even rooms in your fab shop, before those sections are transported to the job site and dropped into place?

If you are striking out on the questions above, it’s time to send a “wake-up” shock into the heart of your company’s culture. Management and employee’s eyes must be opened to how the world has changed around them so you can start aligning company culture to fit with the breakneck speed and other realities of today’s competitive environment.

Even if you are not competing against companies doing all these things, at some point, you will be. Why not take the lead and be the one that your competitors have to run to catch up with?

The truth is, this moment ISN’T “Change or Die Time.” It ALWAYS has been. The difference now is that the rate of that change happening around us doesn’t take a whole generation to make everything we know obsolete anymore.

Remember, the first iPhone came out less than 10 years ago. Even the Internet was just gaining mainstream attention 16 years ago. Now what a Computer Science major in college learns Freshman year can be obsolete by the time they graduate!

Where Do I Start?
If you don’t know where to start or what it will cost or where to look for answers, we have good news. We can help!

The PHCC Educational Foundation runs several workshops designed to help construction companies keep up with changing times and prepare for the next wave of change.

· Creating Super Foremen Workshop – A two-day program offered by the Foundation and via PHCC state chapters on-demand throughout the year.

· Essentials of Project Management Class – A four-day boot camp for project managers to get up to speed on best practices, standardizing procedures and how to play the construction management game. Held each March.

· Smarter Management Workshop – A two-day workshop for P.M.’s and mid-level managers up to the company owner, designed to address the most pressing topics on the minds of attendees. Topics are selected based on feedback from our audience, ensuring that the workshop is answering the questions you are facing today. Held once every other year.

We will be offering the Essentials of Project Management class in March 2017 and the Super Foremen Workshop in summer 2017 with Purdue University Professor Kirk Alter leading both sessions.

You can register by calling John Zink at (800) 533-7694, or via e-mail at

We hope you can join us and stay ahead of your “old school” competition!

About the Workshop Presenter

Kirk Alter, Associate Professor in Purdue University’s Department of Building Construction Management and president of Fast Management, Inc., has been a full-time participant in the mechanical construction industry since 1974. His career path includes working as an apprentice, journeyman, foreman, superintendent, estimator, project manager, designer, operations manager, vice president, and owner.

His management seminars and sessions on sustainable construction practices have been shared with audiences across the US, Europe and around the world.  Kirk brings a uniquely well-rounded perspective to the training sessions he offers, and delivers on his promise to provide tangible tools and skills to attendees. 


John Zink is the Vice President of Educations and Programs for the PHCC Educational Foundation. He can be reached at


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