Tech adaption: 3 Lessons from DPR Construction
Innovation is an everyday topic at DPR Construction. The commercial contractor, ranked #15 on ENR’s Top 400 list, is continually focused on creating new ways to work more efficiently and deliver value to customers and projects. “Everyone is empowered to try new things,” says Kaushal Diwan, director of Innovation. Diwan’s team is charged with helping get those new ideas to the next level, providing guidance on testing, funding and collaborative resources.
“In the construction industry we focus a lot on avoiding risk and there is a fear of failure,” says Diwan. “At DPR we take the approach that, when it comes to trying new tech tools, it’s okay to fail, and that we need to continue to try new things.” Diwan believes that as employees see success in the form of improved processes and documented return on investment, they begin to understand the why and how of innovation.
An internal platform called “The Idea Mill” allows ideas to be shared across the organization. Cross collaboration between divisions and disciplines helps to refine and improve ideas. When evaluating ideas to be considered for testing, Diwan’s group goes through what he calls a “simple framework” process. “In this stage, we look at what we’re trying to solve, how we’re going to test, and what metrics we’re going to track,” says Diwan. The innovation team asks, “By implementing this tool are we eliminating a wasteful process? By implementing this tool are we creating a new problem that didn’t exist before?” The next step is a pilot project, where the idea will be tried on a limited basis to see if it performs as expected. Depending on the results of the pilot project, the group will decide to adopt the project at the enterprise level, keep trying, or abandon the project altogether.
TRY DPR’S THREE-STEP APPROACH TO TECH ADOPTION
According to Diwan, tech adoption on a larger scale through the company requires a more strategic approach. “If you don’t look at the people, process and then technology, you tend to go with what sounds cool, rather than what is right for the project.”
Identify the People
Identify who is going to be using the tool or will be impacted by the tool. What is the current level of awareness and what does it need to be? Communicate both the “why” and the “how,” of the new technology.
Define the Process
Define the existing process you are trying the technology is designed to improve or determine if a new process needs to be in place.
Choose the Technology
Find the right tool to improve the process. At DPR Construction, an integration manger serves as a technical advisor to projects. They work closely with project teams to make sure they select the right technology tool.
Success comes when scaled solutions become best practice. In 2017, DPR pioneered the measurement of concrete flatness with 3D laser scanning technology as an improvement over traditional methods of measuring. The concrete is scanned and the data is used to create a heat map of the surface highlights variation. Crews can then make adjustments while the concrete is still wet, improving quality and saving time.
In another exploration, DPR began testing the use of embedded sensors to determine concrete strength and moisture content. Results were then compared with traditional testing methods to determine reliability. Such sensors may save time because they eliminate the need to send samples out for testing.
Diwan doesn’t see much push back from employees about pilot projects. “Innovation is ingrained in our company culture,” he says. “Having that innovative spirit and culture of innovation is a big part of attracting and retaining talent,” says Diwan.
As you explore new tech solutions for construction and work to adopt new tech across your company, consider the lessons shared by DPR. It’s as much about the people and the process, as it is about the technology.
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