MEP Force 2020 Takeaways, Day 1

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Stats: 1300 attendees, 4 continents, 6 countries

As Todd Weyandt put it in the MEP Force 2020 Facebook Live recap, “2020 is the year that keeps on giving.” Over 1,300 people have had the opportunity to connect this week with others during MEP Force. There is a genuine hunger for people to connect as a result of the reaction to the pandemic. Engagement in chats during breakout sessions was excellent, with sidebar conversations very similar in content to those of an in-person conference.

Todd was joined by Nathan Wood, Rob McKinney, Travis Voss, and James Simpson. Some of the useful information they were able to glean on DAY 1 included:

The opening keynote address by Amy Marks drew together the different facets of industrial construction and walked the participants through what it means to have “the right tool for the right project.” MEP trades have come far, but Marks encouraged them to strive for the prophetic 45% adoption mark estimated by surveys and forecasts. She made it clear that the trades are farther along than we thought. With both an owner’s and a construction manager’s perspective, Marks is giving the industry a common language to talk from.

In the recap discussion, the point was made that the MEP trades are positioned to be true leaders because upwards of 60% of most jobs involves trades work. The trades have the opportunity to drag the project team with them.

More than one breakout session broached the fear of technology within the industry, which really revolves around the false perception of losing jobs. However, technology enables the workforce to mold their jobs to the projects they’re working on. The trades panel addressed this and the role the trades organizations can play in the shift. Although the digital age business model can result in confrontations, cooperation will accomplish much more.

The technology groundswell won’t result in big changes until there is buy-in from owners. Change agents need to speak the language of owners and be flexible. Normalizing is easier said than done. Nathan Wood characterized the process as “carrots and sticks.” Risk management resulting from bringing the trades in earlier serves to resonate more than the “Hollywood side” of BIM.

Travis Voss pointed out that standardizing will be a lot easier “if we do it ourselves rather than having it done to us.” There are components, parts and pieces of jobs that are repeatable. James Simpson observed that companies need to find the balance on the scale of zero failure to full innovation. In creating a culture that embraces growth, the mindset needs to be supportive of people when they fail. We learn from failure – not from success. There can still be a “win” if the mistake was well intentioned and based on a logical choice.

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