Linda Pawlak is the Vice President of Strategic Improvement for The Walbec Group. The Walbec Group family of companies is made up of Payne and Dolan, Northeast Asphalt, Zenith Tech, Parisi Construction, Premier Concrete, and Construction Resources Management, and together they produce high quality construction materials and deliver unparalleled design, engineering, and construction services. We got Ms. Pawlak’s take on the top construction trends and how she thinks they'll impact the industry.
How will automated equipment change the industry in your view?
Having the automated equipment allows us to react faster to changing conditions. It allows us to manage construction projects more rapidly and with better information, which just allows us to make better, more informed decisions that don't rely on humans to collect the data, analyze the data, and discuss the data. It just helps the speed and accuracy of making decisions.
What would be the impact of automated payments?
If technology can help us reduce the manual inspection and the manual exchange of quantities and work output that's done in the field and just speed up both the collection and the agreement of those quantities, it really revolutionizes the way that we can exchange information, the quality of that information, the iterative processes that are there today for each customer. Contractors can each have their own set of data and then compare it and validate it so they can pay faster and easier.
What is the future of supply chain and electronic material ordering?
Construction is riddled right now in today's days of phone calls and messages. The faster we get information, the more efficiently our customers can request orders and materials, and the better off we all can plan. Customers can plan for their work. We can balance our workloads. It just revolutionizes its speed, improving the ability on both sides to be efficient and productive.
How do you see data science driving the future?
There are stories every single day of customers, internal project management, our business leaders, etc. all wanting access to the data for various reasons, right? Everybody wants to manage by data, wants to manage by exception, and everybody wants to do it for just a little bit of a different reason and from a little from a little bit of a different angle. We all have different roles, from customers to owners, to managing the profitability of our own business.
Having the machine do the work and show us the information we should be looking at and doing it all from one source of information rather than duplicating effort like we typically do, it really flips the dialogue completely.
What does the industry need to do to engage employees more?
Walbec exists to help people reach their destinations. That goes for our customers, our employees, our neighbors, everybody. Competing within the industry for employees is one thing, right? Be the best. Be the best contractor. Be the best in the industry. That's one thing. But right now, we are competing with other industries for the very same skill set, for the best of the best. And in order to do that, we need to provide the same opportunities that other industries do. We need to be able to stand up against not just other companies in the industry, but industry to industry. In an industry where we all work disconnected because of the geography differences, technology can still provide that continuity, that sense of belonging to something bigger than the sum of its parts. So we really are finding more and more innovative ways to do that. COVID gave us the push we needed to really, really embrace that, and to find ways to make connections and develop and grow employees remotely despite geography.
What impact do you expect environmental practices to have on the industry?
Implementing environmentally friendly practices are part of our overall mission. We've always strived to be as green as we can, and society expects it now, right? We, thankfully, have always been environmentally minded. We have a group of people who are solely dedicated to being sustainable for our neighbors, for our employees, and for the world. We are continuously researching ways to improve our ability to leave a smaller footprint, use less energy, and just be more sustainable overall. We can do that through cooler temperatures for asphalt paving, or reclamation, or emissions, and just being a good neighbor to the communities that we live and work in.
Do you have any other points to make on what the future of construction will look like?
Like the rest of the world, the pace isn't going to slow down. It's great to be able to embrace it. We can use technology to embrace it, to listen to our employees, to find better and better ways to keep everybody engaged. And, for this, we are better. The sum of our parts is way better and it’s what makes us a better organization.