Chapter Corner

Technology ... What's Next?

Posted in: August 2017, Past President's Wisdom

“Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.” – Alan Kay

I have to laugh as I write this because I’m about to say, “I remember when ______ (Fill in the blank… for me it could be: there were only black & white TV’s, you played music from an album [I still own over 700], blueprints smelled of ammonia, or all power tools had cords).” Like all of you, I have witnessed many technological advances in my personal life and in my workplace that have changed the way I do things and how much I get accomplished.
 
As an electrical contractor, technological advances have led to additional opportunities and challenges. We have all seen how they can affect an increase in productivity in the field and in the office, and I’m sure we all can relate to some of the headaches associated with these same changes.
 
In the field, tools continue to evolve as they are made for specific tasks making it easier for the fieldworker to complete his work. Electrical equipment is being redesigned with the installer in mind, and communications have improved with the use of the smartphones and tablets. All of these advances support getting the job
completed quicker and under budget.
 
The smartphone gives our field workers a way to send and receive information quickly and easily. Questions can be answered and instruction manuals, cut sheets, and photos can be viewed. They can also be utilized to record daily activities, send in time, or even linked to your cost accounting system. But, while the use of smartphones or tablets can assist, they can also lead to additional distractions and liability. Personal cell phone use in the field costs contractors countless hours of productive time and lost profits. This in turn has caused many of us to implement policies that cover texting and taking personal phone calls while working. We have also had to implement policies to cover cell phone use and texting while driving, not only for our field personnel but all employees.
 
Then there are the technological advances that create opportunities for expanding our business model, which can create a profit center for our businesses. I know of many IEC contractors that have taken advantage of technological advances to support the financial health of their businesses. Some install systems that are referred to as “Smart Homes.” They assist home owners with security, comfort, energy efficiency, and convenience, whether they are home or not. Some, like me, have ventured into renewable technology as a means to support their business, while others have utilized BIM; pre-fab; or become experts in programmable controls, access controls, or data technology. Some of the most recent changes in lighting technology with the use of LED lighting and lighting controls have provided new profit centers for many of our IEC contractors. 
 
In the office, we have seen the increase in technology infiltrate every aspect of our business. Estimating software that is customizable and assists with quicker and more efficient take offs. Accounting software that can give you real time accounting and job cost information for effective project and financial management. Email correspondence that alleviates the need for paper and optimizes our communications with customers and suppliers. The use of the internet to research products, order materials, and check on deliveries. All assisting us to get more accomplished at a quicker pace.
 
As technology changes, the list of opportunities will continue to expand both in the field and in the office. As it is further implemented, contractors will face new challenges. Some of these challenges will include a better educated and trained workforce, while others will require a financial investment.
 
So where do we go from here?
 
Let me check the GPS app on my smartphone, it will tell me where to go, how to get there, and how long it will take. 
 
Here is what my GPS app responded with…
 
“Your destination is IECCon17 in Phoenix, AZ, October 25–28, where you can get a glimpse of some of the new technology that will be showcased by many of IEC’s Industry Partners.”
 
Mark Gillespie was IEC’s 2015 National President. He has been in the electrical trade for over 40 years and is currently the owner and CEO of TMI Electric in Cincinnati, OH.