Walking the show floor at this past January’s AHR Expo in Chicago was a very eye-opening and enlightening experience.
For starters, the show, which targets the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration space, experienced record attendance, which in itself could signify some good rebound potential for the market. But in addition, the “technology row” on the show floor was well represented from the technology providers and well attended by the contractors.
I don’t think the show officially called it “technology row,” but it is what I refer to as the row of booths at the end of one of the halls where all the technology providers were lined up. It was there, of course, where we spent the majority of our time, and had some very enlightening conversations with all different types of technology vendors serving the specialty-contractor market. But rather than having conversations about how to promote the value of technology to the specialty-contractor community, as might have been the case a few years ago, we were instead engaged in some deep and meaningful dialogue around the idea of things like cloud computing, GPS and tracking software, integrated project delivery, and field service automation, to name just a few.
I think most of the industry is still stuck in the mentality that such conversations are reserved only for the general contractors. But it’s the specialty contractors that are looking hard and heavy at the ways in which technology can elevate their business to the next level.
Things like cloud computing absolutely make sense for such companies. Take the smaller companies that don’t necessarily have the IT staff of, say, their GC counterparts. Or, for whatever reason had some all-encompassing IT staff at one point in time but had to cut back, or even eliminate it altogether. More and more, software vendors are delivering services around this model, and those we spoke with seemed very encouraged at the rate of investment they were seeing from customers.
And speaking of service, this is where a lot of the innovation is starting to pop up. For many, service has absolutely become the bread and butter of business now that construction jobs have dried up. Software providers are enhancing their products, and even a few enterprise software providers that traditionally have concentrated on the GC space have started moving more into the specialty market with offerings around this type of functionality. For the specialty-contractor space this can only mean good things, as the ultimate beneficiary of more competition is the customer.
This year you may have noticed a special focus we introduced for the subcontractor market, called Sound of the Sub. In January we profiled an electrical subcontractor that has prioritized around the idea of BIM. This month, on page 30, we take a look at another subcontractor pushing the limits with technology. I am very excited for this series, as we have some great stories lined up for the remainder of 2012. Perhaps the next 12 months will produce even more stories that will force us to keep Sound of the Sub as part of the regular rotation on the pages of Constructech.
Happy Anniversary Top Products
It’s been five years since we first introduced the Constructech Top Products award. The fifth anniversary is a big deal. Or should we say you introduced the awards program to us—the editors. It seems like only yesterday when we were having dinner with our editorial advisory board and the concept was introduced to us. At first, we were skeptical, because we thought the industry already had too many awards programs. The subs, GCs, and owners sitting at dinner with us that night really made a great case for why these awards would serve as a valuable resource for helping them determine the best products, both industry stalwarts as well as new products that would be introduced each year.
However, they needed our help to do the homework and research these products each year. Now, five years later, these Top Products are still going strong. Many of you still tell us how valuable this issue has become to your organization. This year is no different. The companies that have been chosen as this year’s Top Products award winners have introduced solutions that are rising above the noise, adding features and functions that help meet the demanding needs of the construction marketplace. And as we celebrate our fifth anniversary, the traditional gift of choice for such an anniversary is wood. And how appropriate that we celebrate this stable, sturdy, and beautiful product that gives our industry the strength it deserves. We hope you find these awards as valuable as always.