By Eric Cylwik, Director of Innovation
Much of our society’s potential is defined by our buildings, infrastructure, and laboratories. Reusable rocket launch facilities, theme park rides, hydrogen vehicle infrastructure, hyperscale data centers, and distribution warehouses are all areas of extreme innovation in our economy and brighten our future. These innovative efforts are tied together by an industry perceived to be lacking innovation: construction. Construction is infamous for waste, inefficiencies and rework, not to mention a poor client experience. Despite its reputation, I’ve seen innovations spread across the construction industry change how builders build. We are working to increase productivity, predictability and customer satisfaction.
That’s why Sundt introduced innovation as one of our core values earlier this year. This change reflects the efforts of our employee-owners who are working every day to build better. We’re on the endless journey to perfect the art of building. The journey is continuous because every project is unique with different constraints, goals, expectations and functionality.
Sundt’s builders must balance new methods and tools with predictability for each job. The innovations our employee-owners have developed in recent years range from contract delivery methods to in-house software tools, large equipment, automation, and small tools with an eye on delivering more value to clients.
An example of evolving tools and maintaining construction predictability comes from an older version of the Sundt operations manual. The manual highlights the importance of having a disposable Kodak camera in the job office. It was critical to capture important moments to document progress or examine construction sequences after the fact. This approach to capturing the construction narrative misses many important moments and can only tell the story from the lens of a disposable camera. Since then, Sundt standardized digital cameras, cloud-based storage, followed by AI-based sorting systems, and now 360 hardhat-mounted cameras. Our newest technology for documenting construction progress solves many challenges, including locating capture locations on a set of construction documents. This technology allows for passive capture, enabling our engineers to focus on construction challenges rather than adjacent tasks (like photo documentation or quantifying installed material).
In addition to evolving tools and processes, we must recognize the ongoing evolution of our end products – the structures we’re building for our clients and communities. For example, anyone who claims to have perfected data center construction will miss out on opportunities to improve. Data center design and operations are continually evolving to meet the needs of advancing technology. Builders must be prepared to innovate alongside this continuous evolution. Sundt’s employee-owners are driving innovation in the core of construction management and the frontlines of our jobsites.
Sundt’s mix of self-perform and construction management teams means that Sundt is uniquely positioned to realize innovations from administering construction to field installation. On any given day, Sundt is integrating innovations to support advanced cost modeling during preconstruction, understanding safety through big data analytics, developing new concrete formwork components, and building new hardware to make infrastructure paving more efficient.
As our clients evolve to support their end users better, Sundt evolves to anticipate our clients’ needs. That’s why we’re investing now in craft workforce development, new training academies for construction engineers, building mechanisms to facilitate ideation that spans multiple job locations, and evaluating new tools or technologies. We’re always on the lookout for tools to innovate, to build better – and on occasion, that means building our own to make sure our client’s innovations are never limited by construction.