When you walk into a recently finished construction project, the first thing you will notice is the work of specialty contractors focused on interior finishes. Whether it’s the doors, frames or architectural woodwork, the finishing touches on a project truly matter and bring to life the vision of the owner and architect. Brent Cranmer works as the Vice President of Technology for a specialty contractor focused on interior finish work, ISEC.
“In interior finishing, we’re usually one of the last trades on the job, but the first aspect that’s seen in the finished space,” he comments.
In this week’s “Behind the Build,” we speak with Brent on how he is taking his 25 years of experience to help build a robust technology program at ISEC. Below, he shares more about ISEC’s key technology initiatives in addition to what emerging innovation he is excited about for the future of the industry.
What’s your primary role at ISEC?
As the leader within our technology and engineering organizations at ISEC, my role is pushing the envelope of how we use technology to build better and smarter.
How did you get your start in the building industry?
While I’ve been leading large technology teams for nearly twenty-plus years, I’ve only been with ISEC for five years now. Prior to that, I worked for a large owner as a multifamily real estate operator. Nevertheless, this has allowed me to bring a good deal of fresh perspective to the industry when it comes to innovation.
What technology-related initiatives are you focused on at ISEC?
Right now, the construction industry is in the position where it’s not just about eliminating paper. Over the last few years, the industry has done a great job getting rid of the paper, but the processes themselves are still paper-based. Just because the blueprints are now digital, it doesn’t mean they’re accessible.
Until documents are actually made available on the cloud and in applications, as opposed to just files, teams are really limited with the benefits digitalization provides.
At ISEC, the main thing that we’re focused on is eliminating the unstructured data, files, Word documents, spreadsheets and more that are still a part of inefficient processes.
Why does ISEC use PlanGrid?
When we first used PlanGrid in one of our regions, we saw how it helped connect the field with back-office operations. A huge influence as to why we went ahead and decided to adopt PlanGrid enterprise-wide was its adaptability and ease of use in the field. When you have someone who’s been a builder for 20 years or so, and you put a new piece of technology in their hands, you certainly don’t want them to spend significant time learning how to use it. Beyond that, as PlanGrid continues to innovate additional experiences and features, we’re looking forward to leveraging them.
How can technology play a role in facilitating better project delivery?
All of those next-generation contract methodologies, whether its cost-plus, integrated project delivery (IPD), etc., it’s essentially about transparency and knowing the costs up front. Technology becomes a facilitator for those type of agreements; otherwise, they’d be too laborious to exercise. There’s not a single IPD, cost-plus or open book style project that’s being run without BIM as a centerpiece of that particular technology stack for that project. The reason for this is because BIM is what makes that level of transparency possible.
Technology is going to be the major enabler that allows more transparency into the way that we partner and work together with everybody in the construction ecosystem.
What keeps you up at night?
In interior finishing, we’re usually one of the last trades on the job, but the first aspect that’s seen in the finished space. If a job has been facing a lot of challenges and issues, whether they’re technology-related or just other things that can come up on the jobsite, we really start to feel the brunt of that. We’re always under constant schedule pressure. It typically takes 16 weeks to do what we do, but GCs might need us to execute in four to six weeks instead to meet deadlines.
I also think constantly about how to scale our business. A construction business is like a racecar in a race. Every time you go around the track that equates to a new project. At the same time, you’re also looking for a better way to run that project. How do you drive that car around the track really fast and change up the engine? Those are monumental challenges that need to be managed in a profit-margin constrained business like construction.
What technology are you excited about right now in the construction industry?
Beyond PlanGrid, I’m excited about the field data collection technology that’s emerging. These innovations are going to be the reason we start transitioning from just 2D drawings to BIM and modeling. The ability to capture real as-built conditions to automate processes like templating, field dimensioning and more are going to be huge for our business in the next few years and evolve how we are building overall.