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Technology and Mechanical Contracting: Is Disruption the New Tradition?

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Disruption – noun “disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process” or Disruptive - adjective “something that by its nature disturbs or interrupts events, activities, or processes”

The invention of the telephone at the start of the 20th century was disruptive, making telegraph operators' jobs obsolete. The personal mobile phones of the 1990s, were very disruptive of fixed land line phone and fax systems. The iPhone, invented in 2007, was the most disruptive of all, creating a blur between the “connectedness” of work and our social worlds. A range of connected devices spawned by that original iPhone have shaped the lives and identities of the college students of today.

Fundamentals Remain as Materials and Methods Evolve

Tradition – noun “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way” or Traditional – adjective “something that by its nature refers to tradition(s)”

The mechanical contracting industry is fortunate to have many companies that have survived generations; there are quite a few MCAA members that are more than a century old.  Why? The fundamentals of the industry have not changed that much because physics has not changed: water still runs downhill, nature abhors a vacuum, and pressure moves from high to low unless acted upon.  But the materials and methods of designing, installing, and maintaining mechanical and plumbing systems in modern structures are beginning to undergo dramatic disruption!

Today’s generation of the workforce is more comfortable in a Slack channel or Google hangout than a group email, which was itself a great disruptor a dozen years ago.  They have been blessed with instantaneous research tools like Wikipedia and Google.  College students entering the workforce today have the advantage of being able to learn more, faster, and comprehend new technologies in ways that earlier generations cannot because their mind maps are literally different than those previous generations'.

Some Things Have To Be Learned, Earned, and Done

But, a caveat: there are always going to be things you can’t Google.  Wikipedia doesn’t know how to specify or route pipe efficiently nor can it tell you how to design systems correctly.  While you may find some answers visualized and presented on a given YouTube channel, that’s only because someone who knew how to do it right in the first place went through the exercise of actually doing it!  Even today, and into our future tech storm, there will always remain things that have to be learned, earned, and done, rather than downloaded.

Innovative Mechanical Contractors Implement New Technologies

The incredible luck for new workers in mechanical contracting is their timing.  Technology and process paradigms have already shifted for many industries (hotels, transportation, retail, travel, manufacturing, etc.). But mechanical contracting is preparing to unleash a virtual torrent of new technologies. New hires entering mechanical contracting positions are coming into an industry that is on the razor-sharp cusp of disruption…possibly even greater disruption than in some of those aforementioned fields.

Contractors are implementing new tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM), 3D Scanning, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Real Time Location Services (RTLS), drone/aerial technologies, modularization and fabrication.  No doubt, contractors will soon be using robotics (if not already) since issues of worker safety and the need to put more systems into increasingly smaller spaces are facts of life in mechanical contracting.  There are also dozens of new apps for process management, documenting, tracking progress, overlaying models in real locations (augmented reality), finding extremely precise points (millimeter accuracy) and burgeoning uses for aerial and virtual realities.

Flexibility and Intellectual Curiosity Are Key to Your Success

Contractors are looking for people with the skill sets, aptitudes, and attitudes to learn and use these disruptive game changers.  If you have the ability to learn, the flexibility to move among new software environments, and the intellectual curiosity to continue to develop your knowledge, you have a chance to advance in your mechanical contracting career faster than any other generation.

MCAA's Technology Initiative Helps Members Thrive

MCAA understands the winds of change are blowing strong, but rather than fight them, we are tacking into those winds and filling our sails…matching the strengths of our human resources to the change energy driving us forward. The MCAA Technology Initiative was developed to educate, research and train our members to thrive in an era of disruption and hyper-change. We are interweaving technology awareness and training into all MCAA seminars, webinars, as well as all our regional and national meetings and conferences, culminating with the annual MCAA Technology Conference. This national offering unpacks a universe of information into three exhilarating days of in-person sessions.

You Can Be the Disruptor that Shapes Our Industry's Future

The shrewdest and most capable students entering the construction workforce will see that mechanical and plumbing contractors are “visionaries with means,” the ones who can turn dreams of a better world into realities through their intellect, attitude, and their lack of fear to employ the latest technologies in shaping those dreams.  The traditions of the industry will remain strong…stronger in fact because this new breed of mechanical contractors will be even stronger and more capable than the legends who brought us to the edge of this new age. They will, in fact, be the disruptors, not the disrupted. Yes...disruption is the new tradition.