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“Multi-party collaborative integration” may sound just like a bunch of MBA buzzwords, but when it happens on construction sites, it’s good news for manufacturers, reps and distributors.

One of the reasons I enjoy attending Dodge’s annual Construction Outlook each year is because it offers the opportunity to reflect on how electrical distributors, electrical manufacturers and independent manufacturers’ reps fit into the big picture on construction job-sites.

In a large project, electrical contractors can often be just one of several dozen subcontractors. Roofers, steelworkers, glaziers, plumbers, masons, security system installers, carpet installers, finish carpenters and a long list of other trades each have an important piece of the project. They all have to stay out of each others’ way, and make sure they get their work done on time. When they don’t, there’s friction, and often lost profits because of change orders, late deliveries and other snafus.

One of the most interesting sessions at the 2018 Dodge Construction Outlook held this year in Chicago, “The Business Value of Connectivity, Collaboration and Integration in Construction,” covered trends in project collaboration and explored a recent Dodge study on how all parties on the jobsite can use online project collaboration, BIM (building information modeling) and plain-old better communications to build projects with as little waste as possible.

The presentation by Steve Jones, senior director of industry insights research, Dodge Data & Analytics, explored how architects, engineers and contractors are using BIM, augmented reality, cloud-based project plans and other newer technologies to cut waste on job-sites. And it was fascinating stuff for sure to see videos of contractors wearing virtual reality goggles and “walking through” 3D renderings of a project so they could see how and where their products and systems fit together.  I have been watching BIM for several years now, and was interested to see just how much information is now loaded in each of those little BIM objects on site plans created in the latest design software.

But what really surprised me in the discussions is how often the various building product suppliers and their supply chain partners are out of the communication loop for a project. One reason for that is  the fear the project’s architects, engineers and contractors have of “hard sell” manufacturers and others in the supply chain who are only interested in selling their products and don’t focus on finding out what’s good for the project itself. Some of the good news for electrical marketers that came out of Jones’ presentation is that a recent Dodge survey of architects, general contractors, construction managers and subcontractors showed that all parties believed building product manufacturers (BPMs) should be included early in the design process, as long as they were knowledgeable,  focused on how their products could solve problems on job-sites and toned down their sales pitches.

They also said that, ideally, when  BPMs are participating in the design process either pre-construction or during the actual construction process, they can help architects, engineers and contractors design and build better projects and eliminate some of the scheduling and change-order snafus that can derail a project.

Another idea discussed was the concept of a “co-location big room” where all stakeholders and participants in a project meet regularly on-site to discuss issues of mutual concern in the building process. Building Design + Construction magazine, had an interesting description of the concept in a 2014 post at

“Imagine applying the team locker room concept and dynamics to the design and construction of a building project, thus creating a “Project Big Room.” Much like a football team in a locker room developing their game plan for an upcoming season, the entire project team (architect, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors) could use a similar philosophy and approach to design, plan and construct a capital project.”

Project Big Room sounds an awful lot like some good, old-fashioned open communication, but if that’s what it takes to get electrical contractors and their suppliers working more profitably on job-sites, I am all in.