While it wasn’t our first trip to Las Vegas for a conference, it was out first time at CONEXPO which is only held every three years. There were 2,500 exhibitors and 130,000 visitors so it was a fair sized show.
Every major machinery supplier in every sector was represented, and unlike many industry events, there is a decent size entry fee (US$150 for a 3 day pass) so the show has less tyre kickers and more attendees wanting to do business.
In addition to machinery suppliers, there were a very broad range of ancillary product and solution providers exhibiting. We were delighted to find that not only were these solution providers interested in talking to us, but that there may be some real synergies between our solutions.
CONEXPO included a dedicated area labelled “The Tech Experience” which was focused on technology and its impact upon jobsite management, infrastructure and the workforce.
Prior to CONEXPO, we attended the Australian Civil Contractors Federation Technology Symposium – which was run in conjunction with the American General Contractors annual conference during the same week. I was flattered to be on a discussion panel on the final day of the symposium which discussed the impact of technology on the construction industry.
This discussion panel was made up of a cross section of contractors and solution providers so it was a well-balanced discussion of the subject matter. I will write a more detailed blog shortly on some of the topics listed below but, until then, here are the top-line findings:
Technology, more specifically information technology is rapidly becoming central to construction project management. Utilisation of web based platforms and programs are increasing the speed of doing business, the transparency and availability of information, and the ability to exercise better control of quality, cost, safety and profitability of construction projects
As equipment gets smarter, technology impacts significantly on every aspect of the lifecycle and operation of a machine, and the tasks it is being used for. This presents massive opportunity for those who have the ability to listen to and talk to their machines, and make sense of the vast amount of information available
Everyone you meet has an “app” which is going to revolutionise the world. Unfortunately the world is quickly becoming “app-ed out”, hence industry leaders in construction and machinery focused information technology solutions are designing platforms as opposed to niche apps. This shift is aimed at trying and avoid being drowned in the millions of specialised apps that have no real context or connectivity to other business systems
The proliferation of so called platforms, is arguably leading to an equally or more confusing situation facing contractors as to how all of this technology fits together and whether it will meet their needs and remain relevant in the future
Success of any new technology is actually all about relevance, usability and integration so technology businesses have to be clear about the value they add, and more important be crystal clear on where they do not have value adding expertise
And they must be able to collaborate with others – no solution is an island! We saw some great examples of products that can/could run across multiple platforms and talk to third party applications, which this is the way of the future.
The future will be far more fluid than the past and a critical skill in these organisations will be the ability to scope and undertake multiple platform integrations
Interestingly, and thankfully, gone are the days when OEMs can dictate and control how machine owners can obtain and use telematics data from their machines. There is a clear shift, albeit a slow one, towards ‘agnostic’ solutions that will work across all brands and models of machinery.
The discussion panel was an excellent precursor to visiting CONEXPO, as it focused the mind on investigating where the solution providers were at in relation to the above issues.
What we saw at CONEXPO was a really obvious shift in the North American software solutions market. There is an acceptance that the old model of software giants developing in house expertise across all facets of an industry is expensive, slow and usually results in less than optimal functionality.
Instead, there is a cautious embracing of the need to collaborate and integrate across company boundaries. This presents an opportunity for Plant Assessor and other Australian companies that offer unique functionality and IP that may be useful in the enormous US market. This is an exciting opportunity for us, and one we are now pursuing more rapidly than before our visit to CONEXPO.
In addition to this, there is clearly an increased acceptance of the benefits of good safety management in the North American market. It is fair to say, that we came away from our previous (2013) trip somewhat depressed as to the low priority that safety appeared to have in the general contractor market relative to Australia. This has fundamentally changed, with safety software offerings growing relatively quickly into this market.
What would a trip to Vegas be like without some post conference/show R&R? It is fair to say that after 7 days of dinners, cocktail parties and shows with clients, prospects, suppliers and a range of other great people, we were well and truly ready to return home.
I’d like to thank the Aussies who attended the Plant Assessor event at CONEXPO. We had a great night watching the legend John Fogarty with you all and hope you enjoyed the show! He was a sight to see ripping out his awesome brand of rock and roll with his two sons at The Wynn on Friday 10 March.