The Official Publication of the Power & Communication Contractors Association 1st Quarter 2022 PCCA Fly-In Sets Agenda for 2022 Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Rural Broadband USDA Invests $5.2 Billion for Critical Rural Infrastructure Labor and Employment Law Spring Cleaning for Employers Tips for Successfully Implementing Construction Technology
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PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 5 2nd Quarter 2022 Officer Directors Official Publication of the Power & Communication Contractors Association Board of Directors Publication Staff PO Box 638 Churchton, Maryland 20733 (800) 542-PCCA • www.pccaweb.org ©2022 Power & Communication Contractors Association Publisher TimothyWagner Editor Michael Ancell Advertising Sales Stacy Bowdring Photography Jorge de Casanova Information Technology Greg Smela Accounting James Wagner Layout & Design JosephWagner Garrett Akin Brooks Construction Co., LLC Nick Anderson Anderson Underground, Inc. David Aubrey Okay Construction John Audi Mears Group, Inc. Jeff Brown Global Machinery Bonnie Burnham Forbes Bros. USA John Capodice Sterling Site Solutions Josh DeBruine Michels Corporation Justin Druffel Caterpillar, Inc. John Fluharty Mears Group, Inc. Robin Gilbertson J&R Underground, LLC Chase Lapcinski Push, Inc. Larry Pribyl MP Nexlevel, LLC Heath Sellenriek Sellenriek Construction Ryan Steinbecker Altec Industries Sam Stephens Tjader & Highstrom Jason Tyler Brooks Construction Co., LLC Billy Vincent ElectriCom, Inc. Chris Wozniak Intercon Construction, Inc. Chairman Robert Breeden ElectriCom, Inc. Chairman-Elect Jerrod Henschel Equix, Inc. 1st Vice Chairman Ed Campbell HMI Communications 2nd Vice Chairman Matthew Gabrielse Gabe’s Construction Co., Inc. Treasurer Rob Pribyl MP Nexlevel, LLC Secretary Craig Amerine Amerine Utilities Construction, Inc PCCA Fly-In Sets Agenda for 2022 7 By Eben Wyman In January, PCCA members traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss issues and strategize for the coming year. While PCCA has enjoyed several victories of over the past few years, new and increasing challenges face the association and its legislative and regulatory agenda. While the recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill will mean tens of billions of dollars coming into markets for both broadband deployment and for strengthening the electric grid, the clear bias toward union labor, overreaching climate proposals, and anti-employer worksite safety policies mean PCCA must be prepared to play some mean defense, at least over the next few years. Stop Treating Symptoms: Tips for Successfully Implementing Construction Technology 15 By Tyler Paré Over the past five years, we have seen a proliferation of technologies enter the construction industry, watched an acceleration of invested capital into technology startups, and witnessed more contractors embracing technology overall. These trends are exciting and necessary in an evolving industry, but we have created a new problem by solving certain business challenges. Over time, technology providers and contractors have become so focused on new tech capabilities that tech is often adopted to treat the symptoms, leaving the core business problems unaddressed or even undiagnosed. Human Resources | By Greg Guidry 12 Power News 19 Broadband News 23 News Briefs 27 PCCA Member News 31 Industry Calendar 36 New PCCA Members 38 Advertiser Index 38 Last Word | By Tim Wagner 42
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PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 7 In early January, several members of PCCA’s Government & Industry Affairs Committee traveled to Washington for an in-person meeting to strategize for the coming year. While PCCA has enjoyed several victories of over the past few years, new and increasing challenges face the association and its legislative and regulatory agenda. While the recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill will mean tens of billions of dollars coming into markets for both broadband deployment and for strengthening the electric grid, the clear bias toward union labor, overreaching climate proposals, and anti-employer worksite safety policies mean PCCA must be prepared to play some mean defense, at least over the next few years. The January fly-in allowed the committee to plan ahead and hold virtual visits with industry partners and government agencies. Strong cautionary messages were sent in essentially every discussion regarding the problems associated with the Biden administration’s union favoritism and the impact it will have on broadband and power construction projects. This is not to say PCCA is anti-union—the association represents both union and merit-shop contractors. However, at a time when significant investment in PCCA markets is on the way, we need to afford all eligible contractors the opportunity to bid on power and broadband projects. Here’s a recap of the successful fly-in event, held at PCCA’s Capitol Hill offices. U.S. Dept of Agriculture/Rural Utilities Service PCCA is a longtime supporter and sometimes defender of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which provides grants and loans to rural areas with low populations for infrastructure improvements. Obviously, the RUS Broadband Division is of particular interest to PCCA, and the committee appreciated the discussion with the division’s director and the engineering branch chief of the agency. While PCCA usually supports existing RUS programs as well as new initiatives, PCCA felt the need to educate them on the problems presented by the administration’s recent approach to labor policy. In October, RUS issued a notice announcing the next round of available funding for the RUS ReConnect program, which provides funding for broadband deployment projects in unserved and underserved areas in Rural America. PCCA led the construction industry in advocating for the establishment of the ReConnect program and for robust funding ever since. However, the latest RUS notice extended the scope of ReConnect by informing applicants to demonstrate how projects funded with ReConnect money would provide strong labor standards, including whether prevailing wages would be paid and whether the project would be covered by a project labor agreement (PLA). Applications with these provisions would receive higher scores in the application process, giving an unquestionable advantage to union labor. During discussion with RUS leaders, PCCA’s message was crystal clear: while the association’s members regularly engage in RUS projects, it is highly unlikely that many PCCA members will engage in future ReConnect projects (or other RUS projects) if overly union-friendly stipulations are included. The bottom line is that there is simply too much broadInsideWashington continued on page 8 InsideWashington EbenWyman PCCA Government & Industry Affairs email@example.com (703) 740-6126 PCCA Fly-In Sets Agenda for 2022
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 8 Inside Washington Continued from page 7 band work out there to force merit-shop contractors to buy into these policies. PCCA understands that these provisions are coming straight from the White House and not from RUS itself, and that there is little RUS and other agencies can do to avoid following these directives. Still, based on the longtime valued relationship with RUS, the association felt the need to explain the inevitable impact that these policies will have on RUS projects in the future. Associated Builders and Contractors/ Coalition for a Democratic Workplace PCCA has worked for years with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), and our relationship with them has never been more important. ABC represents all merit-shop contractors, and encouraging reasonable labor policy is their bread-and-butter issue. ABC also chairs the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), a coalition of hundreds of organizations concerned with regulatory overreach by legislation and policy proposals that threatened employees, employers, and economic growth. ABC and CDW representatives went over labor and workforce issue of interest to PCCA members, including: • Government-mandated PLAs and legislation that addresses them; • Policy issues overseen by the National Labor Relations Board; • Debate over “independent contractor status” and a pending amicus brief to be issued by CDW; and • Other priority issues being addressed by CDW. PCCA expressed interest in officially joining CDW and in participating in future litigation addressed by the coalition. Discussion with Several Associations Representing Broadband Carriers As the Biden administration continues to attach one-sided labor provisions to programs that fund construction projects, PCCA met with several broadband associations to educate them on the detriments associated with these policies. The message was not unlike the one expressed to RUS: broadband projects that include unfavorable labor stipulations will take a back seat to ones that allow for fair and open competition. PCCA let these groups know this issue is not limited to RUS projects; projects across the country that include PLAs and/or overreaching prevailing wage requirements will be threatened. Therefore, PCCA wanted to discuss this with the leading associations representing all carriers, large and small, urban and rural. Discussion with these associations, including the Wireless Infrastructure Association, the Fiber Broadband Association, and NTCA - the Rural Broadband Association, was not limited to labor policy. Material shortages, workforce challenges, and other supply chain issues now warrant the term “crisis,” and contractors offer unique perspectives on how these issues will impact broadband project budgets. In other words, they know firsthand how these factors can (and have) significantly inflate the cost of projects, which will threaten their viability. Discussion of “811 Emergency” Study with Federal and State Regulators In November, PCCA and several other national associations representing the excavation construction community released of a new study that examines the underground facility locating process related to excavation construction projects. The study was commissioned by the Infrastructure Protection Coalition (IPC), a new group of associations representing broadband, electric, natural gas, pipelines, transportation, sewer and water, and facility locating industries. Issues addressed in the study include federal and state regulation, enforcement, finance, insurance, and other factors. The study, entitled “811 Emergency,” found that leading reasons behind the waste and cost overruns include over-notification of planned excavation because of a failure of operators to perform all facility marks on time, poor instructions given to locators, facility marks destroyed by construction and then needing to be remarked, and contractor downtime when locating/marking is not completed on time. This costs billions of dollars to the industry and society every year. The 811 Emergency study includes an in-depth examination of 811 operations in every state and the District of Columbia and shows that these costs and the increased risk to public safety could be reduced if certain states adopted more effective practices and procedures already in use in other parts of the country. The study also includes 13 recommendations for consideration by federal authorities and state regulators. The reasons for conducting this study have been apparent for decades. PCCA and other excavator groups have always pointed out that problems associated with the facility locating process need to be more fully considered. While not reguAs the Biden administration continues to attach one-sided labor provisions to programs that fund construction projects, PCCA met with several broadband associations to educate them on the detriments associated with these policies.
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 9 lated directly by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), PCCA has been in regular contact with the agency because of its key role in overseeing federal regulations related to damage prevention at the federal level, and the committee appreciated a thorough discussion with PHMSA’s two top pipeline safety leaders about the findings in the study and industry plans to use it to better educate federal and state policymakers about its findings. PHMSA was impressed with the study and committed to working with industry on ways to improve the facility locating process. Because the study took a hard look at state damage prevention statutes and enforcement of them by state authorities, some state entities have taken issue with some of the findings. While the vast majority of concerns expressed so far have been minor issues that can be easily corrected, PCCA reached out to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), whose members are responsible for regulating utility industries, enforcing state statutes, and setting utility rates at the state level. While the discussion with NARUC was at times intense, PCCA fully expected that. Any hard-hitting industry study will be controversial in certain circles, and 811 Emergency is no different. That said, the fact that representatives from some 20 state agencies participated in this virtual meeting clearly indicates that the study is being noticed, which was a primary goal of the effort. In all, the January PCCA Fly-In was extremely successful and as always, the association’s Government & Industry Affairs Committee delivered. There should be no question of the effectiveness of this group and the dedicated association members who make it so relevant. President Pushes PLAs through Executive Action In early February, President Biden signed an executive order (EO) to mandate PLAs for federal construction contracts costing more than $35 million. The president, who has pitched himself as the most pro-union president in history, announced the order during a speech to union members in Maryland, stating that it will “ensure that major projects are handled by well-trained, well-prepared, highly skilled workers.” While PCCA agrees with the need for such workers, there are millions of them out there, some union, some merit shop. And we need all of them. PCCA has worked with industry allies as part of an ad hoc coalition working to oppose mandated PLAs, primarily by promoting the Fair and Open Competition Act (HR 1284/S 403), which would protect federal and federally assisted construction contracts from government-mandated PLAs. The legislation, authored by Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would allow merit-shop contractors to have a fair chance at competing for the overwhelming amount of work coming down the pike as the new federal infrastructure law is implemented. With the vast majority of the private construction workforce choosing not to belong to a union, PLA mandates discourage experienced contractors from competing to win contracts at a time when we need them most. A day after the Biden EO was issued, PCCA issued a press release voicing strong objection to it. “PLA requirements essentially exclude the majority of construction firms from competing on contracts that include federal financing assistance at a time when we need to create opportunities for all employers and employees who have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and increasing problems with the supply chain,” PCCA Chairman Bob Breeden said in the statement. “PCCA is concerned that even the encouragement InsideWashington continued on page 10 Lubricants for Every Project • Blowing/Jetting Lubricants • FTTX Cable Lubricant • Pourable Lubricants for Easier Application • Lubricants Designed for Specialty Cables www.polywater.com 800-328-9384 651-430-2270
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 10 Inside Washington Continued from page 9 of PLAs could lead to discouraging state and local governments from contracting with qualified merit-shop contractors and local workers who could provide the best quality and cost for taxpayers.” PCCA believes that ensuring broadband service must remain a national priority. Recognizing the overwhelming amount of broadband construction work expected in the coming years and the fact that our industry already faces significant workforce capacity challenges, the last thing the Biden administration should do is encourage policy that would cut out the majority our workforce, specifically, meritshop construction workers. Soon after PCCA and other construction groups issued their respective media statements, the industry coalition working to fight mandatory PLAs sent letters to the White House and to all lawmakers in the House and Senate, pushing back on the White House policy. In total, 16 construction industry groups warned that the order could slow down projects financed by the recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill. They said that mandating PLAs will exacerbate the construction industry’s shortage of roughly 500,000 skilled workers. They also said that the policy will “undermine the Biden administration’s ability to meet its infrastructure, affordable housing and clean energy agenda.” PCCA Helps Defeat Social Spending Bill, Knows the Fight Will Continue As previously reported, PCCA fully supported the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which included $42 billion for broadband construction projects and tens of billions of dollars to harden the electric grid. While passage of the infrastructure package was good news for PCCA and the broadband industry, a gigantic social spending measure lurked right behind it. The bill was known as “Build Back Better” (BBB) legislation, although it had little to do with actual building. In fact, the sweeping social spending measure addressed health care, childcare, education, and overreaching climate proposals while overhauling the nation’s tax policy. While these policy fights are nothing new, Democrats were using the complicated procedure of reconciliation, which avoids the requisite 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation. The problem was that reconciliation measures must carry budgetary impliTHE MOST POWERFUL UNIFORM A CREW CAN WEAR Outfit your crew in quality and durable gear they actually want to wear. Carhartt Company Gear™ is the uniform your people will wear with pride. Available to order through CCS, with a dedicated uniform team and in-house embroidery for quick turnaround. Together, Carhartt and CCS have your uniform needs covered. Learn More About Our Referral Program at cableconnectionsupply.com/carhartt For Immediate Contact, reach out to Mark Howells: firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-357-5120
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 11 cations, and many of the key BBB provisions didn’t meet that standard. Over-the-top labor provisions that favored union labor were a great example. Still, PCCA fought them vociferously. In fact, many PCCA members believed that passage of the BBB as proposed would make the already-passed IIJA irrelevant. After weeks of aggressive advocacy objecting to the measure by essentially the entire American business community, it became clear that the BBB was on the ropes. Shortly before Christmas, Senate Democrats began to accept the fact that any final version of the bill that stood a chance at passage would be much smaller than the nearly $2 trillion legislation that passed in the House last year. That measure was torpedoed mostly by opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who indicated very publicly that he could not support it. Manchin said that he believed the biggest priorities were tackling inflation and addressing the coronavirus. After more debate, mostly over the future of the child tax credit, Manchin told reporters that he would support negotiations in the New Year with the White House on BBB provisions with a “clean sheet of paper.” In early January, the president said in a lengthy press conference that he still believed Congress could pass the important portions of the BBB measure. “I’m confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better law signed into law,” Biden said. However, the concept of “big chunks” was inherently confusing, mostly because Democrats had been trying to stuff as many social priorities as possible into one bill precisely because they could not get the Republican support necessary to pass them through several stand-alone bills. What actually constitutes a “chunk”? As always in Washington, everybody has an opinion on that. Make no mistake bills with the “chunks” of the BBB measures are coming, whether combined together with other provisions or on their own. So yes, PCCA and the rest of the business community scored a big victory at the end of 2021, taking out the monstrous BBB measure. But the administration’s priorities will rear their ugly heads throughout this year and for as long as President Biden is in the White House. The 2022 midterm elections may improve the political environment, but PCCA must be ready to continue fighting for the foreseeable future. PLUMETTAZ DUCT RODDERS SIZES AVAILABLE: • 1/8" x 100 ft. • 1/4" x 400 ft. • 1/8" x 150 ft. • 3/8" x 600 ft. • 1/8" x 350 ft. • 3/8" x 1,000 ft. • 3/16" x 200 ft. • 1/2" x 600 ft. • 3/16" x 300 ft. • 1/2" x 1,000 ft. Plumettaz America Corp. 225 Thrasher Pike, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379 www.plumettaz.com, 1-855-PLUMETT Plumettaz duct rodders are ideal for underground jobs such as pulling cables through conduits and ducts. Each rodder is supplied with a highly visible solid fiberglass coated rod installed on a sturdy frame for convenience of use for any jobsite.
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 12 Now that you have committed to and started your personal New Year’s resolutions (or not) and will soon be enjoying spring weather instead of miserable winter weather, now is a good time to review your company’s employment practices to avoid a costly government agency audit or a charge or lawsuit filed by one or more of your employees. As we have discussed in prior articles in this journal, the Biden administration is focused on aggressive enforcement of all labor and employment laws and has committed to help organized labor increase its ranks. Smart employers will proactively consider ways to limit their employment law risks in the coming year. This article will provide guidance on some areas to review. Review Your Pay Practices Employers need to expect that they will be audited for wage and hour compliance in 2022 or possibly sued in a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective (class) action. The Biden Wage and Hour Division will be active and aggressive in its enforcement efforts and its efforts to educate your employees about their rights under the FLSA. Common issues arising in the construction industry are allegedly excessive per diems and other expense payments, travel time issues, payment of day rates with no overtime, record-keeping violations, misclassification of non-exempt workers as exempt, and not paying for training time. You should conduct an audit of your pay practices annually. Review Your Employee Handbook and Stay Tuned for NLRB Decisions Impacting Your Policies in the Handbook Similar to your pay practices, you should conduct an annual review of your employee handbook and employment policies. Changes to federal and state employment law occur frequently, and you must ensure that your policies are in compliance. Many construction employers work in several states, so they should ensure that their policies are in compliance with all the states where they do business. Consider developing addendums to the handbook for the different states where you operate. The current NLRB majority and General Counsel have committed to return to the Obama NLRB stance on employment law policies, declaring typical policies such as at-will employment, confidentiality in employment investigations, restrictions on employee communications or complaints, and other typical policies as violative of the National Labor Relations Act. Stay tuned for updates on those likely developments, which may create a need to delete or rewrite the policies affected. A couple of other practical tips: your employee handbook should not be a lengthy and complex policy manual designed for managers. It should be relatively short and simple so that employees can understand it. And be sure to get every employee to acknowledge in writing that they have received and read the handbook. Train Your Supervisors on Employment Law The COVID pandemic has resulted in a decrease in live training, but many employers have turned to virtual training as a substitute. One of the biggest mistakes an employer can make is not training all its supervisors on their obligations under employment law. Supervisor actions bind your company under federal and state employment laws, and supervisors can also be held personally liable for inappropriate behavior. They must understand that. Have you educated them about inappropriate behavior such as harassment and bullying, about the need to document performance and disciplinary actions, to be honest in employee evaluations, how to conduct investigations, and how to treat the employees they supervise fairly? If you haven’t trained your supervisors on these points, this is the time to get it done. Your efforts should focus on getting your supervisors to follow the golden rule of the workplace: “Your employment actions should be fair, consistent, and honest. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and then document what you did.” HUMAN RESOURCES Greg Guidry Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart email@example.com (337) 769-6583 Labor and Employment Law Spring Cleaning for Employers
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 13 Implement or Dust Off a Robust Anti-Harassment Program Social justice movements and the COVID pandemic have seemingly put the “Me-Too” movement on the back burner, but harassment in the workplace continues to be an important workplace problem and a large source of claims. ALL your employees must be trained on your anti-harassment policy and the dos and don’ts of workplace behavior. You should also post your anti-harassment policy in a place where employees will see it. Many states mandate annual training on harassment, and annual or more frequent training is highly recommended, even it not mandated. The EEOC has committed to implementing an updated policy on harassment this year, so stay tuned for developments and recommendations in that area. If and when you get a harassment charge, you want to be able to truthfully say that you take this issue seriously, have done everything in your power to prevent it, and/ or take appropriate corrective action when it does occur. Comply with COVID-related Laws and Developments and Continue Your Efforts to Minimize Risks for Your Employees Because the COVID pandemic legal landscape is in continuous flux, with various court decisions and local and state developments on mandatory vaccines, this article will not try to outline all the applicable legal issues that are in play at this time. Though OSHA has withdrawn its shot-or-test ETS in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in January, it has promised to implement permanent standards in general and in certain high-risk industries. The utility construction industry should not be in that category, but it is subject to the general duty clause prohibiting unsafe workplaces and practices, so be sure to follow all applicable CDC guidelines in place, along with any OSHA guidances still in effect. Hopefully, this too shall pass. If You Don’t Have One, Hire a Good HR Professional According to data produced by the Society for Human Resources Management, employers should have at least one Human Resources (HR) representative for every 100 employees. A good HR rep is an invaluable part of your management team and will ensure that you are doing the right things on a continuous basis. If you have an HR rep or hire one, also make sure that he or she is respected and taken seriously. Conclusion Although this article does not intend to be an exhaustive listing of everything that a construction industry employer should do to improve its employment law status, if you are able to implement or continue those steps discussed, you will be in a better place from an employment law compliance perspective for 2022. Good luck. 78th ANNUAL CONVENTION Nobu Hotel at Eden Roc, Miami Beach, Florida March 3-8, 2023 Industry Education • Premium Networking • Great Times! 23PCCA-Convention Ad.indd 1 2/4/22 3:56 PM
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PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 15 Technology has become a critical capability in construction operations, and as we look to get more out of that investment, we have to tackle issues and opportunities by considering all aspects of innovation, including people, process, and information. Over the past five years, we have seen a proliferation of technologies enter the construction industry, watched an acceleration of invested capital into technology startups, and witnessed more contractors embracing technology overall. These trends are exciting and necessary in an evolving industry, but we have created a new problem by solving certain business challenges. Over time, technology providers and contractors have become so focused on new tech capabilities that tech is often adopted to treat the symptoms, leaving the core business problems unaddressed or even undiagnosed. Now we must focus on identifying the underlying problem and ensure we are leveraging the proper tools as we create the solution. We must also remind ourselves that we have four assets or levers that we can pull, to varying degrees, as we develop a solution to our problem. Those levers are people, process, technology, and data, each of which has a cost, tradeoff, and opportunity to offer. Up until now, you’ve probably only heard of people, process, and technology as the three legs of the stool. However, data (and associated information) is as useful and critical of a tool when creating the solution. When leveraging these four assets, keep in mind that we want to solve a business or operations problem, pursue an improvement, or understand a situation that may present a risk. However, in all of the excitement over the industry’s digital transformation, it is easy to learn of a technology that addresses a symptom of a problem or inefficiency, adopt the technology, and either reap a short-term benefit or not achieve the full anticipated advantage. This happens because we jumped to securing the technology without understanding the underlying causes. We also neglected to assess which combination of people, process, tech, and data was most likely to produce the desired outcome. If you read no further than this, the key is to stop chasing the technology to treat the symptom and instead to understand the underlying problem, apply the proper assets, and include technology (in most cases). Don’t Push Tech for the Sake of Tech As the leader of FMI’s technology and innovation discipline, my role is never to push tech for the sake of tech. My responsibility to each of you is to strategically discuss the role of technology among all of your other assets to help develop a high-performing organization. I have talked to clients who Continued on page 16 By Tyler Paré Stop Treating Symptoms: Tips for Successfully Implementing Construction Technology
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 16 have called me after a three-year failed attempt to adopt an enterprise platform to organize their business, spending millions of dollars on the software, only to have caused disruption, confusion, and frustration. I’ve also spoken with clients who nearly adopted technology, only to realize that they had process improvement work to do before writing the check for software. For some clients, tech strategies were purposely throttled because too many technologies had been pushed out in the preceding years. Technology can be a major contributor to the organization’s success when it is pursued appropriately, but it can also create risk when misdiagnosing the problem or treating the symptoms only. I’ve also observed a deeper dilemma: a contractor’s intent to advance his/her use of technology to create innovation. Simply buying tech doesn’t make you innovative. While technology is an aspect of innovative organizations, far more is in play to achieve true innovation (see our white paper on leading innovation: fmicorp.com/ insights/quarterly-articles/). Again, we fall back to our use of people, process, technology, and data. Some of the most innovative construction organizations are achieving success and performance that seem out of reach to others by redefining roles, responsibilities, organizational dynamics, streamlined processes, supporting technologies, and data insights. My request is that we stop talking about technology as a way to be an advanced organization. Instead, let’s talk about innovation and give consideration to the four assets available to create innovation. Innovation in Bidding Reviewing issues and opportunities from the lens of innovation, we can look to companies like RG Construction, which began considering how to apply more sophisticated analysis on its bid process and project outcomes. By pursuing a higher level of consistency in its bid response process, RG Construction wanted to drive better outcomes, both in terms of project wins and profitability. “The foundation for our successful projects starts with a superior estimating and bid response process,” stated Brian Garcea, RG Construction executive. Building on the bidding processes would allow the company’s estimators, regardless of years of experience, to quickly leverage past performance and current backlog data to augment pricing decisions on bid day. Through this exercise, RG Construction wanted to find ways to help trade contractors respond to bids more consistently and efficiently. This would help them avoid: • Missed scope because of the chaos of managing volume of bids and the lack of both a standard template or process as well as time for quality review of bid packages. • Failure to add appropriate inclusions, exclusions, clarifications, and qualifications. • Lack of experienced senior/chief estimators creating a bid response bottleneck that can be partially solved with standard terms, inclusion/exclusion libraries, and consistent process. The company also wanted to give its people the tools and resources needed to be able to automate repeatable, standardized tasks. It also wanted estimators to focus their attention on the more meaningful parts of the bid processes. The answer included a reengineering of how to handle the bidding process, leverage historical information to better inform bid pursuits, and adopt trade contractor-specific bid response management technology to reinforce process and aid employees. It chose RhinoDox because it allowed for scoping templates, terms and conditions lists, inclusions and exclusions prompts, easy data collection, and other key aspects, which reinforced process standardization. The platform creates consistent bid packages and allows the team to focus its attention on higher value aspects of bidding, such as project go/no-go analysis, pricing strategies, and bid quality reviews. Today, employees can make decisions based on past performance by project type, general contractor, estimator, and actual vs. estimated. Critical project dates can easily be updated, which means improved planning and forecasting. As a result, RG Construction is backing up years of experience and intuition in order to offer the highest chance of success. Innovation in Safety Five years ago, Dome Construction CEO Rob Lynch was meeting with operations leadership and asked how well its trade contractors were handling safety. In particular, Lynch asked if jobsite hazard analysis reports were being generated. In short, his operations leadership team didn’t know; it couldn’t answer that question. Though everyone agrees that safety is job No. 1, and we are an industry that discusses safety and trains on safety as a jobsite norm, most safety content, tools, and records are unengaging, paper-based products. As a result, safety is a common mindset. However, the way contractors train is inconsistent. They don’t know who has received training on what. Because of this, safety program effectiveness is nearly impossible to analyze and quantify. Knowing this, Dome Construction studied worker expectaConstruction Technology Continued from page 15
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 17 tions, existing safety training, and tracking documents that were in use. It mapped and optimized processes, identified how various decision makers engaged with employee safety training records, and created a supporting technology to solve these problems and inefficiencies. Using eMOD technology, which is built around effective safety products, tools and processes that allow people to take ownership of their training, Dome Construction vastly improved the way it orchestrates and tracks safety training. Today, the company’s managers have realtime access to individual, project, or trade contractor data on safety objective achievement. By involving field supervisors and incorporating lean construction principles, Dome Construction secured confidence and visibility to truly manage its safety metrics, drive safety behavior, and proactively identify safety risk exposure. Simple Steps to Take Now If you have a technology committee, consider forming an innovation committee. Include non-tech people, strategic thinkers, doers, gratuitous people, complainers, managers, and six-sigma-minded people on the committee. In lieu of forming a new committee, consider “innovation hackathons.” A few times a year, you can gather a group of people for a few days to identify inefficiencies or problems, assess the situation, develop courses of action, and ultimately pitch a plan of action to leadership. Other good steps include retaining outside counsel to challenge leadership thinking, suggest ideas from other companies, and make you aware of interesting approaches from outside the industry. Also consider funding lean six sigma training for a few interested employees. Understand that process improvement, when supported by leadership and executed well, always produces better outcomes. Define innovation as creating improvement. Don’t color it as new, R&D, cutting-edge, technical, or an incubator. Keep it relevant and practical, and ensure that innovation is helping to pay the bills! The Time Is Now Innovation is less tangible than technology and far less tangible than putting work in place. Unfortunately, innovation and technology have become synonyms, when in fact technology is a subset of how to achieve innovation. Consider that we are fed content about technology, not innovaContinued on page 18 Existing Cable 2 MicroDucts with MicroCables 2" Conduit duraline.com • (800) 847-7661 Think to the FUTURE, MAXIMIZE your conduits Override your existing communication cable with MicroDucts & MicroCables
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 18 tion; we are often sold technology versus outcomes. We talk about our experience with technology, but not about the new way in which we are working. Innovation requires expertise in people and culture, continuous process improvement, technology, and data. This understanding and algorithm for innovation must be understood at the highest level of the organization. Leadership must acknowledge what innovation means to the organization, how it feeds into the vision of the company, and how the organization will achieve it—regardless of whether leaders want to be innovation pacesetters or simply remain mindful of innovation opportunities. Let’s remember that digital transformation and adoption of technology are critical catalysts for performance, but that it’s just one leg of a four-legged stool and just one of four levers that you can pull. By focusing on innovation, you can solve the right problem or grab the right opportunity to achieve the best outcome. Tyler Paré leads FMI’s Performance practice, which helps contractors optimize profitability and manage risks. His team focuses on the major performance drivers for contractor organizations—operations, risk management, compensation, and technology—helping client organizations secure and execute work profitably, pay and incentivize people effectively, and collaborate and share information efficiently. As a consultant with FMI, Paré leverages his construction experience and business knowledge to assist contractor clients in implementing work acquisition and project execution best practices in support of competitive strategy. About FMI. For more than 60 years, FMI has been a leading management consulting and investment banking firm dedicated exclusively to engineering and construction, infrastructure, and the built environment. FMI serves all sectors of the industry as a trusted advisor. More than six decades of context, connections, and insights lead to transformational outcomes for clients and the industry. FMI helps you build your foundation for tomorrow and optimize your business for today. Industry Focus. Powerful Results. For more information, visit www.fminet.com. Construction Technology Continued from page 17 Condux Blue Ox™ Cable Puller Combining years of experience, field research and end user feedback, The Condux Blue Ox™ Cable Puller has been designed to excel in the most demanding utility applications. Featuring 8,500 lbs of continuous pull force, a heavy duty steel frame and hydraulically controlled boom and outriggers, The Blue Ox does not require the arm to be supported during pulling operations. The extendable - up to 90” - steel boom arm boasts 150° of lateral adjustment, providing easy access in even the most confined areas. Condux Gulfstream™ 500 Fiber Optic Cable Blower Condux International’s Integrated Installation Solution is the most advanced fiber optic cable installation process ever developed. It starts with the new Gulfstream 500 fiber optic cable blower. This feature laden blower incorporates precision load cells and integrated electronics to place the largest diameter cables in market quickly, safely, and efficiently. Tools to Connect the World tel: +1.507.387.6576 | toll free: +1.800.533.2077 | www.condux.com Condux International, Inc. @conduxUSA @W-international
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 19 POWER NEWS Power News continued on page 20 USDA Invests $5.2 Billion for Critical Rural Infrastructure In December, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA is investing $5.2 billion to build and improve critical rural infrastructure in 46 states and Puerto Rico. The announcement includes investments to help expand access to high-speed internet, clean water, and reliable electricity in people’s homes and businesses across rural America. Examples of projects include: • In Georgia, Coweta-Fayette EMC will use a $86 million loan under the Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program to build and improve 602 miles of line. This loan will help connect 6,629 people to reliable electricity in Troup, Clayton, Fulton, Meriwether, Coweta, Fayette, Spalding, and Heard counties. It also includes $9,638,000 in smart grid technologies. • In Alaska, the Interior Telephone Company will use a $2.6 million Community Connect grant to build a 19-mile Fiber-to-the-Premises system. This system will expand access to economic, educational, health care and public safety opportunities for 194 people and 32 businesses in Port Lions, Kodiak Island Borough. Funds also will help build a community center where residents can access the free high-speed internet for up to two years. The full list of recipients is at https:// www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/ usdardininfrastructurenrchart12_16_21. pdf. Electric Companies Join Together to Form National Electric Highway Coalition On December 7, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) announced the formation of the National Electric Highway Coalition, which merges the Electric Highway Coalition and the Midwest Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Collaboration and now includes additional participating electric companies from across the country. Currently consisting of 51 investorowned electric companies, one electric cooperative, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the coalition is committed to providing electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging ports that will allow the public to drive EVs with confidence along major U.S. travel corridors by the end of 2023. “EEI and our member companies are leading the clean energy transformation, and electric transportation is key to reducing carbon emissions across our economy,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said. “With the formation of the National Electric Highway Coalition, we are committed to investing in and providing the charging infrastructure necessary to facilitate electric vehicle growth and to helping alleviate any remaining customer range anxiety.” To date, EEI’s member companies have invested more than $3 billion in customer programs and projects to deploy EV charging infrastructure and to accelerate electric transportation. As EV sales continue to grow, EEI estimates that more than 100,000 EV fast-charging ports will be needed to support the projected 22 million EVs that will be on U.S. roads in 2030. “By merging and expanding the existing efforts underway to build fast-charging infrastructure along major travel corridors, we are building a foundational EV charging network that will help to encourage more customers to purchase an electric vehicle,” Kuhn said. “We owe a great deal of gratitude to the electric companies that created so much momentum at the regional level, paving the way for us to expand this effort nationally.” EEI member companies are electrifying their own fleets and, collectively, are on track to electrify more than one-third of all fleet vehicles by 2030. Electric companies also remain engaged with commercial fleet customers and are working together on electrification planning for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. More information about the National Electric Highway Coalition and a full list of participating electric companies can be found at www.eei.org/issuesandpolicy/Pages/NEHC.aspx.
PCCA Journal|1st Quarter 2022 20 Power News Continued from page 19 DOE Seeks Public Input on Executing Civil Nuclear Credit Program The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a Notice of Intent (NOI) and Request for Information (RFI) on the implementation of the new federal infrastructure law’s $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program. The program supports the continued operation of U.S. nuclear reactors, the nation’s largest source of clean power. Both the NOI and RFI are critical first steps to help avoid premature retirements of nuclear reactors across the country, preserving thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs while avoiding carbon emissions. “U.S. nuclear power plants are essential to achieving President Biden’s climate goals, and DOE is committed to keeping 100 percent clean electricity flowing and preventing premature closures,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes this all possible by allowing us to leverage our existing clean energy infrastructure, strengthen our energy security, and protect U.S. jobs. DOE is facilitating the development of next generation technologies that can ultimately lower emissions and bolster the clean energy workforce.” Nuclear power currently provides 52 percent of the nation’s 100 percent clean electricity, and the White House has identified the current fleet of 93 reactors as a vital resource to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. Shifting energy markets and other economic factors have already resulted in the early closure of 12 commercial reactors across the United States since 2013. These closures have led to an increase in carbon emissions in those regions, poorer air quality, and the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs. “I appreciate that the Department of Energy is taking this first crucial step to implement the Civil Nuclear Credit Program authorized and funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Ensuring the continued operation of our domestic nuclear fleet is essential to achieving our emission reduction goals while also maintaining reliability. I fought for the inclusion of this critical program to prevent further premature closures of nuclear power plants and to maintain high-paying jobs in communities across America.” U.S. Surpasses 200 GW of Total Clean Power Capacity The Clean Power Quarterly 2021 Q4 Market Report, released in February by the American Clean Power Association (ACP), shows that the U.S. surpassed more than 200 gigawatts (200,209 MW-ac) of total operating utility-scale clean power capacity in 2021, but significant policy issues continue to hold back growth for the industry and threaten the country’s ability to meet emissions goals, ACP said. “Surpassing over 200 gigawatts of clean energy is a significant milestone for the United States and shows that we can achieve even more with strong public policy support for the industry,” ACP CEO Heather Zichal said. “Although the U.S. has reached this incredible achievement, more needs to be done, at a faster pace, to reach the climate goals and targets our country needs to achieve. We urge Congress to take action to create a clean energy future that will help create more good-paying American jobs and combat the climate crisis.” During 2021 there was a three percent decline for clean energy installations compared to 2020’s record year. Over 11.4 gigawatts of projects, originally expected to come online in 2021, slipped to 2022 or 2023 due to a variety of issues. For the solar sector this was due to trade policies and lack of regulatory certainty impacting the availability of solar panels coming into the country. The wind sector faced policy uncertainty, including the expiration of tax credits for wind projects. The pace of installations fell significantly short of what is required to achieve a net zero emissions goal, ACP said.www.pccaweb.org