Lean(ing) Into the Future of Construction Technology
To Martin Rogstad, every construction project is like a well-crafted puzzle. In his role as innovation engineer, Martin applies lean thinking and technology-driven solutions to help operations teams solve those puzzles with greater speed and precision.
Growing up, Martin demonstrated a precocious command of technology, learning to build his own computers and mastering the art of coding before he could legally rent a car. Although Martin considered majoring in computer science at Washington State University, a lifelong fascination with construction made his destiny clear. Little did Martin know that an opportunity to combine both passions would present itself very early in his career.
At Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company, Martin was privileged to work on the Alaska Airlines Hub as a project engineer. Martin was not content to merely perform his job well. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he was always on the lookout for ways he could harness technology to eliminate waste.
Martin pinpointed such an opportunity within the process used to track and manage self-perform work, which required three different teammates to input the same information into different systems. Maintaining accurate, reliable data is vitally important to a project’s financial health and ability to forecast and allocate labor to meet schedule goals. Although his teammates were executing the process well, Martin felt that technology could be leveraged to optimize it.
So Martin did what any tech guru would. Since no program existed to solve the problem, Martin wrote his own. The program automates daily manpower reporting through a direct interface with cost codes. By eliminating the need for project accountants to manually record self-perform work that foremen previously input, this program is estimated to save approximately seven hours a week, or roughly 400 hours on a job of average scale.
“I wanted to lean out the process,” recalls Martin, who developed the program in his spare time. “My goal is to eliminate inefficiencies, so people can focus their time on what is most beneficial to the project.”
Martin has also used technology to clear everyday bottlenecks on the jobsite. He developed a Java program that automates document control in Bluebeam, condensing eight steps into one.
“People may not even know that this monotonous task or that redundancy can be eliminated from their workflows,” says Martin.
Executives in the Northwest recognized the business case for a dedicated focus on construction technologies and created the team’s first-ever innovation engineer role for Martin. “I’m learning something new every day,” praises Martin, who already has his eyes set on rolling out that “next big thing” to benefit his teammates.
“Martin has been instrumental in combining his home-grown computer programming skills and his project engineering experience to take our purchasing, submittal management and self-performed labor tracking tools to the next level,” says Jim Rowley, senior vice president of operations. “The results of his efforts have allowed us to better manage both subcontractor risk, during the buyout and submittal phase, and our own labor cost forecasting.”
Although construction is an industry that has historically been measured in its adoption of new technologies, Martin is proof that the next generation of industry professionals recognizes innovation is the lifeblood of progress.