Episode 37 – Rob Fox
How Subcontractors Can Build Strong, Lasting Relationships With Their Main Contractors
Rob Fox is a chartered engineer with 20 years experience at one of the largest main contractors in Ireland. In 2016 Rob established Site Passport, the easy way for main contractors and property managers to source, evaluate, procure and manage subcontractors and suppliers.
Are subcontractors ready for construction’s shift to digital?
How ready do you think subcontractors in particular are for technology and the changes that we think are coming?
Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, I think subcontractors are a lot more ready for technology than a lot of people think. I just think that a lot of the technology that’s out there and being presented to them or trying to be sold to them is not that relevant to them or not useful. So subcontractors are very smart people. The people who set up subcontractors are entrepreneurs, they’re smart people. They don’t get going and they don’t build up a business without being very tuned in. So if somebody puts something in front of them and if it’s technology, and it makes sense to them, and they can see the value in it, I mean, I don’t think there’s any great hurdle just because it’s technology. And there still are some companies and some people who are a little bit afraid of technology, but that’s become smaller and smaller.
So I think if you have a good value proposition for subcontractors or for main contractors, they get it, and if you make it easy to use, and it looks simple, and I could do that sitting in the van or I could do that, whatever I have to do my business, they will buy it but you have to be giving something and selling something that’s of value.
I agree. I agree. If you present them a solution to a problem that’s going to improve efficiencies, save money, you’re going to get all ears. I think a lot of the reports around the negativity towards are subcontractors ready to come along the journey with the tier one contractors from a technology stance has been because we’re in this BIM conversation where a lot of subcontractors actually don’t find BIM all that relevant to them. It it doesn’t save them an initial saving on the bottom line or tomorrow. It’s actually something that we’re planning for in the future and probably more benefit to that main contractor on that particular project. So I think that the narrative probably has to be switched away from well, are we talking about BIM, are we talking about day-to-day operational technology that can actually save the bottom line?
Construction Technology does not equal BIM
What’s your thoughts around the BIM conversation?
I could say, don’t get me started. You hit the nail on the head, Kieron. For me the conversation around construction technology is completely overshadowed by the conversation about BIM and don’t get me wrong, I think BIM is a fantastic technology. I think when it becomes so pervasive that everybody’s using it and everybody’s engaged in it, it’ll be fantastic. And it does have lots of benefits right now, but construction technology does not equal BIM, or BIM does not equal construction technology. And unfortunately however this has happened, even at a government level, they think that we can solve construction if only everybody in construction used BIM that would solve all the problems in construction.
And there’s lots of great advocates have been out there and don’t get me wrong, it has lots of benefits. But to be honest with you, BIM is really only relevant to the top tier type of sub-contractors. And by that I mean, I suppose, the contractors like the M&E contractors, who have to engage with us because they’re part of the design process. But for the majority of sub-contractors, they would still say, “Listen give me a printed out drawing that tells me everything I need to build and that’s just fine for me…”