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PJanuary 10, 2013

Innovation in Construction & Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix

On January 8th, 2013, I spent the morning with some of my associates from EDiS at the ‘Next Thing Now’ conference at the Chase Center in Wilmington. It was a great event where a number of speakers, featuring Daniel Pink, and panelists discussed a variety of topics and the power of persuading someone to your opinion (product, service etc). It was an innovative way of looking at things we can do at work and outside of work to persuade people to our way of thinking.

Innovation is just not a word that you think of when talking about construction. We think of industries that manufacture computers, cell phones and maybe even cars but construction hasn’t really changed in many years to any large degree. Or has it?

For a 105 year-old company, EDiS can certainly consider themselves innovative. We have developed and use some pretty innovative tools that make us a better builder. We have participated in the development of a powerful and Project Management software, BuildingBlok. On some of our projects, we have successfully saved our clients’ money through the use of EDiS Supply for many of the products that we would typically procure through trade contractors and distributers. We have established the EDiS Institute, which has become a popular biennial event that gives back to the building community through vocational education.  And on our projects we use all manner of procedures and processes like PlanCheck, Compass, GreenSense and the Book of Common Knowledge.

T30-Hotel-BSBInnovation doesn’t have to be overly complicated. I like to think that there are both Big Bets and Small Bets in the innovation game. Everyone has ideas. Sometimes we are just too busy or apprehensive to share them and ideas can run the gamut of complexity. In our industry, someone may know of a better way to have contractors complete closeout documents (is there an app for that?) or, an example of true innovation in construction, BROAD Sustainable Buildings erected a 30-story hotel in 15 days in China using modular assembly (Click here to watch the video)

urlLast year, I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan and had lunch at Zingerman’s Delicatessen.  Zingerman’s started out as, just that, a deli in 1982. Today, there is a Zingerman’s Creamery, Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Candy, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman’s Candy and on and on. There’s even a Zingerman’s Bacon Club which is where I first discovered Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix!! Each of these businesses supports the other and they are individual companies with separate staffs and facilities. Zingerman’s encourages their people to experiment with new products, services and business concepts.

I have seen some pretty inventive things happen at construction sites. The industry is full of creative problem solvers who could write the book on innovation in construction. I will be watching closely to see the new ideas put to practice that will change the way we build today.


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