In this episode:
- Why is it a myth that field leaders are resistant adopting new technologies?
- Insight into Lend Lease’s response to COVID-19 and their HSEQ virtual inspection capabilities
- Lucky shares his secrets for creating job-site buy-in around digital safety and field operations tools
- How to lead and foster diversity so your team can solve the most challenging problems on today’s job-sites
HammerTech Talks is a chance for you to join me as we dig into the world of construction pros to find out what makes them tick and helps them succeed. This series will open the door to an industry that we're passionate about and showcase the amazing people and ideas that are the infrastructure to building great things.
Construction folk love a story and a laugh. So we're going to have some fun and you'll take away new perspectives to improve your operations and help create the next normal in construction. For those of you who don't know us, we're HammerTech. We're a cloud-based performance and productivity platform, ensuring safety, quality, and operational efficiency.
Let's get into it. So today we're talking to Lucky Caswell, senior superintendent from the global developer and general contractor lace. Lucky, thank you so much for joining us.
So I'm with Lucky is based out of San Francisco and has built projects across the US and Canada, and has an impressive portfolio of sec of 5.4 billion in gross construction value under his belt. So I think it's suffice to say that when it comes to having you on a project, we've been pretty safe hands.
Lucky in our experience of working with you we've learned that you've built a reputation for being the person to call on when it comes to testing new technologies and job operations.
So you know, for those listening, Lucky, will do anything to try and clear the paper out from under his desk and to gather insight in order to drive definitive preventative action, drive efficiency and address issues as they arrive in the field. What makes you really unique? And second to that, I have never seen a general superintendent or, or anyone for that matter, other than the seventies, rock yellow, tinted aviators like you do. So, so let's, let's start there. Tell me a little bit more about them.
They're actually my reading glasses, they are my prescription readers, believe it or not, but I didn't want the old folks type. So, you know, I had to keep, it cool.
I love it. I absolutely love it. Lucky, let's start with a question around, around technology. So why do you think it's a myth that you can't teach a wise person, new tricks?
You know what, I don't know, because it's such a non-bit we’ve take to technology as an older guy, not chasing paper, as you said, is one of my favorite things next to not chasing water in a leaky building, facing the papers.
The first thing that I have, I used to hate to do carrying around clipboards as a younger superintendent and running behind people and always looking for documentation, because even though you've documented in June, you don't need it until January. So us old dogs have taken to actually having digital repositories and it’s just the coolest thing ever. You know, it's kind of like always wishing that you had Google when you were in school. Because what would you do instead of using the Dewey Decimal System? You know, you can right at your fingertips. So I I've taken to it. And, you know, and I think being around younger superintendents and project engineers who have that expectation anyway, it makes the conversation and that communication a lot easier and it makes the jobs a lot smoother.
I had the, the pleasure of being able to visit your job site a couple of weeks ago. And one of the most memorable parts was you taking me through your new approach to virtual inspections. Would you tell us a little bit more about, about that and, and why that's something that you're going to take forward beyond COVID?
Well, I think virtual inspections, especially with the way that we're doing it right now in San Francisco, we actually have a special accommodations under the COVID protocols for large construction projects. And it's about four pages long of what specific items you can do and what you can't do and who can do who can be there. So with that, we're limited to just basically the workers that come onsite and the management staff that we have here and visitors have to go through all types of protocols.
And normally when you are large sized construction sites, we have visitors globally that come and visit and without having them be able to visit us, we had to come up with a way to be a, still accountable because every construction project has accountability. And a second set of eyes is always a great thing.
So when we went through a virtual walkthrough and I can tell you, it wasn't just me, I have a senior safety manager of a team. That's just as tech involved as I am, who we accepted that. So what we've done is we had the ability to do an audit, a corporate audit via a Mohawk camera. And we have artificial intelligent cameras around site, 26 to be exact. And we have the HammerTech system.
The HammerTech system is what we use to, you know manage all of our documentation to safety protocols. And I think that it was great for people who weren't onsite to be able to walk the job virtually with us. As we went through our day to day operations see items on the job site, be able to go to our repository and pull out the documentation of permits and JHAs or job safety analysis data reports workers competencies are listed there and they go through that and never touch the site at all that gave them a great wherewithal of, are we doing the proper thing?
It gave them a view of how we have to now work under COVID protocols with masks and safety glasses, and, you know, that are added into the mix. And it looked at our safety as a whole. And I think that that was one of the greatest things that we've done so far.
And I think moving forward, it would be something that we would be doing in the future as well, because it actually saves on project construction costs. You can do virtual meetings every now and then I think you need to come down. But I think the COVID situation that we are in, in the States right now, it has given us a great way of rethinking how we do work and having the technology available to us to make it as easy as possible, but never have ever thought of using it in that manner has been one of the key things.
It's, it's evident that you've taken a lot of ownership on over the HammerTech tool and, you know, we might not be fit for every business, but quite often digital tools or safety tools are owned by, you know, the safety specialist or the operations team.
What are some of the benefits of ownership from the field of, of a digital tool in terms of whether it's driving adoption or whether it's you know, long, long, long term use or in innovation in the use of that tool?
So when we looked at originally setting up the project and we were always looking at new and improved items to bring, and when this system became involved - I think it was brought to me by our safety professionals. And the first thing that I told them was, I don't want you to call this safety tool because once it becomes one, once it has that moniker of a safety product on it, no one else uses it.
And the expectations is the safety manager is the only person that would use that tool. And I want it to have whole ownership as a field production and operation staff to use it as well as the safety manager, because we have daily reports that are there. Documentation is so key in our industry and having the wherewithal and the ability to pull that documentation when you need it, instead of digging through a file cabinet, that is the biggest thing.
So when owned by a team as a whole, with the safety manager, I think we offer a more consistent safety message across as a team. I think that message and enforcement now becomes a positive adaptive safety culture. And I think tech provides access and accountability because it's at your fingertips. And that information is not in a file cabinet and it's being used by the trades as well. So when you're, when everybody is technically proficient in something, we as superintendents look for ourselves to be technically tactically proficient, it actually allows the job to be technically proficient, which is more tactically proficient as a whole. If that even makes sense?
It makes a world of sense. And this is exactly why we're having this conversation. It's magic. So, so particularly relevant at the moment is the need to address equity, diversity and inclusion generally, but also in particular in construction. And so I wondered if you could share with us why this is important to you and to the team that you lead?
Diversity is, you know, with the way that society is going right now, as a matter of fact, being able to give people a voice and actually have that voice have accountability to it is key. Having a very diverse project team as a whole is a phenomenal thing, because if everybody looked the same and they talk the same, that means they think the same. And having a diverse team means that you're looking at a problem or an issue or a situation, in as many diverse ways as you have individuals. And I think that's the biggest key to it because you know, there are problems out there that can be solved in multiple ways and allowing your culture or allowing diversity to lead the way on your team allows you to have different views from different cultural backgrounds.
And it's not just cultural, but it's about where you come from. How do you look at it in a different way, how do you see things? Diversity is such a wonderful thing when it's on a job site, because it gives everybody a voice and everybody sees things differently. And when you give them that voice and you stand behind them, when they give you those great ideas, it becomes a culture, you know, and I think that's why diversity is key on a team. And fostering diversity is key men, women from all ethnicities. I think it's a fantastic thing, especially in times like today, construction has changed from what it is and it's definitely looks completely different.
And so what are some ways that you foster that culture? I know we've historically spoken about mentoring. Is that one that you still use and are there others?
Most definitely the value in mentoring is I think- I'll tell you that my mentor actually told me one day that I had to let go, you know, sometimes you have to let go and let those kids grow up. And that was the hardest thing for me to do because I think superintendents actually, you know, we claim work, you know, as soon as it's there, that's our job, but in the new way that we have to look at work and how we work, giving other people those responsibilities and taking less off of your shoulders and giving them the ability to think through problems, to solve those problems and then stand behind them, if the decision is right or wrong (sometimes it's wrong, but sometimes you have to grow through though, right?). But at least allowing them to make those decisions and stand behind them and say, okay, that's the decision that you made.
And in mentoring those, that aspect, I think I'm the oldest person on my job, which it's kind of scary not knowing that, but you know, just seeing them grow is the most fantastic thing. I have some of the kids that work with me are now six months ago to where they are today. I don't know if they could see it, but I can see their growth and being able to just let them go and do and find and feel that's what construction is. I mean, that's, that's why I'm here. You know, I love this work, you know, and it's, and to see other people actually see your passion and then receive their passion at the same time. It's fantastic.
It was amazing energy. So, where we're working to debunk stereotypes in construction and show off the vast choice of roles in the industry. If, if you could leave someone with a piece of advice, as they're considering pursuing a role in construction, and then perhaps a superintendent track, what advice would you pass on?
Wow. Okay, Georgia. I think that being a construction superintendent is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling jobs that you can have.
I think that we may have the only skillset where we would meet, let's say 250 to 2000 people that you've never before in your mind. And you go to a plot of land, that's just an empty vessel. Nothing you plan with those people that you've never met and that you've never had a conversation with. And you build something spectacular in that hole with complete strangers. And by the time you end, you're like, I always tell my junior people that, you know, construction is like an octopus. You will always grow tentacles because you will always meet people within those tentacles. And by the time you leave, you have created an atmosphere and a group of people and a new set of friends.
You know, they're not just workers, they're actually your friends because you see them more than you see your family. And this is a career field that you can choose to do something everywhere you've been. You've left a part of you with a group of people there. And you go to the next one and do the same thing over and over. And it's the relationship building that you have with people.
And Hey, it's such a great career that you can provide for your family, you know buy a house. Some of these guys don't have college educations, but education is key because here you learn every day. And by the time you get out of this industry, I think you could have a doctorate in some of these things, some of the things that you've done, but that would be my best career advice for this is, you know, find a passion because everybody here that builds a building is very passionate about doing. And to a point where I think some superintendents may say, they'll do it for free, but they wouldn't tell anyone that!
I'm going to spring a question on you. So what, what are your hopes for the, for the future of construction?
People, performance and quality. You know what I think it's the culture of the job site that needs to drive the culture and the people. Because like I said, you're going to build a building without knowing the people that show up there. But if you foster and create a culture where they don't question new technologies and they actually see you respond in kind that, “Hey, look, this is a great thing, not a bad thing”, I think it would take construction way beyond where it goes, because if we look at ourselves at 2025 or 2031, and where we think construction will be, I think there will always be a need for tradesmen and craftsmen because some of this work is just craftsmanship, but the technology that we create with those things, now we could probably do it in half the time and safe.
And that's the biggest thing. I think safety will be a big key as we go into 2030, and moving along in technology will definitely be there, but they'll still be a need for tradesmen. So where do I see us going in that way? I see the technology most important. I think that we would be able to wrap technology and statistics like people in the stock market do on the job site, state and reading a stock chart.
That's awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your perspectives and insight. Lucky. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you and we'll keep in touch.
Always a pleasure, Georgia. Thank you!