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2018 RIMS

5 Trends to Watch in Construction Technology

Sensors, 3D laser scanning, virtual reality and more are reshaping the traditional job site.
By: | April 18, 2018 • 5 min read
Topics: Construction | RIMS

Construction is not the first industry to come to mind as a user of cutting edge technology, but that’s beginning to change.  As in health care, manufacturing, transportation and many other sectors, new technologies are offering a way for contractors to do things safer and more efficiently while mitigating risk. Tom Grandmaison, EVP and Construction Industry Leader, AIG, sat down with Risk & Insurance at the annual RIMS conference and exhibition in San Antonio to discuss some of the most promising construction technologies on the horizon.

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1. Wearables

Perhaps the most common form of modern technology appearing on job sites, wearable trackers are meant to improve worker safety and reduce workers’ compensation costs. They can alert supervisors when a worker is injured, getting help to them more quickly, but they also perform ergonomic functions like monitoring body position while lifting, reaching, bending and twisting.

“Sprains and strains are a big driver of workers’ comp claims and costs,” Grandmaison said.

Some wearable devices can track heart rate and body temperature to indicate when a worker is overheating. Others measure elevation – data that may come into play during investigation of a fall. Still others, like goggles, can record visual data and transmit it to a site supervisor or project manager on the ground, making it easier to communicate should a problem arise.

“There’s an emerging industrial wearables sector, with about 10-15 vendors out there bringing these products to market,” Grandmaison said

2. Building Sensors

Property sensors can help avoid costly losses caused by water infiltration.

“There’s a variety of different industrial sensors available, but the area we’re focused on is environmental sensors – things that track water, moisture and temperature,” Grandmaison said. “We had a number of claims in recent years where projects in either very hot or very cold areas were nearly complete, and then a pipe burst. When water seeps out unabated, it causes massive problems.”

Tom Grandmaison, executive vice president and construction industry leader, AIG

Building sensors that monitor temperature fluctuations or the presence of moisture can alert safety supervisors, security, or project owners and managers when conditions go awry. Stopping a leak early can save thousands in materials and labor costs.

“Sensors are generally inexpensive, and there’s great value there to prevent major losses,” Grandmaison said.

3. Radio Frequency Identification

The physical challenge of moving workers around on a job site introduces inefficiency.

“One thing we hear frequently, on bigger sites in congested city areas, is that getting workers on the lifts to get them up to the floors they’re supposed to work on – is often very difficult. It can take 45 minutes to get some of the workers to the top floor of a building,” Grandmaison said.

Radio frequency identification (RFID)  technology allows contractors to map worker movement, observing where people are working and for how long. This enables them to better plan project sequences to minimize time wasted getting from one area to another, or devise ways to better transport workers around the job site.

4. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality training modules give workers a taste of the hazardous conditions they’ll encounter on-site without putting them in harm’s way. One such module has trainees practice walking and performing tasks on steel beams hundreds of feet in the air. Perhaps no substitute for the real thing, but certainly a way to introduce new workers to a dangerous environment.

“It creates a realistic scenario for the worker and allows us to help train them in a completely safe environment,” Grandmaison said.

5. 3D Laser Scanning

Also known as LIDAR, 3D laser scanners use millions of beams of light to create three-dimensional blueprints of a finished room, measuring distances down to the millimeter. Contactors can compare these measurement to the original design to determine if the finished product was built exactly as intended.

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“This allows for determination of the one truth, if you will. Contractors are leveraging this in a few different ways to minimize liability risk,” Grandmaison said. “The technology helps contractor’s document major milestones during the course of the construction.”

Construction defect claims have long tails and are a costly element of general liability risk, for which the best mitigation is thorough and detailed documentation. 3D scans provide a precise picture of completed work and can serve as a vital defense should a defect claim arise. Scans can also be taken at various stages throughout a project, documenting each major milestone, such as when the steel is erected, the floors are poured, or the roof is installed.

In instances when a project gets scuttled and a contractor replaced, these milestone scans mean builders have record of the work they completed before another contractor takes over. It could protect them from being blamed for another’s mistake if something goes wrong down the line, and helps them avoid unnecessary litigation.

We want the people we’re insuring to be safe and to build quality product, if we can help our customers lower their premiums, it’s a win-win.

Cost remains a barrier in implementing these technologies, and most are used primarily by larger contractors, but Grandmaison said the interest is there to make these tools more accessible. The entrance of younger workers could help drive the trend, and they tend to be more comfortable with technology and more open to being tracked on the job.

In addition to privacy concerns, these technologies also come with cyber, product defect and user error risks. But when used correctly, they can help shift contractors’ risk profiles for the better – something than benefits insureds and insurers alike.

“I envision a future where hopefully the use of these emerging technologies can bend the loss curve by multiples. We want the people we’re insuring to be safe and to build quality product, if we can help our customers lower their premiums, it’s a win-win,” Grandmaison said. “If we leverage these technologies correctly, it should deliver value for everyone.” &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]