Technology vs Management Solutions

My notes from NASCC 2018: Technology vs. Management Solutions [T6]
(PDH# 22231) Date: 04/11/2018

Presented by Brian Cobb, PE;
CEO, Structural Detailing, LLC
Intended Audience:  Fabricators
Track: Technology
Session video link.

Session Description:
Incorporating new technology can be a frustrating challenge . Often new technology and software packages don’t seem to deliver what was promised, other times it may seem not to work at all. Many times though, this isn’t an issue of technology not working, but failures at the management level. This session will explore how to sort out issues and determine if you really have a technology problem or a problem with managing new technology.

Presentation Goals

  • Discuss real-world scenarios where technology has been an issue or contributed to a problem.
  • Review the problem – was it a technology issue or a management / personnel issue?
  • What could have been done to make it work?

Areas of Concern

  • Expectations
  • Technology blinding personnel
  • Technology not being used
  • Technology deeply rooted
  • Financial and corporate roadblocks
  • Different goals for different parties

Expectations – the 76 Pinto

  • Can I bring a double-helix, sloping, curved joist in from XXX (software program) into YYY (software program)
    • Answer “No”
    • Response: well the software must be useless
  • Technology or management?
    • Both
    • The software will not do 100% of what you want it to do
    • Then again, a hammer will not turn a screw
  • What could have been done?
    • Evaluate the real-world capabilities of the software.
    • Decide if the real capabilities could be incorporated into the process.
    • Look at the shortcomings of the software, and evaluate their importance.
      • Is it okay to create a process around the deficiencies?
      • Do you need to push the software vendors for help?

Technology Blinding Personnel

  • Large GC, 4,000 ton hospital
  • Detailer receives a frantic call from the GC, stating that all of the hanging steel was not painted, the steel is being removed from the building and shipped back to the fabricator.
  • Long delays projected, fabricator was provided shop drawings by the GC so they are not at fault.
  • What am I going to do about it?
  • Technology or management?
    • Both
    • Detailer discussed the AISC’s stance on no paint for secondary steel within conditioned spaced, sent an RFI, RFI was confirmed and accepted.
    • GC logged the RFI into the tracking software (RFI #37 of now over 700)
    • GC passed all RFI’s along to all parties, leaving all parties responsible for incorporation (but honestly reviewing nothing internally).
  • What could have been done?
    • Do not let the capabilities of the software keep you from actually being able to construct a building.
    • Use the simple functionality of the software, such as a search function.
    • Using the complex functionality of the software, such as sorting RFI’s by discipline(s) so that all parties are not blinded by an overabundance of information.
    • Check your records before disassembling the steel!

Technology Not Being Used

  • Fabricator has CNC-capable equipment, with DOS based computers running it.
  • Plant manager makes a decision to upgrade the software systems and start using CNC.
  • Plant manager checks back 2 years later to see how the technology is working, finds out that it is never used.
  • Plant gives up on technology, decides “old way” works just fine.
  • Technology or management?
    • No one was responsible to make sure the technology was implemented.
    • Front line staff was not well trained.
    • Only “a few” of the sub-contract detailers provided the necessary downloads, so front line personnel made the decision to not use any of it.
  • What could have been done?
    • A software / process leader could have been identified within the shop to lead the effort.
    • Management should have provided more training.
    • Internal decisions on sub-contract detailing could yield more qualified subs or could help to evaluate which subs were qualified for which projects.

Technology Deeply Rooted

  • Established fabricator with well rooted processes.
  • At a management level, the fabricator wants to explore new options for steel detailing.
  • At production levels such as purchasing, importing files, etc., the product from established sources and the product from new sources vary.
  • Production becomes difficult, almost to a standstill, and the detailer (and their software) becomes inferior.
  • Technology or management?
    • Detailer has specialized the file types specifically written to work with the fabricator’s Material Information System (MIS)
    • Fabricator’s staff is not trained on how to utilize this software, and desire only to see in the traditional format.
  • What could have been done?
    • When management made a decision to source other alternatives; training and best practices for using the source should have been discussed.
    • Detailer was able to connect the fabricator’s purchasing staff with the proper person at their MIS supplier, and get them answers on how to import the necessary files.
    • Often, necessary capabilities exist in the software; all parties need to know how to utilize the capabilities.

Technology Roadblocks

  • Often there is a desire for “Product A” to be able to run when opened by “Product B” and not lose any of its functionality.
  • Different groups within the same entity may have different goals.
  • Technology or management?
    • Financial goals, intellectual property, competition; all of these often limit interoperability.
  • What could have been done?
    • Get involved with the leadership of these groups; push for what you need.


  • More often than not, management hinders software.
  • Find a software champion within your office.
  • Do not be blinded by the automation of software.
  • Be flexible, be willing to explore new opportunities.

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