Technology: Then & Now

Chip McAlpin / August 2020

When it comes to technology in our industry, some of you may remember the fax machine as the first piece of equipment that revolutionized how we conducted business. We went from having to send documents via postal service a week early, to being able to send them when needed. Now that technology is all but obsolete.
    
When I began my career in 1995, the first advancement in technology I vividly remember is using a computer to complete estimates. At the time our company had been using computers for about five years but not all of our estimators had made the transition. It quickly became evident we could produce more accurate and efficient estimates with a computer and digitizer. Even though we had the technology, I still learned the old fashioned way: using a scale stick and columnar pad. Maybe that experience was good for me, but I have not used those old tools since.
    
Our company’s first estimating software was on a Disk Operating System (DOS) platform—seen as the greatest improvement imaginable until the Windows Operating System was introduced. These tools allowed us to go completely above and beyond what we had done.
    
Thinking back to when I started in the industry, the big technological leap on job sites was a laser to level our ceilings. I recall how vast an improvement it was over the old way. Now advanced technology is used in just about everything we do, from electronic time-keeping to layout of walls. The foreman on the job site uses a tablet to keep up with changes and complete daily tasks, ranging from a crew’s time, plans review, production and production tracking. Tablets also eliminate the need to carry and maintain a large set of paper prints.
    
Another big step is building information modeling, which allows us to pre-detect clashes, complete robotic layout of walls, and utilize prefabrication opportunities.
We have also seen lately how big of a role technology has played in keeping us all connected. Unable to travel or attend meetings and events in person, we remain well connected through video conferencing and other communications formats.
    
For me, it is very clear how much improvement technology has made for our industry. It has impacted our office and field staff alike. With all the advancements I have seen over the past 25 years, I am very excited to see what the next 25 years will have in store for us.
    
I would like to remind everyone to please mark their calendars for AWCI’s Virtual Industry Leaders Conference that will be held Sept. 15–17. It will be a great opportunity for us to all reconnect—virtually, of course!

In addition to being 2020–2021 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Chip McAlpin is division president of the Jackson, Miss., and Louisiana offices of F.L. Crane & Sons.