More than 1,300 people took the opportunity to connect during MEP Force Virtual 2020, which spanned August 31 to September 2. Aside from the desire to connect during a time when many have been working from home or on socially distanced jobsites, there has always been a great camaraderie amongst the people of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) trades. Sidebar chats during breakout sessions were lively and supportive as participants shared their issues and solutions in ways that were similar to previous years’ in-person conferences.

The keynote address by Amy Marks allowed everyone to circle up and understand the different facets and importance of industrialized construction. Marks is a great champion of the MEP trades, and she encouraged contractors to strive for wide adoption of prefabrication. Since 60% or more of a job can involve trades work, the MEP trades are positioned to be true leaders in this movement. Marks made the point that the trades have the opportunity to “drag the project team with them.” More champions are needed. Regardless of the obstacles, the MEP trades manage to make things happen.

The subject of technology within the construction industry tends to have a black cloud of job-doom hanging over it, although the results can be just the opposite. Several breakout session speakers made the point that technology enables the workforce to mold their jobs to the projects they’re working on, increasing their efficiency. This allows companies to sell more work and ensure job security. “It’s more about the people and the workflows and getting the technology to match that, instead of having the people match the technology,” one speaker explained. The trades organizations have found their part to play in the shift, and they are beginning to train up a workforce that’s educated on design.

Training on this new design skill set enables the trades to be brought into the project earlier, bringing better collaboration using tools like BIM 360, with a bonus benefit of risk management. Saving on insurance premiums can speak louder to owners than the “Hollywood side” of building information modeling (BIM) coordination.

On the topic of innovation, one breakout speaker observed that companies need to find the balance on the scale of zero failure to full innovation. In creating a culture that embraces growth, the mindset needs to be supportive of people when they fail, because, “We learn from failure – not from success.” Establishing a new culture in MEP involves defining the language, developing the culture and investing in it.

Several classes explained why data matters. Not only do companies need to embrace that basic premise, but they need to determine how to get that data and who should get it. One speaker explained, “If you don’t understand what your business needs, then no software is going to save you.” Software should support a company’s efforts, not define them.

MEP industry leader eVolve MEP gave a preview of its newest product, eVolve Foresite. In development now, Foresite links purchasing to the BIM/Revit model, providing the “missing link” in the workflow and streamlining the process. The product focuses on the needs of the MEP contractor and is designed to standardize and productize across the supply chain to connect and solve those shared pains in procurement. MEP contractors and vendors can and will create a movement of working better together.

Training and implementation were key takeaways for innovative companies. When you choose to invest in software, it’s important to also invest in training people on that technology. The two go hand in hand. Businesses were encouraged to get regular checkups of their software implementation. Choosing a technology partner with a customer success team will help ensure the implementation is making you more efficient and productive.

Construction is a fundamental part of our human world. The technology on the horizon needs to focus first on the people in the industry, then focus on adoption. There is a need for unity and a need for collaboration that can ultimately answer the question: What’s best for the MEP industry?

Trade contractors were urged to move outside their comfort zone. One speaker assured, “Every trade contractor can innovate at their company” by understanding the technology and making sure the software tools work together toward the company’s goals.

The MEP Force 2020 virtual conference attracted attendees from six countries on four continents. While next year’s conference is scheduled to be in-person in San Antonio, Applied Software is investigating interest in a virtual component that could make it possible to accommodate an even larger audience in 2021.

If you missed any sessions that you’d like to take advantage of, check out the great learning moments and content with the on-demand sessions at: .