Izhak Paz - Digital transformation in construction
Izhak Paz is the founder and CEO of SafeGuard, a ConTech and safety company utilizing machine learning to prevent construction accidents.
In this episode, we talk about digital transformation in the field of construction. We first define the term "ConTech" and give some examples, then continue with a look into the evolution of the field and the challenges to transformation at scale. We spend some time discussing the role of artificial intelligence in preventing construction accidents and improving worker safety, before concluding with some future predictions for digitalization in construction.
Links & mentions:
“Most of this field is dependent on subcontractors and not on the workers of the company itself. And they don't have enough time with the manpower in order to sustain the knowledge that you require, in order to have the learning process, to adopt technology, and to maintain it.”
Welcome to the Agile Digital Transformation podcast, where we explore different aspects of digital transformation and digital experience with your host, Tim Butara, content and community manager at Agiledrop.
Tim Butara: Hello everyone, thanks for tuning in. Our guest today is Izhak Paz, founder and CEO of SafeGuard, a ConTech and safety company utilizing machine learning to prevent construction accidents. In today's episode, we'll be talking about digital transformation in the field of construction, with a special focus on using AI to improve the safety of workers. And welcome, Izhak. It's really great having you with us today. Do you want to add anything or should we just go ahead and begin?
Izhak Paz: Yes, first of all, thank you for this stage, for this platform. I'm monitoring your work and it's incredible. Thank you very much for that. I would like to elaborate first about the need because it's really important to me to share why we went out to this quest. Basically every five minutes, construction workers die in construction sites around the world.
The problem is a dire problem and unfortunately, it's mainly done because of human error. 90% of the construction accidents are a result of human error, which also is something that related to the construction industry in general. And most of the technology is out there focusing on not dealing with the source of the problem, which is decision making. Our goal and objective was to harness the technology in order to support human decision in real time. And that's the main objective and the main idea of our technology to focus on that and disrupt the way this matter is ended.
I think that's the message is human life. Construction is about growth. It's about humanity growth and construction growth supporting it. And it's all about us, the people, and the right of workers to come back home to their families. That's what I wanted to add as a message.
Tim Butara: Awesome. And I think that we’ll discuss most of what you introduced right now in a little bit more detail a bit later on. But first I want to take a few steps back and first ask you, Izhak, what's even meant by the term ConTech and what are some examples of ConTech?
Izhak Paz: Okay, so that's a great question. ConTech, it's an abbreviation of “construction tech”. And we see in all the other technologies, we see cyber tech, we see medical tech, healthcare tech. And construction tech, it's about globally, it's over $10 trillion of the global economy and it's close to 10% of the world economy. And for many years it was neglected. And now construction tech is all the realm of technologies that specialize in the process of construction. Whether it's robotics, whether it's marked materials, whether it's software that deal with processes and the construction site quality, safety.
And the key is to make this losing business and not efficient business, to turn this all revenues to loss prevention and actually make a lot of money out of it. And that's what most of the technologies are working on. Also saving lives in safety means a lot of money in saving for construction groups. That's all the realm of technology, of construction. We see in Israel, where I come from, eight years ago when we started, there were like a couple of construction tech companies, now over 200 companies in that realm in Israel. But also globally, we see tens of thousands of companies in different stages of their life cycle. We see big investments and also exits and so on. So it's pretty booming area.
Tim Butara: And how does digitalization or digital transformation factor into this? Specifically, what's the current state or maybe what's some background, what's some history of digital transformation and construction and where are we at now?
Izhak Paz: So basically when we started eight years ago, we felt like it's Egypt, like building pyramids. You put scaffold and you just build. Whatever happens, happens. And the transformation is massive. First of all, in terms of technologies and process management, which is software, more ERP technologies coming into the field. We see more technologies of robotics that coming in and supported by software. And I think beyond all these technologies of smart materials and software and artificial intelligence and so on, that we see a lot of that coming in.
What I see interesting is that construction companies have team and manpower that can facilitate that. So when we started, there was not somebody that deal with that. Today you have IT departments which are capacities to receive digital transformation. They have innovation departments. So basically they have the team and the management that is able to contain all the technologies that are coming in. So I think the good sign on both end is the supply of technologies that is boosting, but also the capacities that the organization has in order to deal with that. And that indicates that this time this digital transformation is not just above, it's actually going to catch. I'm very optimistic about that.
Tim Butara: Well, so my next question might not be the perfect one because it kind of takes a look at the other side. I was going to ask, what are the biggest challenges to large scale transformation in this field?
Izhak Paz: Actually you're right, it's counter, because you see the construction field is project oriented. So basically construction enterprises are moving from project to project. So today they can have three projects, tomorrow they can have 20 projects, but sometimes they don't have projects. So they always ask themselves whether they're going to engage in R&D or technologies and so on.
So that's what slows down the scalability of deploying technology in large scale in general. But also we see that this volatility related to the way they work with subcontractors. Most of this field is dependent on subcontractors and not on the workers of the company itself. And they don't have enough time with the manpower in order to sustain the knowledge that you require, in order to have the learning process, to adopt technology and to maintain it.
So we see a lot of things that related to the way they work that impact the scalability, and again, the user – a lot of the time the users are hard workers in the field. They can’t be bothered using technology, opening technology, activating advanced technologies. So for big technologies you need to have advanced users and we see also slow changes in that, but those are the things that are not in line with to move fast.
Tim Butara: I guess the first thing you mentioned was these periods of maybe where maybe they don't have projects and periods where they have a lot of work. I assume they have and would have to have adopted some kind of agile methodology, some aspects of agility.
Izhak Paz: Yes. Actually in construction, I think it's the first, they didn't call it agile, the IT called it agile. The home of your expertise is agile. But you can see it in the way they slice the project, basically take the project, they slice it to different segments and then they roll it over. I think if they were adapting their project management methodologies, more core agile capabilities, it would be very interesting to see how it's working in the construction sector. I think industries need to learn from each other and adapt methodologies. We as a company utilize agile methodology, sprints and all the way, and the scrum capabilities. We are very happy, we find it very beneficial. Very beneficial.
Tim Butara: Yeah, I agree. I think it makes a lot of sense. I mean, even if you're not going to implement full scale agility or something, you'll definitely benefit if you allow yourself to just adopt some aspects of it that can help your company out the best way possible.
Izhak Paz: Definitely.
Tim Butara: So now Izhak, let's return to some of the points that we made initially when we started out the episode. So about the safety of workers. Safety is obviously a big priority, and how can something such as artificial intelligence or similar new technologies help with the safety of workers and other high risk roles in other industries?
Izhak Paz: So basically artificial intelligence in general is causing all the industries. It's basically level of evolvement where we let algorithms, the machine, the processing power of algorithms, process and compute the data and we fit in all kinds of aspects and allow us to bring faster processed information in real time. In terms of safety, in the world there are not that many technologies that bring end-to-end data that related to situations that can become potential risk.
The way we approach it, we build an end to end solution that basically covers the human factor, the management factor, the machine factor, all the mission and the method combine all the data around the field in real time. And then we employ algorithms that basically focus on identifying risky behaviors. We contemplated whether to create a deep prediction towards timing of accidents. But the prediction capabilities that we aim is to monitor behavior and help prevent it in real time.
For example, we have an algorithm that analyzes human worker behavior through activities that it does throughout the week or the days in the field. And then if few items, the patterns accumulate together, we basically red flag that worker. And when he comes to coming to the gate, we also deploy smart gates in our site, the gate blocking and tell the site manager this worker is in a potential risk to himself, to the site, and so on. So we do use artificial intelligence to identify risky behavior and to prevent potential patterns that can result eventually in an accident. For that you need a big computing power and very sophisticated algorithms that humans cannot do that. You need the machines to get to it by themselves.
Tim Butara: What happens after that? A worker gets flagged due to potential risky behavior and then how does that get resolved? What must the worker do if they want to get a green light and be able to pass to their job post and to the site?
Izhak Paz: You see, so this depends on the culture. The safety is a global issue. So depending on the culture of the society that employ that workers, some societies just not going to let him come back to the site. And some societies have training systems that basically they take him out too much simpler, less risky work. And he needs to go through a specific training program until he falls back again that can bring him back to the job he used to do. Because usually I risk job pays more. So if you're not going to be in those Irish job, you're not going to get that much money. So it's a process rather than go hard or go through more educating process.
I cannot recommend which way is the best. But what we prefer is to make sure that the decision is done on the right time, to support the decision of the site, the team on the site to make sure to present, we have an issue with that person. Please look at that and do whatever measures you do according to your corporate policies or the culture that you're part of.
This cannot work without team participation in actually facilitating the technology that we give them. We cannot support the season without people putting data in an appropriate way. If they use the platform well and bring in all the modules and use it well, then it can work for them. But first they need to work with the data. It's really important.
Tim Butara: Yeah, it always comes back to the data right.
Izhak Paz: Always.
Tim Butara: Okay, Izhak, before we wrap it up, I know that we already talked about this a little bit. But let's dedicate a few minutes now in this final part of the episode to your expectations and your predictions in terms of future development in this area. So, digitalization in construction.
Izhak Paz: Yes, that's a good question. I think the construction sector was trying before to become like industry where it's all assembly line and streamlined and automated and it failed many times before. But I believe that I can see now the terms, the conditions, the technology, the money, the funding are coming together to enable, get us closer to the vision of complete automation and less dependency on human capital. Which eventually will not require as much safety technologies as we provide to the field. But I think everything will be more productive, everything will be more streamlined and we'll see more nice, more ecology oriented buildings and everybody going to be happy. Peace of mind.
Tim Butara: That's the perfect note to finish off our discussion, Izhak. It's been definitely a great one. Before we finish, if listeners like to reach out or learn more about you, where can you do all that?
Izhak Paz: They can get to our website which is www.safeguard.co.il and we'll be more than happy to answer, assist and we would love to have partners in protecting walkers of life all over the world.
Tim Butara: Awesome. Well, thanks again for joining us today and really enjoyed talking with you today, Izhak.
Izhak Paz: Thank you very much.
Tim Butara: Well, to our listeners, that's all for this episode. Have a great day everyone and stay safe.
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