The Evolution of AEC Tech: Q-and-A with CornerCube’s Fernando España

By Akio
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Fernando Espana, CEO CornerCube

Fernando España is at the forefront of Lean construction practices in the US and abroad.

With over 30 years in the construction industry, España has extensive experience in the facilitation, definition, design, implementation, monitoring, and optimization of Lean solutions.

He is the president of CornerCube, a Dassault Systèmes partner located in the San Francisco Bay area, which offers Lean construction solutions, 3D technology solutions, and related technical services to the AEC industry.

España recently offered his perspectives with us regarding the current state of the industry, trends in technology, and Lean Thinking. Below is a transcript of a portion of our conversation.

How have you seen AEC technologies evolve, and where are they headed?

Over the past decade or so, the adoption of 3D modeling has been the most widespread. When I started exploring 3D parametric technologies in 1997, it didn’t exist for AEC.

We looked to the manufacturing industry for solutions before the rest of the AEC industry picked up on its value. Now, investing in 3D is a requirement.

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Are You Ready for the Construction Industry’s “Industrial Revolution”?

By Akio
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The AEC team at Dassault Systèmes works closely with industry leaders like Dr. Perry Daneshgari, CEO of MCA, Inc., to build technologies designed to improve our architecture, engineering and construction customers’ business processes and outcomes.

In this quarter’s issue of Compass: The 3DEXPERIENCE MagazineNick Lerner reported on Dr. Daneshgari’s unique perspective on the construction industry, and why we need an industrial revolution. You can also access a related whitepaper by the MCA team, over on

Breaking with Tradition: Why the Construction Industry Needs an Industrial Revolution

Until recently, the construction industry has suffered a technology bypass, relying on centuries-old processes and procedures to manage complex modern projects.

Dr. Perry Daneshgari, MCA Inc. (Photo by David Lamarand)

(Dr. Perry Daneshgari, MCA Inc. Photo by David Lamarand)

Today, however, the same software applications that make manufacturing industries efficient are being deployed in building construction.

Compass Magazine spoke with leading construction industry consultant Dr. Perry Daneshgari about why the industry must evolve.

Dr. Daneshgari, a widely published consultant to construction and other industries, holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Karlsruhe, Germany, and an MBA from Wayne State University (USA).

Through his company, MCA Inc., he advises businesses around the world on process and product development, waste reduction, labor productivity improvement, project management, estimation, accounting and customer care.

In 50 years of the most accelerated technological advances, a period in which industry after industry has used technology to improve efficiency, the art of building has lagged.

Studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as Tulacz and Armistead, have documented 25% to 50% waste in coordinating labor and in managing, moving, and installing materials.

In many cases talent and skill are underused, avoidable accidents happen and productivity remains low.

With high projections for growth – PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts that by the end of this decade, construction will account for more than 13% of the global economy – the time is ripe for change.

Dr. Daneshgari, a construction industry consultant famous for championing the adoption of process and product control, believes that the construction industry needs to look to economist Adam Smith for inspiration.

“Adam Smith’s ideas of segregating tasks and the division of labor have been implemented in manufacturing over the past 250 years to produce an abundance of goods at affordable prices,” Daneshgari said. “Productivity has been accelerated through the application of statistical process control (SPC) that helps to generate supply and to satisfy demand.”

Tall Stories

Process models for construction have remained largely the same for hundreds of years, with highly skilled labor carrying out tasks for which they are overqualified 80% of the time.

“Making components in a factory enables manufacturing by lower-skilled operators,” Daneshgari said. “This cuts cost, improves quality, reduces onsite re-work and allows total operational control. In this system, work onsite consists of assembly of quality-assured parts, each guaranteed to be fit for purpose.”

Applying SPC to the automotive industry allowed cars to become better and less expensive.

The lack of the same methodology in construction has contributed to waste and to soaring prices, Daneshgari said, but he believes that dynamic is about to change.

“New types of companies are looking at construction as a huge opportunity. For example, an air-conditioning contractor ( has branched out and started to industrially produce and erect large buildings in just 6 days. In China, the world’s tallest building, Sky City, will add 5 stories per day to be built in 120 days. We are also seeing contractors join into larger groups. They are changing building from a cyclical, low-tech, physically exhausting and unsafe industry to one that is attracting new, innovative talent.”

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “#Construction was cyclical, low-tech,
exhausting & unsafe. Now attracting new talent.”

About the benefits of industrialization, “it has been proven that you can build at twice the speed using half the resources,” Daneshgari said. “Technologies are slow to reach construction, but when they do the impact and rewards are significant and worthwhile.”

Zero Error

Stacking problems occur when small errors in each building component multiply over multiple floors.

This leads to electrical, power and other services, such as heating and ventilating, no longer fitting the structure.

“That usually requires the deployment of highly skilled workers on site, remodeling concrete with rock drills or making expensive and potentially problematic changes to mechanical services at the point of fitting. Statistical variation techniques, which have been standard practice in the auto industry for 60 years, would solve the problem.

Unfortunately, the construction industry’s investment in research and development is among the lowest of any major industry. But when you start to innovate with technology to drive the use of standardized products and modularized processes, productivity gains are spectacular.

3D has made significant inroads into architectural design and fabrication, but process modeling is virtually non-existent.”

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: Use tech to drive standardized
processes for “spectacular productivity gains”

To increase efficiency, eliminate waste, and increase profit margins, companies in the construction industry, as well as governments, must invest in R&D, Daneshgari said.

“Those that have invested achieve cost reductions and quality improvements that let their companies win contract after contract.

New types of companies are building shopping malls at 40% lower cost. Zero-error buildings are being made where the reduction of re-work is producing bigger profits for those involved.”

Clever Moves

Attracting outside talent to newly structured construction enterprises gives them a much needed and valuable intellectual boost.

“The construction industry is being changed by a small number of very clever and enterprising people who are transforming the industry by taking new approaches,” he said. “Unshackled by tradition and equipped with portable, powerful and robust technology, they are bringing the business into the 21st century.”

Construction industry players who don’t step up to the challenge of modernizing their processes will hold the entire industry back, Daneshgari believes.

He cites W. Edwards Deming, who made significant contributions to industrial science and practice. Deming proved that individual performance could only be improved by “elevating the entire system,” Daneshgari said.

“Using ideas from Newton, Adam Smith and, in the 20th century, Deming, industry in general has been able to progress to its current advanced state. Generally, the construction industry did not follow the same enlightened path. Unless prompt action is undertaken, it will be surprised by new companies that efficiently capitalize the massive economic opportunities that present themselves in this rapidly growing industry sector.”

(All quotes from Dr. Perry Daneshgari. Article source: Compass: The 3DEXPERIENCE® Magazine)

Want more?

Industrialization of the Construction Industry, a whitepaper commissioned by Dassault Systèmes and prepared by MCA, Inc. (Dr. Perry Daneshgari and Heather Moore, with contribution from Greg Bau), maps out the construction industry challenges, relates the history of industrialization in the manufacturing industry, and summarizes 5 critical aspects and approaches.

Download the whitepaper here.

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