UnitedIlluminating

An Interview with Michael Carr of Touchplan

| August 24, 2017

Michael Carr

The following interview with Michael Carr, president at Touchplan (a division MOCA Systems), will be published in High Profile Monthly in four installments. Below is the first installment.

Scroll down to find links to all other installments.

HP: How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​describe​ ​Touchplan?

MC: Touchplan​ ​is​ ​a​ ​unique​ ​software​ ​that​ ​is​ ​able​ ​to​ ​improve​ ​the​ ​construction​ ​industry​ ​by helping​ ​people​ ​through​ ​better​ ​planning,​ ​better​ ​execution.​ ​We​ ​provide​ ​the​ ​technology​ ​to enable​ ​them​ ​to​ ​do​ ​that.

The​ ​fundamental​ ​difference​ ​with​ ​Touchplan​ ​and​ ​some​ ​other​ ​approaches​ ​really​ ​boils down​ ​to​ ​how​ ​we​ ​use​ ​technology.​ ​Oftentimes,​ ​computers​ ​are​ ​brought​ ​into​ ​the​ ​mix​ ​to​ ​tell you​ ​the​ ​answer.​ ​With​ ​Touchplan,​ ​we’ve​ ​made​ ​the​ ​conscious​ ​choice​ ​to​ ​have​ ​the computer​ ​provide​ ​you​ ​with​ ​a​ ​superpower​ ​to​ ​help​ ​you​ ​come​ ​up​ ​with​ ​the​ ​answer​ ​yourself and​ ​then​ ​expose​ ​your​ ​team​ ​to​ ​things​ ​you​ ​otherwise​ ​wouldn’t​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​see​ ​or understand. 

HP: What​ ​is​ ​your​ ​mission/vision​ ​for​ ​the​ ​company?

MC: My​ ​unofficial​ ​mission​ ​is​ ​that​ ​we​ ​bring​ ​tech​ ​to​ ​improve​ ​overall​ ​efficiencies,​ ​communication, and​ ​processes​ ​that​ ​are​ ​involved​ ​in​ ​construction. 

My​ ​vision​ ​is​ ​to​ ​bring​ ​the​ ​construction​ ​industry​ ​to​ ​match​ ​the​ ​massive​ ​growth​ ​and productivity​ ​improvements​ ​that​ ​industries​ ​like​ ​agriculture​ ​and​ ​manufacturing​ ​have​ ​seen consistently​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​years,​ ​thanks​ ​to​ ​tech.​ ​In​ ​addition,​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​do achieve​ ​this​ ​vision​ ​with​ ​people​ ​and​ ​tech;​ ​it’s​ ​important​ ​to​ ​recognize​ ​that​ ​the​ ​people are​ ​a​ ​key​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​flow​ ​and​ ​management​ ​of​ ​information​ ​and​ ​processes. 

HP: What​ ​inspired​ ​you​ ​to​ ​start/join​ ​MOCA​ ​Systems​ ​and​ ​Touchplan?

​​MC: I​ ​had​ ​the​ ​good​ ​fortune​ ​of​ ​going​ ​to​ ​MIT​ ​in​ ​the​ ​civil​ ​engineering​ ​group​ ​surrounded​ ​by​ ​tech and​ ​software​ ​engineers​ ​—​ ​robotics​ ​and​ ​software​ ​were​ ​the​ ​big​ ​main stage.​​ I​ ​was​ ​in​ ​this unique​ ​place​ ​where​ ​my​ ​industry​ ​wasn’t​ ​reliant​ ​on​ ​those​ ​things,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​was​ ​immersed​ ​with people​ ​where​ ​that​ ​was​ ​their​ ​main​ ​focus. 

I​ ​started​ ​to​ ​realized​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​real​ ​gap​ ​between​ ​state-of-the-art​ ​technology​ ​and​ ​the construction​ ​industry​ ​—​ ​we​ ​had​ ​accomplished​ ​some​ ​incredible​ ​things​ ​like​ ​sending​ ​men​ ​to the​ ​moon​ ​and​ ​the​ ​development​ ​of​ ​artificial​ ​intelligence,​ ​but​ ​structures​ ​were​ ​being​ ​built the​ ​same​ ​way​ ​they​ ​had​ ​been​ ​for​ ​50 to 100​ ​years;​ ​nothing​ ​had​ ​really​ ​changed,​ ​and​ ​that made​ ​me​ ​curious​ ​to​ ​try​ ​to​ ​change​ ​it​ ​and​ ​make​ ​it​ ​better. 

I​ ​graduated​ ​and​ ​worked​ ​for​ ​a​ ​general​ ​contractor​ ​in​ ​Seattle​, ​and​ ​I​ ​saw​ ​firsthand​ ​just​ ​how not​ ​state-of-the-art​ ​construction​ ​was​ ​—​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​maybe​ ​I​ ​could​ ​join​ ​a​ ​research​ ​lab​ ​or something​ ​but​ ​quickly​ ​discovered​ ​there​ ​were​ ​no​ ​things​ ​like​ ​NASA’s​ ​jet​ ​propulsion​ ​labs for​ ​construction​ ​—​ ​there​ ​was​ ​nothing! 

Then​ ​this​ ​opportunity​ ​came​ ​up;​ ​my​ ​thesis​ ​advisor​ ​came​ ​up​ ​with​ ​MOCA​ ​Systems;, ​and that’s​ ​how​ ​it​ ​started​ ​—​ ​she​ ​called​ ​me​ ​and​ ​one​ ​other​ ​student​ ​back​ ​—​ ​the​ ​premise​ ​of​ ​the company​ ​was​ ​off​ ​of​ ​our​ ​thesis​ ​research​, ​which​ ​at​ ​the​ ​time​ ​was​ ​simulating​ ​construction​ ​on a​ ​computer​ ​and​ ​having​ ​the​ ​computer​ ​tell​ ​you​ ​the​ ​answer.​ ​I​ ​realize​ ​now​ ​that​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a fundamental​ ​flaw​ ​there​ ​—​ ​which​ ​was​ ​that​ ​we​ ​removed​ ​people​ ​from​ ​the​ ​equation,​ ​which​ ​I now​ ​realize​ ​are​ ​so​ ​important​ ​to​ ​this​ ​process. 

Fast​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​a​ ​few​ ​years​ ​ago​ ​with​ ​Lean​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Last​ ​Planner​ ​System,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​based on​ ​the​ ​understanding​ ​that​ ​people​ ​can​ ​work​ ​together​ ​and​ ​learn​ ​and​ ​improve​ ​over​ ​the course​ ​of​ ​the​ ​project.​ ​That​ ​improvement​ ​—​ ​which​ ​happens​ ​over​ ​the​ ​course​ ​of​ ​weeks​ ​and months​ ​—​ ​means​ ​the​ ​team​ ​will​ ​converge​ ​on​ ​a​ ​really​ ​good​ ​approach​ ​and​ ​answer,​ ​but​ ​the technology​ ​they’re​ ​using​ ​to​ ​do​ ​that​ ​is​ ​Post-It​ ​Notes​ ​and​ ​spreadsheets!​ ​This​ ​was​ ​a​ ​great approach,​ ​but​ ​supported​ ​by​ ​very​ ​low​ ​tech,​ ​if​ ​any. 

Now,​ ​we’re​ ​all​ ​constantly​ ​carrying​ ​smartphones,​ ​and​ ​information​ ​flows​ ​very​ ​quickly​ ​with this​ ​tech,​ ​so​ ​readily​ ​available​ ​that​ ​it’s​ ​in​ ​our​ ​pockets.​ ​And​ ​the​ ​construction​ ​Lean/Last Planner​ ​process​ ​is​ ​all​ ​about​ ​information​ ​flow​ ​between​ ​team​ ​members,​ ​and​ ​yet,​ ​it’s​ ​still​ ​not being​ ​supported​ ​by​ ​technology.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​a​ ​firm​ ​belief​ ​that​ ​we​ ​can​ ​change​ ​that. 

Click to see second installment.

Click to see third installment.

Click to see fourth installment.

 

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