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.