Digital Builder Ep 66: Solving Construction's Capacity Problem

For this episode we’re doing something a little different by re-releasing a conversation we recorded last year at Autodesk University.

I am currently in the final stages of planning all the exciting new episodes we’re filming at Autodesk University 2023 in Las Vegas and as part of that prep work, I went back and re-listened to our conversation with Autodesk’s President and CEO Andrew Anagnost. Even though I’ve listened to this episode before – and I was actually there for the conversation — I still found myself fired up and thought it was worth sharing the episode with all of you once more.

Stay tuned and you’ll hear Andrew share his perspective on where the AEC industry is headed, along with a close look at his long and exciting career with Autodesk. It’s worth a listen, even if you heard it on the first go-around.

We've had a lot of interesting conversations on the Digital Builder podcast, but Episode 34 is particularly unique because it's the first episode we filmed live. We sat down with Andrew Anagnost, President and CEO at Autodesk, during Autodesk University 2022 to learn about his vision for the AEC sector and what we can do to overcome construction's most pressing challenges. 

Watch a clip of the episode now

Check out this video to see our conversation in full, and watch as Andrew shares his views on the construction industry and where it's headed. 

You can also listen to this episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, and anywhere else you get your podcasts.

On this podcast episode

As someone who's been at Autodesk for a quarter of a century, Andrew witnessed the evolution of the construction tools used today. He also played a big part in moving the company's infrastructure to the cloud, which gives him a distinct perspective on construction technology and how it can help address the industry's capacity problem. 

Solving the capacity problem in construction 

It seems that everything is in short supply these days. Construction firms globally are grappling with smaller budgets, material shortages, and labor challenges—and the reality is this will persist in the coming months and years. 

As Andrew puts it, "the capacity problem isn't going away. There's never going to be enough money. There's never going to be enough material, and there's never going to be enough labor."

So, what can we do about construction's capacity problem? Andrew recommends learning from the manufacturing industry. 

"There's never going to be enough money. There's never going to be enough material, and there's never going to be enough labor."

"Over decades and decades, the manufacturing industry has increased its capacity with finite resources. They've refined to use less stuff and increase their capacity even when their labor pool has shrunk or when people aren't spending more money. Manufacturers have been capacity creation machines. We need to bring some of that mojo to the AEC industry, and I really do believe we can. I believe we can be a capacity creation machine too." 

The role of cloud and platform technology 

Navigating today's construction landscape requires us to do more with less. To do that, teams must streamline how they work, collaborate, and share data. Minimizing miscommunication is vital because so much waste can come from issues around people not being on the same page. 

Cloud technology helps resolve these problems by making information more accessible and keeping teams connected.

"We're all familiar with the disconnects," comments Andrew. "You send an email, but it doesn't get tracked. You give people a list, but the list doesn't get tracked. You tell folks about the same problem six or seven times, but they hear you wrong. These are basic communication problems—and the cloud is beautiful for solving this stuff."

He continues, "When you put the flow of information at the center, the cloud's the natural place to go. That’s because the cloud is exceptional at connecting disparate types of data, creating transparency, and allowing real-time collaboration and access on that data."

Now, having data in the cloud is just one part of the equation. You also need to connect everything to a single source of truth.

This is where platforms come in. 

Read more: Cloud-Based Platforms Connect People, Processes, and Data

Andrew states, "The critical part of the platform is data flow because data comes from different places. We'll never have a construction universe where data feeds in from one pipeline."

"You're always going to have data feeding in from other pipelines. So your platform needs to be able to pull in data from multiple places, but rationalize it and make it visible and actionable to people." 

Keeping customers at the center of Autodesk's journey: now and in the future   

The most successful and enduring companies are highly customer-centric. This is something that Andrew—and everyone at Autodesk—recognize fully. 

"Keeping the customer at the center of that journey is super important," he says. 

Part of doing that lies in exploring different paths and figuring out which route will best serve the customer. From there, Andrew says it's all about bringing users onto that course and then supporting them every step of the way. 

"We know that what we've done with Autodesk Construction Cloud is by far the most sustainable path we're on," remarks Andrew.

“We have to bring customers over to that in a high trust way, in a high success way, so that we get them on the highway to the future so that we don't tack in such a way that disrupts them. And I'm committed to not doing that and I think the whole entire team is committed to getting them on the right path.”

He concludes, "I think we've built a hell of an ecosystem, and we're heading in the right direction." 

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Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week.

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Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.