UAB hosts Alabama CIO meeting

Digital transformation is helping the construction industry streamline design and processes — and even helping improve communication with project owners, said representatives of M.J. Harris, a construction company that has partnered with UAB to build a number of recent projects.

UAB's College of Arts and Sciences and IT departments hosted M.J. Harris at a recent meeting of the Alabama CIO organization. Alabama CIO is a group of IT leaders that are focused on connecting, sharing and recognizing technology. UAB's VP and CIO for IT, Dr. Curtis A. Carver, serves as the chair for Alabama CIO.

The organization's membership co-chairman, Kevin Hicks, vice president of IT and principle with M.J. Harris Construction, LLC, brought his team to present to fellow CIOs about how they are incorporating technology into their business.

M.J. Harris has been in business 24 years with 100 employees and typically works on hospitals and K-12 educational and higher education projects. The company is focused on developing relationships with customers, and 90 percent of work is with repeat clients, including winning multiple bids for buildings at UAB.

“The whole construction industry is going through a digital transformation,” Hicks said.

MJ Harris is focused on being strategic about how they approach new hardware and technology. Watching new technology and trends to identify when the technology is mature enough to incorporate it into their production, such as monitoring trends of technology like Microsoft Hololens.

At UAB, the Facilities department receives plans and communication for each project from M.J. Harris in an easier to manage digital process and facilities manages this information in Microsoft Teams for every building and project. This allows for better documentation of the project and quicker communication for those involved in the project. Some of our buildings on campus are over 50 years old, having the information collected in one place and easily accessible will help in the future.

MJ Harris uses BIM — building information modeling, or virtual design — in construction to virtually build their projects before they start in the field. This practice brings subcontractors into more of a partnership and allows for better coordination.

Incorporating technology allows for proactive management that streamlines processes. There have been learning curves but the savings of resources that have led to greater productivity, increased safety and greater quality control.

M.J. Harris provided the attendees with demonstrations of their 3D modeling, scanners and robotic equipment. They also shared how the customer also experiences greater impact through this investment in technology. Buildings are going up much faster and provide customers with resource savings, including easier future maintenance.

This meeting took place in UAB’s new University Hall building, which M.J. Harris built. The event ended with a tour of UAB’s new residence hall and dining venue that is currently under construction with M.J. Harris