Roofing contractors heading to the inaugural AEC BuildTech Conference and Expo April 30-May 2 in Rosemont, Ill., will get to hear directly from a panel of experts in their field about the impact technology is having on the roofing business in markets all across the country.

Five top roofing contractors who are members of the Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3) will participate in a roundtable discussion on technological innovations in roofing to help kickoff the event on Tuesday, April 30. The panelists are no strangers to the industry or RC: Michelle Boykin, COO of Rackley Roofing in Carthage, Tenn.; Ken Kelly, president of Kelly Roofing in Naples, Fla.; Steve Little, president of KPOST Roofing and Waterproofing of Dallas; Josey Parks, CEO of J Wales Enterprises in Dallas; and Gregg Wallick, president and CEO of Best Roofing in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The conference is a unique new event designed to spotlight the latest emerging technologies to influence building processes and product lines. The hope is that attendees from the architectural, engineering, facility management and contractor worlds will converge in one space to explore innovations and inspire one another to improve through the use and understanding of technology.

The show floor will feature exhibitors displaying products and services from the latest trends in building, design, operations and mechanical systems. In addition to the 840,000-square-foot Donald E. Stephens Convention Center exhibition space, there are six educational tracks: building envelope, flooring, general contracting, HVAC/Mechanical, plumbing, and roofing.

The Buzz

All five roofing contractors were selected due to their own initiative and how they’ve infused different aspect of technology into their daily business models. They’ll share their successes and challenges with implementing technology into several key areas such as sales and marketing, operations, health and safety and recruiting.

Specifically, each will present on the following:

  • Augmented Reality — applying it to the aging workforce problem, as well as training, assessment and testing, mapping and leak detection;
  • Robotics — drone technology and understanding what rooftop robotics tools are already available and in use;
  • Operational Technology — exploring solutions that address safety and time-tracking to help contractors be more efficient;
  • Artificial Intelligence — examining uses for prospecting, assessments, virtual selling and jobsite monitoring;
  • Stacking Software — understanding how to get all the different software your business relies on to work together.

Similar to a panel discussion at the 2019 International Roofing Expo (IRE) in Nashville in February, the group will explore how augmented reality will change field service; how robotics and automation on the roof and in the air is already impacting the industry; how GPS and other tracking programs can save money; and how technology is changing the way roofing contractors interact with homeowners, facility managers and insurance companies.

“In our world, there’s a lot of trust that needs to be built and work to be done because customers don’t live in ‘our world,’” said Kelly, who is already using augmented reality in house and in the field with customers. “They don’t go on the roof with us and understand what’s happening there. But by being able to use this technology … we can virtually take them there.”

Aside from enhancing the customer experience, Kelly said he firmly believes there are broad benefits to the technology when it comes to training and workforce development.

“We have a large segment of our workforce that’s about to retire and as we age our physical abilities are not the same as they were,” he explained. “A lot of those people are bringing that tribal knowledge into the office, and imagine being able to leverage that knowledge to technicians in the field trying to troubleshoot a leak.”

Boykin said using a new virtual reality program helped improve operations and safety procedures at Rackley Roofing, a largely commercial roofing contractor with about 180 employees. The program helped mitigate a fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in their east Tennessee location.

“It helps to take our new employees and teach them about safety before they ever reach the roof,” she said. “It’s exciting for employees to use and has turned into a cost saver.”

There will also be plenty of time for questions and discussing what roofing as a trade will look like five or 10 years from now, and how change will likely come quicker than many may expect. Their collective goal is to help other contractors understand the technologies and how they can implement these solutions in their own businesses.

Wallick will also present on how to build a successful sales organization on Wednesday. Other notable roofing-related presentations include: “Legal Issues Pertaining to Roofing Technology,” by Trent Cotney, CEO of Cotney Construction Law LLP; and “Top 5 Mistakes Roofers Make During Busy Season, and How to Avoid Them,” by Lynn Foster, director of operations for AccuLynx.

Regardless of how tech-savvy you may feel, innovations are coming to market more rapidly than ever and there’s always something to learn by discussing technology, Little said. Roofing contractors that wait aren’t doing themselves any favors.

“Don’t think this is all way in advance and it’s coming years down the road,” he said. “This is happening today and you’ve got to incorporate it into your business. Jump in! It’s not always going to be perfect, but if you’re not involved you’re going to get passed over.”

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