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fieldPro On-Demand Surveying solution is a software-based system from fieldDesigner Inc. Visit the company at World of Concrete/TFC Booth N1964.

I love my Mac. At least I do when it works. Most people are very loyal to their computers, but I'm on a Mac at work and a PC at home. So really, I can go either way as long as the machine does what I want it to do.

But computers often require upgrades. We're about to move into Mac OSX here at the office, and although I've been trained on the new operating system, I'm still a little leery about its capabilities. What if I crash constantly? What if my files are not readable anymore? Or what if I need to be trained on yet more new software?

I'm not afraid of change—I relish learning a new computer program or time-saving trick. But many people are reluctant to trade in their old computer for a new one or trade in a reliable software program for something that has just hit the market. This fear is very real, no matter what field you're in. The old saying, “if it isn't broken, don't fix it” is very relevant, but not very realistic to today's modern workplace. Things have to change.

So I'm recommending, perhaps as one of your many New Year's resolutions or maybe just as a self-improvement push, that you take a look at that new software or technique that you've been a little leery about. And what better place to learn about it—and hear real-life stories—than the Technology for Construction (TFC) conference? By the time you read this, either you'll already be on the plane to sunny Las Vegas to attend the conference, or you (and your boss) will have decided that now is just not the right time to upgrade your department's systems.

I'm not trying to convince you to attend the conference, formerly known as the A|E|C Systems show. I am, however, asking you to look at the future of your public works department. Public works, over the past 10 or 20 years, has changed dramatically. While you were previously using pencils, calculators, and simple spreadsheets, you now have the options of complete management software, powerful GIS databases, wireless tools, and being a “virtual builder.”

Web-based project management is one of the most exciting new techniques that I've found listed on the TFC conference schedule. From dealing with requests for proposals to material scheduling to providing local residents with up-to-date information about a project, implementing this cutting-edge technique can be a real time-saver and can eliminate many headaches. What better way to get your supervisors in the field, the various companies you're working with, and your city engineer together on a difficult project?

Another hot topic, building information modeling (BIM), allows designers to embed a 3-D building model with detailed information that public works directors and contractors can use to speed and control the construction process. These holographic blueprints that talk have the potential to reshape the industry. Architects and engineers are already excited about BIM, but can or will your department implement it? An in-depth discussion at TFC will look at these topics, and hash them out for consultants, engineers, and others in the construction industry.

If I haven't convinced you that change is good, that's fine. Your supervisor may force you into using a new software or method though, leaving you little choice. But instead of letting someone else make the change for you, revisit that software sales person that came to visit. Or check out the newest techniques at a trade show or conference. You'll be amazed by what a simple upgrade can do for your department's projects.