A&D talks to Tom Karemacher, the new vice president of Procore APAC. The US-based company is a provider of cloud-based applications for construction that help firms manage risk and build quality projects safely, on time and within budget. Procore opened its first APAC office in Sydney last month.

Could you talk us through some of your previous experience?

I have 15+ years of experience in Software as a Service (SaaS), 12 of which were at Salesforce. I have seen the industry evolve from when it first started to the traction it has today. I have extensive direct sales, cross functional and leadership experience and was focused on scaling the business in the APAC region. During my time at Salesforce, I saw the company grow from 20 employees back in 2006 to over 1,000 employees at the time I left. It was an incredible and unique journey to be a part of.

What’s your view on the current construction climate?

There is clearly a construction boom taking place. Sydney has the second highest number of cranes of any city around the world. Australia has 650 cranes working on projects with more than 350 of them in Sydney alone. The NSW government has a clear infrastructure agenda. 

Are you seeing greater demand for sustainable building? 

There has been a drastic movement to increase connectivity between all aspects of infrastructure as Australian cities aspire to become ‘smarter’ through connected infrastructure and transport. With Sydney’s population expected to double in the next 30 years, greater openness and data-sharing between tech innovators and governments is required to build in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. 

We have seen firsthand the growing demand for smart buildings from Australian organisations. Construction tech has been essential in the construction of smart workplaces to inspire cultural change. Workspaces like WeWork have played a major role in encouraging user-friendly and individualised spaces, that merge tech with functionality to create smart, efficient and productivity-enhancing workplaces.  

What kind of trends are you seeing in building design and delivery at the moment?

Safety is still a major concern. Working in construction can be dangerous and that often goes unnoticed by the public and those outside the industry. Two people die on construction sites every month. In order to lower this number, we need to get rid of preventable accidents. It’s unacceptable for someone to not go home to their family because of something that could have been detected earlier and prevented altogether.

This is the single biggest issue affecting our industry and it’s something we need to come together to solve. The importance of construction technology comes from the data it can collect. Organisations should take advantage of what new technologies can offer. In terms of increasing jobsite accountability and oversight, construction technology plays an essential role. Taking a data-driven point of view, this means businesses and builders can identify trends and aim to pre-empt accidents before they occur.

What do you think is the key to success for companies in this industry?

The industry has to be open to new technology. The fact that construction is the third-least digitised sector in the world is a concern. We have seen significant productivity gains across so many industries due to technology. Construction companies can no longer afford to ignore technology as they will not be able to compete in the future. We have already seen impactful innovation emerging to optimise different aspects of a construction project, from planning, to safety or monitoring the activity. Technology can generate great value for construction and early adopters in the industry are seeing the benefits.

Whilst I am advising that the industry is open to leading edge technology, I am also aware that the technology sector has not served this industry either through failing to meet the needs of the industry or failing to deliver. Our ambition is to change that and serve the industry like it has never been before.

I also think education is critical for construction to move forward. Companies eager to educate and attract the best talents should look at working hand-in-hand with universities to optimise the conditions in which students are trained. This is what we are doing in the US, providing Procore for free to numerous universities for them to train students on our software, and this is something we intend to replicate in Australia.

Procore opened its first APAC office in Sydney last month. Image: Supplied