With output expected to reach $15.2 trillion by 2030, the global construction industry is a worldwide engine for economic growth and recovery from the pandemic. Yet it faces some major challenges, particularly around productivity and worker safety.
After successfully exiting several high-profile technology firms he’d built up, tech entrepreneur David Redmond turned his attention to addressing the challenges facing construction and other heavy industries such as manufacturing and infrastructure.
“The sector was working hard and making improvements, but there had to be a way for technology to support workers, unions, clients, and contractors in one,” he says.
In 2018 he launched 36Zero, a labor optimization platform incorporating wearable tech that monitors worker movement, access control, and site utilization, resulting in an 11% improvement in productivity. The platform also gives heavy industry workers a 360-degree approach to life and work, with a reported 12% improvement in users’ health.
Redmond, 42, began his post-university career in sales, working for a 3D visual store planning SME, which saw him pitch a £6 million deal to Ikea of Sweden. From there, he joined the unified communications firm Fabric Technologies as head of trading. As a shareholder and then member of the leadership team, Redmond and his partners made a successful exit. His next role was as Chief Commercial Officer at a private equity-backed distressed cloud-based IT and telecoms infrastructure provider as part of a turnaround project. Following another successful exit, he started his first business, Fuse Technologies, a unified communications provider that Ergos subsequently acquired.
The idea that heavy industry needed to embrace a digital solution with benefits that would apply to all emerged from a process of discovery with leading U.K. homebuilder Berkeley Group which helped grant fund the initial development of the 36Zero concept with Redmond.
The platform uses a heavy industry workplace optimization tool with the Budy360 wearable device to deliver the data needed to understand the movement of all workers on any site at any time. This system improves access control, time management, resource management and worksite safety. It ensures that workers are protected via compliance-based access to zones, live worker location, speed evacuations and real-time predictive safety AI. 36Zero’s focus on wellbeing includes personalized health reporting.
The collected data can be anonymized and aggregated for site manager reporting, while a worker’s personalized health data is only available privately via their app.
All workers can be seen in real-time. Any incidents can be verified, and all workers can return to work once resolved. The two hours that 1,000 workers might previously have spent standing at a muster point with zero productivity for two hours is reduced to 30 minutes.
Crucially, the system ensures that all workers are safe in an emergency. Doctors recently praised 36Zero for helping a female worker avoid a near heart attack when it alerted her to go for an immediate medical examination, as it reported a worrying number of health metrics.
“Global proprietors and governments tasked with major construction projects realize they can only achieve true ‘optimized labor’ if workers are fully considered,” says Redmond. “Problems facing heavy industries right now include global labor shortages, skills gaps, staff retention and a slow embrace of digital transformation, although the latter is changing. At around 45%, labor is the industry’s biggest single cost combined with strained margins. The annual fatality rate is also 1% to 2%.”
36Zero has worked with some leading names across U.K. construction infrastructure projects, including Heathrow Airport, HS2, Berkeley Group, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska, and Canary Wharf Contractors, as well as projects in the Middle East.
The company has 450,000 active users and a projected £88 million ARR (annual recurring revenue). It recently completed an £11.5 million equity and debt funding round, with a follow-on round set to support increased market adoption and a scale-up of operations in the Middle East across the region.
According to Redmond, the future of 36Zero is simple. “It is a people business,” he says. “It always has been and always will be.” He also sees future opportunities within health tech to enhance 36Zero’s wearable health tech offering.
He adds: “Insurtech presents further opportunities to underpin premiums and claims via historical, real-time and future prediction analytics on risk profiling and performance within heavy industry workplaces based on a host of health, compliance and environmental data sets.”