In a new era of information where technology has proven to be a necessary weapon, learn what companies are hitting the nail on the head in …
These are the words that appeared on the cover of the Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Constructech. While it was Vol. 3, No. 8 of the magazine, it was the first issue that featured the Constructech Vision Awards winners, and the words that were so apropos back then, still ring true even today.
The Constructech Vision Awards winners are innovators. They all recognize that technology is the secret “weapon” to stand out in an already competitive environment and to improve the bottomline—this was true in the past; it is still the case today; and it will continue to be a necessity as the construction industry moves forward in the future.
What is changing; however, is the type of technology leveraged today is different from almost 17 years ago. IT spending is shifting from traditional IT offerings to cloud services. The IoT (Internet of Things) and Big Data are beginning to play a greater role at the jobsite. Mobile is redefining how traditional tools such as ERP (enterprise-resource planning) are used in the construction industry.
At the same time, the construction industry is also being altered. Today, business needs are often driven by changes at the jobsite and what the project manager needs to complete projects faster and on budget. The advent of new technologies such as the cloud are enabling this transformation.
The 2016 Constructech Vision Awards winners are leveraging mobile, ERP, Big Data, and BIM (building information modeling) to enhance business processes both at the office and at the jobsite. These are the organizations doing something innovative and unique with technology—and serve as an example for how others can leverage technology.
These winners were validated by a distinguished and independent panel of industry analysts, consultants, and educators.
This year’s panel of distinguished judges includes Christian Burger, Burger Consulting Group; Mark Federle, Marquette University; Pietro Ferrari, George Brown College; Carol Hagen, Hagen Business Systems Inc,; Julian Kang, Texas A&M University; Don Kaplan, The Rhodes Group; Bob Stewart, First Capitol Solutions, LLC; and Bill White, Purdue School of Engineering & Technology.
In an ever-evolving market, some things stay the same. And the Constructech Vision Awards winners continue to be a testament to the old adage that hard work truly does pay off.
AEC/Design $251 million to $500 million
With more than 130 active projects, a 70,000-sq.ft., national headquarter facility, a 100,000-sq.ft. distribution center, and accumulative revenue exceeding $2 billion dollars, this family-run company is a St. Petersburg, Fla., “powerhouse.”
Experiencing an expansion in system files—from a couple of hundred gigabytes to a couple of terabytes—that correlated with a “hyper growth period” in business throughout recent years, Power Design found navigating and retrieving data to be increasingly cumbersome. The situation was compounded by the wide range of devices in use across several different locations, as well as a complex set of permission models for collaboration.
The solution that the company found to address the constrained approach to file management features advanced APIs (application programming interfaces) and open architecture, allowing Power Design to integrate files into its existing PM (project management) database—bridging document management gaps in the company’s workflow.
Granular permissions and advanced profile templates were leveraged to automate various processes. By automating tasks, streamlining processes to share data with third-party trades, and having the entire user base work off a single file repository that was in sync across different sites and devices, Power Design was able to increase efficiency.
“Our field supervisors and office staff,” says Project Executive Zac Elkins, “now work from the same platform, which has enabled instant access to critical construction and contract documents, at any given time, regardless of where our personnel are working.”
More than $500 million
Drawing from commercial gaming technology, this integrated worldwide engineering company engaged virtual reality apps to help clients understand designs—before items are delivered and projects built.
$26 million to $100 million
Gold award (tie):
Vogel Bros Building Co.
To address issues caused by discrete systems that kept project management and accounting from being integrated, this established contractor tapped its ERP provider—which came through with a solution.
Gold award (tie):
Looking to boost its subcontract invoice processing workflow, this multi-service, multi-state GC turned to its trusted CMS vendor for an upgrade that saves time and reduces paperwork.
A two punch of tech has enhanced project management at this construction management company, increasing project collaboration and escalating productivity.
An ISO 9001 certified company for quality management, construction management firm Pinnacle/CSG, Atlanta, Ga., determined that to grow in a challenging construction market, the company needed new technology solutions to increase staff efficiency, better support its mobile field force, improve customer service, and continue its paperless-based process, among other factors.
The company selected a Web-based project-management application and integrated accounting platform, which is recognized for its ability to provide realtime access to each of the construction company’s projects—and improve communication between the office and the field.
Now, whenever a contract adjustment is made, a commitment entered, or a change order submitted, the transaction is tracked in the software.
Accounting is helped by the ability to comprehensively control information entered, and to more efficiently deliver cost data for labor production and other processes. Indeed, the construction company’s staff finds the integrated technology solution makes a job much easier.
The solution also benefits project managers, who not only can quickly access current financial data for projects, but can use expanded functionality to streamline day-to-day tasks.
“The time it takes me to process submittals has reduced by at least half,” reports Project Manager Jude Rosilien. “The email feature is like an assistant for me and the dashboard keeps everything in order.”
After a plum retail renovation contract stretched a GC’s resources, it ratcheted up its technology to tackle a renewed and expanded program with a client it had impressed during a first project go-round.
$101 million to $250 million
Silver award (Tie):
M.J. Harris Construction Services
This healthcare facility contractor successfully sought to better manage communications within its document filing framework, and significantly reduce the time required to save project emails.
The challenge the company faced in relying on email for project-related communications was how to effectively and efficiently file all of it in a fashion that worked with its existing document storage strategy.
Historically, email archiving was a time-consuming manual process—assuming that important emails were even saved.
A failure to maintain key records of communications could present issues down the road if important project documentation should become needed.
A solution to the problem was found in an email system plug-in that allows a team to save emails to existing network folders. Teams are able to share a collection of folders typically used for saving emails for a particular project. The plug-in can also be universally configured to adhere to specific filing requirements. To make things even easier, the tool “learns” filing habits and makes suggestions as to where certain emails should be filed.
The company expects hours of unproductive time to be reclaimed with the new system, allowing people to focus more time on tasks that will ultimately provide greater value for the organization. It reports that, on average, its project managers send and receive 100 emails each day. According to Senior Project Manager Adam Inzina, who relates that more than half of his day is spent in the email systems, “the ability to quickly save all correspondence is invaluable.”
Silver award (Tie):
TN Ward Company
This construction manager and self-performing general contractor achieved desired standardization and automation in a variety of business practices by implementing an ERP solution across the organization.
More than $500 million
To coordinate a globally distributed team on a significant hospital project, effectively track documents and ensure long-term access to project information, this company turned to a cloud collaboration platform.
A public-private partnership to install a vast fiber-optic network needed a system to effectively support communication among stakeholders. A cloud-based document management platform delivered.
To address flawed data workflows symptomatic of growth and expansion, this Canadian GC leveraged ERP technology to standardize and integrate its payroll and employee data and processes.
Less than $5 million
To position itself to achieve growth goals it has set, this residential builder is putting in place software solutions now to help the lean operation work toward well exceeding an established starts benchmark.
Corporate Owner: Education
University of Alaska Fairbanks
A cloud-based document management platform is enabling this institution to reap benefits from an automated workflow to manage a major capital improvement project to upgrade its power plant.
Having the distinction of being a land, sea, and space grant institution, the University of Alaska Fairbanks is an international center for research, education, and the arts, integrating teaching, research, and public service as it educates students for active citizenship and prepares them for lifelong learning and careers.
With increasing maintenance costs, performance issues and risk of catastrophic failure, the decision was made to invest in a robust heat and power facility. Prep work to update the plant began in 2014 and the $245 million project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018.
Alaska’s remote environments create access and logistics challenges that can mess with strict deadlines—a risk exacerbated by long Alaskan winters. To mitigate the short construction season, the team plans to work through the winter of 2017 without any enclosures.
Information management for a project of this size and scope can also be challenging: With a project team expected to include 150 organizations from around the world, an effective means of collaboration was seen as critical.
To manage workflows on such a large scale—and with multiple interfacing parties—a cloud-based document-management platform, along with design software from Bentley Systems, was selected to control the flow of data across organizations on the project.
Specialty Trade: Electrical Work
$251 million to $500 million
Faith Technologies, Inc.
3D laser scanning technology is being deployed by this electrical, engineering, and technology systems contractor to verify existing against “as-builts,” as well as for QA/QC in the construction review process.
Specialty Trade: Electrical Work
More than $500 million
This electrical engineering, power, and communication services provider successfully integrated new technology with existing technology to create a streamlined standard process for field payroll.
Specialty Trade: Mechanical
Superior Air Handling
This HVAC sheet metal contractor applied a BIM-associated technology platform to facilitate extracting and analyzing project data to better gauge progress on duct and piping jobs.
An HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) sheet metal contractor Superior Air Handling, Cupertino, Calif., observed that productivity tracking for duct and piping typically involved either a guess of a percentage installed, or highlighting paper drawings to send to someone to extract that information.
This method, the company determined, not only failed to indicate the status of a project, but with little to no automation could be a lengthy process. So, to automate the process of gathering and reporting productivity, the specialty contractor implemented a BIM (building information modeling) application for field functions.
Superior frontloads into the system database all the information associated with each and every piece of a project, enabling a project engineer to go onto the job and—using a mobile device—select components installed from the database. A viewer has all drawings and information attached to each entry in the database.
The database is then filtered by the date to display items installed within a given timeframe, and the quantifiable values added and put next to the hours expended to generate a detailed labor report—based on actual performance—providing current information.
Specialty Contractor: Concrete Work
By leveraging 3D scanning technology complimented by graphics and inspection software, this GC/ specialty contractor overcame QA/QC challenges specific to the nature of cast-in-place concrete.
Turner Industries Group L.L.C.
For a heavy industrial contracting company, a business information reporting tool with enterprise database integration capabilities has enhanced decision making with critical realtime information.
A petroleum industry business operating multiple sites was bogged down by imprecise field time reporting and inefficient payroll processes. An automated solution eased the burden and saved money.
A growing marine construction business was able to reduce worker time to enter numerous job codes, automate payroll processes, and provide project information to customers on a timely basis.
When Mortenson Construction of Chicago was awarded the new North Residence Hall and Dining Commons project at the University of Chicago, the building contractor quickly began onboarding partners to join this team.
As the process commenced, the team began to discuss opportunities to collaborate and deliver the most efficient solutions within certain budgets, timeframes, and restraints, while still providing a world-class design at the end of the project to construct the nearly 400,000-sq.ft., 800-bed residence hall.
To consist of a four-building complex ranging in height from one to 15 stories, the complex would feature a unique precast façade structure, which became a focus for the team. Site logistics, construction schedule, and how the complex shapes were going to be fabricated and installed were all flagged as challenges. How to reduce rework and latency was also explored.
Working in multiple software platforms, remodeling scopes of work, and combining the iterative design and linear construction processes at the same time, were all challenges the team wanted to resolve.
Lastly, they wanted to make sure all the collaborative and innovative upfront work done by the team wasn’t lost in the field.
In addition to document viewing capabilities, a collection of BIM-compatible tools was embraced by the design-build team, including digital fabrication software to create fabrication-ready 3D models; and 3D model base estimating software to promote accuracy through early involvement—of the design team, Mortenson, and the trades.
The 2017 Vision Awards go to … constructech.com/awards