And the Winner is…
In a highly competitive marketplace, technology is the key differentiator separating leading-edge organizations from the competition. Learn which companies have reached new heights and become technology leaders in the third annual Vision Awards.
It’s been a challenging year for the construction community. The sluggish economy coupled with the long-term effects of last year’s terrorist attacks caused many building projects—especially in the commercial and industrial markets—to be delayed or cancelled. As a result, some contractors were forced to enter new market segments or expand their geographical presence. The residential market wasn’t hit quite as hard. Housing construction experienced some declines during the year, but overall the market remains fairly robust. In fact, low interest rates coupled with stock market volatility has made homeownership a rather appealing investment. However, it’s tough if not impossible to predict which direction the housing market is headed.
Despite the marketplace uncertainties, some construction firms rose above the crowd in 2002 and made technology implementation a priority. It would be easy—even tempting—for these organizations to put technology purchases on the back burner until the economy rebounds. But progressive, forward-thinking companies are not swayed by economic conditions. Rather, they remain true to a long-term strategy, keenly aware that technology tools are their allies in an increasingly competitive marketplace. They’ve made technology a priority and understand that the tools they adopt will help position them as market leaders. In a word, these companies have vision.
Constructech’s third annual Vision Awards acknowledge 22 such companies for having the foresight to make various hardware and software applications a part of their day-to-day operations. By doing so, they’ve garnered numerous benefits, including cost savings, improved workflow efficiencies, and enhanced communications, to name a few. Make no mistake; the companies Constructech is honoring have taken some considerable risks by making significant investments in technology. But their risks have been rewarded as evidenced by the success they’ve achieved in the industry.
The 21 gold, silver, and bronze award winners are in the categories of general contractor-commercial/industrial, architecture/engineering/design, mechanical/HVAC contractor, excavation/sitework contractor, government, single-family builder, multi-family builder, and utility contractor. This year we have added a new award and will present a special Team Award for the best project team with the most innovative use of technology on a single project.
An independent panel of distinguished construction, architecture, and technology industry experts evaluated the entries, which were judged on the success of a technology solution in meeting a challenge or solving a problem, the innovation exhibited by the application of the technology, and the benefits that were realized as a result of implementation.
Here’s your opportunity to learn about this year’s Vision Award winners and the ways in which technology has taken them to new heights.
($500 Million and over)
Turner Construction Co.
New York, N.Y.
Turner Construction Co., New York, N.Y., celebrated its 100th anniversary in May 2002, and the general contractor had a great deal of growth and success to commemorate as it looked back on the 20th century. Henry Chandlee Turner, a civil engineering graduate, started the company in 1902 when he brought a patented concrete reinforcing technique to the New York market. He was awarded contracts for building many of the concrete station stairways for New York City’s first subway line. In 1904, his company built the Gair Building in Brooklyn, the largest reinforced concrete building in the United States at the time. Turner’s reinforced concrete method soon became an accepted standard for constructing multi-storied buildings.
During the early part of the century, Turner expanded into several major cities, opening offices in Buffalo in 1908, Boston in 1916, Philadelphia in 1919, and Chicago in 1926. After World War I broke out, Turner was awarded contracts for a huge supply storehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other war-related facilities. Turner also built the Army Supply Base in South Brooklyn and the Navy and War Office buildings in Washington, D.C. During World War II, Turner was selected by the federal government to head a team of contractors charged with building Naval air bases throughout the western Pacific.
In 1941, Henry C. Turner was succeeded in the company’s presidency by his youngest brother, J. Archer Turner, who managed the company’s war production effort. In 1946, J. Archer Turner died, and Henry Chandlee Turner Jr., Henry’s eldest son, took over the leadership of the company, serving as chairman and president for 24 years. He was succeeded by Howard S. Turner, son of J. Archer Turner, who ran the firm until 1978 and was the last Turner to serve in the company’s senior leadership.
Turner completed several landmark projects in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, including Madison Square Garden, the IBM Building, and several buildings at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Turner became a publicly owned firm in 1969 and continued to grow by expanding its presence in the West. One West Coast project the firm recently completed was the San Diego Convention Center expansion project.
Since its inception, Turner has been an aggressive adopter of technology and continually seeks new ways to make its personnel more efficient and effective. The company is also a proponent of field-based management tools to cut costs, mitigate risks, and keep projects on track. The $216 million San Diego Convention Center project is one example of that philosophy.
Turner equipped key members of the project team with Nextel phones and access to SkyLog, a Web-based system that allowed them to record important information via their cell phones while in the field. For example, Turner personnel were able to create detailed, written project logs of changes, additions, and other important project events at the convention center by simply talking into their cellular phones. The words were saved as digital files on a password-protected Web server and then transcribed in the office.
Turner equipped 15 members of the convention center project-management team with SkyLog, which was developed by Pacific DataVision, San Diego, Calif. The technology allowed superintendents, project managers, and engineers to discard handwritten notes in favor of recording their thoughts at the site throughout the day. In other words, events and decisions were recorded as they took place. As a result, change orders were more effectively documented and tracked, and notes related to construction activity, inspections, subcontractor arrivals, and material deliveries were logged faster, easier, and more accurately. At the end of each day, staff members returned to the office to review and sign the printed logs.
During the final months of the convention center project, Turner crews worked in two shifts, seven days a week, to complete the work on schedule. But despite the speed at which work was occurring, superintendents and project managers were able to record work and events as they took place using the SkyLog system.
Turner also considers SkyLog an effective risk-management tool. Because the logs are date and time-stamped, disputes are easier to resolve—if not completely avoided. Additionally, events and sequences are easier to recreate and substantiate. Turner expects to glean additional benefits from the technology as more employees become accustomed to the system. For instance, delayed requests for information (RFIs), which can cause projects to fall behind schedule, will be reduced and eventually eliminated. Also, decisions made at client meetings can be accurately recorded in realtime, thereby eliminating disputes, and change orders can be tracked more easily to ensure proper payment.
“This is a fascinating use of technology,” comments Constructech Vision Awards judge Kristine Fallon. “It redeploys staff in a way that leverages their expertise and it provides a comprehensive audit trail without burdening staff with data-entry chores.”
A century ago, Henry Chandlee Turner founded a construction firm by bringing innovative techniques to market. One hundred years later, Turner Construction is relying on leading-edge technologies to maintain its position as an industry leader.
DPR Construction Inc.
Redwood City, Calif.
What’s in a name? Plenty if you ask Doug Woods, Peter Nosler, and Ron Davidowski. The three men founded DPR Construction, which is headquartered in Redwood City, Calif., in 1990 and came up with the company name by combining the first letters of their first names. The trio’s goal was to build “a truly great construction company by the year 2000.” Twelve years after developing that mission statement, the commercial contractor has a management staff of more than 800 individuals and 1,000 craft persons in 17 offices throughout the United States. Revenue has increased from $200 million in 1992 to more than $1 billion in 2001.
DPR employees share four core values, which serve as the company’s foundation. The values—integrity, uniqueness, enjoyment, and ever forward—are displayed on the walls of every DPR jobsite trailer and in each of its offices. In fact, DPR is relying on those values to achieve its new goal: “To become one of the most admired companies by 2030.”
Recently, DPR faced the challenge of renovating and expanding a medical facility without causing any interruption in services. DPR was the general contractor for the $55 million Good Samaritan Hospital construction project in Phoenix, which included building a 205,000-sq.ft. addition as well as 296,000-sq.ft of renovations. Additionally, a 532-stall, five-story parking garage and a new chiller system were added to the facility.
Good Samaritan’s operating suite (OR) is located on the second floor of the hospital. Construction plans called for the demolition and renovation of the hospital’s basement and first floor, the addition of a women’s center on the third floor, and construction of the addition on two sides of the OR. In essence, DPR needed to perform work above, below, and on two sides of the OR without disrupting medical procedures.
Additionally, construction of the addition and the new parking structure required the existing hospital entrance and parking garage to be demolished. Furthermore, the new chiller system had to be connected to the hospital without any interruption in service.
Ensuring that construction would not disturb medical services was only one of the many challenges DPR faced. The GC also required an effective way to communicate its proposal to project stakeholders and it needed to keep Life Flight pilots abreast of the location of cranes, which were situated in the direct flight path of helicopters landing at the hospital. Finally, geographically dispersed project team members had to receive project information in a timely fashion.
To overcome these challenges, DPR produced a 4D model of the project (4D = 3D plus time). By creating the model and imbedding Microsoft Project Schedule into the objects, DPR was able to visually validate the project schedule and communicate the plan quickly and precisely to project stakeholders.
To create the model, DPR used Common Point 4D, design software developed by Common Point Technologies, Menlo Park, Calif. The 4D model was used to communicate plans at subcontractor prebid meetings, hospital staff meetings, as well as meetings with city of Phoenix officials. As the project schedule changed, the 4D model was updated and reviewed. The hospital also placed a computer complete with 4D animation in its lobby, allowing visitors, patients, and staff to view the project.
In addition, DPR used ProjectPoint, developed by Autodesk Buzzsaw, San Rafael, Calif., as the collaborative Web service on the Good Samaritan project. ProjectPoint let team members post electronic updates to documents and drawings. Also, project participants were notified via email when updates were available, thereby shortening the time needed to distribute information. Clearly, DPR understood that effective communication was the key to successfully completing the Good Samaritan project. By employing the very latest modeling technologies and communicating via the Web, construction work was completed and critical medical services went uninterrupted.
“DPR showed outstanding creativity in solving a client’s issue with this solution,” says Gretchen McComb, director, owner services, for FMI Corp., management consultants to the construction industry, headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., and Vision Awards judge.
Swinerton Management & Consulting
San Francisco, Calif.
Few places experience more congestion than an airport, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is certainly no exception. Three years ago, LAX decided to embark on a project to ease congestion, create safer taxiing for airplanes, and improve aircraft ground movement efficiency.
Naturally, the project had to get off the ground without disturbing the airport’s day-to-day operations. To achieve that goal, LAX selected Swinerton Management & Consulting, San Francisco, Calif., to oversee the project.
The key to the project’s success was the extension of the Sepulveda Boulevard Tunnel, which involved connecting the east and west portions of taxiway C. The greatest challenge Swinerton faced was to build the tunnel extension without causing too much impact to automobile traffic. To achieve that objective, the general contractor turned to technology. In fact, the tunnel extension was the first project in LAX’s construction history to use a centralized database.
Swinerton’s first step at LAX was to set up an onsite trailer complete with a high-speed DSL Internet connection, Citrix server, and the use of Expedition, a project-management tool developed by Primavera Systems, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Swinerton granted appropriate levels of software access rights to allow designers, engineers, inspectors, and owners to work from the same system.
The system allowed project managers, airport officials, and city inspectors to deliver, store, and retrieve communications, as well as post and locate updates from RFIs, approved submittals, and project alerts. They also were able to retrieve and print project logs from offsite locations via the Internet.
During a critical phase of the tunnel extension project, Swinerton’s project team had to determine the most appropriate means of protecting communications and electrical manholes from aircraft weight loads. Crews excavated around manholes to establish the wiring’s positioning and sensitivity. Following excavation, workers uploaded high-resolution digital photographs of the manholes into the Expedition database so designers could begin their work. Although the designers and engineers never saw the excavated site or existing manholes in person, they quickly assessed the situation from photos and color printouts and created supportive encasements for the manholes.
Swinerton’s reliance on technology to help manage the LAX project hardly comes as a surprise. In fact, the contractor has a long history of innovation in the construction industry. The company’s roots go back to the late 1880s when Swinerton was founded as a small contractor in the California Central Valley. The firm relocated to San Francisco at the turn of the century and was heavily involved in rebuilding the city after the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire. During the 1930s and 1940s, Swinerton maintained a group of partnerships and corporations that offered construction services on both the national and international level. The company began to consolidate in the 1960s and became Swinerton & Walberg in 1967. Today, the employee-owned firm maintains offices in California, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.
Swinerton has always championed innovative construction techniques and services, including the use of modified structural steel frame systems, slip form concrete technology, and tilt-up concrete panel systems. Additionally, the firm was an early adopter of construction technology, including online project-management systems, which it helped pioneer in 1982. Swinerton was also involved in the development of a Web-based project-management system by helping create a set of collaborative project process-management tools. More recently, the company worked with a software developer to integrate a 4D computer-aided design (CAD) program. Today, Swinerton’s jobsites are linked online and feature live Web camera transmissions.
The first LAX project to employ a centralized database was certainly a success. The project-management system led to accelerated completion time, improved communications, reduced costs, and improved quality—all without any interruptions at one of the busiest airports in the world.
Soltek Pacific General Contractors
San Diego, Calif.
The Hoover High School renovation project was an education of sorts for Soltek Pacific, San Diego, Calif. The general contractor understood that the project could not be managed effectively without an integrated project-management system, yet it also sought to redefine how it managed all of its projects from beginning to end.
Much of Soltek’s success over the past three decades is the result of partnering and adherence to the philosophy of total quality management. The firm believes partnering encourages effective communication among project team members, which helps accomplish goals such as timely completion of projects, budget adherence, quality, and safety. The total quality management philosophy, meanwhile, focuses on customer satisfaction and continuous improvement—the cornerstones of the business.
Soltek Pacific was founded in 1974 by Steve Thompson, Larry Richie, and John Myers shortly after the three men met in an apprenticeship class that Richie was teaching. Over the past three decades, the company has grown to become one of the largest contractors in the San Diego area, completing renovation and modernization projects for public and private clients.
For many years, Soltek handled project management, document control, and field administration at individual jobsites, which required a field trailer at each site to house servers, computers, and the software necessary to support the project managers, engineers, field supervisors, and administrators at each jobsite. Naturally, this approach was extremely inefficient as it generated unnecessary overhead and forced administrators to spend the majority of their time performing duplicate data entry.
When Soltek assumed the Hoover High School renovation job in May 2002, it realized that the project could not be accomplished efficiently without using a project-management system capable of integrating scheduling, accounting, and the myriad day-to-day functions related to the job.
The $5.5 million, six-phase project calls for significant renovations to the San Diego-based high school, which was built in 1928. Work includes plumbing, lighting, and power upgrades for all restrooms; fire system upgrades; installation of underground utilities; construction of a new science classroom; and modernization of six existing science classrooms.
The contractor sought a project-management system that would increase efficiencies by automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks; integrate with Primavera’s Project Planner (P3); automatically incorporate schedule changes and submittal changes; and forecast projected budget and profit figures. As a result, Soltek adopted Prolog Manager, the project-management system developed by Meridian Project Systems, Folsom, Calif.
Following adoption of the system, Soltek Pacific reassigned three of the four Hoover High School project administrators as the technology made it possible for a single administrator to accomplish the work. For example, prior to implementing a project-management system, the submittal process required six months to complete. The procedure is now achieved in two months—a $35,000 savings.
Integration of Prolog with Primavera’s P3 led to further efficiencies. For instance, Soltek can automatically adjust buyout groups and submittal packages, reflecting changes to the schedule. Additionally, the information flow is streamlined, allowing project managers to identify and resolve issues more quickly. Collaboration with subcontractors has also been enhanced.
Previously, Soltek’s profit projection was accomplished using Microsoft Excel in combination with job cost reports, and the accuracy of the data was often questionable. However, using Prolog’s Cost Control module, project managers are able to track budgets and project costs in a single application, which leads to a greater degree of accuracy when projecting profit margins.
Soltek Pacific restructured its work environment as a result of the implementation, which led to an increased competitive advantage, lower overhead costs, elimination of duplicate data entry, and improved reporting and decision making. In addition, project managers have derived significant value from having projects, budgets, and schedules remotely accessible within a single system, allowing them to focus on decisionmaking and collaboration rather than data management.
VCC (Vratsinas Construction Co.)
Little Rock, Ark.
Retail construction projects are all about speed. The faster a store or shopping mall is built, the sooner it can open for business. VCC, Little Rock, Ark., understands this philosophy as it demonstrated when it employed fast-track construction to build the Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, Texas, six months ahead of schedule. Of course, the project wouldn’t have been completed ahead of the deadline if VCC hadn’t leveraged a wide array of technology tools.
Gus Vratsinas, Sam Alley, and Ed DeMoss were no strangers to the construction community when they launched VCC 15 years ago. The three men were working for a general contractor that had fallen on tough economic times when they decided to start their own company.
VCC has grown significantly since its inception. The company specializes in mall expansion and renovation and generated revenue of $275 million in 2001. The general contractor also has been a pioneer in the development and application of construction-management technology, having developed its own project-management system, Construction Management System.
VCC completed the $80 million, 1.5 million-sq.ft. Stonebriar Mall project by using a variety of technology tools designed to improve materials delivery and enhance information gathering and decision making. Acting as the GC/project manager on the job, VCC effectively managed communications and coordination between the owner, architect, engineer, 50 contractors, and 500 individuals on site.
VCC used StarProject for Notes, the project-management system developed by Geac AEC Business Solutions, Tampa, Fla., to streamline work and communications between the project participants. The system allowed the owner to review project information and enabled VCC to track cost reports and project accounting and management online. Handling contracts, purchase orders, cost reports, and sharing data with the owner were greatly enhanced as a result.
The project-management system also provided VCC with risk-management benefits, including the ability to thoroughly monitor insurance certificates, faster claims handling, more accurate material deliveries, faster subcontract implementation, and timely decision making, which ultimately saved the GC and project owner hundreds of thousands of dollars.
StarProject for Notes was just one of the technologies that allowed VCC to complete the Stonebriar Mall project months ahead of deadline. The company used IBM Dominos and Lotus Notes for networking and messaging as well as connecting remote project locations with corporate offices. Blackberry devices were used to help VCC personnel stay connected, respond immediately to client needs, and provide reviews and approvals, which accelerated deliveries and helped maintain the schedule.
Additionally, StarProject for Notes was integrated with other software packages, including StarBuilder, the accounting package developed by Geac, as well as VCC’s estimating software, developed by Timberline Software Corp., Beaverton, Ore. As a result, the firm was able to verify and adjust quantities for projects, especially for subcontractors, which helped diminish project delays and potentially expensive cost overruns. VCC purchased construction materials, safety products, tools, and supplies via the Internet through an online supplier, Diversified Construction Materials. Consistent negotiated pricing and volume discounts contributed to improved profitability and improved cost control.
Finally, the Stonebriar construction site was networked via high-speed Internet access. Data was replicated every hour to provide up-to-date information and reporting, enabling VCC executives and the owner to maintain project control. Web cameras were used to broadcast live images of the mall on the Internet, allowing the owner to view the jobsite. VCC scanned project documents, enabling time and cost savings from data searches and providing the owner with CD-ROM files for the entire structure.
VCC understands that projects stay on schedule when timely decisions are made. The information necessary to make such decisions is the byproduct of the many technology tools that the company has adopted.
Evan Yares,Constructech Vision Awards judge and CTO for Cyon Research, Bethesda, Md., was impressed with VCC’s ability to complete the project ahead of time, saying, “Shaving six months off a big project is not something that can be done just by installing some software. It takes a lot of attention to detail and an effort to break bottlenecks wherever they are found. Vratsinas used many tools to do this…but mostly they used good management.”
Bostleman Corp., Holland, Ohio, has always been a family operation. Founded by Fred Bostleman after he returned from World War II, the company has been guided for more than 50 years by three generations of the Bostleman family. The company’s initial success was as a general contractor. When Dick Bostleman joined his father in the business, he recognized an opportunity to grow the company by developing ongoing business relationships as a provider of construction management services for retail, food service, and other companies. Years later, when Bill Bostleman came on board as the third generation of family leadership, a new era unfolded for the company as it began developing and building office parks, corporate headquarters, and other institutional installations.
By 1999, Bostleman was processing all of its project documentation on a Web-based project-management system that was built in house. The company had three goals when it developed the system: bring more order and coordination to project communications while reducing reliance on faxes and phone calls; provide a common format and access method to all project information enterprisewide; and extend access to project information to the field, branch offices, and other companies without expensive, dedicated connections or time-consuming software installations on every desktop.
The in-house system met all of its goals. However, organizations partnering with Bostleman on a project could not store or communicate information on their own. Indeed, the value of the system was limited to Bostleman because it hosted and controlled the project data. Thus, the need for an application that would enable multiple organizations to gain the same efficiencies was recognized. As a result, a new company, ProjectVillage, was formed to develop and market the technology.
The first version of ProjectVillage was released in November 2000, and Bostleman had migrated all of its projects to the system one year later. In January 2002, Bostleman and ProjectVillage developed a technology partner program designed to remove some of the barriers to the adoption of online collaboration for Bostleman’s subcontractors. Under the program, ProjectVillage supplies participating subcontractors with a free laptop computer and digital camera. Additionally, Bostleman provides each project a computer workstation and a high-bandwidth Internet connection. In return, the participating subs agree to subscribe to ProjectVillage for six months. After the project is completed, the sub owns the laptop and the camera.
Since the inception of the program, Bostleman and its partners have collaborated on more than 1,500 requests for proposal (RFPs), 1,200 change orders, and 250 RFIs. Additionally, Bostleman’s project managers have received more than 2,500 daily reports and 5,500 digital photos from the field. Bostleman estimates that ProjectVillage accounts for $110,000 in annual savings on travel, long distance calls, faxes, and payroll.
Other returns are harder to quantify but are equally impressive, including better senior management oversight, improved enforcement of procedures, reduced claims because an audit trail is automatically collected by the application, and, most importantly, a competitive advantage in the industry.
Constructech Vision Awards judge Evan Yares says, “Here is an example of the innovation being in creating a compelling offer rather than just creating compelling software. Bostleman figured out a way to get subcontractor buy-in using their system.”
Coleman-Adams Construction Inc.
Safety is a significant priority for Coleman-Adams Construction, Forest, Va. So much so, in fact, that the contractor employs a full-time safety director who monitors jobsites and files detailed reports. However, the value of individual, paper-based reports was limited, causing the company to turn to technology to garner more valuable, in-depth information that could be used to identify trends and improve safety throughout the organization.
Coleman-Adams has its roots in one of the oldest and most respected construction firms in Virginia—Coleman Construction Co. The company was formed as a partnership in 1971 and incorporated two years later. The general contractor specializes in commercial and industrial buildings. Projects and renovations have included auto dealerships, churches, professional and medical office buildings, commercial retail buildings, restaurants, motels, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and educational projects. The employee-owned firm has grown steadily over the past 30 years and generates annual revenue of about $40 million.
The safety director visits jobsites on a random basis, checking not only for the safety of Coleman-Adams personnel, but for its subcontractors as well. After each inspection, the safety director completes a form that details any problems or safety compliance issues. The document is signed by the project superintendent and copies are distributed to the company president, project manager, vice president of operations, and a secretary, who files the form. In addition, the safety director keeps a copy of the report for his files.
Obviously, the process generates a significant amount of paper, much of which is discarded after reports are reviewed. Additionally, the reports include significant information that, if collated, could offer Coleman-Adams valuable insights into its overall safety performance—the performance of specific superintendents or subcontractors—providing a much more focused direction for safety training.
To garner that information, Coleman-Adams automated its safety report process using the Palm OS Handspring Visor, Pendragon Forms 3.2, and Microsoft Access. Pendragon Forms is a software program designed to create data-gathering applications for the Palm. Using the program, Coleman-Adams created an application that collects all the information that was included on the paper form and feeds it directly into a Microsoft Access database application. As a result, the firm can print a safety report or group of reports based on various criteria, such as job or date of inspection, and print a report directly to a rich-text format file, which is saved in the safety subfolder of the job’s document storage folder.
Individuals that had previously obtained paper copies of safety reports now receive email notifications that reports are available for review. They simply navigate to the appropriate job folder to view the documents. The system also notifies the appropriate parties via email of any exceptions on a given report, including the fields in which the exceptions occurred. It also collates, compares, and contrasts all safety data for analysis.
The automated solution has benefited Coleman-Adams in two significant ways. First, it has decreased the amount of paper involved in the safety inspection process. More importantly, however, the contractor has the ability to collect valuable empirical safety data, which has led to an increased level of competitiveness and a safer work environment.
Constructech Vision Awards judges took note of Coleman-Adam’s innovative approach to technology. “In this case, an innovative project to rationalize processes by using off-the-shelf tools made a big difference,” says Vision Awards judge Evan Yares.
Fortney & Weygandt Inc.
What can you get for $250? In 1978, Bob Fortney and Bob Weygandt invested that sum—their combined savings—to incorporate as a general contracting firm. Initially, it was difficult for the fledging firm to compete in the Cleveland, Ohio, market, which was dominated by established construction companies that had been in business for decades. As a result, Fortney and Weygandt spent significant time developing philosophies, determining market niches, and setting corporate goals.
The work eventually paid off when the duo recognized a need in the commercial construction market for a regional shopping mall specialist and decided to fill that niche. As the marketplace changed during the 1980s and ‘90s, Fortney & Weygandt evolved into a national account general contractor.
Much of Fortney & Weygandt’s success has come as a result of effective customer service and communications. In fact, when the company recognized a need for efficient communications between its home office and field staff, it developed a custom system, Superview 2000. The system is used to transfer field records into the company’s database. On a daily basis, field superintendents synchronize various records, including timesheets, phone logs, two-week schedules, safety reports, expense reports, email, daily field reports, job meeting minutes, memos, and requests for information (RFIs), and transfer the data to the company’s database and its accounting system. Similarly, project managers and the accounting administrator can transfer necessary records to the field.
The technology behind Superview 2000 is the utilization of a Microsoft Access database combined with a Microsoft Outlook fax and email server. Field superintendents are not required to understand how to use the fax or email system; they merely point and click. All of the firm’s field superintendents have received in-house training and use the system on a daily basis.
Superview 2000 allows for instant communication between project participants, including the owner, architect, engineer, project manager, subcontractor, and field superintendent, providing essential documentation automatically. For example, the email and fax features allow two-week schedules to be automatically copied to every subcontractor and the project manager. When requests for information are sent to the architect, the project manager is automatically copied.
Clearly, Superview 2000 has enhanced Fortney & Weygandt’s level of competitiveness and improved customer service by maintaining the quality of information. As a result, costs have decreased and product quality has increased as field superintendents spend more time supervising projects and less time dealing with paperwork.
Constructech Vision Awards judge Evan Yares comments, “Sometimes home-grown solutions make sense. In this case, it’s an application built on top of Access combined with a fax server and Outlook.”
Allied Construction Services II Inc.
The period immediately following World War II was a good time to be a homebuilder. As GIs returned home and reunited with their families, there was an unprecedented demand for new housing. David Altman recognized this need and in 1948 launched Altman Bros. Inc. along with his brothers, Irving and Berel. The three men operated the framing company until 1988 when David retired.
Under the guidance of David’s son Brett, the company evolved into Allied Construction Services II Inc., Glenside, Pa., and serves as the construction arm of the Altman Companies, which manages properties built by Allied and others. The company handles a wide range of projects, including multi-family residential housing, senior citizen housing, and market-rate housing. Allied also builds large commercial retail and office projects and works with state and federal government housing agencies.
As Allied continued to grow, it looked for ways to differentiate itself from the competition while enhancing relationships with clients, designers, subcontractors, and suppliers. Additionally, the company wanted to improve customer service and augment productivity.
Allied achieved these goals by implementing PrimeSite, a private label online project-collaboration application developed by IronSpire, Tigard, Ore.
PrimeSite allows Allied to brand the service with its own identity, essentially making online jobsites extensions of the Allied Website. By marketing the service as its own collaboration tool, the general contractor gains an edge when prequalifying new clients. Additionally, demonstrating strong project-management and project-communication skills has helped Allied increase the size of its client base.
Allied uses PrimeSite to improve communications between jobsites and the corporate office, making the organization more efficient. For example, realtime access to project information lets project team members quickly access the documents they need. Additionally, owners have increased visibility into projects and can manage changes. Meanwhile, subcontractors and suppliers can more easily share information. Furthermore, automatic notifications have accelerated the approval process and improved accountability. As a result, Allied expects to complete more projects without increasing the size of its office staff.
Allied believes it will enhance relationships with project partners even further as it begins to use IronSpire’s technology for facility management tasks. The company’s vision is to create a central repository for information about each building it constructs throughout the lifecycle of the structure. During construction, for example, PrimeSite will serve as the repository for all the data that will be required later for facility maintenance, including as-built drawings, material specifications, and supplier information. Plus, online searches offer immediate access to information necessary for maintenance and repair as well as warranty and liability information. The company anticipates more satisfied tenants by reducing the response time for service and repairs.
Allied Construction Services is a vastly different organization than it was 54 years ago when it entered the market as a framing company. Yet, the company continues to maintain the traditions that Altman Bros. was founded on, taking the best from the past and applying it to the building technologies of the future.
Construction Network Inc.
Sean Stem wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a residential builder. George Stem wanted his son to go to college instead. As is turns out, the debate over Sean’s future got George thinking about his career, and the result was Construction Network Inc. (CNI), Jonesboro, Ark., which George Stem started in 1990.
Today, father, son, and Ryan Kibler, Stem’s son-in-law, run CNI, a growing firm that generated $1.2 million in revenue its first year and expects to close 2002 with approximately $26.5 million. There’s no question that an aggressive approach to technology has helped drive CNI’s growth and success.
The majority of the general contractor’s projects are state-funded, low-bid awards, including schools, fine arts facilities, churches, and wildlife areas. The diversity of these projects coupled with the company’s rapid growth led to the implementation of technology that would offer greater accounting and project control.
When CNI had outgrown its former software systems, it understood that failure to implement new technology could jeopardize its future success. As a result, CNI implemented StarBuilder, the accounting system developed by Geac AEC Business Solutions, Tampa, Fla., and StarProjects for Notes, Geac’s project-management system.
CNI has realized a variety of benefits as a result of the accounting system implementation, including significant timesavings and improved profit margins. The ability to create detailed transaction records helps reduce research time and consolidates workforce efforts, leading to a $120,000 annual savings in overhead. In fact, CNI has tripled its volume and is working more effectively with fewer employees. Also, workflow efficiencies have increased, and the monthly billing process has accelerated, eliminating at least 100 monthly telephone calls to the accounting department.
CNI has derived significant benefits from StarProject for Notes as well. The project-management system has helped the contractor organize project information and update project managers on the status of jobs, enabling them to identify where projects are over budget or off schedule.
CNI’s previous equipment-tracking system consisted of word-of-mouth communication and paper trails. However, StarProject for Notes’ tools and equipment tracking feature has helped CNI increase efficiency and communication by tracking where equipment is sent, how long it has been at a location, and who has it. It also provides managers with lists of missing equipment as well as equipment that needs repair.
For CNI, the benefits of technology are substantial, including gaining four days a month, trimming staff size, increasing volume, and decreasing the amount of time needed to answer field inquiries.
Construction Coordinators Inc.
The founders of Construction Coordinators Inc. (CCI), Needham, Mass, are strong believers in innovative uses of technology. In fact, they started the company believing that implementing appropriate technology solutions would allow a small company to be competitive. So when CCI needed a way to improve project communications, it developed a system using technology tools it already possessed.
The commercial/industrial contractor, launched more than a decade ago by Mark Fisher, along with his wife, Pamela, and his father, Fred, has experienced steady growth by adhering to its technology commitment and promoting safety training via a wide range of teaching methods at Coordinators College—the name CCI gave the classes it regularly offers in its conference room. The firm prides itself on exceptional project delivery, which validates its technology focus.
CCI’s projects are typically short-duration, highly detailed interior jobs, including lobbies, hotel public spaces, restaurants, and stores. Because of the projects’ concise time span, effective communication is absolutely critical. Weekly job meetings with owners and architects are simply not timely enough to resolve problems that could result in delays that affect the completion date. Rather, the contractor needed a method to quickly communicate the issues and changes that regularly occur on the jobsite.
However, the cost of the technolgy was a key issue for CCI, which was in the midst of converting from its outdated accounting software to the Timberline Gold package. CCI investigated Web-based project-management systems but found them too expensive. The firm also considered various contract-management products, but believed the price and learning curve were too steep.
Instead, the company developed an in-house job-communication system using Microsoft Windows Explorer to create a directory structure to track all documents by project. Subdirectories were developed for various documents, including transmittals, schedules, changes, meeting minutes, and RFIs. Additionally, Microsoft Word and Excel are used to create templates for the various documents, and Adobe Acrobat is used to create PDF files for distribution.
However, the in-house system had its limitations. Most notably, project information was only accessible to internal team members. Clearly, additional technology was required to connect outside project participants to the system. As a result, CCI developed a sophisticated and detailed report that incorporated all of the information about the status and progress of a project over a weekly period. The report includes a narrative on the progress as well as a list of action items and photos. When issues arise between the reports, the company produces another report that details and visually demonstrates the problem.
CCI understands that construction technology is constantly evolving, and businesses cannot afford to stand pat when it comes to adopting new and improved solutions. Thus, the company continually explores methods to further automate its systems, including the integration of the Timberline Project Management system with the Timberline Gold accounting system. CCI also plans to investigate Web-based tools to determine if they offer improvements to its homegrown system. In the meantime, the company has hastened communications between project team members with an innovative solution.
Constructech Vision Awards judges admired CCI’s use of its existing technologies. Evan Yares says, “Sometimes the best solutions are the ones that use the tools at hand. In this case, CCI used Adobe Acrobat to great advantage as a transmission medium for data created in a diverse set of tools.”
($251 Million and Over)
Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group
Parsons Corp., Pasadena, Calif., is an engineering and construction company that employs more than 11,000 engineers, designers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. At any time, the company has 2,500 clients and 8,000 projects worldwide. The largest of the firm’s five business units—the Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group (I&T)—oversees 4,000 of the organization’s projects and manages 5,000 employees and 1,000 subcontractors while providing planning, engineering, construction, operations, and project-management services to clients in the industrial, environmental, federal, infrastructure, and master/urban markets.
Clearly, project coordination is critical to the business unit’s success. As a result, Parsons I&T consolidated projects into a multi-user environment where consistent access to information would be available. It achieved that objective by implementing Primavera Enterprise, the project-management system developed by Primavera Systems, Bala Cynwyd, Pa., and integrating it with the firm’s disparate software applications, including Prism Project Manager, developed by Ares Corp., Burlingame, Calif., which Parsons uses for its cost-management needs, such as planning, budgeting, tracking, forecasting, and reporting on the performance and productivity of a job. The solution is also used to import schedule activity data from Primavera. The integrated solution also includes wInsight, an earned value-management tool, developed by C/S Solutions, Los Angeles, Calif., which Parson’s uses for trends reporting and analysis on its government jobs. Parson’s also uses Microfusion Millenium, a cost-management tool developed by Integrated Management Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; and the estimating solution developed by Timberline Corp., Beaverton, Ore.
Additionally, Parsons uses @Risk, risk and analysis software developed by Palisade Corp., Newfield, N.Y.; D4 Cost, an estimating tool develped by DC+D Technologies, Tampa, Fla.; and Crystal Reports, developed by Segate, Scotts Valley, Calif.
Parsons’ integration philosophy is to create a complementary system of software applications that enable project managers to select appropriate solutions and integrate them with one another. Additionally, Parsons believes that in order to control projects effectively, various databases and software solutions are necessary so that data from numerous projects can be brought together for analysis. The information can be replicated into one report, eliminating the need for manual input.
Parsons I&T garnered immediate benefits via the integration. For example, Methodology Manager, one of the Enterprise modules, helped streamline the design process. In fact, time savings were recognized the third time the module was used.
When Parsons I&T submitted a bid on the $7.4 billion Everglades project in Jacksonville, Fla., the Jacksonville Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District mandated the use of Primavera Enterprise. The 15-year project includes 125 programs, and the project-management system gives the firm the ability to manage the large-scale job.
Parsons is integrating Primavera Enterprise, Project Planner, Expedition, and SureTrak Project Manager with its human resources and accounting systems, a strategy it believes will be more cost effective than an in-house system.
Integration has paid dividends for Parsons I&T. In fact, the business unit understands that integration is the future of project control and believes in integrating business processes, not just software solutions. By enforcing a program control cycle, projects are less likely to be over budget or delayed, which leads to substantial cost savings.