The Cream of the Crop for 2004
Technology has quickly become a mainstay in the U.S. construction industry. Previously only the larger, more sophisticated construction firms embarked down the technology trail. the market has since evolved significantly to the point where even the smallest specialty contractors have found a place on their toolbelt for technology.
For many, gauging the adoption rate of technology within this industry can often be a difficult task. For Constructech, it takes no more than a look at its annual Vision Awards to realize that the trend of technology adoption continues to gain its footing in the industry.
This year is no different as Constructech, along with the participation of its distinguished panel of judges, uncovered 32 outstanding companies that use technology as a competitive differentiator. In fact, the companies featured in the pages that follow have embraced technology to solve their most critical business issues.
The ways in which each of these companies and organizations has applied technology are as broad as the markets they serve. In fact, some of the more impressive winners this year are those that solved a critical business problem with a bit of homegrown effort.
As an example, one company undertook a project, headed up by one of its project managers and its information technology director, in which it developed a custom project management solution in-house based on the best features from handful of software packages it had been testing. For whatever reason, each software package didn’t fit the needs of the organization. This prompted a couple of technology visionaries to dedicate nearly two years of their time, aside from their day-to-day activities, to custom build a solution that uniquely fits the needs of the company.
The impressive thing about another one of this year’s winners is not in the software it used or even in the problem it was addressing. Instead, the most significant aspect of this winner is how the company views technology. This facilities management comapny was seeking a more efficient way to handle its route management program, yet the company realized that in order to address this problem it needed to overcome its own internal issues before it could apply technology.
This is a perfect example of the true effectiveness of properly applying technology. Unlike many other industries before it, construction is not simply throwing technology at an issue hoping it is the cure. Instead, it is using technology only when it believes it can properly fit the need.
This year’s winners encompass a broad range of categories: general contracting/commercial; general contracting/residential; single-family builder; multi-family builder; specialty contractor; subcontractor; construction management; design/build; building management; government; retail/wholesale; transportation; industrial manufacturing; and a team award for the City of Atlanta.
Each entry was judged by some of the most well-respected names in the industry including Sally Love, president, Paragon Worldwide, www.paragonworldwide.com, Greenville, S.C., Christian Burger, president, Burger Consulting, www.burgerconsulting.com, Chicago, Ill., Gretchen McComb, director of research, FMI Corp., www.fminet.com, Raleigh, N.C., Brad Holtz, president and CEO, Cyon Research, www.cyonresearch.com, Bethesda, Md., and Joel Orr, vice president and chief visionary, Cyon Research.
Year after year, winning a Vision Award becomes much more complicated as the bar of excellence continues to rise and the business issues are increasingly complex.
We hope you enjoy learning about the outstanding companies who have earned the 2004 Constructech Vision Awards.
MCR Services Inc.
Every general contracting firm says it wants to be the most dynamic in the field. MCR Services, www.mcrservices.com, Columbus, Ohio, is one of those rare examples of a company that is actually following its mission.
Established in 1994 by partners Wade Hungerford and Peter Nestinger, MCR Services focused its initial efforts on the management aspect of the business. As a result, the company was able to develop a strong team of industry experts, totaling more than 220 years of experience collectively, which has helped produce more than $20 million in sales on more than 100 projects in less than six years.
For a company that demands excellence out of every employee working in its projects it’s no wonder the firm decided to focus on its software and hardware.
The company was having success with its software for the process of setting up groups and organizing contacts by project and vendor type. Yet it wanted to go a step further and link other programs to these groups to create a global database. This was met with some resistance from its software provider.
This didn’t stop MCR, as it decided to develop its own application in Microsoft Access. It then proceeded to move this database into SQL Server, linked it to Microsoft Outlook, and brought it up to the Microsoft .NET platform. Thus Interchange, which it coined for its proprietary software for contacts, projects, assets, reports, forms, classes, elements, and tasks, was born. In fact, it even became a tool for its marketing and sales efforts as well, giving it a complete customer management tool.
Still the benefits for MCR didn’t stop there. Interchange has become so useful that contracting partners wanted to adopt a version. This has prompted MCR to further develop the software and license it.
In total, Interchange has taken MCR to a level where it is spending more time on its relationships and less time on its internal operations. Saving 33% on insurance costs and spending only a fraction of the time on documentation and communications that it did prior, MCR has proven to be truly dynamic in all phases of its operations.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is a great example of developing an in-house solution to help focus on building relationships not managing software.
Constructech Vision Awards judge Sally Love says, “I particularly like how this company found a way to derive even greater value from the application by licensing it to business partners. Now that’s not only innovative, it’s good business.”
JM Coull Inc.
JM Coull, www.jmcoull.com, Maynard, Mass., realizes that customers have a choice in which firms they do business with. It is for this very reason that JM Coull makes long-term relationships its primary goal. It’s also the reason repeat business accounts for more than 75% of the company’s annual revenues.
The company considers repeat business the single most driver behind its business and targets this via a three-pronged approach comprised of evaluating the needs of its clients, developing a concise plan to target these needs, and implementing a solid plan within budget.
Without question JM Coull realizes to achieve its lofty goals it needs the right tools, which is exactly why JM Coull has made it a point to implement a strategy that ensures a tight coordination between field and office personnel. A solid plan helps it eliminate wasted time, effort, and materials while staying atop many challenging projects.
In order to accomplish these goals, the company needed a highly scalable, Web-based solution that met its strict criteria. In addition, the company sought out a tool that was easy-to-implement, user-friendly, and didn’t require additional information technology.
The company was also seeking a solution that would provide integrated communication tools, possess workflow tools specific for architecture, engineering, and construction, in order to process request for information (RFIs), request for action (RFAs), change orders, bid management, submittal packages, transmittals, computer-aided design viewing, and redline markup. This will help increase collaboration and resource effectiveness.
Technology from InQuest Technologies, www.inquesttechnologies.com, Southborough, Mass., filled these requirements perfectly. Quality is met at each level as workflow activities are met and have been streamlined and standardized. It allows the status, ownership, and history of each task and document to be tracked centrally with audit trail capabilities. JM Coull is now better equipped to meet the ever-changing needs of its customers in a timely fashion.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe JM Coull clearly understands the need to effectively utilize technology to maintain a competitive advantage.
Managing a successful company often means balancing multiple tasks at once. However, there comes a point that to effectively manage all the tasks there needs to be a strong cooperative commitment from all parties involved.
Mark Fisher, president of Construction Coordinators (CCI), www.coordinators.com, Needham, Mass., found this to be the case when trying to juggle the demands of running this commercial and institutional construction services firm and managing its technology needs. It came to a head when a computer virus infected the company network resulting in the loss of critical data.
This caused Fisher to look for help in managing the technology portion. His search quickly turned up consulting and information technology (IT) outsourcing firm ESI Enterprises (ESI), www.esient.com, Newton Centre, Mass., where ESI employee Steve Gallant became CCI’s part-time IT guru.
Gallant’s first job was to document CCI’s network and identify problems and bottlenecks. Gallant’s research uncovered an old server and an outdated version of Windows NT, which didn’t provide much in terms of performance and security for the company. A great deal of the server configuration and many basic security settings were not properly set up and the tape backup worked sporadically at best.
With a new exchange server and changing to static Internet Protocol, incoming email arrived instantaneous. Minor adjustments sped up data access from its accounting system and small configurations allowed CCI to streamline communication. As for security, this portion was addressed with new anti-virus software and an added virtual privacy network.
This has allowed Gallant to migrate away from completing projects involved with CCI’s network to perform the ongoing maintenance and day-to-day operations of the network. Logging in at the server or from his desk, Gallant is able to respond to issues at a very efficient pace. He is also able to implement technology quickly at the suggestion of Fisher.
This has allowed Fisher to worry less about the management of the network and more about pursuing new opportunities for CCI. It is a major factor contributing to CCI’s recognition by the City of Cambridge with a Historical Preservation Award for its work on streetscape façade improvements.
Constructech Vision Awards judges note CCI’s unique approach of reaping the benefits of a full-time IT guru at a part time price.
Coleman-Adams Construction Inc.
The digitizer has rapidly become a necessary tool during the take-off process for Coleman-Adams Construction, Inc., www.coleman-adams.com, Forest, Va. Originally purchased for complex areas and lines, the digitizer has been rapidly taking on more and more take-off duties.
Yet after a long and useful life, the digitizer pad began to show signs of slowing down. Coleman, a fourth-generation construction company, is dependent on reliable tools and discovered it couldn’t grow its business without a sound digitizer in place.
In addition, the original digitizer had limitations including the inability to use it in multiple offices in a single building, limited tracking capabilities, and it required users to haul the entire set around if they wished to refer to detail within a drawing.
Turning to On-Screen Takeoff from OnCenter Software, www.oncenter.com, The Woodlands, Texas, Coleman realized a new digitizer would make the company more efficient and productive.
The new digitizing software uses image files rather than paper drawings, and gives the company the ability to run the software from any workstation in its enterprise. Without the use of physical drawings, an image file can be added to an On-Screen job file and paged through easily.
Tracking is also enhanced as the count areas and lines are recorded graphically on layers defined by the user. A unique linking feature allows users to insert links onto one page of the drawing that automatically switches to a specific view on the same page or a different page.
Among the other features includes an export feature to Microsoft Excel, and an add-on component that fully integrates the program with Coleman’s estimating package from Timberline, www.timberline.com, Beaverton, Ore.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe the use of updated technology can not only improve proprietary tasks, but add new capabilities to an organization as well.
Vision Awards judge Gretchen McComb says, “This is a well documented example of a company thinking outside the box, replacing technology for upgraded benefits.”
Coleman-Adams Construction Inc.
Coleman-Adams Construction, Inc., www.coleman-adams.com, Forest, Va., knows a thing or two about using advanced technology. The company has been in the process of moving away from manual and outdated procedures with the help of advanced technology.
Its system for tracking costs accumulated while estimating, designing, or creating business opportunities for a specific client or project creates what it terms an “estimate job.” These costs are tracked completely separate from its revenue-producing jobs. When the company is awarded bids or design-build projects, the costs accumulated in these jobs are transferred to the revenue-producing job and the estimate job is closed.
All of these procedures had been handled by manual processes, which were slow and cumbersome. While its accounting system from Timberline, www.timberline.com, Beaverton, Ore., provides drill-down capabilities to the transaction level, the detail was being lost through the entry of summary amounts.
The company addressed this problem through the use of ODBC Driver, in which it created an application in Microsoft Access to retrieve each of the cost transactions for a specific job from the Timberline database. A new text file is then created using the transactions, which contains reversing transactions for the estimate job and new transactions for the revenue job at the detailed level. These are then easily imported into the job cost software.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is a good example of a company implementing technology to upgrade processes and eliminate slow and redundant tasks.
Lehigh Construction Group Inc.
Orchard Park, N.Y.
Lehigh Construction Group, Inc., www.lehighone.com, Orchard Park, N.Y., is no longer satisfied simply as a general contractor.
The company has slowly evolved itself to become much more than owners Dave Knauss and Tom Glomb ever imagined when the two founded the company in 1984. Lehigh Construction Group has expanded into maintenance services, home renovations, and information technology services, to accompany its general contracting services. With the bar for excellence constantly being raised at Lehigh, it is with high standards that Knauss and Glomb hold each and every new idea up against. Based on this concept, it was no small feat when Robert Metzger, director of information technology, and John Rupp, project manager, presented the two founders with their own homegrown version of project-management software that could solve a wealth of challenges within the company.
Going on the notion that great technology is no value if your employees refuse to embrace it, Metzger and Rupp had a difficult time finding a project-management solution that lived up to their expectations. In addition, it was hard to uncover a solution that fit the needs of its diverse group of project managers, as well as all other parties involved, which service 17 states across the United States.
This led to the development of the Lehigh Communications Center (LCC), an in-house project-management system based on the best aspects of each product it had previously tested, integrating the best features into one all-inclusive system.
Some of these features included online requests for information, submittals, and request for actions, the creation and maintenance of electronic purchase order and change orders, job photo galleries, full job logging capabilities, integrated user authentication and role management, as well as a number of other highly unique features.
In addition, the system is completely Web-based and uses a SQL database engine to manage the data giving any project manager, superintendent, subcontractor, or architect access to the system from anywhere using a computer or laptop.
Probably the most impressive aspect of the LCC is the fact that Knauss and Glomb now had a software tool that helps the company be more responsive to employees and customers. That made the 18 months of development by Metzger and Rupp well worth the effort.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is a good demonstration of maximizing in house knowledge to tackle a diverse issue within the company.
Coleman-Adams Construction Inc.
Originating from a fourth generation construction family, Coleman-Adams Construction, Inc., www.coleman-adams.com, Forest, Va., is steep in tradition. Since its inception in 1971, the company has made a success out of doing things by the rules and keeping all actions close to home.
The printing and reproduction of drawings for both estimating and construction is a prime example of this rich tradition. As a design-build contractor, Coleman-Adams generates these drawings in great volume and decided long ago to keep these actions in-house for the purposes of better security, version control, and flexibility in distribution.
Yet as any good construction company grows, so does the volume of work. Couple this with the fact that the heightened volume of drawing reproductions hindered the company’s ability to respond to basic customer and in-house needs.
Coleman-Adams realized that it was devoting more time to printing and distributing drawings than to designing and constructing facilities. Its designers, administrative staff, estimators, and project managers were spending more and more time in the print room and less and less time in the field.
The company realized this issue needed to be addressed quickly and turned to software from Oc´e USA, www.oceusa.com, Chicago, Ill, in order to streamline the entire reproduction process while maintaining current staffing levels and project volume. The new system allows the company to create individual digital image files on a network server for drawings as they are received. The local area network allows any worker to open the job file, while the version control allows operators to insert new files from any location. The printer options also enable employees to control the volume or type of printing with ease.
By archiving completed job and as-built drawings of bid jobs electronically and having the drawings in an easy-to-read image format, the company has saved on time, space, and resources. The new system has increased productivity to the point that Coleman-Adams is anticipating a complete break-even on its return on investment in the matter of months.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is a good example of a company prioritizing its needs as a company and applying technology in the right area.
$101 -$250 million
A successful construction company approaches each and every project with a carefully constructed plan. Shiel Sexton, www.shielsexton.com, Indianapolis, Ind., goes a bit further, putting each project through a six-step process prior to tackling any job.
First, the company gets to know the business it is working with; next it researches each and every detail of how to approach the job; forecasts project challenges in order to anticipate any problems; and devises accurate planning of the construction process to ensure that schedules are met; followed by accurate budgeting. Finally the actual building process begins for Shiel Sexton.
It is with great detail that Shiel Sexton approaches each and every project and the $80 million Clarian West Hospital, covering 75 acres in the Indianapolis area, was no different. Yet, with approximately 12 team members from the company, three members from a joint venture team, a contractor, safety consultants, an owner representative, and an architect involved on the jobsite, collaboration proved to be a bit challenging even for this detailed-minded company.
The information technology group at Shiel Sexton was charged with handling the unique technology demands of this diverse group and decided to set up a small version of a corporate data center in one of the trailers for the entire group to work onsite. The data center had a phone switch to handle the voice needs of each group and an uninterruptible power supply was installed to condition the power, as well as protect from data loss.
Data services were handled onsite via a T1 line and since there were different companies that needed services, multiple firewalls were installed to section out the network. Shiel Sexton implemented a Packeteer PacketShaper onsite to handle bandwidth throttling, as each team was different in size and data requirements. This allowed the company to appropriate necessary bandwidth to each section.
The collaboration and communication efforts did not end there. Once the project reached a certain stage, another trailer was dropped close to the new building, forcing the team to provide data service out to the new trailer.
Therefore a point-to-point wireless connection was installed to connect the systems. This eliminates the fear of outside connections to break in.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is a good representation of the use of proper hardware and software to improve collaboration and communication.
Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc.
A company doesn’t thrive for the better part of 15 years by standing still. Satterfield & Pontikes (S&P), www.satpon.com, Houston, Texas, has been at the forefront of technology investment for the advancement of projects since its inception in 1989.
Engaged in construction projects for such sectors as manufacturing, educational, retail, and wastewater treatment facilities, S&P is involved in some of the most prominent projects in the state of Texas. One of the reasons that S&P has been able to stay on top has been its continual commitment to using top-notch technology. As a self-described leader in the adoption and adaptation of technology in the construction industry, S&P frequently introduces leading-edge technology solutions that aid in the advancement of technological innovation in the industry.
With that in mind it was no wonder that S&P turned to one of the most comprehensive scheduling and resource management solutions in the market for its new scheduling and control department.
Implementing P3 e/c Project Scheduling software from Primavera, www.primavera.com, Bala Cynwyd, Pa., S&P is able to manage resources and maintain control over the critical completion path of a project while sharing this information with the project team through project specific Websites, which incorporate schedule data exported directly from the Primavera software. The Internet interface allows all parties associated with the project to view project details in a highly detailed manner.
It is with this level of sophistication that S&P has seen an increase in project participant buy-in and realtime feedback from team members, including subcontractors, vendors, architects, and even owners. The result is increased efficiency on projects, which in the end translates into end of day cost savings for all involved.
This new software has allowed S&P to further extend its prominence regarding projects in Texas. It is currently collaborating with several public entities in Texas via P3, which ensures all parties are aware of any pending changes and the effect it has on the project schedule.
Constructech Vision Awards judges are astounded at S&P’s unwavering commitment to new and innovative technology as a strategic tool.
$251 -$500 million
Motor City Electric Co.
The Motor City Electric Co., www.mceco.com, Detroit, Mich., has had an impressive run over the past five years, generating more than $1 billion in construction services during that span.
Providing an array of services to its customers, including design/build electrical contracting, electrical utility services, process engineering, selective general contracting, and panel fabrication, Motor City Electric goes to the limit and beyond with its services.
The company has made it a priority to do whatever it takes to better service its customers and as a result is continually addressing internal procedures. The company recently undertook the development of two projects that coincide with this strategy—the management of customer remote security and the monitoring and controlling of various classes of devices and systems within the company.
Many major automotive manufacturers, selected suppliers, and government agencies work with Motor City Electric to implement various network security and remote device monitoring products. The company applied technology from NetBotz, www.netbotz.com, Austin, Texas, to address this issue.
The implementation of this Internet protocol (IP)-based monitoring solution has provided increased flexibility in both current and future requirements for security and status monitoring of critical network devices, and the supporting infrastructure.
Early interactive warnings of many environmental problems and system anomaly situations are helping to improve both the reliability and availability of Motor City Electric’s systems. The ability to upgrade network facilities and device and access security without the need to extend the interfaces of existing systems is key for Motor City Electric.
The company is also benefiting from its ability to monitor remote locations round the clock, which helps reduce costs associated with security and maintenance staffing and equipment reliability.
The ability to support a large group of control system and programmable-logic controller device sensors using third party non-IP interfaces also allows the company to add older devices to the list of production components. These can be centrally monitored and managed by the company as well.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe Motor City Electric shows strength in using technology for realtime maintenance and support.
McCarthy Building Companies Inc.
St. Louis, Mo.
McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., www.mccarthy.com, St. Louis, Mo., is not your grandfather’s construction company. Its strategy of employing and retaining “knowledge workers” is evident through its commitment to technology services, focus on business process optimization, and data standardization across the company—not your typical approach for a construction company founded in 1864.
Then again maybe this forward-thinking and innovative approach is what has allowed McCarthy to not only survive but also thrive for well over 100 years. With annual revenues exceeding $1 billion and ranking in the upper-echelon of builders in the United States, McCarthy is obviously doing something right.
One of the things it is doing extremely well is a project it refers to as R.I.S.E. In April 2003, the management team at McCarthy announced a set of 10 strategic initiatives planned over the next five years and R.I.S.E.—increase efficiency by Re-engineering, Integration, Standardization, or Elimination of business processes—was one of the more prominent initiatives.
This initiative has led McCarthy down a 12-month path of evaluating business processes across all functional areas, as well as processes that span its construction supply chain. Its goal of the project was to challenge the way things are accomplished within the company and work towards true integration. Among the technology innovations involved with R.I.S.E will be a new enterprise resource planning system.
McCarthy uses Prolog from Meridian Systems, www.mps.com, Folsom, Calif., which provides total project control for the company. It allows McCarthy to manage the project collaboration workflow, manage its resources and schedules, improve collaboration, and mange all projects from one database.
Additionally, project collaboration Websites, which link owners, architects, subcontractors, suppliers, and its own team of workers, are a key part to the R.I.S.E. initiative. This allows for timely communication and decision-making and enables Web-based communication and collaboration to change orders, computer-aided design document review, and a range of other day-to-day activities.
Overall McCarthy is confident R.I.S.E. will help it become leaner and more tightly focused on priorities across all aspects of the company. Based on that, it can generate strong growth throughout the next five to 10 years.
Constructech Vision Awards judges are impressed with the forward thinking vision McCarthy Building Companies has in store for the next decade.
Case Design/Remodeling Inc.
Case Design Remodeling, Inc., www.casedesign.com, Bethesda, Md., knows a thing or two about launching a successful business. In the market of custom remodeling and design work for residential properties since 1961, it has ensured its success through properly developing the tools to accomplish various needs within in the company.
With this strategy it has grown into one of the most prominent and well known designing and remodeling firms, not only in the Washington, D.C. area, but also throughout the nation.
It is with this very strategy that Case Design launched its Handyman division in the early 1990s. The company realized that it wouldn’t be possible to provide quality service or generate a profitable business within the company without such tools as estimating, scheduling, production, and data collection. However, not just any solution would suffice. Instead, Case Design needed to ensure the tools were properly tailored for the cohesively devised strategy of its Handyman division.
The company developed customized proprietary software, which consists of a client/job tracking database, case client tracking system, and a case job estimating system.
The software, along with ensuing processes, has allowed the company to effectively franchise the handyman business across the United States. Case Design currently has more than 50 franchise partners and as the company has grown so has the amount of data. Since each franchise partner had its own database, Case found that the data was distributed into smaller databases throughout the country.
This prompted the company to move its client tracking/scheduling system from a Microsoft Access-based decentralized system to a Web-based, centrally located system, which it named Red House after its company logo.
The application service provider-model, developed in conjunction with Pantheon Software, www.pantheonsoftware.com, Arlington, Va., gathers critical client data and marketing demographics and schedules mechanics to perform work. This has allowed for better standardization and has given the company the ability to analyze data in a more efficient and effective manner.
Red House is also fully integrated with QuickBooks, www.quickbooks.intuit.com, a business unit of Intuit, www.intuit.com, Mountain View, Calif., for invoicing, job costing, and bookkeeping. Its home grown estimating system communicates with Red House in order to allow for job cost accounting, which provides information for improving estimates.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe the development of Red House has enabled Case Design to grow in an unprecedented manner.
Orren Pickell Designers and Builders
Keeping a project on time and under budget can often be the most difficult part of any home building project. In order to meet both goals in an efficient manner a builder needs to think a bit outside the box.
Not many would agree that bringing more people into the construction process would help a builder stay under budget. Yet, anything is possible when the right people are brought into the process—the homebuyers.
Orren Pickell Designers and Builders, www.pickellbuilders.com, Lincolnshire, Ill., recently developed individual, password-protected client Websites for the purpose of more enhanced communication and better-tracked milestones. In the end, Orren Pickell is accomplishing this goal of on time and under budget with greater speed than ever before.
In the market of home building and design for nearly 30 years, Orren Pickell is consistently developing innovative concepts and ideas. A key to its evolution through the years has been its ability to embrace technology. These individual Websites, which are updated daily, are the latest in the line.
Through these individualized Websites, clients are provided with a verbal explanation concerning the progression of their home, realtime timelines indicating when each aspect of the project is expected to both begin and end, and updates alerting them to key selections and deadlines that need to be met on their part.
Buyers are also able to view photographs of more than 80,000 items on the project, architectural renderings on every aspect of the home, and digital photographs of the project at each step throughout the building process.
This is a concept that is already producing realtime results. A recent client was debating how he wanted his custom home positioned, specifically the location of the outdoor terrace. The buyer wanted to ensure there was maximum sunlight into the evening, as he did a great deal of entertaining in that room. To aid in the decision, Orren Pickell created a time-elapsed, animated simulation of the sun’s movement throughout the day and placed in on the client’s Website.
The Websites have helped Orren Pickell as well, helping employees stay on track with all aspects of the building process. It has streamlined the designing and building processes and has helped the company stay on time with approximately 95% of projects.
Constructech Vision Awards judges are impressed with the way Orren Pickell has embraced technology in order to enhance communication with clients and improve the quality of construction.
DeLuca Enterprises Inc.
Respect the customer, listen to their needs and desires, guide them along the way, and build quality and value into every home. This is the belief that DeLuca Enterprises, Inc., www.delucahomes.com, Yardley, Pa., has carried into each and every one of its projects for the better part of 40 years.
Yet, success doesn’t come solely from carrying a belief into each project. For DeLuca, it also comes from strong designs, quality builders, and a commitment to get the most out of every resource it employs.
This is a tactic that it applied to its computer-aided design (CAD) tool from Argos Systems, www.argos.com, Bedford, Mass. The company had been using the software for its architectural department for more than 10 years and knew it had the ability to expand its capabilities. However, what it didn’t know was how much it was able to expand using this solution.
Today the system is used to improve marketing efforts, publish drawings to its subcontractors via the Web, make areas such as estimating and purchasing highly efficient, and run a completely paperless process for its residential building products.
DeLuca uses its CAD product for one of the most cost-prohibitive actions a homebuilder can incur—printing costs associated with construction drawings.
Using its Argos software, drawings are now produced in an Adobe Acrobat format. This is saving DeLuca more than $300,000 annually in printing costs. The company approximates that one-third of hard-cost savings can be directly attributed to its ability to electronically publish construction drawings.
According to the company, the product also eliminates approximately 90% of the time spent by the DeLuca estimating staff, as well as the staff of its subcontractors, completing material takeoff calculations based on construction drawings. The company uses the software to generate material lists footings, drywall, roofing materials, and other key components. This helps the company bid with unmatched accuracy on new jobs.
Constructech Vision Awards judges report that DeLuca has demonstrated an excellent use of technology to solve critical business issues within the company.
Constructech Vision Awards judge Sally Love says, “I like the fact that their company proactively sought ways to get more from existing technology.”
Village Homes of Colorado
Village Homes of Colorado, www.villagehomes.com, Littleton, Colo., prides itself on tailoring homes to fit the unique nature of the homeowner. It continually searches for innovative ways to accommodate the wants and needs of the buyer.
Since 1984 the company has been building homes that it promises will stand the test of time. For a while it really couldn’t say the same for the way it was sharing critical building information internally.
Village Homes of Colorado has a great deal of information on many aspects of its performance, but was managing and tracking the data with disparate systems. The inability to share information quickly and efficiently resulted in communication delays, which eventually had the possibility of leading to construction delays. This caused the company to turn to the enterprisewide integration of a single data source in order to streamline communications.
The first step involved deploying wireless, point-to-point networks in each of its unique regions. The idea behind this is to keep every sales office, construction trailer, and regional/corporate office connected to the enterprise network at high speeds.
This provides a single source of operations as all data is consistently stored in Microsoft SQL2000 databases. As Village Homes of Colorado employees enter data, they have immediate access to job specific information via the Internet or a personal digital assistant. Each trade contractor or supplier is able to access job specific information via the extranet. Customers are able to access content regarding projects and property via the company Website. All in all, speed and accuracy is provided for all parties involved.
Crystal reporting via the intranet provides extensive, realtime reports to every employee. This information includes sales performance and contract documentation, construction scheduling, purchasing activities based upon individual lot status, budget analysis, and the list goes on and on.
Crystal reporting is also deployed on the extranet for trade contractors. This provides realtime reports on trade-specific production reports that show detailed schedules and house-at-a-glance reports—both of which are demonstrative of the most current plan options selected for a specific house, warranty reports, payment status, and much more.
The time saving and efficiency improvement for Village Homes via this solution speaks for itself. Added benefits including customer satisfaction and better-informed trade partners are a bonus for all involved.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe improving communication and collaboration with effective technology is an impressive move by Village Homes.
Clark Realty Builders LLC
Clark Realty Builders, www.clarkrealty.com, Bethesda, Md., is a name that very well is synonymous with home building in the United States. As the fifth largest builder of multi-family units in the country, Clark Realty has had considerable success across its entire portfolio of services—including preconstruction, construction, construction management, and design/build services.
Yet for a company so advanced in building, Clark Realty Builders’ superintendents were still traditionally managing the punchlist process on each project using paper-based forms. A process of keying information into an Excel spreadsheet, sorting sheets, and faxing the lists to each of its subcontractors was a vastly outdated process for such a large company.
This prompted the company to implement a punchlist solution . As a Web-based solution, it allows the superintendent to “check-out” the punchlist for one or multiple units to a handheld device, create ticket items through a series of drop-down menus, the “check-in” the punchlist and upload it to a project-specific Website. The information can then be queried, sorted, and printed with the touch of one button.
The company is also experimenting with developing its own customized punchlist application through the use of a relational database for handheld devices with custom forms, HanDbase for PocketPC, from DDH Software, www.ddhsoftware.com, Wellington, Fla.. This will allow the company to develop a single database and an entry form to track information for multi-unit housing projects.
The second problem tackled by the company involved its method for tracking portfolio management on more than 200 projects. Clark Realty was using a Microsoft Access database stored locally on the hard drive of a single computer. The company also stored resumes in basic Microsoft Word files on a shared drive. Needless to say, this method became very cumbersome and highly ineffective as the company grew.
Implementing a customer-relationship management (CRM) solution from Deltek, www.deltek.com, Herndon, Va., Clark Realty uses its SQL Server database to generate reports that can be downloaded to Microsoft Excel of a portable document file file. The reporting capabilities also allow it to create fully customizable reports, which contain information about owners, architects, clients, and employees. Up-to-date information is highly accurate and easy to access with this CRM solution.
The third problem tackled by Clark Realty was with its project executives and superintendents accessing project documents from the field. It needed a way to get their field personnel out into the field and away from the computer.
This prompted the company to use a new high-speed cellular data network from Verizon Wireless, www.verizon.com, New York, N.Y. Using a cellular card inserted into a laptop, users could gain high-speed data access at speeds that were previously only available via wired networks. This allows field personnel to take their laptops anywhere and be able to access the company network over the Internet from multiple offices as well as the construction site.
For its users with a lesser need for realtime data, the company began using handhelds from Sony, www.sony.com, Tokyo, Japan, with a built-in Palm operating system.
Clark Realty didn’t stop there with addressing issues. The company also implemented a solution to help with granting access to a large variety of job-specific forms, issues, and task lists for their employees.
The company implemented a help desk solution that uses custom task forms and macros from Microsoft Outlook to track user support tickets, allowing employees to submit support requests to the information technology (IT) group by filling out a custom form in a public folder in Microsoft Outlook. Once the IT department receives the request the group can enter information on the issue, prioritize issues, track billing hours, and enter text in a history log.
The company also solved the issue of finding strong and qualified workers in a tight market for residential building through the use of an employment portal specific to the construction industry. This Web-based service costs the company approximately $4,500 a year, which is a fraction of the price Clark Realty was paying for headhunters.
It is with high priority that Clark Realty views technology, which is evident through the multiple uses it has found for a range of applications within the company.
Constructech Vision Awards judge Gretchen McComb was particularly impressed with its use of technology in the field. Says McComb, “Excellent utilization of technology in the field to facilitate punchlist completion.”
The Nassal Co.
The Nassal Co., www.nassal.com, Orlando, Fla., certainly knows the definition of fun. The company, with annual construction volume of $20 million, has been building entertainment structures around the world since 1984.
Among the more notable projects for Nassal include the giant pirate ship that is located inside Raymond James Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the LegoLand theme park in Gunzburg, Germany, and the Journey to Atlantis ride at SeaWorld Orlando, Orlando, Fla.
Yet for a company steeped in building structures that aid in fun, its remote team members were far from having a good time due to cumbersome field communication with project managers.
Each of its projects requires field managers to obtain input from clients, designers, and consultants. In the past this type of information was communicated via fax, which was difficult to read and often times needed follow-up. This resulted in delays that many times left the crew waiting for instruction.
The company looked to shore-up this practice through the use of Microsoft Office OneNote—a digital note-taking program used by field managers in conjunction with their Tablet PCs from Toshiba, www.toshiba.com, Tokyo, Japan.
The software allows field managers to write notes directly on digital photos and send them back to the office via email. These clean and clear images can be read immediately by design teams and have led to a quicker decision-making process by managers in the field.
This is allowing Nassal to share notes more often—up from 3% of the time prior to implementing the software to 26% of the time—which is resulting in more productive meetings and discussions with its workers. It also helps with existing business processes, as remote teams are better coordinated on projects, approval times are decreased, and downtime is reduced dramatically. Yet, the biggest benefit to Nassal is with the acceleration of client satisfaction.
With a 10.7% increase in project productivity via the software, Nassal plans to extend the use of OneNote to all of its employees, as well as other companies it works with. One international client of Nassal who watched the design team collaborate using this software was so impressed that he asked for it to be a mandatory tool for everyone involved with the project.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe Nassal has certainly displayed an excellent use of technology to turn the communication process during projects into a realtime event.
As a heavy-highway contractor in the state of California, you can face some stiff competition. Yet amid a saturated market for heavy/highway contractors Mike Menefee launched M.J. Menefee Construction, Fresno, Calif., in 1997.
For Menefee he didn’t want his company to just survive, he wanted it to thrive. Based on that he knew the one thing that could give him an edge over the countless number of competitors was the use of sophisticated software that would help streamline processes and automate procedures.
He found just that with HeavyBid estimating and bidding software from HCSS, www.hcss.com, Houston, Texas. It has been a key cog that has helped propel M.J. Menefee to become a $15 million company in the span of seven years, winning bids on nearly every major road around Fresno.
Menefee has extended its use of the software over the years to include HeavyJob, for field management, The Dispatcher, for scheduling and resource optimization, and bidhistory.com, for tracking historical Dept. of Transportation prices.
HeavyBid allows the company to prepare detailed cost estimates in a matter of hours—a process that normally would take Menefee days to prepare by hand.
The mapping capabilities of The Dispatcher helps Menefee know the exact distance and route from any haul origin to each jobsite and provide accurate costs to enter into each bid.
In all, these solutions cut time and labor out of each job dramatically, allowing the company to concentrate more on winning the bid and less time worrying whether the costs are accurate. In the end it translates into more jobs bid, more jobs won, and more money left on the table.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about its use of technology is that it allows a three-person office to run a multi-million dollar company. Menefee continues to win jobs away from companies that are bigger and have more experience.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is a good demonstration of how technology can turn a start-up company into a leader in the industry.
South Milford, Ind.
The criteria for being a successful heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor hasn’t changed much since J.O. Mory, www.jomory.com, South Milford, Ind., entered the market in 1892. Today quick response in the field reigns as the number one priority for contractors. Yet the tools that help a company accomplish this goal certainly have changed.
It takes a great deal of hard work and forward-thinking actions to stay on top of the market for more than 100 years. Serving residential and commercial HVAC/mechanical customers presents a broad range of challenges nearly every day for J.O. Mory. Still, the company has managed to survive with the help from a bit of field management software.
The company has been using technology from Maxwell Systems, www.maxwellsystems.com, Norristown, Pa, for nearly 20 years. Yet a recent implementation of an integrated field management solution from the company has been the turning point for J.O. Mory.
The solution couples business tools in Maxwell’s accounting and service management software with field and handheld software. This has allowed the company to reduce its billing cycle from five days to a mere one day. Needless to say, this effort has dramatically improved the company’s cash flow.
Servicing more than 2,000 commercial and residential customers with 15 field technicians, wireless devices managing the daily activities has helped out tremendously. The integrated solution has also helped the additional 30 people working with the accounting and service management systems in house.
Its tech-savvy approach to business doesn’t stop there. The Maxwell system also is bridged into J.O. Mory’s estimating software, allowing it to bring estimates into the accounting system to create jobs and budgets in an integrated fashion.
In addition, J.O. Mory is involved in electronic document scanning and archiving. Through this process, the company is able to retrieve and index documents has greatly improved its ability to service customers and understand its business.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe J.O. Mory is a good example of a company understanding the benefits of integrated technology.
T&R Painting and Drywall
Van Nuys, Calif.
Cost control and payroll accuracy have always been top priorities of any contractor. T&R Painting and Drywall, www.tandrweb.com, Van Nuys, Calif., certainly understands this more than most. Ironically this specialty contractor admits to struggling with cumbersome and outdated software.
Serving as a painting and drywall contractor for residential tract homes in California, Nevada, and Texas, it was getting fairly difficult for T&R to keep accurate tabs on field information from its wide range of clients.
The more than 500 field employees at T&R are paid on a piecework basis per lot. This came with many challenges in both identifying and collecting all of the relevant information. Each job contains hundreds of lots, each with one plan and dozens of options. Each plan and option consists of six or more piecework tasks, thus having the possibility of each project containing more than 10,000 piecework tasks.
In order to get a handle on the more than 3,000 piecework items split among multiple employees, T&R turned to CompuBuild Technologies, www.compubuildtech.com, Van Nuys, Calif., to develop a Web reporting system. The company was already using SubMaster project software from the CompuBuild and wanted the reporting system to be integrated with this system.
The new system breaks tract projects down into phases and lots, with each lot containing multiple piecework items. Tasks for plans and options are stored in a library of templates and when a lot is created, a user is able to select a template to copy the piecework form.
Payroll information is entered per lot and broken down by piecework task, which is then released for payment individually. This gives T&R in-house control over where payroll costs are being entered.
Tackling the initial problem with tracking piecework in the field, the Web reporting system allows supervisors to report this action directly from the field. A built-in control monitors budget overruns, allowing the payroll department to make corrections early on in the process.
T&R has streamlined its payroll department with this solution to the point where one employee handles on-time what three employees struggled to make deadlines with prior.
Constructech Vision Awards judges note how the use of technology can be applied to control costs while making a company much more profitable in the process.
Royal Electric Co.
The methods for running a successful contracting company certainly have changed during the past 40 years for Royal Electric Co., www.royalelect.com, Sacramento, Calif. Evolving from a one-man operation in 1961 to one of the top 50 contractors in California has been no small feat for Royal Electric Co.
While the company did not officially become Royal Electric until 1971, its roots date back 10 years earlier when founder Leo Vellutini began contracting work out of his Sacramento home.
Today the company serves a large demographic of commercial and residential customers across California, with additional projects in such areas as Utah, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada.
However, with the increasing work in remote locations comes an accelerated need to link each site to its home office in Sacramento for the purpose exposing these remotes to more resources and better management. To address this issue, Royal Electric installed a DS3 line and used a virtual privacy network (VPN) to allow for instant connectivity and security.
The benefits came as quick as the information moved through the DS3 line. Along with the VPN, the builder was able to connect more than 25 sites and provide each location with accurate resources and information. The new electronic file storage system allows users to access a centralized network of company documents, including project files, estimates, templates, and marketing materials. This gave all locations accurate information and eliminated the need for duplicate documents at remote sites as well as the home office.
Users also benefit from a centralized backup system, via a company intranet site, which allows access to the same network file through any Internet connection.
Going further, the company also made its accounting software from Dexter + Chaney, www.dexterchaney.com, Seattle, Wash., and project management software available to remote sites via this connection. This allows for electronic invoicing approval and made remote locations self-sufficient due to the availability of realtime information.
Royal Electric is in the process of implementing a voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) to connect remote locations with the ease of an intercom. Users will maintain their same extensions no matter where they are located and all long distance calls are routed through the home office, saving a great deal on costs in monthly phone charges.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe linking remote locations through technology is an innovative and cost efficient way for contractors to grow.
Sterling Heights, Mich.
Conti Electric, www.contielectric.com, Sterling Heights, Mich., is committed to quality—the company not only states it, but also proves it on a daily basis.
Designing, installing, and maintaining electrical systems for more than 30 years, Conti Electric has a firm footing in the marketplace and is very innovative when it comes to its business. So it’s no surprise that the company looks to capitalize on an emerging trend in information technology—integrating critical systems for the benefit of the business.
The company has always been at the forefront of using sophisticated technology to automate various business processes. While these systems have worked fine individually for the company, it became very frustrating moving information between systems manually.
This led the company down the path of integration, particularly for its purchasing and accounting systems. As these are the two main systems operated by the company, integrating the two would cut down on manual entry dramatically.
One particular problem that occurred was with its purchase order module in the accounting system. Due to the large number of price orders (POs) it generated, the company found it wasn’t possible to accurately update job-cost commitments and outstanding vendor commitments in its system without having the systems integrated, the possibility of overpaying or double-paying on invoice was all too real.
The company turned to a material management system called Celerity on recommendation from T. Daniels Corp., www.tdaniels.com, Fenton, Mich.
The POs generated in the program are also created in the accounting purchase order module. Now when Conti generates a PO, job cost commitments and vendor outstanding commitments are automatically updated as well.
Conti did not stop with the integration process at the accounting level. The software is also integrated with its inventory module, allowing Conti to obtain lists of more than 100,000 previously purchased items from its vendors. This allows the company to take vendor inventory information and import it into the accounting system, while also providing item search functionality that allows Conti to easily search a database consisting of more than 120,000 items.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe Conti has done an excellent job tapping off-the-shelf software for its needs.
Vision Awards judge Christian Burger says, “This is a good use of best in class software without sacrificing integration.”
Gem Plumbing and Heating
Gem Plumbing and Heating Co., www.gemplumbing.com, Lincoln, R.I., doesn’t compromise when it comes to customer service. It is the benchmark to which the company holds every new piece of technology—if it compromises customer service in any way, it is not even considered.
Perhaps this strategy is what has made the company such a success—growing from founder Larry Gemma operating out of his garage with one truck in 1949 to a 300-man, 135-truck operation in 2004.
As a result, the company needed to determine how to operate cost effectively while handling the influx of new business, without compromising customer service in the process.
One initial area the company addressed was a new and innovative way to handle call processing and increased control over dispatching efforts.
While communication between employees was adequate using devices from Nextel, www.nextel.com, Reston, Va.,, it did little to track its fleet of trucks. In response to that, the company purchased a global positioning system (GPS) and installed it into all of its trucks. This allows the company to monitor how much time was being spent driving from one service call to another, time used for supply house runs, and personal time of the drivers—all of which were never tracked accurately in the past. The company has uncovered a 5% improvement since installing the GPS systems.
Next, the company tackled its call-processing dilemma via specialized software. Using the software, it was able to capture enough customer information and track service calls in a more effective manner. The new package allows for ease of order processing and maximizes customer data tracking and billing processes in one package.
Finally, the third issue involving the control of inventory and supply house runs was addressed via a partnership with inventory management firm Ferguson Integrated Supply, part of Ferguson Enterprises, Inc., www.ferguson.com, Newport News, Va. Under the agreement, Ferguson purchases and controls all inventory and is also responsible for daily replenishment of trucks. Gem estimates this action saves it 8% in technician productivity and 5% in inventory costs.
The company also joined forces with Arsenault Associates, www.truckfleet.com, Atco, N.J., which provides Dossier 32 software to control and monitor its fleet management program.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe Gem Plumbing and Heating demonstrates a good vision of identifying challenges and meeting each head-on with the right technology.
Construction consulting firm Hill Intl., www.hillintl.com, Marlton, N.J., has been on a track of steady growth since its inception in 1976. With more than 20 offices around the globe, successfully completing in excess of 1,000 projects, and resolving more than 5,000 claims for clients worldwide, it is no wonder that this company is ranked as one of the leading construction management firms in the United States.
The company is an adamant believer in the role that efficient technology plays in its success. This is a main reason that it turned to sophisticated technology at all levels for two of its most recent projects—managing the construction of Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center and managing a $350 million renovation program for 18 schools in New Jersey. Both projects were among the most challenging projects undertaken by Hill.
For both projects Hill chose to integrate project controls and scheduling solutions from Primavera, www.primavera.com, Bala Cynwyd, Pa., in order to streamline complex processes. The integration provided a range of features to the projects for Hill including an automatic link of schedules and costs to manage timeline and budgets issues; breakout of costs per project, which allows for fast-track payment of invoices; realtime access to change orders; realtime scheduling views; and enhanced integration with financial systems, which is beneficial for subcontractors or clients using outside software on the project.
Among the benefits of the implementation includes team accountability, simplified management of project changes, elimination of surprises during a project, and the ability keep accurate and timely client archives. These actions, along with cultural processes created for the company during the process, are now considered a part of the offering that Hill provides its clients on each and every project.
Constructech Vision Awards judges are impressed with the benefits achieved by Hill through the use of enhanced software applications.
Ryan Companies U.S., Inc.
Founded more than 65 years ago as a small lumber company in Minnesota, Ryan Companies, www.ryancompanies.com, Minneapolis, Minn., has grown into a builder, developer, and full-service manager of properties in more than 150 cities across the United States.
Technology has been a strong part of the company’s growth throughout that time, fueling innovation and keeping track of costs and assets along the way.
As part of its financial forecast at the end of each month, Ryan Companies consolidates all actual project costs and projections of potential costs. Actual costs are maintained in its legacy “green screen” accounting system. Its project managers found the interface to be tedious and the process of updating budgets to be very repetitive. This resulted in many of them maintaining a spreadsheet “shadow” system.
After a review of the system, the company identified eleven discrete steps to produce a cost report and a budget revision that required many additional steps, along with a repeat of the project cost report process to verify changes.
The process involved 100 project managers getting the real accounting system in synch with the “shadow system” and submitting a project manger profit projection spreadsheet, all of which were consolidated into a single spreadsheet by the accounting staff. The information was faxed to key executives and then re-entered into a consolidated forecasting system.
In order to streamline this process and eliminate the potential for errors, Ryan devised a plan with multiple goals. Among the tasks it looked to accomplish included implementing a browser interface in the legacy “green-screen” accounting system, reducing the multitude of steps for job cost reporting and budget maintenance, and eliminating the project manager profit projection, as well as the profit projection reports.
Using the One-Click Reporting system, Ryan now has a backend accounting system running on its server. This includes an application service provider and client side scripting code. All project budget maintenance, inquiries, and report printing is done in this browser interface. The sales development staff, through the one-click interface, which eliminates the faxed reports and re-entry of information, also does potential project maintenance via this solution.
In all, the company estimates that the solution has eliminated a minimum of four hours of project manger time, eight hours of executive time and three hours of sales/development time for a total monthly savings of 483 hours of professional time.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe Ryan Companies has shown a tremendous commitment to technology and developing innovative tasks through its use.
Unicco Service Co.
Unicco Service Co., www.unicco.com, Newton, Mass., knows how to effectively leverage technology. The company doesn’t invest in a piece of software until the technology is developed enough to fit its particular needs.
The company was looking for software that could make a difference in the way it dispatched and managed route maintenance and its repair module workforce, yet it didn’t want to commit until it believed the technology was sophisticated enough to handle its needs.
Specifically Unicco was seeking a flexible work order and dispatching system that was aligned with its national call center strategy. In addition, it needed the solution to be Web-based in order to fit its specific requirements.
The one solution that fit its needs is a service management software tool. The service management solution leverages the Web and wireless devices to coordinate and dispatch work orders, while also offering full-featured, self-service Web and management reporting capabilities. This was key for providing timely information to its distributed customer base.
The company quickly standardized on software for its route service division, which is rapidly becoming a critical business line for Unicco. It configured the software’s knowledgebase to address the complex workflow requirements to support the shared service processes of Unicco as well. When the job is completed, a technician simply and automatically closes it out, including labor, materials, and comments.
Route maintenance workers of Unicco now carry phones from Nextel, www.nextel.com, Reston, Va., in order to access CorrigoNet from the field. This helps when a schedule procedure or an emergency maintenance request is received at the company’s call center as it allows the right technician to handle the call in realtime. The work order is then delivered to the technician’s phone for acknowledgement, which automatically closes the order out upon completion.
Faxes and phone calls to call centers have been virtually eliminated at Unicco. The company is dramatically reducing costs and equipment downtime while improving staff management for routine maintenance and emergency repairs at various project sites.
Constructech Vision Award judges believe applying of technology only when developed properly enough for your business can prove to be a very sound strategy.
J.A. Jones Intl., a Fluor Co.
Detailed work is everything to J.A. Jones Intl., Charlotte, N.C., a company of Fluor, www.fluor.com, Aliso Veijo, Calif. As a provider of design-build and construction management services to the United States government, J.A. Jones doesn’t have the luxury of skimping on even the smallest of details.
The company, which has a long history of building and renovating U.S. embassies around the globe, cannot compromise on tracking the little details of a project. So when the company began construction work on a new U.S. embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2002, it needed to ensure it had the right tools in place.
The project, 30 months in duration, included more than 650 workers. As a result it needed daily work hours for each worker to be timely and compiled accurately in order to conduct payroll, analyze labor costs, assess manpower productivity, and project future labor needs.
J.A. Jones turned to project management software Prolog from Meridian Systems, www.mps.com, Folsom, Calif. Yet in order to fully utilize its capabilities the company decided to develop a data capture system that would allow it to quickly and accurately record daily attendance. This would allow it to use the project data more comprehensively.
Collaborating with a local network and technology resource, a team at J.A. Jones developed an electronic time tracking system, which is comprised of an electronic card reader that records unique data of each individual user, to allow it to record critical time tracking numbers from its workforce.
A reader scans the cards each time an employee enters or leaves the site. The reader then uploads the tracked information to the project’s computer server where it is populated to the Prolog database via a simple interfacing application.
J.A. Jones was able to recover the cost of implementation within the first month of using the new system. The company plans to enhance the system and leverage it for future projects as well.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is an innovative approach to capturing and analyzing labor costs.
New York School Construction Authority
Long Island City, N.Y.
Established by the New York legislature in 1988 for the purpose of building, managing, and controlling the more than 1,200 public schools in New York City and then consolidated with the Dept. of Education’s Capital Program in 2002, the New York City School Construction Authority, www.nycsca.org, Long Island City, N.Y., has gone through a few renovations.
The overall goal of this agency is to improve the management during the construction process, reduce school construction costs, and increase competition among contractors. To accomplish this most effectively, tight coordination between multiple departments is of high importance.
In addition, the agency was facing a number of new challenges such as a major budget crunch, complex building environments, multiple change order approvals each day, and state and city legal requirements for all documentation on its projects.
Prior to 1999, the agency had been using a single-project scheduling software from Primavera, www.primavera.com, Bala Cynwyd, Pa., to manage these tasks. Going forward, the agency soon realized that it would need a tighter coordination between systems in order to accomplish its goals more effectively.
Based on a link between Primavera project controls and multi-project scheduling solutions, the agency created an integrated system in-house for the purpose of streamlining timelines and creating more sophisticated project management processes.
The benefits of this integration were plentiful, including the standardization of tasks across 200 project officers, management of project documents all under one system, inter-departmental coordination, and the integration of project controls and scheduling for the purpose of aligning project documentation with activity timing.
Many procedural benefits and administrative reductions were accomplished through this integration as well. Among the most notable benefits was the establishment of collaborative project management processes, transparent cost and timeline data, elimination of paper documentation, faster payments, and greater precision and visibility.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this shows a good move to enterprise-wide technology for the better of the entire organization going forward.
Costco Wholesale Inc.
The key to any successful retailer in this day and age is growth. Costco Wholesale, Inc., www.costco.com, Issaquah, Wash., certainly knows this, operating as the largest wholesale club operator in the United States.
Fiscal year sales of $47.15 billion increased 13% from fiscal year 2003, indicating that growth for the company doesn’t look to slow anytime soon. With that growth comes a demand for more and more stores.
Facing multiple store openings and an extensive remodel and ancillary business program, the architectural program at the company was beginning to feel the pressure. Additionally, its real estate development group was becoming heavily engaged in scouting and evaluating numerous potential sites for stores.
The company realized that collecting historical information in regards to previous building projects on the same site could prove to save time on its subsequent remodel or ancillary installation. Data for such things as the permit process, site easements, and obstacles incurred during the original construction had the potential of providing enormous benefit for future projects.
Costco turned to MulvannyG2 Architecture, www.mulvannyg2.com, Bellevue, Wash., and a portfolio management software tool to manage these actions. It set up a program to align reporting needs within the company and a reporting model tracking project status from real estate evaluations and entitlements all the way through the store opening date.
Using the solution, project managers are able to control all contracts, invoices, and pay applications. The team is also able to manage project communications via standard methods such as request for information (RFIs) sent via email notifications.
Tracking when an RFI becomes a change proposal and when that in turn becomes a change order is a simple process using the solution. In addition, change processes are easily tracked, making “lesson learned” easy to review at the completion of each project.
Ancillary services were also created to monitor utility rebates and roof warranties. The application contains a system to track the rebate programs available by different utility companies across the United States. This has resulted in the company regaining approximately $2 million of rebate money in the last two years.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe Costco has clearly maximized the right type of technology in order to streamline construction and save millions of dollars in the process.
Chicago Transit Authority
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), www.transitchicago.com, Chicago, Ill., certainly knows what it means to be on the fast track. Operating as the second largest public transportation system in the United States, nearly 1.5 million rides are taken on the CTA during an average weekday.
The CTA also is committed to staying on the fast track when it comes to technology. After winning $2.1 billion in funding for its five-year capital improvement program in 2000, the company immediately invested in Web-based project management software to aid in the project.
While its in-house engineering and construction resources were already fully committed, the CTA determined the need for procuring project management services. It needed a program management team to supply, implement, and use a Web-based project management system.
Working with URS Construction Services, www.urscorp.com, San Francisco, Calif., and information technology consultant Kristine Fallon Associates, Inc., www.kfa-inc.com, Chicago, Ill., the group suggested that an application service provider model approach would be the best option. Tying into an existing data center with its hardware, particularly its scanners from Oc´e USA, www.oceusa.com, Chicago, Ill, and software already in place and running would both minimize implementation time and be more cost effective.
After an extensive research process, ProjectNet from Citadon, www.citadon.com, San Francisco, Calif., was selected. CTA wanted to see quantifiable results and provide a large recent construction project as a baseline for the product.
Using the new tool, the team was processing 2.6 times as many requests for information per day per person and closing in 22% less time. Submittal reviews were also taking less time, averaging 15 days, as compared to 21 days prior.
Three years after initial implementation, more than 800 users from 99 organizations on 52 projects use the ProjectNet system. With use of the product, CTA won ISO 9001-2000 registration for its engineering and construction quality systems.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe the CTA has shown a solid use of technology in order to meet performance expectations in a cost effective manner.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Dealing with a soft economy and a depressed manufacturing market, Holcim, Inc., www.holcim.us, Ann Arbor, Mich. a subsidiary of Holcim, Ltd.—the largest cement manufacturer in the United States—needed an innovative way to differentiate itself from competitors.
Seeing the Internet as a growing business tool, Holcim enlisted the technology of iSTARK, Inc., www.istark.com, Concord, Ont., to help develop an e-commerce site for the means of providing better customer service and brand awareness.
The company soon launched Cement-Online, a customer portal fully integrated with Holcim’s internal systems and processes. This helps provide realtime access to business information and products, provides customers with a broad range of tools, and services from both Holcim’s internal store of information as well as the Internet. In addition, the information is individually tailored to the needs and requirements of each customer.
Cement-Online extends far beyond just being an e-sales solution. It has developed into more of a value-added tool featuring information concerning weather conditions, express ordering capabilities, industry intelligence, and new channels for communication in order to build customer loyalty.
The staff and management of Holcim have taken full ownership of Cement-Online and enjoy internal efficiencies through it as well. Faster access to integrated customer account information, a decrease in repetitive administrative tasks, and better management of account information is enabled via this portal.
Future development of the solution is also on the plate of Holcim as the company is investigating global positioning system truck tracking, wireless applications, and online training for customers and industry stakeholders.
Cement-Online has secured 825 active accounts and 2,667 registered users while boasting 54% of its e-ready customers as part of the Cement-Online community.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe the use of the Internet in a depressed market can prove to be an incredibly valuable tool.
Vision Awards judge Christian Burger says, “Holcim shows excellent use of the Internet and a good balance between practical technology and thorough implementation.”
City of Atlanta
Dept. of Watershed Mgmt.
Any good city is constantly working to upgrade its facilities and improve the landscape for the better of its citizens.
The city of Atlanta, Ga. has been doing just that with its recent capital improvement program, Clean Water Atlanta. This comprehensive program looks to ensure clean drinking water for Atlanta, and the cleanest urban streams, rivers, and wastewater flows for the city and its downstream neighbors.
To accomplish this the city compiled a comprehensive program management team consisting of various project management companies and more than 100 subcontractors. The program equates to approximately $2.6 billion in projects, including 90 wastewater projects made up of 12 combined sewer overflow projects, 42 sanitary sewer overflow projects, 11 regulatory or contract compliance projects, and 25 system renewal or operational reliability projects.
The city not only faced challenges involving tight delivery deadlines on the project and a large scope of work, but also the responsibility of managing the communication of status from each project site back to the client and making sure each step is completed in compliance with government-mandated environmental decrees.
Among the project details that presented the biggest challenge included on-time, on-budget delivery of more than 130 projects in 10 years; collaboration between more than 100 project participant groups; approvals for various actions; adherence to state standards; and detailed cost payment requirements.
To address the issues the city created an interactive program/project controls system from Primavera, www.primavera.com, Bala Cynwyn, Pa. This Web-based system combines various project control tools into a complete enterprise level program management system for realtime access and updates by the numerous parties involved.
The system combines costs tracking into three separate areas; schedule of values, materials delivery; and daily diaries. The interactive Web portal manages monthly program reporting and task manager reporting. The procurement tracking system automatically updates procurements from several departments as well.
With this, the city has realized many benefits. It estimates 100,000 man-hour savings over the life of the program, an estimated 5,360 hours of annual labor savings, detailed cost tracking of capital expenditures, and easy communication between all parties in the program.
The city also plans to implement the most recent version of Primavera’s P3e/c expedition, cost manager, and eSuccessEstimator in the next two years in order to increase its benefits with the project.
Constructech Vision Awards judges believe this is an excellent display of using proactive technology and productivity enhancement on a government project to meet the needs of its citizens.