26 Lead the Way
See how companies are using technology to build the future.
26 innovators. 26 different approaches to construction. One common thread: technology. The 2013 Constructech Vision Award winners are not only a group of forward-thinking organizations with a vision for how technology can be adopted on a construction projects; they are also impacting the future of construction technology.
Consider this: M.J. Harris Construction Services was able to complete a similar-sized healthcare project 13 months sooner than one completed in the past. On one project, Consortium Pomerleau-Verreault S.E.N.C. experienced a productivity improvement of 85% for critical project decisions across multiple parties. Minnkota Power Cooperative saved an estimated 5-10 hours per week for each of 40-50 employees. Seattle Tunnel Partners was able to create transmittals 90% faster. And these are just a few examples—all enabled by the use of technology.
The fact is technology is helping construction companies across the global improve process efficiencies, which result in saved dollars for the client. Companies that are doing this are not only winning construction projects, but are also setting the bar for what is expected in construction today. And while these 26 are leading the way, they are not alone.
In the recently released 2013 Constructech IT Playbook, the majority of survey respondents indicate they are either aggressive or very aggressive when it comes to implementing technology. For an industry once considered a laggard when it came to technology adoption, the tides appear to be turning. While the industry as a whole is moving toward greater adoption of technology, these 26 Constructech Vision Award winners are the leaders in the space, demonstrating how technology can transform business in construction.
These winners were validated by an independent panel of industry analysts, consultants, and educators. This year's panel was comprised of Ed Anderson of Lean Implementation Services of Florida; Mark Federle of Marquette University; Carol Hagen of Hagen Business Systems; Don Kaplan of The Duggan Rhodes Group; Dawn Naney of Symphony LLC; Anoop Sattineni of Auburn University; Bill White of IUPUI; Bob Stewart of Construction Change Partners; and Carmelita Thorndike of Scheduling Consultants Ltd.
In a market where visionaries emerge on top, these 26 companies have show they have what it takes to be the leaders, and are guiding the industry into the future of construction technology.
Builder/GC Commercial $6 million to $25 million
Gold: Construction Coordinators Inc.
Construction Coordinators Inc., a contractor of commercial and institutional facilities in the greater Boston area and throughout New England, has built its business on a foundation of technology. When the company was founded in 1991, Mark Fisher, his wife Pam, and his father Fred, believed the use of technology would allow a smaller construction company to provide a greater level of customer service, comparable to larger firms. This is exactly what the company did—and it worked.
To date, CCI has grown, due in part to its use of technology, and attracted high-profile clients including Harvard, 3M, Westin, Mont Blanc, and more. Still, the company is always looking for new ways to use construction technology to improve business processes and customer service.
Case in point: One summer the company began to notice shop drawings submitted for review were continually being misplaced by members of the project team. This caused long turnaround time on submittals on the project. Compounding the issue, at the time, CCI was collecting items in different formats and locations.
Some items were submitted electronically; others in hard copy. Sometimes information was delivered to the office, and other times it was handed over in the field. This resulted in the company's inability to synchronize paper and online data between field and office, which was inhibiting growth.
The solution to this challenge came in the form of a Web-based application to track and organize project submittals. Brendan Dowdall, project manager, CCI, created the solution, which the company calls Material Command. Initially, the tool was used just for submittals, but CCI soon added functionality for daily job reports, meeting minutes, RFIs (requests for information), drawings, and other files.
In addition to Material Command, the company also implemented laptops to access the data on the job. With the combination of laptops and Material Command, field supervisors can print submittals in the field and view an updated activity feed with the latest information about the project.
Having access to that kind of data allows the company to stay on schedule and minimize the number of delays or errors in processing. The biggest benefit has been the ability for CCI to improve the turnaround time of submittals. In the past, the timeframe between submission and approval was roughly 17 days, but with the technology, the turnaround averages 10 days.
The company has additionally been able to eliminate the need to resend submittals, a task that has saved an estimated four hours each week.
Looking forward, Construction Coordinators plans to continue to implement new construction technologies and set new standards for excellence in construction service, building even further on its existing technology foundation.
Builder/GC Commercial $501 to $750 million
Bronze: Consortium Pomerleau-Verreault S.E.N.C.
Consortium Pomerleau-Verreault S.E.N.C is a joint venture between Pomerleau and Verreault, two of Quebec's largest construction contractors. Pomerleau-Verreault has experience delivering projects in a variety of methods, including PPP (public-private partnership), construction management, design-build, and general contracting, and is building the $380 million Research Centre for the McGill University Health Centre. In addition, the joint venture was chosen for the $450 million (CRCHUM) Centre de Recherche at the Centre hospitalier de l'Universete de Montreal project, which is an integrated research center for noninvasive human exploration applied to healthcare services.
As a PPP with more than 150 users from dozens of different organizations, including consultants, architecture and engineering firms, lenders, and certification organizations, the CRCHUM project had a some complexities to address.
Chiefly, the project needed one single management solution to enable collaboration, drive workflows, standardize processes, follow a review process, provide access to documents, ensure accountability, meet contractual obligations, and more.
The joint venture initially considered developing its own system, but soon realized custom development would require a significant amount of time and money to create. Additionally,
Pomerleau-Verreault considered an on-premise solution such as Microsoft SharePoint, but found it was difficult to share documents that were stored behind firewalls, and would also require overhead costs to create a platform specific to the construction industry. The joint venture estimates this would have meant a capital investment of close to $1 million.
Pomerleau-Verreault ended up selecting Aconex, www.aconex.com, San Bruno, Calif., due to the company's knowledge of the construction industry and its success with other complex, multiparty building projects. With the Aconex Online Collaboration Platform, the team has one solution for document tracking, control and transparency, and to manage the workflow and deadlines across the various entities in the project.
The team was trained on the technology in both English and French. The result was a technology implementation that allows Pomerleau-Verreault to comply with security standards, support collaboration, heighten transparency, develop a framework for workflows and deadlines, and support budget and deadline constraints. Aconex played a role in helping to create a process that allowed the team to focus less on managing information and more on delivering the project.
The benefits of the system include creating a standard collaborative process and reducing response times that delay designs from up to two months per response to 10 days per response—a productivity improvement of 85% for critical project decisions across multiple PPP parties. Document control also enabled the Pomerleau-Verreault project team to reduce errors in design and construction, resulting in savings realized by limiting the need to redesign and avoid financial penalties for missed deadlines or noncompliance. In the end, Pomerleau-Verreault proved the value of an online collaborative system.
Builder/GC Commercial More than $751 million
Gold: McCarthy Building Companies
St. Louis, Mo.
With BIM (building information modeling), the construction industry is experiencing efficiency gains in coordination and communication. The challenge is BIM use in the field is still difficult.
McCarthy Building Companies saw this and created a solution for its field personnel, who are more familiar with traditional 2D and paper documents. In order to encourage workers to use the system, McCarthy discovered it needed to give its staff a more intuitive system.
Enter Digital Document Dashboard. This system for accessing digital documents connects all project information including plans, RFIs (requests for information), and building models using a 2D interface. PDF authoring tools from Bluebeam Software, www.bluebeam.com, Pasadena, Calif., eliminated the need to memorize complex fold:er structures, while a computerized field kiosk improved communication. But McCarthy's innovation doesn't end here.
The company also saw a big need to give field staff an easy way to view model information. BIManywhere from Zimfly, www.bimanywhere.com, helped McCarthy develop a system that uses AR (augmented reality) to allow field staff to easily view model information to assist in the coordination and tracking of overhead and in-wall systems. How does it work? Anyone who wanted to resolve a conflict in the field, or wanted to access location and object-specific information, could scan a QR code sticker using an iPad and access the latest 3D model. Workers could also use the iPad to look around and align the 3D model with the real world. McCarthy says the average training time for a field superintendent was less than five minutes, allowing for widespread adoption.
This technology was enabled by using an Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., Navisworks plugin developed by BIManywhere that links 3D objects with documents stored in an enterprise cloud network. The paths were designed to follow COBie standards, meaning easy transfer to the owner's facility-management systems.
Use of this technology has allowed trades and superintendents to efficiently resolve field issues, enable logistics planning and installation coordination, and mitigate risk through better planning. The ROI (return on investment) of this technology is less than two weeks after full implementation, with quantifiable benefits in the form of a 40% reduction in manhours required to access information and a 70% reduction in manhours to resolve a fieldrelated conflict. Another big ROI is the fact it experienced an 83% reduction in hardware and maintenance costs. McCarthy is also exploring the use of the platform as a basis for a final deliverable to the owner.
Corporate Owner: Transportation/Com./Utilities
Gold: Minnkota Power Cooperative
Grand Forks, N.D.
With power demand continuing to grow across the country, regular maintenance of existing infrastructure is required. To meet this need, Minnkota Power Cooperative, a wholesaler of electrical power to 11 rural electric cooperatives, and serving as operating agent for the Northern Municipal Power Agency, undertook construction of a 250-mile, high-voltage transmission line crossing 11 counties, from the center of North Dakota north to Grand Forks. The five-year, $300 million project is the longest high-voltage transmission line built in North Dakota during the past 30 years.
This large-scale infrastructure project required the coordination of both internal departments and external entities.
Compounding this is the fact Minnkota had a small team working on the project, with workers wearing a number of hats. What was needed was a means to manage the large amount of documentation and communications across more than 150 people from 10 separate organizations.
Previously, Minnkota kept separate document repositories, which were managed and accessible through FTP (file transfer protocol) sites and emails. This required a significant amount of time to manage, and receipt of information could not be easily tracked. Also, this method meant there were multiple different naming and filing conventions. With 6,000 photographs alone, time can be saved with a consistent filing system. As such, the organization sought to establish a project-wide naming and numbering convention for transmittals. The project team reviewed their processes between the project teams, and determined improved efficiencies were needed to enable better communication.
To address these information-management and communication challenges, Minnkota began using Aconex, www.aconex.com, San Bruno, Calif., for document management and collaboration. With access to this data, construction can start immediately and be completed faster, while maintaining reliable services to customers. What's more, this system will also allow Minnkota to access the information for the life of the transmission line, which is critical in case of emergency outages, and can be used for future maintenance planning.
The technology solution enables cooperation and collaboration between all project participants, easier document management, and shorter ramp-up time. With this platform, Minnkota was also able to put in place best practices, and realized a number of quantifiable benefits from the technology. For instance, with the solution, it did not need to hire an additional full time FTP site administrator. Additionally, overall project administration was reduced, saving an estimated 5-10 hours per week for each of Minnkota's 40-50 employees.
In the end, the system will give the organization the ability to provide better uptime reliability for its customers. Faster access to project records means better future construction planning and fewer change orders and wasted construction costs. This all translates into better reliability for the customers, at a lower cost and for the long term.
Gold: Seattle Tunnel Partners
STP (Seattle Tunnel Partners) is a joint venture between Dragados USA and Tutor Perini Corp. Dragados brings experience on large bore soft ground tunnels, while Tutor Perini is a civil and building construction company engaged in public works construction throughout the United States. Together, STP was chosen as the design-built contractor for the $1.4 billion SR 99 tunnel project in Seattle, Wash. The partners are responsible for the coordination between the Washington State DOT (Dept. of Transportation), the designer, local municipalities, and many subs and consultants.
In addition to the design and construction effort, STP is also responsible for document management, which includes bids, contracts, change orders, diagrams, and more from various agencies and organizations. At the halfway point on the construction project, the team had already coordinated more than 100,000 documents.
Adding to this is the fact that each document type has a specific process and procedure mapped to it. Previously, this process required the use of spreadsheets to manage, and there was no system in place for managing transmittals, which made it difficult to track emailed documents without an audit trail. Weekly reports would take two hours or more to prepare.
As such, the partners sought a solution that would enable the team to manage transmittals, automate the design submittal process, reduce complexities in bidding and tendering, and enable state DOT agencies to respond quickly to public queries. The solution came from Aconex, www.aconex.com, San Bruno, Calif. Using the Aconex Online Collaboration Platform, the Aconex Bid and Tender Management Module, and the Aconex Vendor Documents Module, STP was able to improve efficiencies in the management of documents, transmittals, and bids. In just a couple of weeks, more than 300 team members were collaborating using one agreed process with defined procedures for managing the documents. The single solution enables version control, bidding and tendering to track invitations, and supports document retrieval for the DOT. The technology also drives the project forward by keeping employees accountable and on task. Now, workers can navigate through each function efficiently, which has improved productivity.
With this system in place, weekly reports are completed in 30 minutes or less. Additionally, uploading documents is up to 50% faster than previous processes, and creating transmittals is 90% faster. Overall, staff members are reporting a savings of 20 hours a week, which used to be required in overtime hours. STP says an employee that used to work 12-hour days plus weekends is now working a standard workweek and enjoying an improved work/life balance. STP is also able to support easy document retrieval for the DOT, which means the public's request for information can be responded to quickly.
Team Award: M.J. Harris Construction Services
As a privately held company that has completed more than 650 projects worth more than $2.1 billion in its 17-year history, M. J. Harris Construction Services believes the relationships it builds are just as important as the buildings it constructs. So when a long-time client called to request a new replacement hospital on the Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center in only 15 months, M. J. Harris needed to find a way to deliver.
Company executives knew technology would play a big role in helping coordinate a tight schedule, while managing risk, from initial design to project completion. M.J. Harris began working to establish the project schedule, setting realistic, yet aggressive deadlines for material deliveries, criticalpath items, and more, while the VDC (virtual, design, and construction) department went to work establishing some best practices with the design team. The company additionally began working with the engineeringconsulting firm and electrical contractor Marrs Electric, www.marrselectric.com, Springdale, Ark., among other project partners in order to meet the aggressive deadlines for material deliveries.
BIM (building information modeling) played a big role in the design and construction phase. While M.J. Harris sees BIM as a collaborative process, some of the technology tools used include Revit and Navisworks from Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., technology from Trimble Navigation, www.trimble.com, Sunnyvale, Calif., and software from Sage, www.sagecre.com, Beaverton, Ore. One hurdle on this project was the fact the project needed to begin construction prior to the receipt of final documents. The technology enabled the team to begin construction before receiving all of the construction documents. This type of collaborative partnership with the design team also helped manage risk.
From the beginning, the company recognized the need to have construction documents readily accessible to all members of the team. But iPads alone would not be enough to solve this challenge. M.J. Harris ended up implementing BIM 360 Field to share information with workers. Being able to manage data within the company—as well as with the various trades that had laptops and iPads on the job—reduced rework and kept the entire team on the same page. This system was also built on top of a notification system, which made it possible to keep workers updated.
Going a step further, M.J. Harris implemented a punchlist tool, which allowed only five employees to input punchlist information in two weeks. Fixing deficiencies took less than 14 days. The result of this technology implementation was on-time delivery of the largest project the company has completed to date.
Consider this: The facility was completed in 18 months—just 10 months after 100% construction documents. A similar-sized facility was completed in 31 months—36 months after 100% construction documents. This client was able to move in 13 months earlier, and M.J. Harris was able to uphold: that long-time relationship.
To read descriptions for each of the 26 Vision Awards winners for 2013: www.constructech.com/vision2013