January 20, 2019

Cornerstones: Productivity

If you think of productivity in construction your first thoughts might turn to larger, more powerful machines that can lift more, move more, deliver more, more  quickly  and efficiently. But for the last several years all Building Division projects  have  relied on a tool, by contrast, that weighs about a pound-and-a-half and lives in a leatherette portfolio. That tool is the iPad and it is enabling impressive gains in  productivity.

One of the things it does best for project superintendents like Steve Baranello is run a versatile app called BIM 360 Field. Labeled as “collaborative construction management software” by its maker, Autodesk, “BIM” is short for Building Information Modeling.  It compiles and provides data for the teams building projects from preconstruction thru execution to commissioning and handover.

Baranello has been Project Superintendent at the Orville H. Platt High School Additions and Renovations project in Meriden  for  the last two years. He is a devotee of BIM 360 Field, as it seems everyone using it is. He can tell you all the ways it enhances communication,  quality  and productivity.

“I use it primarily as issue-tracking software. It’s great for tracking deficiencies that occur during any project.” Up until recently builders managing projects  would  walk their sites with a blueprint and a notepad, penciling notes about any issues they found, from scuffed finishes to missing mechanical elements. “BIM 360 Field has all the blueprints for the specific job loaded in a library. When I walk the site or Dave [Cravanzola, Platt’s Project Manager] walks the site and we spot something that needs fixing, we use the iPad’s camera to take a photograph of  it. Then we can pull up the appropriate plan and ‘pin’ that photo or photos right to it at the exact spot where the issue is. We can also write a note describing it if we want to say what needs to be done to resolve it.”

Before BIM 360 Field, managing a building project would present a minefield of potential pitfalls: remembering to note a deficiency, having to retrieve paper blueprints and lists of specs to make notes, taking the time to write emails and attach documents or photos. It’s all streamlined with the app.

“We have all the specs and drawings wherever we are in the field,” says Baranello. “In the past we had to take a photo with our camera, remember to download the photo and send it with an email, referencing the drawing or spec and what needed to be done. Now it’s all in one place and happens pretty much automatically.”

Tracking is another strength of BIM 360 Field. When a deficiency is pinned to the plan, it’s also assigned a party responsible for its resolution. The app automatically sends an email notification to that party – say, the MEP subcontractor. The communication is clear, accurate and instantaneous. When the subcontractor corrects the problem, he photographs the completed work, pins it to the drawing and sends it back to the project office for approval. Only Baranello or Cravanzola as managers are able to clear out issues from their electronic list.

Aaron Mednick, Building Division Vice President, points out that on a job using BIM 360 Field, before a walkthrough and turnover to the client at project end, there are far fewer issues to button up. “It’s helped minimize the number of times you have to revisit any issue. There are far fewer issues that fall through the cracks. Some of our project managers use it to print out the open-item lists the app can generate and hand them out at their weekly project meetings. It’s a great productivity tool and a great quality assurance tool as well.”

BIM 360 Field enables realistic evaluation of the performance of contractors. It can tally their deficiencies at any point in  the project. While the overall impression of a subcontractor’s performance might have been one way or another, the data tells the true story.

Building projects veteran Mike Brennan, Assistant Vice President and project executive for many of the company’s school projects, approached BIM 360 Field with eyes wide open. “We’ve had scheduling software that did everything but cook your breakfast. But I’d ask the guys to give it a gut check. ‘Did you look at it to see how it does what you really need it to do?’” With BIM 360 Field, citing its on-the-fly immediacy, thoroughness and the time savings it provides, he’s impressed. “When you use it for what it’s designed for, it works very well.”