While technology is helping construction firms to streamline workflows, increase communication among stakeholders and keep costs down, much of it is in the hands of a select few employees. The idea that virtual design and construction (VDC) efforts are only the responsibility of one department needs to change, according to presenters at last week’s Design-Build Conference 2019 in Las Vegas.
The move toward a “VDC-enabled workforce” is becoming reality at Barton Malow, said senior VDC manager Alan Todd, thanks to a company initiative to train field workers and implement tech solutions across the board.
“We’re trying to push our internal expertise out into the field, so they can help employees be agile, stay versatile and make decisions on site,” he said.
It’s crucial for all of Barton Malow’s 2,000 workers to have a stake in tech-based solutions, Todd said, if they are to be used to their fullest potential.
“We use technology to drive and really streamline our communication process,” he said. “When things start to get out of whack or misaligned as a team we can address those issues and solve them pretty quickly. That’s why it’s important to push that experience out into the field.”
Founded in 2016, the VDC department at Barton Malow is made up of five employees, which is not enough manpower to support all projects across the organization.
“We realized we had to train up our folks on the jobsites to be able to leverage the tools appropriately,” he said. These include programs like laser scanning, 360-degree photo and video capture, point-based layout and virtual and augmented mockups.
Other technology helping to keep the Barton Malow's office and field employees on the same page include project dashboards, smart video, digital drawing tables, virtual creative workspaces like Hoylu Huddlewalls and on-site mobile communication units, said co-presenter Ted Jennings, a VDC manager at Barton Malow.
“The idea is that everybody who is executing work in the field is in communication and the beauty of that is that it ultimately makes things more effective,” Jennings said.
To roll out the training, each member of the Barton Malow VDC group partnered with an expert in the field such as a project manager or superintendent to help champion and understand how to leverage and deploy technology-based solutions on the jobsite.
After a while, the VDC employees backed away into a consulting role and the field worker continued to drive tech adoption within his or her team.
“At the end of the project, that person has been a champion for so long that he or she becomes the expert and can train future teams,” Todd said. “We’ve been able to grow our technical expertise across the organization that way.”
The initiative has led to improvements such as field-led BIM coordinators and foremen that carry iPads on the jobsite.
“It makes sense for those kinds of activities to take place in the field,” Todd said. “It makes sense for superintendents to at least know how to navigate a model and how to analyze and change it and have conversations with subs on site and react to those changes that are constantly happening.