Archive for the 'Featured Article' Category

How Technology is Advancing one of the Most Dangerous Jobs in America

By Stokes McIntyre, President of MindForge

Construction was recently listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in America by CNBC. So when it comes to day-to-day operations, what can construction managers do to ensure workers receive the information they need to produce quality work and stay safe on the job? One company, MindForge, is doing just that. Its platform is designed to unite construction organizations, simplify workforce communication and maximize performance quality with tools that keep job sites safe, efficient, and connected. By studying behavioral, motivational and systematic issues related to serious injuries and fatalities on construction jobs, MindForge has developed a mobile-based communication platform that supports safety, quality, and productivity. Its browser-based technology platform communicates with desktop, web, and mobile devices in order to bridge the disconnect between the home office and front-line workforce, equipping workers with the knowledge, skills, and information that empower them to avoid hazards and do great work.

Engaging Training

In order to take command of construction projects and reach the next level in safety and quality, it’s critical to engage the front-line workforce. Firms must deploy engaging training that makes a lasting impact and deliver information in ways that workers will respond positively to. MindForge provides a framework, inspired by the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), that workers can apply when facing an unusual situation or uncommon issues. MindForge specifically targets relevant hazards a worker will encounter while they perform tasks on a job.

Firms should also consider the importance of timing. If you learn something that you can’t put into practice right away, it may be difficult to recall that information when you finally need to use it. MindForge places training within the context of the job site, which helps the material come alive and allows workers to see the direct application of that material. The digital platform also allows for “just-in-time” content, delivered either close to when the workers will perform related tasks or as a refresher right after a worker has experienced the task.

In order to deliver the most value to construction professionals, MindForge has created training modules that are succinct and specific. Breaking training down into smaller pieces makes it easier for workers and teams to select courses that apply to their work each day. With short, direct lessons, you give workers the opportunity to digest information quickly so that important material isn’t lost within hours of training that is delivered all at once.

Immersive Experiences

One of the best tactics to ensure your training is effective is to make it as experiential as possible. You should place workers in controlled situations they might eventually face, doing the tasks expected of them while facing potential job hazards they could see on the job. Using specific job site videos or 3-D simulations can help you create these immersive experiences without putting anyone in danger. For example, the MindForge platform offers a 3-D simulation of a scissor lift safety “hazard hunt” which tests the workers by having them identify all of the potential hazards on a job site, such as tilt, unsafe conditions and proximity to power lines, and how to mitigate those risks. Rather than using a slideshow, MindForge trains using immersive experiences, like having the workforce identify the proper fire extinguisher based on the type of simulated fire. This technique allows workers to actively engage while learning necessary techniques like P.A.S.S. (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep).

Moreover, offering a variety of training styles gives workers the opportunity to learn however they learn best. Similarly, offering the same material in different ways can make repeated instruction more interesting and help the material reach trainees in new ways each time. Our material is offered in the form of relevant stories that resonate: practical, real-life scenarios. For example, the Construction LifeSaver (CLS) is MindForge’s series of digital training, delivered via the CLS desktop or mobile application. CLS courses focus on interactive, hazard-based training that highlights the tasks, exposures, and scenarios workers encounter in their day-to-day jobs on a construction site.

Key Communication

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the MindForge platform is the establishment of a solid line of communication to the front line that allows project leaders to efficiently send timely information and training to the workforce. The comprehensive communication hub simplifies the communication process and allows for consistent messaging and expectations for everyone involved in the project. The fact is when it comes to safety and quality, everyone needs to be on the same page from top to bottom.

Further, investing in tools to help support safety initiatives shows that a business cares about its workers, enforcing a stronger safety culture within the company. This can improve your recruiting ability, as well as your bottom line.

MindForge facilitates the management of this highly fluid workforce, and is designed to integrate the entire organization from the home office to the front line by capturing and storing records for orientation, training, certifications, equipment inspections, toolbox talks and more, indefinitely. One function of the platform allows you to quickly deploy important announcements, messages and alerts to the entire workforce with the push of a button while another function manages employee profiles and teams. Quality, speed, and safety all increase when workers get to do the things they are confident in doing. Having a system to track workers’ skills and preferred tasks goes a long way in making sure everyone is operating at their highest level. It can be difficult to engage construction workers due to localized environments with constant deadlines. Content that is engaging, relevant and enjoyable helps make construction projects more efficient, profitable and ultimately safe.

MindForge offers a new and safer way to work. The holistic communication and training hub helps protect a company’s bottom line through various efficiencies and improvements across quality, culture and time and ultimately, saves lives. As we look ahead, we recognize the potential of technology to significantly decrease the rate of serious injuries and fatalities within the industry while making construction projects more efficient and profitable, benefiting the industry as a whole.

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Cloud-Based Employee Time Tracking

Scalable Solutions That Build the Bottom Line

By Sarah Broome

There’s no doubt that technology has increased project management efficiency and safety in the construction industry. Case in point: construction worker illnesses and injuries went from 10.9 incidents (in 1972) to 2.8 incidents (in 2017) per 100 people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, there are some things technology hasn’t improved in this field. 

Take productivity, for example. Other industries have seen dramatic increases in productivity thanks to technology, but productivity in construction has remained flat for decades. This isn’t because construction is already as efficient as it can be; it’s rather the result of a lack of proper data collection and usage. The Dodge Smart Market Report detailed how improving data collection affects the contractor that receives the information. The top three outcomes were: increased ability to complete projects at budget or under budget, greater productivity, and greater profitability.

Construction has been slow to adopt cloud computing and is missing out on the productivity that comes with it. Even if the industry sees the value in having more information that is also more accurate, there are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about this tech that need to be addressed before widespread adoption will occur. So let’s zero in on how project managers and contractors can increase their productivity by using real-time cloud-based software that tracks time, production, and job costs.  

Misconceptions of Cloud-Based Software Costs 

In the past, changing from one on-premise technology system to another was very expensive and labor-intensive. Known as legacy systems, older technology required complicated and expensive physical equipment. Most legacy systems use a paper or spreadsheet-based time tracking system that requires human input and confirmation. Legacy systems are an all or nothing implementation that could take months, cloud-based systems take days. Those familiar with the older systems may assume that cloud-based software carries with it the same issues and costs, it doesn’t. So, let’s discuss the cost-based misconceptions about cloud-based software:


Any tracking or time management software based in the cloud can run on any smart device like a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Given that 99 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 49 own a cellphone, 96 percent of which are smartphones, access to the software is everywhere. This extensive ownership of personal smart devices and the ability to run cloud-based software on existing computers and tablets eliminates the requirement to purchase any type of hardware for those out in the field.

Initial and Ongoing Costs

It is a misconception that cloud-based software has high initial and ongoing costs. The reality is that cloud computing is a cost-cutting measure. Not only does the cloud remove the waste of unused software licenses, thereby cutting 7.4 million dollars worth of waste for a business, but it also cuts down on the opportunity cost of all employees’ time. As an example, implementing a cloud-based time tracking software will eliminate up to 50 percent of the time and cost associated with payroll management. Additionally, the Dodge Smart Market Report found that 43 percent of contractors were able to cut costs by switching from an on-premise legacy system to a cloud-based system.

Labor is always a top cost for projects, and it becomes even more significant for specialty contractors. Late arrivals, long lunches and early departures cost the company time and money. Place those costs on top of the cost of running paper timesheets or spreadsheets and the costs add up fast. 

The American Payroll Association (APA) found that going from a spreadsheet or paper-based time card to a real-time capture time tracking software eliminates up to 8 percent of the total cost of payroll. The average weekly loss of time is four hours and five minutes per employee, per week. For every 10 employees making $20 per hour, this equals a loss of $816 per week.

Requires a Full System Overhaul

Switching from one legacy system to another typically required an entire overhaul of all of the hardware and software within a company. This demanded a large financial and time investment from the company and its staff. Even with all of the right planning, an overhaul can lead to software outages that can cost the business $8,600 an hour in revenues. 

Cloud-based software can be implemented and scaled very easily. A typical cloud-based implementation takes less than a week, compared to the months it takes for a legacy system. A perfect starting point is to implement time tracking software that can capture real-time data. On top of saving the company payroll expenses and time, the system can be implemented on the right scale for the business. It can start small with just a single group and work its way up to the entire workforce if needed. In the cloud, a company has the flexibility to pick how many users it has at any time, whether seasonal, project-based, etc. 

Misconceptions of Cloud Functionality and Use

On top of misconceptions about how much a cloud application will cost are the misconceptions of how functional a cloud application will be. There are three common misconceptions about cloud-based applications that stop companies from implementing the upgrades they should.

Difficult to Integrate with Current Systems

Legacy systems were built to function on their own with limited interactions with outside software. The opposite is true for cloud-based programs. The cloud assumes that your software will be talking to – and exchanging data with – other pieces of software. In fact, the Dodge Smart Market Report found that 71 percent of contractors use the cloud to access job site data from the office and 70 percent access data from the office while on the job site. Overall 61 percent of contractors found that being able to input and access data from anywhere on any device was practical and useful. While it used to take time and programming to attach data from one application to another, sometimes causing even more downtime, cloud-based programs are built to integrate and work with other programs and software packages seamlessly. 

Instead of having to manually fix data to and from an ERP system into any ancillary software in a legacy system, cloud-based software is integrated with the ERP system and will update itself to continue to match the ERP. That level of integration means no downtime for the systems to communicate with one another. The cloud-based software matches the ERP and is easily lined up to communicate more useful information such as current cost or project progress. Even if this seems overwhelming, it’s not because the best-in-class cloud software for time tracking will show employees only the relevant projects and tasks/cost codes from the ERP specific to that employee. 

Cloud-Based Software Requires a Continual Internet Connection to Work

Many cloud-based software systems require an internet connection, but that doesn’t hold true for all employee time tracking solutions. The app on a smartphone, tablet or computer can continue to gather and store data while out in the field where an internet connection or cell service isn’t possible. The data is still collected in real-time and will store the information locally on the device until the device regains an internet connection. Once a connection is re-established, the stored data can be immediately shared with the cloud based system. Cloud-based software with an off-line capable mobile app to collect data, will allow the business to function as intended no matter the quality of data connection at the work location.

Employees Aren’t Technically Skilled Enough

Switching to a new piece of software can lead to the fear that employees won’t be able to use it due to lacking technical skills. There’s also a fear that unskilled employees may cause the software to fail by improper use. But, the reality is that new time tracking software is as easy to use as a banking app. The average smartphone user has 2.5 mobile banking apps installed on their phone, according to Bankrate. With 96 percent of those 50 and younger having a smartphone, each employee has the skill set already to log in and use time tracking software. 

In fact, time tracking software is easier to use and handle than any paper version. The software will not allow a crew member to inaccurately clock in or choose from the wrong site or project list if you have robust permission profiles set up that mirror the project cost structure from your ERP. A cloud-based timekeeping system can be flexible and can allow a mixture of real-time tracking by employee or crew clock in and out by their supervisor.

The cloud is the present – and future – of technology. By adopting cloud-based software, the construction industry can transform how worksites and crews are managed. Now is the perfect time to up your competitive edge by investing into time tracking software that can be scaled at the right speed for the company. If done correctly, along with many other benefits, it can bring significant relief and add substantial new revenue to any company’s bottom line.

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Going the Distance

High-Volume Asphalt Maintenance Mixture Sets Innovative Roadway Solutions on the Path to Productivity

The hardest part of a project for most contractors is the bid. Balancing customer specs with overhead costs to produce a number both sides are comfortable with takes skill and a deep understanding of an operation’s capabilities. Partnering with industry-leading OEMs to provide efficiency-optimizing equipment can give contractors an edge in the bidding process. But a tool is only as good as the hand wielding it – or, in the case of asphalt preservation applications, the one applying it. In this competitive industry, a successful bid requires expert leveraging of experience and equipment to provide quality results with no waste.

For Innovative Roadway Solutions success means taking advantage of new innovations, even if they present a challenge to current processes. The company partnered with Neal Manufacturing to help meet quality and efficiency needs on specialized high-volume highway and shoulder applications

For Innovative Roadway Solutions – a pavement preservation specialist operating in Texas, Missouri, and the surrounding states – success also means taking advantage of new innovations, even if they present a challenge to current processes. This was the case when the company began using Onyx, a high-performance mastic sealer produced by Ingevity and spec’d by several DOTs in its operating area. To apply Onyx efficiently, Innovative Roadway Solutions needed an OEM partner with not only the experience to produce reliable equipment for the high-aggregate mixture; it needed a manufacturer willing to listen and custom-engineer machines for specialized high-volume highway and shoulder applications. So, the company turned to Neal Manufacturing, a division of Blastcrete Equipment LLC, for a solution to help them maintain their reputation for quality and dependability and still be able to submit competitive bids. 

Challenging the Status Quo

With more than 30 years of experience, Innovative Roadway Solutions always strives to provide affordable preventative maintenance applications that extend the longevity of asphalt roadways. In 2017, the company became part of Lionmark Construction Companies, a privately held group specializing in pavement preservation and road and bridge construction. The acquisition extended Innovative Roadway Solutions’ service area and gave the company a chance to grow, doubling its size in just two years.

One thing that remained constant throughout the growth period is the company’s commitment to harnessing the latest technology and products for the benefit of its customers. New and existing employees worked together to ensure Innovative Roadway Solutions remained just that – innovative. As they grew service offerings, they looked to incorporate processes and products popular across Lionmark’s area of operation.

Onyx was one such product. Introduced in 2012, the frictional mastic surface treatment quickly gained popularity with DOTs across the U.S. It offers high durability with frictional characteristics achieved from improving micro texture on the pavement surface. Fast drying times makes it popular with contractors and motorists alike, while the consistently black color offers striking contrast for aesthetic and safety benefits. For Innovative Roadway Solutions, the high-performance product looked to revolutionize pavement preservation processes in terms of durability and affordability. 

“Onyx was starting to show up on the spec sheets for DOT projects in numerous states, which are about 95 percent of our business, but even where customers weren’t specifically asking for it, we recognized its value for certain applications,” said Kevin King, President of Innovative Roadway Solutions. “The product bridged the gap between a fog seal and slurry seal, allowing us to offer customers another solution that would extend the life of their road surface without breaking the bank.”

Innovative Roadway Solutions worked with Neal Manufacturing to retrofit one of its existing high-volume application trucks with the HDP system and spray apparatus. It also bought a new 3,000-gallon truck system from the OEM. Equipped with the Generation IV 150-gpm pump, the new truck provided productivity like never before.

But there were a few bumps in the road when it came to integrating the new product into its service lineup.

The Path to Productivity

“Contracts with government agencies at the city, county and state level aren’t easy to get,” King said. “It’s not just about the lowest bid, though that is definitely a part of it. It’s about reputation. The high aggregate composition of Onyx requires a stronger pump than other spray applications. To maintain our reputation for quality and dependability and still be able to submit competitive bids, we needed specialized equipment that provided the volume and precision that customers required.”

When it came to pump design, Innovative Roadways Solutions knew there was no one in the pavement preservation industry with more experience than Neal Manufacturing and their parent company, Blastcrete Equipment LLC. Both companies have long histories of pump innovations. Since the 1950s, Blastcrete Equipment has been at the forefront of shotcrete pumping technology – introducing several equipment designs over the years that revolutionized applications in refractory and construction applications. Neal Manufacturing has similar claims to pump fame in the pavement preservation industry. Before its merger with Blastcrete in 2013, the company made significant innovations to hydraulic piston pumps to allow more efficiency and longevity for use with asphalt sealcoating products. Once the companies began operating out of the same Alabama-based facility, engineers continued to expand pump capacities for a number of applications. This combined experience and continued innovation earned Innovative Roadway Solutions’ trust.

“When dealing with high-aggregate products, Blastcrete provides a unique expertise other OEMs don’t have,” King said. “Their pumps are originally designed to handle robust, difficult materials. When they integrated that technology with Neal Manufacturing equipment, which already had excellent pumps for traditional preservation coatings, we knew we were working with a winning team for developing high-aggregate pavement preservation equipment.”

As Innovative Roadway Solutions made the transition to Onyx applications, the team worked with Neal Manufacturing to upgrade the pumps on some of their existing equipment to a more reliable hydraulic piston pump. Neal Manufacturing’s heavy-duty aggregate pump (HDP) system offered the fastest transfer rate on the market – up to 150 gpm – but more importantly, produced enough pressure to move mixtures with up to 10 pounds of sand per gallon. 

With a metering system custom-engineered from Neal Manufacturing, Innovative Roadway Solutions could accurately assess application rates and ensure uniform distribution of the surface treatment, allowing the contractor to remain a competitive bidder with agencies across its area of operation.

“Using Onyx with a traditional pump system results in a lot of unnecessary downtime,” King said. “Asphalt maintenance has a very limited season, only about seven months in some of the states we work in, so we need to make every minute count. Neal Manufacturing’s equipment is simple, easy to use and durable. With it there’s less cleaning, less maintenance and fewer clogs, saving us valuable minutes every day.” 

To truly maximize its potential on high-volume projects, Innovative Roadway Solutions needed more than a heavy-duty pump – it needed a reliable system with the precision to meet government agency specs. 

Miles to Go

Innovative Roadway Solutions worked with Neal Manufacturing to retrofit one of its existing high-volume application trucks with the HDP system and spray apparatus. It also bought a new 3,000-gallon truck system from the OEM. Equipped with the Generation IV 150-gpm pump, the new truck provided productivity like never before.

The basic design also provided a number of features that made application more user friendly for Innovative Roadway Solution crews. In-cab controls allowed drivers to easily control spray bar height for optimum control as weight shifted during application. This on-board system was also capable of controlling individual heads to provide more precision and flexibility for applications on narrow surfaces. 

However, the precision required by DOT and other government agencies still needed to be accounted for.

“We were bidding on projects with specified application rates, but, at first, we didn’t have a way to monitor that with the Neal Manufacturing system,” King said. “We had the right equipment but the trucks had to be modified to meet our customers’ standards. With Neal Manufacturing’s reputation for customized solutions, we knew we had the right partner to help us develop the appropriate equipment for our operation.”

True to their reputation, Neal Manufacturing listened to exactly what Innovative Roadway Solutions needed and engineered a metering system to work in conjunction with the contractor’s High-Volume Road Maintenance Vehicle. The system combined information for four load cells positioned on the corners of the tank with a component that measures distance to provide an accurate application rate. The OEM also included an on-board printer to provide immediate results when necessary. 

“It’s not always easy to find a manufacturer that’s willing to collaborate,” King said. “Often what you see is what you get when it comes to pavement preservation equipment. Or you have to wait awhile for the updated model to come out. Having Neal Manufacturing on our team meant that not only did we get the upgrades we needed quickly, but they’re now standard and will be available on the next high-volume vehicle we buy.”

With the new system, Innovative Roadway Solutions could accurately assess application rates and ensure uniform distribution, allowing the contractor to remain a competitive bidder with agencies across its area of operation.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Since 2017, Innovative Roadway Solutions has completed approximately 25 contracts spec’ing Onyx. The majority of these have been with local, state or federal agencies, requiring a high degree of precision, quality and dependability. All of which the asphalt maintenance contractor provides time and again.

“We’re still submitting the low bid for these projects,” King said, “but at this point, some of these agencies are more like our loyal customers. They know we will get the job done quickly, efficiently, and to spec.”

For one such project, completed for the Paris District of the TxDOT, Innovative Roadway Solutions applied 767,331 square yards of Onyx in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend in 2019. As part of the overall job, crews used the Neal Manufacturing equipment to apply the mastic sealer to 207,748 square yards of parking areas, boat ramps, main grounds and RV spots at US Army Corps of Engineers Lake Jim Chapman at Cooper Dam, commonly called Cooper Lake. The application didn’t disturb visitors and surfaces were dry enough to resume normal traffic in time for the holiday. 

“This is a great time to be in the asphalt maintenance industry,” King said. “The process is changing. New products are coming out. Experienced manufacturers are stepping up to provide the equipment we need to leverage these to our customer’s advantage. It’s an ideal environment for Innovative Roadway Solutions to continue growing and continue pushing ourselves.”

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Steering Through Sandy Soils

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. Upgrades Garden City Sewer System

By Neville Missen

The economy in Garden City, Kansas, is strong with the recent opening of a Dairy Farmers of America plant. Approximately 4 million pounds of milk from regional farmers make its way to the dairy plant each day, which has led to expansion for many other companies throughout the area. To keep up with the expected growth from the dairy industry and other retail stores being constructed nearby, Garden City is upgrading existing utilities to ensure they are prepared to handle current and future needs.

Garden City’s most recent project involves upgrading its existing sewer system to larger diameter piping near the dairy plant. While most of the work is being done using open-trench methods, there are several road crossings where trenchless methods needed to be employed. And to install the large casings deep underground, auger boring has been selected as the method of choice. 

Dialing Up a Trusted Partner

When specialty trenchless work needs to be done Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. of Exeter, Nebraska, is a trusted partner that many general construction companies call in. Since 1983, Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Owner Brent Moore and his team have been performing underground construction work throughout the country. Horizontal Boring & Tunneling crews perform everything from auger and guided boring to microtunneling and pipe jacking across Colorado, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Project Manager, Kenton Moore, said their crews have been part of some huge projects. “We don’t shy away from big pipe. We do a lot of 60-, 72-, 84- and 96-inch diameter pipe installations,” Moore explained. “There are not a lot of companies as highly specialized as we are, which is why we are usually called on to handle large diameter bores.”

Doug Godown, Project Supervisor, and Roger Glenn, Crew Supervisor, of Horizontal Boring & Tunneling spend a lot of time in Kansas performing auger boring work. In fact, Glenn’s crew has spent most of the winter working in Garden City and the Kansas City area. “We usually work year-round, no matter what the weather is like,” he explained. “Over the years, we’ve gotten good at staying warm and ensuring our machinery is ready to go no matter what the temperature is.” 

Two-Month-Long Project

For the Garden City sewer expansion project, Glenn’s crew was pulled in to perform four 42-inch bores at depths of 12 to 13 feet in sandy soils. Bore distances were 75, 272, 280 and 383 feet long, and the bores exited into manholes at a 0.06 percent drop, so everything had to be on target. 

“Over the years, we’ve done around 10 bores in the Garden City area, so we knew what to expect on this one,” Glenn explained. “Soil conditions are sandy, which makes it a major challenge to stay on grade. Sandy soils can have air voids, water pockets and areas with sandstone. We also have to battle with the sand packing in around the casing because of the vibration in the hole.” 

The project was slated to take a total of 10 weeks, but thanks to a new tool in the Horizontal Boring & Tunneling fleet, the crew wrapped everything up two weeks early. 

New Way of Steering

On this project, the crew used the McLaughlin ON-TARGET auger boring steering system to keep the casings on grade with minimal side deviation. The 42-inch ON-TARGET steering head is welded onto the front of the first casing being installed. Crew members are then able to check and maintain the line throughout the bore with twin-line projection LED lights enclosed in the steering head and control the movement of the steering head – as well as hydraulic, water and electrical lines – from a self-contained control station. 

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling used the ON-TARGET system with its existing auger boring machine. “We’re familiar with McLaughlin auger boring equipment, but that’s not what we had on this job – we were using another manufacturer’s machine,” explained Glenn. “What’s nice about this system is that it will work with any auger boring machine – it doesn’t matter who made it, which makes it a pretty darn cost-effective option to add to a job.” 

The ON-TARGET steering system is an upgrade to how the crew would typically handle these bores. Glenn said they would have normally used a conventional head with left and right pads and would have pulled the auger out every 40 feet to measure where they were. Then, they would make adjustments to direction as needed, reset the auger and do another 40 to 60 feet. At 100 feet, they would also shoot the line grade. “The conventional way is a much more time-consuming process,” he added. “The ON-TARGET system saves a ton of time – on this job, a full two weeks.” 

Attention to the Details

The crew of six, along with a pair of John Deere excavators, prepared for the bores by digging entrance pits. They set 32-foot trench boxes with a 15-foot spread at a depth of 12 to 13 feet for the 75- and 272-foot bores. They dug a 64-foot long pit between the 280- and 383-foot bores since those backed up to each other. Compacted rock was used for a base in all of the entrance pits. 

The shorter bores were under a road that leads to the dairy plant and the driveway of a trucking company that hauls milk out of the facility. The 280-foot bore was under a state highway, and the longest shot was under a road to a sandpit. 

“Interrupting everyday operations at the plant or the trucking company was not an option, which is why they called us in,” said Glenn. “While I’m sure people knew there was an underground crew working in the area, no one had to change their normal routines to accommodate us.” 

After preparing each entrance pit, the auger boring machine was lowered into the ground where the first piece of casing with the ON-TARGET steering head was added. The crews worked the shorter bores in 20-foot increments. On the longer bores, they would install 40-foot joints, which certainly sped up production rates. “By the time we got to the longer bores, we had complete confidence in the ON-TARGET steering system,” said Glenn. “So, we welded up two casings at a time. On the first day of the last bore, we did 100 feet, 120 feet on the second day and 160 feet on the third day. The bore went quickly.” 

Hitting the Mark

More important than production rates, the team hit their exit mark on all four bores perfectly. “This was our first time using the McLaughlin ON-TARGET steering system, so I was a bit nervous on the first bore,” Glenn said. “McLaughlin sent out an expert to help us get started. By the end of his visit, we were confident that we knew what we were doing. We hit all of our marks right on target.” 

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

ADEACA: Why Productivity in Construction is Flatlining

By Daniel Bévort

Let’s face facts, the construction industry does not do well when it comes to completing projects on time and within budget. Approximately 98 percent of megaprojects suffer cost overruns of more than 30 percent and 77 percent are at least 40 percent late, according to a McKinsey & Company report. 

Unfortunately, construction companies that fail to identify as a project business (a company that provides products and services for their customers through projects) can face many problems that impact business performance, productivity, and profitability.

However, if you take a step back, look at the fundamentals and recognize your business as a Project Business, you can start to see: 

  • Why your business isn’t running as well as it could
  • Where the problems are
  • What you need to do to solve them

By structuring your project business processes, you will be able to analyze what systems need to change and what solutions are possible. 

Business management

Why are Construction Companies Not Optimized for Success?

Why do construction companies suffer from low productivity? Compared to other industries where productivity has steadily increased, productivity in the construction sector has remained stagnant and even declined. 

One of the main reasons stems from poor project management and the lack of technological innovation. The inability to utilize technology to improve processes and information flow is a major reason why construction companies lag in productivity and are often faced with budget overruns and project delays. 

Poor Organization

Construction companies tend to have separate systems and databases for each stage of their projects. This disjointed structure not only causes delays, but also hinders insight. In addition, most construction businesses lack standardization and integration. Processes aren’t uniform, and they often rely on individuals who take extreme liberties with them. As a result, it’s difficult to control the business functions and create standard metrics to measure performance.

Insufficient management

Inadequate Communication

When managing projects, establishing the right communication strategies ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page. It’s important to create the right sequence of processes and proper networks across the organization so everyone who needs to be informed has access to the data at any point during a project’s life cycle. Inconsistences in reporting mean that stakeholders don’t have a common understanding of how the project is doing in real time. 

Flawed Performance Management

Oftentimes, construction companies run their business units and projects as independent entities, without consistent project management. This leads to the “silo effect.” Project Businesses that don’t standardize their operations and project reporting across the company aren’t able to manage their risks as well as they could. In addition, they cannot apply the best practices discovered from one project to the next. Let’s face it, if you can’t measure performance, you can’t improve it. The key to operational excellence is scalable and predictable business processes. 

Project business structure

Missed Connections 

There are different levels of planning, from high-end preparation to day-by-day programs. Schedulers need to know if the daily work isn’t done so they can update the priorities in real time. However, they often don’t have this information. Today’s real-time economy demands visibility into what’s going on inside your company. Failure to integrate all project functions into one system leads to organizational inefficiencies, delays, budget overruns, and poor performance. 

Poor Short-Term Planning

Project businesses are good at understanding what needs to happen in the coming two to three months, but they aren’t so good at figuring out what must happen in the next week or two. 

Insufficient Risk Management

Although project businesses pay considerable attention to long-term risks, they tend not to give the same attention to the kinds of risks that might crop up on the job. In order to manage milestones and deadlines to ensure the successful delivery of projects, it’s important to be aware early on when project plans slide. A lack of real-time insight into your operations will result in increased risk and ultimately, decreased profitability.

Insufficient project business management

The Way Forward

When you recognize that the bulk of what you do is projects and you are a project business first and foremost, you develop a new way of thinking and the ability to recognize new solutions. Project businesses need to operate with similar transparency and control as traditional industries. As projects get bigger in size and complexity, it’s critical to implement a project business structure that improves the chances of success of those projects. 

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This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder