Leveraging Data and a Constructible Process
Self-perform contractor eliminates inefficiencies and manages end-to-end project management for complete project visibility and enhanced pre-jobsite coordination.
Founded in 1924, Barton Malow Company is a Michigan-based self-perform contractor serving North America in market specialties that include commercial, industrial, education, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, sports and entertainment facilities. With more than 2,000 employees and 16 offices, the full-service general contracting firm provides construction management, design-build, program management, technology and equipment installation services to clients across the U.S.
Barton Malow’s senior Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) manager Matt Hedke, along with the company’s senior leadership team, wanted to reduce workflow inefficiencies and uncover innovative methods in which technology could be employed and adopted to drive safety, quality and productivity. Hedke began talking with the Trimble Buildings team about the potential benefits of implementing various software solutions, along with a constructible BIM process, as a way of facilitating the projects the firm delivers to clients.
A constructible approach leveraging a broad range of Trimble’s technology solutions including software systems designed to work together to enhance communications, productivity and workflow between the field and office.
Barton Malow’s team has minimized workflow inefficiencies so everyone across the entire project lifecycle can achieve a final result that’s built to its best potential and creates a competitive advantage.
By taking a constructible BIM approach using Trimble’s technology, productivity at Barton Malow has increased and safety improvements have been realized.
By combining design, project management and engineering models into Trimble’s collaboration platform, Barton Malow can use data from different sources to make more informed decisions before build – and beyond. This proactive method gives all stakeholders complete visibility so they can coordinate, adjust or modify project aspects before arriving on a job site.
Matt Hedke, senior Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) manager of Barton Malow, has been in the construction business for more than 18 years. In his role at Barton Malow, Hedke focuses on innovative ways to streamline document sharing to field operations, BIM for cast in place concrete, the fabrication process, and the continued growth and development of the company’s in-house fabrication shop. Headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, Barton Malow employs 2,000 team members and has 16 North American-based offices. The full-service, self-perform contractor provides construction management, design-build, program management, general contracting, technology and equipment installation services to clients across the U.S. Hedke estimates that, on average, Barton Malow tackles approximately 500 projects per year.
According to Hedke, Barton Malow’s previous project management and estimating approach involved numerous, disparate software programs, many of which were completed in traditional spreadsheet format. “Previously, we had all of these different fragmented processes,” Hedke explained. “Because we self-perform so many things, one of our big challenges was that we would finish a reinforcing steel estimate, for example, and it would be in a different format than the next trade, two office cubicles over, was estimating.”
Also, the contractor previously relied on a workflow that was “very 2D,” according to Hedke, which commonly resulted in not always allowing for complete visibility into a building project. “With 2D, you are not able to flip it around and understand the third dimension, if you will,” he said. “We knew that going from 2D to 3D could help our folks here to become better modelers and detailers. From a constructible side, it could allow us to better identify issues ahead of time.”
After speaking with the team at Trimble about potential options to create workflow efficiencies, Hedke determined there could be numerous advantages to leveraging a single platform that would allow the self perform contractor to house everything in one location. Hedke continues, “At one time, everyone thought BIM would change everything. But it didn’t take us far enough.” By implementing a constructible process, Barton Malow could transform workflows within the company, and get all parties involved in the construction and lifecycle management of any built asset to work collaboratively and seamlessly share data.
Barton Malow transformed workflows from preconstruction to physical production and almost everything in between. “Every project we do involves a good constructible model,” said Hedke. A standardized coding format to estimating was re-established for all projects the company takes on. By utilizing a standard set of cost codes and practices across all projects, estimates can be developed faster and with increased transparency to clients. Trimble WinEst is used by all Barton Malow estimators for detailed estimates, and Trimble Modelogix is the go-to tool for developing preliminary estimates for bidding. Modelogix allows the company to take their own experience with completed projects and apply that knowledge to new, prospective projects.
The company’s structural modeling efforts utilize the constructible models made possible with Trimble Tekla Structures software.
Barton Malow has used Trimble Prolog project management software for the better part of a decade. They use Prolog to manage RFIs, submittals and many functions between their field and office processes. In addition, several of the company’s back-office functions, such as payables are automated with integrations between Prolog and accounting/ERP systems.
In addition to managing projects, Barton Malow is using Trimble solutions to improve a broad range of workflows. First, Trimble CrewSight is used on several projects to manage job site workforces. CrewSight enables the owner to understand who is on-site at any given time -- allowing project managers to know if enough labor has been on-site to complete daily goals. CrewSight also provides a crucial safety net, by allowing fast accounting of the workforce in case of an emergency.
Trimble Field Link layout software and robotic total stations enable faster construction by pushing detailed 3D design and engineering models directly out to the field workers for layout. This is yet another example of how model sharing is a vast improvement over each trade developing custom models to manage work. As-built scanning and QA/QC processes are also powered by Trimble field technologies.
All of this helps the owner to prioritize the development of constructible data on the front end and leverage that data downstream, ultimately driving the physical reality of built assets.
Barton Malow can now interpret and rotate building models using traditional 2D drawings via Trimble Field Points software, while also translating and rotating 3D models that illustrate everything about a building, from its basic geometry to the model number of its connecting bolts. Even better, these valuable models can be delivered directly to any Trimble Field Link tablet.
Hedke noted that while 2D models still have their place in certain aspects of the design process, they don’t allow designers and engineers to fully detail every crucial element of a project for building. Constructible BIM models, however, provide an overall view of a project and allow for an even closer look at potential clashes, errors or potential design oversights. Additionally, constructible BIM models have the power to reveal project inconsistencies immediately, which are often not realized until the building process starts when working with 2D models.
By implementing centralized Trimble software solutions and a constructible process, all of the data that Barton Malow now gathers — from conception to completion — isn’t just stored, it’s actionable.
Hedke explained that his team members can now utilize critical data to improve accuracy, express design intent from the office to the field, enhance knowledge transfer between stakeholders, reduce field coordination problems, and provide insight into existing buildings for renovations down the road.
“The constructible BIM model aligns with the message and differentiators we have at Barton Malow,” Hedke said. “Trimble thinks the way we do, and through internal developments and acquisitions, they provide a variety of innovative solutions that help take us from conceptual preconstruction to laying a point out in the field, and literally everything in between.”
By implementing several Trimble software solutions, Barton Malow’s team can now better analyze the BIM model to uncover aspects like “clashes” and can also rotate, tilt and manipulate them to deliver different project views. As a result, workflows become more streamlined and efficient, Hedke said, noting that Trimble’s products have brought his organization a critical level of efficiency and transparency to all of its building projects, as well as a competitive advantage.
One example can be seen in the organization’s use of Trimble Field Link. Whether Barton Malow delivers designs via 3D models or 2D drawings, the software directs robotic total stations on a job site and identifies the precise location of each point in a project, ultimately increasing productivity and accuracy during the construction layout process, and reducing rework and lost time.
Compared to their previous workflow processes, the most significant advantages for the self-perform contractor can be seen in an elevated level of accurate, ‘real-time’ reporting, which Hedke said brings a critical level of transparency, efficiency and speed to market for each project.
“The greatest benefit is that we can do the bare minimum we need to in order to get critical project information instantly out to the men and women in the field laying it out,” he said. “If they need to look up a point, they have their tablet in hand and can simply click on the 3D model to get the information they need. The user-friendly tools allow us to leverage the technology effectively, giving our team the ability to challenge inefficiencies. This process has transformed our entire workflow.”
According to Hedke, Barton Malow’s primary philosophy centers on a “time is now” concept, especially in a critical time in which clients are increasingly asking for “more and more.”
“As long as we are solving problems and driving value in the field, utilizing Trimble products is a long-term investment and significant differentiator that helps set us apart from the competition,” Hedke said. “Anytime we can challenge our processes and develop innovative ways to leverage technology to deliver a project in a different way, we show the true value of what we bring to the table. Trimble products are aligned with our core beliefs, and that’s why we invest so much in this type of technology and innovation.”