Case Study: Real-Time Data Access & Creating Efficiencies on the Jobsite
Jun 10, 2014
Pepper Construction Integrates StratusVue Software and the KNAACK®DataVault™ for Successful Mobile Jobsite Technology Implementation
As innovative technologies impact almost every sector of today’s market, the construction management industry has dynamically evolved and is implementing solutions that improve both communications and efficiencies on the jobsite. Pepper Construction, a general contracting and construction management firm that primarily serves the private sector, has been using cloud-based document management software from StratusVue and jobsite storage equipment from KNAACK and recently had an opportunity to merge the two solutions for a highly-successful implementation.
In the summer of 2013, Pepper Construction began work on a Tier 3 mission-critical data center project for a global company headquarters located in Lake Forest, a suburb of Chicago. This 27,000 square-foot green field enterprise data center featured 7,800 square feet of white space, a high-volume air-cooled design utilizing a 48-inch high raised access floor and a parallel redundant UPS design. Prepared to expand on to the corporate headquarters building to add more room, the initial phase opened with enough equipment to mirror an existing site and allowed for an estimated 10 years of expansion capability.
Because this was a mission critical project and location, there were a lot of moving parts from both the programming and design phase to the execution phase. “We were working on an active campus, which was the HQ location. Work was being done onsite every day and because of the visibility and impact of this particular project, we had significant risk with the execution,” said Kevin Bredeson, Director of Virtual Construction at Pepper Construction Company.
Beyond the extremely fast-paced timeline, the project had several unique challenges, including the facility’s location, the high-profile importance of the project and the environment of the campus. In addition, Pepper Construction was using Building Information Modeling (BIM) on this project and wanted to leverage the technology as much as possible. To satisfy the client, they had to get on and off the project site as quickly as possible.
To achieve their goals of an on-time and efficient project, Pepper Construction began investigating technology solutions that could bring information closer to the work in the field. When looking at integrated jobsite technology solutions, mobility was a key factor but it had to be more than just the Pepper Construction teams having access from smart phones or tablet devices. All sub-contractors and workers needed access to the same on-demand communication tools. There was a concern of standard mobile devices being a distraction or getting damaged easily. The main objectives were to streamline communications and improve efficiencies. One of the biggest time constraints of field crew were the many trips taken from the jobsite to the trailer, just to access data and coordinate with various project stakeholders.
Pepper Construction was asked to beta test KNAACK’s new DataVault solution, designed to connect jobsite professionals to information by providing the industry’s first fully protected digital plan storage solution for onsite job management. Powered by StratusVue’s cloud-based document management suite, the combination gave Pepper the ability to bring technology to the field safely so that the project could be managed more efficiently. It provided an opportunity to get critical, current project information within feet of where the actual work was happening. Prior to that, field superintendents would need to walk back and forth between the jobsite and trailer, often traveling 5-10 minutes each way, just to access specification needs or updates.
Right away, the Pepper Construction team began seeing value from the combined solution. Instead of spending half of the time in the project trailer, the information was accessible on the jobsite for execution. “There was a need for real-time data where the action is, but before we had struggled with how to get it there efficiently”, stated Bredeson.
The specific technology implementation included:
- PlansandSpecs from StratusVue: This cloud-based project and document management software delivers improved collaboration, consistency and control for construction project teams. Projects have a single, central location for all stakeholders to store and manage key project documentation. The solution provides improved accessibility for the entire team through a simple web browser, greater visibility into project actions and higher efficiency for all processes.
- KNAACK DataVault: A complete storage solution that safely hosts the hardware and software all in one place, conveniently on the jobsite, providing easy accessibility and greater productivity. It is custom designed for onsite BIM and includes a 40” monitor, a color-laser printer, retractable keyboard, whiteboards, back-up battery power and the technology components necessary to run any project. Pepper Construction used a KNAACK DataVault to provide access to project information where the work was happening.
The combined StratusVue/ KNAACK DataVault solution allowed Pepper to access information in real-time. The real-time access was needed for the mission-critical project. It provided the confidence that the information was up-to-date on buildable plans and allowed Pepper to focus on the work vs. waiting on responses. It provided a substantial benefit for the field team and the speed to market was the driving factor in the Pepper implementation. To maintain the aggressive schedule and to meet the needs and expectations of this high-profile customer, the combined technology solution provided a tangible outcome, resulting in a full project build in just under six months.
Tangible benefits of the combined solutions included:
- Faster access to the data. By putting the information into the hands of the trades people working on the jobsite, the data could be viewed by several people on a large monitor and reports, specs, and drawing details could be printed as needed. This provided significant value vs. a group of people huddled around a mobile device or traveling to the trailer every time there was a question.
- Increased confidence in the build and reduced mistakes. Because specifications and drawings can change, it’s critical to have access to the latest revisions and addendums in real-time. This reduces the chance for mistakes to be made, and ensures that everyone on the jobsite is working from to the latest designs.
- Improved Building Information Modeling Integration. Access to their models on the jobsite was particularly helpful for the mechanical and electrical trades, because the ability to see a 3D representation of complicated configurations ensured better accuracy. Standing in the location where the work is being done helps the teams visualize it because they now had access to the model within the build space.
- Reduced wait times. On a fast-paced project, the amount of time spent waiting for RFI responses to be communicated to the field can be a significant hindrance to on-time performance. The StratusVue/KNAACK solution allowed superintendents to check RFI status themselves right from the location of work, and to begin implementation as soon as the answer was confirmed – saving immeasurable time.
- Improved durability, security and mobility: While some contractors have built their own custom solutions to protect electronic equipment in the field, these solutions are often expensive and inadequate for proper jobsite use. The KNAACK DataVault product came to market at a critical time for Pepper Construction because it allowed for the software integration, was mobile and also built to be rugged and secure and withstand the conditions of a jobsite. Even simple items like being able to move the DataVault through door frames was critical when working on an aggressive timeline.
The StratusVue and KNAACK DataVault Solution was used by everyone working on the jobsite—from the project managers to the superintendent to the labor field teams. A generic account with password protection was set up for each laborer to access current plans and specs while the superintendents and project managers had their own accounts to go deeper into the system. As an example, a jobsite manager would have more access to view more detailed information and reports.
The project began in July 2013 and the KNAACK DataVault solution was delivered in October. The project was complete by the last week of December and by bringing the combination of technology and storage solution together, helped Pepper Construction to finish on time.
Pepper estimates that by bringing this combined mobile solution to the project, the efficiency and productivity of their teams more than doubled. Previously an on-site manager would spend half of their time in-transit or in the trailer. They were now able to spend a much higher percentage of their time on the jobsite. Since hearing about the success of this data center project, there has been a high-demand from other Pepper Construction teams for the combined solution and they anticipate using it on at least half of their future projects, if not more.
Biggest Lesson Learned:
With every implementation, there is always a learning in terms of what can be done differently next time. The main challenge experienced when using the combined solution was occasional connectivity issues. Because they were working on a remote jobsite with extremely thick concrete walls, Pepper would occasionally lose their wireless signal and have difficulty accessing the Internet. It’s important to have a connectivity strategy in place, especially if there are multiple DataVaults that are implemented on the jobsite. If you understand the building and unique construction of the particular infrastructure, you’ll be able to identify any connectivity challenges to quickly address and get the systems up and running again.