Today, we’re seeing more and more owners of capital projects involved in the construction process. This is particularly true for large organizations that have near-constant building projects but remains an emerging trend across the industry.
Recently, we sat down with two owners of capital projects who are leading the charge in the construction of their projects: Glen Hines, Director of Building Information Modeling at Prologis, and Jeff Shaw, Principle Lead for Development and Construction at Chick-fil-A.
Read on to learn about the best practices and guidance they shared on how capital owners can take ownership of project data and why that’s so important.
What Does It Take to Lead a Capital Project?
As Prologis’s Director of Building Information Modeling, Glen Hines is constantly working on new acquisitions and designs. As a large global company, Prologis has about 990 million square feet of space globally spread across 19 countries and 4 continents with 4,700 buildings and around 5,500 customers. One of Prologis’s main initiatives is continuously improving the work environment for their approximately 1,900 employees and setting the employees up for success.
For Glen, it all begins with design and construction, centered around a data-driven approach. He explains why this approach works for Prologis, “Prologis Labs is our testing ground for new technologies. And when we talk about new technologies here at Prologis, it’s more than just Revit. It’s smart buildings. We put weather stations on top of our buildings. We’re working first with doing a lot of solar. And then, as a company in general, we’re really going after consistent data.”
Jeff Shaw is no stranger to constantly building as the head of Development and Construction at Chick-fil-A. The popular fast-food restaurant chain has over 2,600 restaurants in North America and is always looking for ways to improve its customer experience. To do so they focus on servant leadership and empowering their network of partners with tools to get the job done. In construction, this adds up to 60,000 stakeholders across their thousands of locations.
Jeff notes the importance of technology in empowering their team, “My passion right here, is serving superintendents. We’re blessed with the opportunity to serve approximately 300 superintendents all around the United States. How can I equip them for success? How can I empower them with technology that can help them do their jobs even better? They get up in the morning and they want to serve, they want to do their work well.”
For Jeff, the technology that helps superintendents do their jobs well must be purpose-built to answer questions fast and give them the information they need to be successful. After all, as he puts it, “When superintendents succeed, you’re going to succeed in construction. So that’s some fundamental processes right there. My job is to show I care. And how do I care for them? By demonstrating that servant leadership to them, and then trying to win their hearts and minds through that care.”
Developing Standards Across Design, Construction, and Operations
In today’s ever connected world, builders are equipped with smartphones, tablets, and other interactive devices. Project data needs to be served into one platform for construction teams to make it readily accessible. In the past, manual, disparate processes made it difficult to quickly disseminate information, control documents, and control changes. Jeff explains, “Back in the day, if they wrote an RFI, they would take a picture, somebody might send an email, it would get bounced around. Five, six, seven, eight different people may get answered on the way back and then you can’t find the answer a month later. Having it in a digital environment gives you a chance to collaborate quickly.”
As an owner, the Prologis team realized they had to take full control. They created Revit templates with their own standards, policies, and processes. “Everything down to basic things, a font or a line style or a dimension style, all the way to how sheets are laid out, how things are organized on sheets. But more importantly, it’s the data that we were going after. The data becomes such a challenge to work with that, and we realized we had to take control,” Glen shared.
When establishing standards as the owner, focusing on core fundamental processes is key. The goal is to eliminate bottlenecks, reduce costs, and increase time to operations. According to Jeff, “We’ve been able to reduce that tonnage by about half by using paperless technologies as well as some prefabrication or industrialized construction methodologies.”
Supporting Internal and External Stakeholders
As owners, Jeff and Glen work with many different stakeholders. Their customers aren’t just those who rent a warehouse or purchase a chicken sandwich for lunch. Instead, as Glen notes, they are both internal- and external-facing: “In my world, I have customers that could be in that world who would benefit from what I’m doing, but I also have internal customers. And a customer to me could mean my marketing group, leasing groups, all the way up to operations.”
To better serve teams who operate the building post-construction, owners must start thinking about them as early as the design phase. The ultimate resting place of design and construction is with operations and the maintenance technicians. Glen describes the difference the right tools can make, “Our models can now tell you exactly how much concrete is inside our tilt-up panels. I can tell you how many overhead doors and how many knockout panels we have. And what makes this interesting and unique for us is that at Prologis, we have a tremendous amount of people who work in many departments, who do not work on a daily basis with a set of drawings, but they need information about the buildings to do their jobs.”
As capital owners become more involved in construction, they can ensure the project is completed to their specifications and that the data is captured to set operations up for success. Jeff advises other capital owners to “empower, equip, and embed with some of your teams to improve your collaboration.” Glen likewise mentioned that consistency and standardization are critical to delivering transparency to the performance data and being able to use that information to continuously get better.
Capturing Data for Insights and Decision Making
The data captured in design and construction becomes extremely valuable for internal users. Data can include the number of parking spaces, the number of overhead doors, the amount of concrete, or the amount of steel. What makes this data so important and valuable is the decisions that can inform in the future. “In five years when somebody comes to me and says, ‘Hey Glen, how much concrete have we poured in the Houston market in the last five years?’ We can start collecting and pulling that information out,” Glen shared.
When teams collaborate in a common data environment, the data is not disconnected or stored in multiple places. Instead, there’s a core source of truth that’s accessible from anywhere. Combined with cloud-based workflows, common data environments can increase speed to market. “We’ve seen significant improvements at about 30% to 40% improvement of schedule duration because we’re able to solve problems quickly, give answers when needed, and operate in this cloud-based environment,” adds Jeff.
A truly connected construction program is about more than just pretty design drawings on sheets. It’s about capturing data throughout the project life cycle so that teams are equipped to perform at their highest level. This improves the speed of designs and captures rich data for improved decision-making. Teams can reduce design time from the time they go to permit to when they build and hand over to operations.
According to Glen, “We want to speed up those design times. The only way I can do that is by taking control of the entire process. But in addition, leverage true BIM capabilities. It’s really about speed and data. That’s really what’s driving everything for us. How fast can I get something done? The faster I can get something done, move it to the next level, I can go faster, speed the market. I can get a customer inside there faster. If I can speed up designs, which moves into construction sooner, which moves the customers in there sooner, that’s tremendous for us here at Prologis.”
For more insights into the value of increased visibility and data ownership for capital owners, view our on-demand webinar.