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How Pond and Company Rapidly Scales Industrial Projects with Construction Technology

Pond and Company (Pond) is a leading technology-driven full-service engineering, architecture, planning, and construction firm that has built a reputation as the go-to firm for designing, engineering, and building industrial facilities, including biotech, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and sterilization facilities. With locations throughout the U.S. and overseas, Pond is one of the country’s fastest-growing AEC firms.

“It’s a company goal to lead the industry in cutting-edge technology to meet the unique challenges and requirements of building industrial facilities,” says Bryan Schroeder, Director of VDC at Pond and Company. “We are always looking for ways to improve our offering and provide cost-effective solutions to our clients.”

As the company was scaling into new regions, Pond needed a holistic construction management platform that would provide them with access to subcontractors inside and outside of their network and connect people and data across the project lifecycle from design through handover. With BIM 360 already in place with the engineering team, Pond adopted BuildingConnected and PlanGrid within Autodesk Construction Cloud™ to create an integrated solution to connect the design portion of their business with the construction side.

“We wanted a reliable, easy-to-use platform to manage data and eliminate the manual process for updating information without the risk of file corruption or system downtime,” says Schroeder.

Bidding and Winning in New Markets Far From Home

In the last year, Pond has increased the number of industrial projects they’re working on by 50%. And with a dozen subcontractors on each project, Pond needed a solution to organize and manage bid invitations seamlessly. 

“As we continually push our estimating team on projects, combined with the rate we were scaling, we would not have been able to identify qualified subcontractors inside and outside of our network,” says Emily Rech, Program Manager at Pond and Company. “With BuildingConnected, not only were we able to manage and organize bids better, but we increased our bid invitations by 50%.”

BuildingConnected improves the bid process by creating more visibility into the status of a bid invitation. Before implementing BuildingConnected, Pond had a manual process for pushing RFPs via email and would not have insight into whether a subcontractor opened a bid or was planning to respond. With BuildingConnected, Pond has greater insight into bids and can set deliverable dates to manage their buyout strategy and schedule to ensure they’re on target for delivery.

BuildingConnected also helps Pond ensure cost certainty throughout the entire project lifecycle for a more straightforward buyout process. With the bid leveling feature, Pond can automatically tabulate bids to compare and justify recommendations clearly to Owners. “Even if one bid is 50% more, I can point out that there were exclusions from a different proposal, which could be more than the first bid in the long run. It’s a great tool to validate and support decision-making,” says Rech. 

As Pond continues to expand into new regions, BuildingConnected also identifies high-quality, low-risk contractors to accept bids from outside of their network. This validation not only provides peace of mind to Pond, but the Owner as well.

“BuildingConnected has been instrumental in bringing us into that next phase in our growth where we can work anywhere,” says Rech.

Standardizing on a Project Management Solution for Success

“Design-Build was something that we did on a small scale up until about a year ago when these large, industrial projects started coming into play at a rapid pace,” says Rech.

With an influx in industrial projects, the first step was standardizing on technology to plan and execute on these highly-complex builds. “Anyone in a growing firm knows that the right processes need to be in place to support growth,” says Rech. “There were a lot of planning meetings to assess which systems and standards work and don’t work.” 

“Tools like PlanGrid force you to start looking at standard processes. When projects fall under the category of industrial or manufacturing, they are all so different and complex from your standard construction project,” says Rech. 

With a standard process in place, a project manager or superintendent can be transitioned from one project to the next with little downtime as they know what to expect from the tool. By executing projects the same way, teams have more visibility into projects, so regardless of who comes on or off a project, RFIs and submittals are well-documented, creating efficiencies. 

At the rate Pond is kicking off new projects, the ease-of-use of PlanGrid has been the biggest benefit. “The tool is intuitive, and once our key personnel know how to use it, we plant at least one of them on each project to mitigate issues onsite,” says Rech. “And while nobody likes change, when we bring subcontractors on board, they are quick to pick up the system and quickly make their mark ups and push those through.”

Becoming Verifiable, Traceable, and Complete on a Centralized Platform 

Before implementing PlanGrid, teams would manage RFIs and submittals through email and spreadsheets. This cumbersome process often resulted in a lack of updated information and missed timelines. 

The team wanted to improve document control to the point where everything was verifiable, traceable, and complete in a centralized location. Since the implementation of PlanGrid, information sharing has been seamless across projects, and Pond can quickly identify which RFIs and submittals are outstanding. 

“PlanGrid is that single source of truth where we can go to see what’s happening in real-time,” says Rech. “With increased visibility, I don’t have to ask about updates constantly. Project data is live, and it’s all in one snapshot, which is huge.”

The use of PlanGrid has also created efficiencies between the office and the field. On large-scale industrial projects, there are a lot of major components – steel, mechanical, and ductwork – incorporated into a facility. 

On a recent project, the field needed to move ductwork due to an existing piece of equipment and relied on PlanGrid to ensure the materials were moved to the right place. With the ability to digitally mark up sheets on an iPad, information is quickly communicated from the field to the office, who can respond to an RFI in real-time, resulting in time-savings.

In addition to time-savings, PlanGrid has also improved quality, safety, and relationships with Owners. “Uploading daily reports and images has increased accountability onsite,” says Rech. “We document everything, and Owners love it as they have visibility into what’s happening onsite.” 

With projects happening nationwide, Owners may not be based in the same state as the project. With insight into what’s happening on the project, Owners feel connected as they can see what questions are being asked from the field or if there may be schedule slippage due to rain. This also helps Pond substantiate some of the special requests or changes that need to be communicated back to the Owner clearly. 

Integrating Tools to Meet Accelerated Timelines 

Technology is also critical to the buyout process on manufacturing projects. “Prior to using BuildingConnected and PlanGrid, we did have issues with the design, procurement, and build process coming together,” says Rech. “With greater visibility into lead time for equipment, we can better coordinate buyout and get subcontractors involved right away to meet our schedules.”

Once a subcontractor is selected, information is imported from BuildingConnected into PlanGrid to get shop drawings started and submittals uploaded. Rech says that there’s a long list of equipment when it comes to these mechanical and electrical systems that they need to be on top of. When technology can easily connect, it’s crucial for streamlining the procurement process.

“You cannot successfully do design-build work if you do not have an environment where your subs, your construction management group, and your engineering group can all integrate,” says Rech. “The only way that you get projects accomplished as quickly as we have is if you have all of those things tied together and start those long-lead items.”

By sharing shop drawings early on in a live environment, when it’s time to mobilize, the communication between the subcontractor and construction group is directly linked with their engineering group in PlanGrid, making it a seamless process. 

 

As Pond continues to scale more industrial projects, connecting and integrating workflows will help them achieve successful outcomes. With a connected construction management platform and continued vision for success, Pond can seamlessly execute and deliver high-quality projects for their clients.

Lauren Ginsberg

Lauren Ginsberg

Construction Content Marketing Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions