Highlights from the 2018 Construction Operations Forum

News Description

Forty Synergy members from 19 companies met for the 2018 Construction Operations Forum held at Baker Group’s facility in Ankeny, IA on April 22-25th. The session was designed around the life of a project from pre-planning, estimating, KPI’s, safety, and incentive programs. The group also got to tour Baker Group’s new manufacturing facility and also did a jobsite tour of the Krause Gateway Center. Check out more of the meeting highlights below.

“What makes you successful in your marketplace?” Large Group Discussion

We started day one with each of the 19 companies sharing what makes them unique or successful in their marketplace. The group breakdown included:

  • 5 companies – 10 million or less
  • 5 companies – More than 10 million to less than 30 million
  • 5 companies – More than 30 million to less than 75 million
  • 4 companies – More than 75 million

Gary Bridgewater and BJ Baker (Baker Group) started the discussion by saying that their entrepreneurial nature of investing in technology and people and creating a fun and rewarding workplace for their employees. “People feel good when they feel like they are bringing value to a customer,” said Gary. They also attributed their success to being an early adopter of 3D modeling, Trimble, 3D scanning, and Revit.

Members talked about the benefits of developing rapport with GC’s and building owners over generations, like A.J. Monier which is the oldest mechanical and plumbing contractor in San Antonio. and Nashville Machine which was founded in 1887.

Like Baker Group, some other Synergy members have also moved, expanded, or built new offices. Cox Engineering has recently moved into a new 100,000 square foot facility which is helping them put more of an emphasis on prefab.

While there was a wide diversity of companies, the common things that make each member company successful were building and sustaining a solid company culture where people feel valued and supported, embracing technology, and adapting to change.

Touring Baker Group’s Facility

For many, the highlight of this year’s Construction Operations Forum was getting a chance to see Baker Group’s new office and manufacturing facility. After an overview of the construction process for the building from Brian “The Architect” Schwartz (Baker Group) members broke out into smaller groups and walked around the office and different sections of the 80,000 square foot manufacturing area.

Panel Discussions and Synergy Showdowns

On day two and two members had the chance to hear best practices and ideas from fellow peers. Members shared:

  • Estimating panel discussion – Members who are using Quote Soft, Quick Pen, and FastEST shared information about implementation and how they’re utilizing the program in their estimating process.
  • KPI’s – Paul Hughes (RK), Mike Modica (BP Group), and Evan Shriver (Atlantic Constructors) shared the KPI’s they’re tracking at their individual companies
  • Recruiting the next generation – Baker Group shared the details about their intern program – where they find interns, how they interview them, and how they use it as a recruiting tool. Alliance Group showed their recruiting video they’re sending to high schools and tech schools to help educate parents about the trades.
  • Document control: Members who use Bidtracer, Sharepoint and ViewPoint, and Procore shared their process for managing information.
  • Safety best practices: Members shared the safety apps like Binderworks and Spotlight they’re using, safety incentive programs, utilizing a traveling paramedic instead of going to urgent care, and having someone who is on light duty time from an injury do volunteer work at a soup kitchen

Lessons Learned

The session closed with a large group discussion on lessons learned that members shared with each other. Some of the highlights from this discussion include the following:

  • Utilize a legal advisor to increase the legal acumen of project mangers regarding contract language so they understand what you’re signing off on
  • Learn from other people’s failures – even when you win a job, take the time to see how the other company failed
  • Culture is everything – Strategies can be copied, but no one can copy your culture. Spend a lot of time on your culture because it has a ripple effect on the type of employees and customers you have.
  • Strengthen the link between pre-construction and operations

Thank you to all of our Synergy members who participated in this year’s Construction Operations Forum. And a special thank you to the team at Baker Group for opening your doors and welcoming us.

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