From designers and engineers to construction managers and subcontractors, there are countless variables that must come together to ensure successful completion of a building project. It takes a lot of different disciplines to make it happen, and it presents just as many opportunities to trip up progress.
Edward Ruffolo, director of technology for Miron Construction, is at the forefront of an effort to negate those instances of—and opportunities for—confusion and interference by taking all aspects of a building project and putting them into the cloud to ensure every stakeholder has immediate access to the latest information and updates. That includes everything from projected costs to supply updates.
“Project Collaboration,” as it was tentatively known at press time, was scheduled for a June 2018 launch and is the result of more than a year’s worth of work, bringing together aspects from Autodesk, Oracle, and Microsoft’s Sharepoint and Power BI. If designers update even a minor detail in a project drawing, then everyone has immediate access to that change rather than waiting days to receive updated designs.
Ruffolo says the construction industry will continue to move toward a more electronic, easily accessible format that provides all parties with real-time updates. Putting together Project Collaboration meant thinking of different factors that previously hadn’t been front-of-mind considerations for general contractors.
“To be honest, it was hard to reach a consensus when we first started on this,” Ruffolo recalls. “It depends on who you are and what role you play as to what your view of Project Collaboration is. If you talk to people in virtual construction—who work with designs, drawings, and models—then that’s going to require an entirely different focus than the people who work in accounting. It’s been interesting to see how we can pull all of these pieces together to form a unified whole.”
Examining projects in a more holistic sense isn’t a new concept for the business-minded Ruffolo, who got his start with Arthur Anderson Consulting and was introduced to the tech side of business through the accounting function. Interestingly enough, Miron was one of his earliest clients. The relationship dates back nearly thirty years.
“It’s been quite a ride for me to watch the company evolve from being a local contractor to having a national presence,” he says of Neenah, Wisconsin-based Miron, which serves clientele that include Hillshire Brands (a subsidiary of Tyson Foods), the University of Wisconsin, and the Green Bay Packers. “When I started working with Miron, the company’s revenue was less than $100 million. In 2017, we surpassed the $1 billion mark.”
A company that’s firing on all cylinders is poised to streamline its workload even more, as well as help shape the future of the construction industry. Of course, bringing everything together through an online portal also subjects Miron to any number of security risks—such as making sure data accessible online stays visible for only those who need to see it and ensuring Project Collaboration doesn’t become a vehicle for one subcontractor to infect another subcontractor’s system with a virus.
“We may have two hundred projects going at the same time,” Ruffolo explains. “If you’re a painting contractor and you’re working on five of those, then we don’t want you to have access to the other 195 projects. And if you’re a competitor, then we don’t want you to have access to this information at all. It changes the expectation of our information structure.”
“Today, we worry about internal Miron employees, say, if we have to do some online maintenance,” he continues. “There’s some downtime, we can send an email out, and everyone understands. If you’re in a collaboration environment, then there’s a 24/7 expectation, and it has to be secure and easy to use.”
Miron is not only working with industry leaders to achieve this functionality and security, but it is also creating a single pipeline that connects each of its project sites with internal figures and data to ensure that everyone the company is working with is up to date at all times.
For Ruffolo, the project isn’t just a new trick or a more efficient way to manage a project. Instead, it’s the physical manifestation of his favorite part of the job.
“I really enjoy sitting down with our collaborators and finding out what they want, what would make us more effective to our customers, or what would give us a competitive advantage,” he says. “I love taking all that information in and finding ways for technology to support those desired outcomes. I learn something new every day.”
So, too, will the construction industry.
Photo: Craig Bieri
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