Major US Navy Project Finishes 60 Days Early with Zero Defects
Companies that care about quality come together
Clark Construction, LLC, is one of the United States’ most experienced and respected construction services providers. Based in Bethesda, Md., Clark has offices in California, Nevada, Illinois, and Massachusetts and has more than $4 billion in revenue and projects around the country. They are allied with Clark Realty, a national real estate, property management, and development company currently managing housing and construction projects at 12 military installations around the country. When these projects are complete, Clark will have built or renovated nearly 34,000 homes and apartments with a combined value of more than $4.9 billion.
One of these projects, Pacific Beacon, is a $250 million joint venture in San Diego, Calif., between the Department of the Navy and Clark Realty Capital. Its four, 18-story towers will house almost 2,000 Sailors in comfort, with a Sky Terrace rooftop lounge, Wi-Fi café with coffee bar, Internet classrooms, and more than 9,000 sq. ft. of fitness space that will keep residents relaxed yet ready for duty. Clark Construction is the general contractor on the project, which is expected to set a new standard of quality for military housing.
Latista Field (recommended to the project by Clark’s IT department, who had seen the software’s QA/QC features used effectively on other job sites like Nationals Park stadium in Washington, D.C.) helped the Pacific Beacon project team automate their total quality management (TQM) processes by coordinating quality and punch list inspections. Latista Field web-based and mobile software was introduced in 2006 by Latista Technologies as a comprehensive construction field management solution to improve collaboration and efficiency on the job site.
Streamlining previous inspection methods
Clark had a complex situation for their QA procedure, inspections, and workflow management during Pacific Beacon’s construction, and they had strong incentives to finish on time with minimal issues. One of Clark’s hallmarks is building and maintaining healthy relationships with construction owners, and the Navy had appropriately high expectations for Pacific Beacon, so Clark wanted to perform well.
Clark needed a solution that would help them collect, organize, and distribute their inspection data more quickly. Clark’s previous punch list process had inspectors record issues with pen and paper and take them back to the office to transcribe into an Excel spreadsheet, which would be printed and distributed to subcontractors with progress reports and correction requirements.
“Part of what makes government work so unique is some of the blast requirements that are put on the buildings,” said Pacific Beacon Project Engineer Scott Widmann. “In this case we had steel tubes in the building’s exterior skin, blast-proof windows that faced the street, and other requirements.” Clark initially developed an extensive, 250-page Excel sheet that could track all of the building openings and their quality status, but inspectors were spending too much time just updating and maintaining the database and were falling behind on their QA procedures. Project Executive Mike Ricker noticed this inefficiency and assigned users to Latista Field, which could automate the process and improve communications on the job site.
Clark is known as a leader in the industry for managing customer relationships and communications well and knows that, in today’s world, a great customer reference is the key to future business. Ricker took this philosophy to heart by including the Navy and its representatives on the job site working with the Clark team and using the Latista solution to walk the site regularly and solve issues together. This involvement accelerated the turnover phase and resulted in a satisfied customer that was confident that they were getting a quality structure.
Rolling punch lists make quality a process of continuous improvement
Latista Field’s mobile and web-based software allowed Clark to institute a rolling punch list that would identify and resolve issues sooner. With Latista, Clark also automated their issue entries and report communications and had a time-stamped, digital record of all data that went into and out of the system.
For most construction projects, the punch list phase would begin close to turnover to find and address issues in a group as construction was closing. A rolling punch list, on the other hand, is a continuous quality process that starts earlier in construction to address issues sooner, as they are found. This system has several benefits including reduced need for rework and a steadier stream of corrections that allows subcontractors to better manage their on-site staffing. On Pacific Beacon building A, Clark was able to find deficiencies and communicate them to subcontractors earlier, thereby deflating the bubble of undiscovered and uncorrected deficiencies that typically grows at the end of a construction project.
The inspection process Clark used on Pacific Beacon was straightforward and consistent so that everyone involved understood what would be happening in each step. First, an inspector recorded issues by writing with a digital pen on rugged, fully-functional portable tablet PCs in the field. The Latista Field system combines the usual pen, paper, drawing tubes, and digital camera into one easy to use software program. “Our old system took three times as long, since we were recording issues in the field on paper, transcribing them, and setting them in a report,” said Widmann.
When the walkthrough was complete, the inspector took the tablet back to the construction office where it could be synchronized with the Clark server by a wireless Internet connection. “This was a one-button operation,” said Widmann; “it’s almost not even worth mentioning since it was so easy.”
Once the inspection data was synchronized, it was automatically compiled into reports and customized forms that could be emailed or printed and handed to owners and subcontractors. Widmann explained the benefits of this accelerated inspection process and the tablet PCs: “We had a status of ‘pending,’ ‘complete,’ or ‘approved’ that let everyone know their responsibility.” The status system was an easy to read indicator of who was next responsible for an issue, so little time was lost in communicating the process.
Subcontractors followed the reports step-by-step with visual aids to reduce confusion. Several Latista Features helped improve communications between Clark inspectors and their subcontractors. For example, inspection reports were automatically generated with customized cover letters specific to the recipient, sender, and project. Reports could also be emailed straight from Latista with issues illustrated with marked up plans accessed from the server and with digital photos taken on-site with digital cameras mounted on the tablets.
Widmann recommended photographs as a way to improve communications with subcontractors: “If you take a photo of these issues, you don’t have to worry about subs missing something because they didn’t see the blue tape or it was dark. Now we don’t even need blue tape; it really removes all kinds of confusion.” Owners also benefit from the photos as documentary evidence. “For things that arise 10 or even three years down the line, putting yourself in the mindset of the job site is pretty difficult without a thorough record system,” said Widmann. “Latista can take you straight back with photos and issue history.”
After subcontractors corrected the issues for which they were responsible, a Clark superintendent would walk through and re-inspect the area with the tablet, accessing the same issue reports as before to change their status. Oftentimes, an owner representative would accompany the superintendent to confirm the corrections and could sign off on the inspection in the field, directly on the tablet. Any issue that still needed more “Eventually the owner just turned over the punch list procedure to us because they were so confident,” said Widmann. “Latista wasn’t responsible entirely, but it was an integral tool in building that trust.”
One key part of Clark’s quality inspection routine on Pacific Beacon was a customized executive report form, which combined schedule management with issues and inspections management. Clark and Latista worked together to develop these reports from Clark’s previous Excel system. Though the Latista form looks and works the same, its database and reports are interlinked, and the fields are automatically populated as inspectors enter data. “With Latista’s customizability, we were able to recreate this same report that our subcontractors had gotten used to, and Latista helped us fill out issues, track them, and communicate them for correction,” said Widmann.
Millions in incentives and weeks of time saved
Clark is pleased with how well the Latista solution has worked for their quality assurance and punch list needs. The need for mobility and automation to replace the pen, paper, and Excel headaches on a complex project made Latista Field an easy choice: “In the end, superintendents realized how much time they were wasting, waiting for project engineers or managers to enter data,” said Widmann. “The Latista engine is immensely powerful. With it, we could manage our schedule better and keep the project moving.” The final result: better quality, better process, improved productivity, more profit and a satisfied customer.
Widmann also pointed out how subcontractors benefitted from the Latista system: “It’s about saving money and time as a construction manager, but it allows subcontractors to save money and time as well.” Subcontractors got issue information quickly and were able to schedule personnel appropriate to the day’s work. They were also constantly and consistently made aware of their requirements and obligations for issue corrections. “We saved a ton of money on rework,” said Widmann about the improved subcontractor management.
Latista Field and Clark’s integration of it allowed Clark to finish building A with zero outstanding issues and turn it over to the Navy a full 10 days early. The software is also in use on Pacific Beacon buildings B and C, and Project Executive Ricker has estimated that those buildings will be finished 30 days and 60 days early, respectively. “Clark will earn an extra $1.5 million in incentives for finishing building A early,” he said, “but the real achievement was being able to turn over the first building with no defects.”
“We are thrilled to have Latista Field software form such an integral part of Clark’s quality assurance processes,” said Chris Ramsey, Latista Executive Vice President. “Clark and Latista have been working together for almost three years and have learned a lot from each other about the software and how to get the most out of it. That the first phase of Pacific Beacon was turned over 10 days early with zero outstanding issues is a testimonial not just to the power of Latista Field but to Clark’s excellent quality management acumen that put it to good use.”