Messer Construction Co. Accelerates Project Delivery with Latista Field
Messer Construction Co. is a full-service commercial construction company, specializing in complex health care, higher education, industrial and life sciences building projects. Founded in 1932, Messer is an employee-owned company with nine regional offices located across the Midwest and Southeast. The company is consistently ranked among the country’s 100 largest contractors by Engineering News-Record, and this year rose to No. 58, after putting in place more than $1.03 billion in commercial construction in 2014.
Managing a project portfolio of this magnitude and range requires communication on and off the field; timely and accurate reporting of project status and issues is critical to moving projects forward. To be successful at this scale requires a consistent approach in which all employees, contractors and subcontractors use the same language to report deficiencies, their status and resolutions.
Lost Time Is Lost Revenue
Prior to implementing Latista, Messer project managers and contractors struggled with a multitude of obstacles that impacted schedules and the time they were able to spend performing critical project work.
“We want our builders to focus on building,” notes Messer Project Solutions Manager Brant Fischer. Projects were plagued by multiple versions of issue lists, due to a lack of tracking consistency. Issues were tracked on paper in individual notepads and Excel spreadsheets, or memorized and dictated later in the day. Delays in communicating issues between team members became a problem, and it sometimes took between one and two weeks for issue lists and supporting documentation to be scanned and sent to the central office where project files were being maintained. These delays slowed issue resolution and were, ultimately, reflected in the teams’ ability to meet deadlines. Because information was so slow moving through the process, there was little to no visibility into trends in performance, limiting the project managers’ ability to proactively manage the work overall and the quality program specifically.
Once the building was completed, the process of closing out projects and consolidating information left key gaps. Issue data that could have been used for future project estimating and as “lessons learned” for other projects was nearly impossible to pass along, except through word-of-mouth, or when contractors and subcontractors were used again on similar projects.
Finding a Solution
Messer had been exploring implementing a field management solution for nearly two years, with most of the candidates proving to be glorified Excel spreadsheets. But Messer had a higher bar: They didn’t just want to track deficiencies – they wanted to improve their process and make real performance metrics across their business available to their executives. Their goal was to extrapolate that information to identify opportunities to decrease project time and increase overall efficiency.
Upon selecting Latista, Messer quickly implemented the tool and experienced the fastest adoption rate of any tool the company had used to date. Project managers and superintendents on the job sites drove the rapid adoption because once in use, they immediately recognized the value. “Our people could see how easy it is to use, how comprehensive it is and how much value it provided,” says Fischer.
Life with Latista
The use of the Latista solution has resulted in an immediate benefit for Messer’s projects. Before Latista, the organization—especially senior management—had little to no visibility into recurring issues and opportunities for process improvements. Since launching Latista, Messer highlights the following areas of improvement:
Transparency and Speed of Information
Today, Messer executives can access 11 dashboards containing daily reports with key construction quality and safety metrics. Issues are tracked, aged—something that could not be done at all previously—and used for estimating future timelines, staff requirements and potential obstacles. Team members spend more time building and less time writing and transcribing issues. Reports that previously required a minimum of 45 minutes each to complete can now be generated in seconds.
Improved Issue Trending
Managers are able to spot trends in the number of issues being reported, including any unexpected drop-off in issue reporting that may indicate a lack of attention to detail. As a result, Latista aids with trade contractor management and evaluation. Issue aging and tracking allows for easy snapshots and relative comparisons from project to project based on size and scope. Messer’s commitment to quality is maintained with a daily report that shows the number of issues that are five days past due. The number of high and critical issues are evaluated daily as well.
Faster Decision Making
Reports can be sent to senior executives immediately, giving them project data faster than ever before. This expedites decision-making on major issues and results in more efficient project turn-over.
“We’ve seen fewer punch list items than QA/QC items, which has been a goal for us,” says Fischer. Catching issues early reduces rework and ultimately improves project financials.
Ease of Training
Ease of training is one of Latista’s many benefits, according to Fischer. Whether team members are using the tool’s QA/QC, commissioning, punch list, BIM in the Field or reporting functionality, the cloud-based modularity of the system allows managers to conduct ”just in time” training for contractors who come onto the project right before it starts. Fischer also highlighted Latista’s client services and training model. “The fact that we can get Latista trainers to our job sites when we need them without paperwork, fees or drama has really differentiated Latista from the competition.”
“Anyone who performs our job as project managers knows we live on our projects, so having a powerful, streamlined tool that can adapt like Latista has literally changed my life for the better,” says Messer Project Manager Mark Schuette.
Project Manager Efficiency
Latista has streamlined the process of documenting and correcting quality issues and has enabled project managers to delegate inspections to team members. The solution provides a central location to check that deadlines are being met and view trends that help project managers make quality and safety decisions in real time. Messer’s project managers are more efficient, because their teams and all contractors working for them can instantly access to the most up-to-date drawings and specs, approved submittals, samples and more. This allows project managers to make judgment calls in the field so crews working don’t have to stop to wait for an answer.
Messer is also experiencing benefits that extend beyond project management, thanks to Latista’s commissioning capability. Data is collected on individual pieces of equipment and other assets in the field, which is then compiled and fed into the customer’s asset management system. This is having a direct impact on Messer’s closeout processes—a benefit that was not anticipated when selecting Latista.
The Wisdom of Experience
Fischer notes that companies implementing Latista should take into account a number of key lessons to ensure a successful implementation:
Keep Process In Mind: Be “big picture” process-minded when looking at how to customize and leverage the tool to get the most value across the various roles of the organization.
Identify Standards: Create guidelines or standards for using Latista to make sure all users have the same language and understanding of how to use the tool. These standards should be a part of the training project teams receive.
Management Support: Enlist the support of senior management to communicate the value of the tool as a driver for more efficient data collection and sharing.
Documentation: Update your QA/QC programs, policies and procedures to specifically refer to Latista and how it should be used for each aspect of the policies and procedures. Form instructions should also refer to how Latista is used to complete them.
Indoctrinate: Resist the urge to use the tool to resolve individual obstacles. Incorporate it into every part of the construction process, from planning through post-project administration. Use data in and from Latista to manage meetings and communications. Establish Latista as the single source of the truth.
Work Smart: Latista has a powerful array of checklists that can be created, which can be overwhelming at first. The ability to grow and evolve is important, but when starting out, focus on the forms and checklists that will help drive the organization’s most critical projects and goals. Reusing these checklists as often as possible will help you build a valuable database and a streamlined process.