USACE Lowers Cost and Speeds Turnover on $2B Project
Major Government Projects Involve Everyone
As part of the Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Act of 2005, three National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Geospatial Intelligence facilities will be consolidated into one campus at the Fort Belvoir Engineer Proving Ground in Northern Virginia. The New Campus East (NCE), scheduled for completion on September 11, 2011, is a $1.77 billion project composed of three buildings totaling to more than 2.4 million sq. ft. and is expected to meet LEED Silver certification for green construction.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is providing construction management to the project, overseeing a joint venture of Balfour Beatty Construction and Clark Construction Group, LLC. USACE will have a staff of 70 on the jobsite, including 12 full-time inspectors. Over the four-year course of construction, the quality control team made up of personnel from USACE, Balfour, and Clark expects to identify, communicate, and resolve more than 100,000 deficiencies and issues with subcontractors.
Chief of Construction John Chubb with the USACE Baltimore District is overseeing the project and pointed out that ensuring quality construction is especially important on government projects. “We have to produce quality results because it’s our obligation to the American citizen,” he said. “U.S. government projects affect everyone, so it’s imperative that USACE and its contractors strive for the best in quality, schedule, and cost.”
Automating to Meet Government TQM Standards
A massive project like New Campus East requires a strong quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) program to finish on time and under budget, while still meeting strict government requirements for quality construction. USACE has extensive requirements for Total Quality Management (TQM) and a team-based, collaborative approach to construction that includes QA/QC, delivery, safety, customer service and other common construction factors.
The USACE’s Resident Management System (RMS) (a computer-based system that “provides an efficient method to plan, accomplish and control contract management by integrating job specific requirements, corporate technical knowledge, and management policies”) was one of the most progressive automation projects in the industry when it was introduced in 1996. On the NCE project, the USACE and its contractors saw an opportunity to improve their automation processes and extend them into the field to gain greater efficiencies.
As a Latista enterprise license holder, Clark Construction Group, LLC, has extensive experience and success automating its jobsites’ QA/ QC processes and suggested that the RMS could be augmented with the Latista solution. Ethan LaPlante, a senior project engineer with Balfour Beatty on the NCE project, was the Latista “super user” in charge of the software’s implementation. He said, “We have a quality management plan in place that includes the USACE RMS, and we’re using Latista for its automation features and documentation. If it didn’t keep such a detailed deficiency history, this would likely not be possible.”
The project team also saw the opportunity to improve the processes and avoid rekeying paper-based data into the RMS. “We’re automating the paperwork of deficiency inspections and the mundane tasks that go with it,” says LaPlante. “Retyping, filing, copying, emailing, report distribution, those sorts of things.” Our team loves the automation; there’s less paperwork, less busywork.” Having more information accessible online means less paper and office-work for all stakeholders; USACE owner representatives can track progress and quality from their desks, and subcontractors can login to the system to retrieve issue correction information whenever they need it.
There are 140 Latista users on and off the NCE jobsite, including QC inspectors and superintendents from both joint-venture companies and USACE. Four super users like LaPlante, coordinate and set up the portable tablet computers used onsite. They adjust settings and preload information such as building plans, specifications, location trees, and room diagrams for the 22 onsite “in-the-field” Latista users.
The tablet PCs allow users to perform inspections without the use of clipboard and paper drawings, to access critical construction information, and to send and receive requests for information from anywhere on the 98-acre jobsite. The quality control team uses Latista to manage its inspections on the NCE project and communicate results with owner representatives and the several hundred subcontractors on the jobsite. Latista can be set up to automatically email deficiency reports to subcontractors for correction, and more and more subcontractors on this project are logging directly into the system to find and update responsibilities for themselves. Superintendents can also track subcontractor access to the system and can hold parties responsible for their corrections.
Latista Unites All Stakeholders in QA/QC Processes
Latista is the ideal system for identifying, communicating, tracking, and resolving punch list items and deficiencies. “The philosophy is to ‘Do it right the first time,’” said LaPlante, “which is why we need to have a good quality plan in place. As quality control, we’re doing a pre-punch deficiency log to communicate corrections, and then we get QA approvals by the USACE. By finding and correcting issues earlier, we’re preventing them from being built over and eliminating rework.”
“Latista is great for our QC processes,” says Balfour Beatty Quality Control Manager Larry Moore. “We’re doing QC inspections onsite every day final punch, construction deficiencies, wall close-in, watchlist items, commissioning, and more.” With preloaded plans, drawings, and specifications available in the field on portable tablet PCs, superintendents not only know the issues to look for, but can also record them directly in the Latista database, mark their locations on the drawings, and email necessary information to owner representatives and sub contractors. The accuracy and speed with which construction progress is recorded in Latista improve collaboration between all project stakeholders, which is especially important on a large project like NCE.
The NCE QC team’s wall close-in plan is a prime example of Latista enhanced inspections and communications. The close-in inspection process begins as a room or area is being prepared for drywall and ceiling finishing:
- Superintendent alerts contractors and subcontractors with an automatic email through Latista that an area is scheduled for close-in
- Contractors and subcontractors receive deficiency lists specific to them and perform corrections
- Superintendent conducts a final inspection using a Latista electronic sign-off sheet
- The QA team approves the inspection and drywall can be installed
“We use the wall close-in process because we needed a better way of putting everything and everyone in one place,” says Moore. “The close-in list corrections go much faster; the emails go out to 40 or 50 people for each area, but defining a smaller area limits the number of deficiencies, so corrections can be made very quickly.”
Another unique system that the Balfour-Clark QC team has instituted on the NCE project is the watchlist. After beginning punch list procedures using Latista, they discovered that many users were noting items that merely required observation, not correction. “We had a massive list of issues from a lot of different people; that makes the contractor look bad and makes us look bad,” said Moore. “We created another status called ‘watch’ in Latista for items that we wanted to keep an eye on. Now we have a place for these notes, and when we give reports to subcontractors and owner representatives, they only see deficiencies that need correcting, rather than all of the extraneous information.” Latista helped make the project more organized, saving time and reducing miscommunications.
Latista also helps the project team, including subcontractors, create daily reports that meet the stringent requirements of the USACE RMS. “The daily reports include information on weather, subcontractor manpower, equipment use, QC issues, and deficiencies,” said Moore. “They’re a monumental task, but we can automate a lot of the information with Latista by collecting all of the deficiency information from the database and allowing people to log-in and fill in relevant data themselves.” The Latista report creation feature not only coordinates the data collection every morning, but also distributes the report to necessary parties automatically when completed. Saving even a few minutes every day like this quickly adds up to days of time savings over the life of the project.
When construction on NCE draws to a close, the project team will use Latista in the commissioning process as well. “We have more than 100,000 pre-functional check-sheets and requirements for commissioning,” said Moore. “We’ll go into the field and turn on all the equipment to make sure things are connected and working properly. Then the check sheets are turned into PDFs that subcontractors receive to make adjustments based on our findings.” As the process continues and Latista becomes more integral to the jobsite, subcontractors will also be able to log themselves into a specific subcontractor portal in the software to find their responsibilities and correction information.
Latista Improves Quality and Schedule
Latista will also create a complete chronological record of construction, allowing the NCE project team to track construction results and performance. “We’re certainly going to track how we do using Latista,” said LaPlante. “I’m excited to see what all it can do for us.” Even saving 20 minutes a day on conducting inspections, retyping results, and collating and emailing reports will save a project’s field team several days’ of manhours. This results in lower costs and faster turnover.
Improving construction quality and collaboration with Latista’s QA/QC solution, automated checklists and reporting also reduces costs and project time, eliminating rework and keeping the project on schedule. This process has proved effective so far and has changed the way the construction team and USACE looks at the quality process on NCE. “The Army Corps does their quality checks; we do our quality checks, and then we compare notes,” said Moore. “They catch what we didn’t and vice versa. With Latista, we’re essentially one big quality team.”
Moore also commented on the improved collaboration with subcontractors the joint venture experienced by having inspection data sorted and available digitally. “Subcontractors have viewing, sorting, and printing rights and can make comments on the issues,” he said. So, where subcontractors previously had to wait until the weekly meeting to get a hard-copy of hundreds of issues that they had to scan through for the ones relevant to them, they can now log in to the system any time and instantly get a list of issues specific to them. “I expect this process will take hours off our deficiency management process each week, will get repairs done sooner, and will allow better documentation of what was done to fix the deficiency,” said Moore.
“The QA/QC process has helped us ensure quality on this project,” said Chief of Construction John Chubb. “We’re able to communicate better with everyone on the jobsite and back in the office, so we’re more integrated with the progress and performance of the team.” He also pointed out that the construction record that Latista provides will be useful to USACE: “With that record, not only will we be able to see that issues were repaired, we’ll be able to demonstrate how well we met our goals for scheduling and cost.”
“The Latista solution is ideal for quality and collaboration on complex projects and we are very excited to see the results coming out of the USACE, Clark, Balfour Beatty NCE project,” said Latista Executive Vice President Chris Ramsey. “Owners and progressive contractors like Balfour Beatty and Clark are leading the way in taking inefficient paper and pen processes out of the jobsite, benefiting all stakeholders substantially through higher quality and time savings.”