Weitz Gains 50-70% Efficiency, Speeding Processes
The Southeast Polk Community School District contracted the Weitz Company, LLC, as construction manager in early 2009 to assist with design and deliver a $23-million renovation project of an existing 250,000 sq. ft. high school building, converting it to a new junior high school. The project included complete overhauls of all existing mechanical-electrical systems, technology upgrades, air quality improvement systems, natural lighting improvements, building operational reconfigurations, kitchen relocation, civil traffic pattern reconfigurations, and sustainable environmental-friendly construction design. The success of the project depended largely, if not solely, on the tightly allotted 14-month project schedule so the newly renovated building would be open for the 1,100 students and staff in August 2010.
“All of us on the committee and design team recognized how complex this project is,” said Principal Architect Ken Gantz of Frevert-Ramsey-Kobes Architects-Engineers (FRK-AE) in an article from the Des Moines Register available from Weitz. “It’s a large project and it’s a project that has to get done in a short time, so it requires a strong effort on everyone’s part.”
To control quality and improve efficiency on the project, Weitz selected Latista Field as a web-based and mobile collaboration platform. “Two main points of discussion for improving project delivery revolved around punchlist creation and management and construction quality management to identify issues during initial installations and avoid potential rework situations,” said Project Manager Dan Solem. “We implemented Latista solutions in order to improve current practices for project deliverable documentation and issue management processes.”
The project’s design team also accepted the idea of field automation using the Latista Field system. Solem described the initial meeting: “When we showed it to the architects and engineers, we presented it as a solution that would help everyone involved save time and effort. They had some younger, tech-savvy guys who agreed that Latista looked like a good system and wanted to be included in its use.” Giving the design team access to the Latista system made their users more efficient since inspection results from all users were entered directly into the same Latista database where issues could be sorted and reports generated quickly.
Punchlist Process Automation
Following initial software training performed by Latista staff at the project site, the Weitz project team uploaded construction documents directly into the Latista software to both reference and add comments or visual markings to, in order to communicate issues with prime contractors. Project management staff focused on data processing, customizing report coversheets, reviewing Latista software modules, and setting up automated reports. Project field-management staff focused on transitioning workflows to utilize the mobile tablet and issue documentation. As the Weitz project team became more accustomed to Latista software, efforts of use and focus expanded from quality assurance to site observations reports, site inspections, safety inspections, and punchlist management.
The project team appreciated Latista’s capabilities and ease-of-use over alternatives. “Without Latista, we would have had a few options,” said Solem. “Other programs are available, but most of them are limited to single-list modules, aren’t as easy to navigate, and do not offer an automated reporting solution.” Using separate management type systems would have created redundant workflows by Weitz and the design team. For instance, if the architect created a pen-and-paper punchlist on the jobsite they would have had to process the data and then distribute, next, the distributed information would have then be processed a second time so the information could be properly assigned, distributed, and tracked.
With Latista, recording and managing issues was a much simpler process for everyone involved. Portable tablet PCs “mobilized” project and design team members, allowing them to perform real-time inspection work in the field. Users “hand-wrote” issue descriptions into the tablet using an electronic pen, or they chose from a list of standard descriptions that linked the issue with the appropriate prime contractor to save time. They could also open project drawings and mark issue locations and use the tablets’ built-in camera for photographs, a feature the team used to more clearly communicate with prime contractors.
Punchlist issues were entered and stored in Latista, where they were easily sorted, grouped, and distributed to prime contractors. The project architects performed their own punchlist creation while our team assigned the issues to the prime contractors. From there, the prime contractors reviewed the issues and marked them ‘Accepted,’ ‘Rejected,’ or ‘Fixed.’ Following issue notations by the prime contractors, Weitz project team members followed up appropriately to either clarify the issues or performed re-inspections for compliance.
Part of the success of the Southeast Polk project’s implementation of Latista was involving the architects and other consultants. “We started by training each consultant on Latista so they could complete their own punchlist,” said Solem. Design team users entered punchlist items directly into Latista, eliminating the time to transcribe the information and transfer it to Weitz. “We had a commissioning agent, architect, kitchen consultant, and MEP/controls consultant,” said Solem. “All of them were entering information in Latista after agreeing early on not to move forward with multiple punchlists or issue logs.”
Doug Chervek, an architect with FRK-AE, found the Latista system convenient for communicating issues to the construction manager and prime contractors. “I normally use a tape recorder for punchlists and have someone transcribe everything, but the project manager presented Latista as something that would help us work together,” he said.
“It’s a pretty efficient system,” said Chervek, describing Latista. “I’d finish my inspection and synchronize the tablet. The construction manager would then see my inspection and select where the report information would go. The reports got out faster that way.” The design team also appreciated that issues could be illustrated with marked-up plans and drawings to show exactly where and what the problem was.
Most important for Chervek, once he was finished entering issues, he was done. Latista accepted the written issues and automatically attached the illustrations where appropriate. Weitz created custom reports for themselves, the prime contractors, and the consultants at the push of a button with no transcribing. “The inspections were finished sooner because there was literally nothing I brought back to the office with me,” said Chervek. “My office time was zero.”
SystemWorks, LLC, in charge of commissioning on the SEP project, used Latista to complete their site visits as part of the punchlist process. “We really liked it,” said Commissioning Authority Scott Talbot. “The idea of having the information available in the field and on the server immediately was great. With Latista, we entered issues as we walked through, could take a picture, put a cloud on the drawing, and say, ‘This is where I was. Here’s the issue description.’ Back at the office, we press a button to upload the data, send it off, create a report, and that’s it. When we leave we’re done. Most jobs we would have spent an hour finishing this work in the office.”
Time-Savings in the Field and the Office
Weitz used Latista’s easy issues management to improve its efficiency and accuracy communicating with contractors. “Project management noted a time savings range of five to 10 hours per week on data processing, report creation, report sorting, and report distributions,” said Solem. “The Latista software workflow allowed project management to provide oversight and support as needed, but because of the ease of use and interactivity of both the Latista software and mobile solution, field management was able to provide more in-depth support for the overall process.”
“Our quality and punchlist management efficiency probably increased 50 to 75 percent,” said Solem. “Working with real-time information provided by Latista removed non-value-add tasks from overall work processes. We potentially saved 10 to 20 hours a week eliminating data sorting activities, report distribution, and issue clarification communications.” Solem added that the portable tablet PCs made Latista more effective by eliminating non-value-add travel from the jobsite office to construction activity areas, allowing more time to focus on assigned project responsibilities.
As project manager, Dan Solem saved time on the project as well since he could focus on ensuring the work being performed met time and quality standards, rather than processing and over-communicating issues and responsibilities to contractors. “From the project management side, we saved time,” said Solem. “We used Latista to set up rules for creation and distribution of weekly reports and reminders. It potentially saved 5 to 10 hours a week of having to support data processing and process management.”
Latista augmented time savings by allowing Weitz to customize reports specific to their recipients: “We created our own templates,” said Solem. “A lot of the reports I created were sorted to find issues of a specific type, either for a specific prime contractor or by item status. It is very useful to have a quick sort feature and takes less time to communicate where issues need to be resolved.”
Latista Field found favor with the The Weitz Company and their consultants as a solution to unite the parties involved in punchlisting activities on the conversion of the old high school into the new Southeast Polk Junior High. Being able to better collaborate while creating the punchlist and also automating the creation of reports for contractors, consultants, and contractors saved the project team time and improved project process efficiencies.
A More Efficient Solution for Quality
Weitz and their consultants were pleased with the Latista Field system of quality management through the punchlist process. Project Manager Solem looks forward to future opportunities to use Latista, including implementing it on QA/QC and safety. “Project scheduling, real-time issue tracking, and immediate corrective action documentation were keys to our project’s success,” said Solem. “Latista’s mobile solution helped us improve process role efficiencies and complemented our project delivery method strategies. After working with Latista for just a few weeks, it was clear that their project quality and punchlist management solutions were of great benefit to the owner, designers, consultants, and all other project team members. I look forward to the opportunity to use Latista solutions on future projects and would recommend Latista as a project partnering solution.”
Design team members realized the benefits of using Latista in the future as well, for their own needs. “We’re a 10-man commissioning company, and I can see us purchasing something like this for ourselves one day,” said Commissioning Authority Talbot. “If we could save this kind of time on all our projects, it would be great. I think that field automation software like this is where the future is in our industry.”
“Though Latista started as a quality and punchlist solution, we’re constantly expanding and improving our software with the help of our customers,” said Latista Executive Vice President Chris Ramsey. “We know that quality and collaboration are key values for our customers and have added functions to LATISTA Field for production tracking, commissioning, materials tracking, and safety at the recommendation of Weitz and others. Latista is very much a ‘one-stop shop’ for construction automation.”