Evan Staples has only been a project engineer at New England Construction in East Providence for about a year, but training in the field has shown him the critical role technology plays in the industry.
Staples says he’s heard from colleagues about the troubles that sometimes ensued from having to wait to get revised paper schematics on the construction site via FedEx in order to make last-minute changes. Today, updated documents can be viewed on a tablet or smartphone at the site, quickly and at less expense than delivery by FedEx or UPS, he and his peers at larger construction companies say.
“I’ll be on-site down in a building midconstruction and we need to check a detail on an architectural plan,” he explained. “I can pull that up on my smartphone, check the detail and solve that problem. It cuts down on foot traffic and the paper documents needed.”
Fieldwork at construction sites has evolved with the times, backed up, contractors say, by not only standardized industry software suites such as AutoDesk, but also by award-winning software created in-house. Regardless of size, firms work in secure, private clouds to share proprietary documents ranging from change orders to architectural drawings with architects and designers, subcontractors or, when it comes to legal financial contracts and other documents, with project owners.
“Paper, fax machines – we don’t use any of that anymore, it’s all electronic,” said Jason Pelkey, Providence-based Gilbane Building Co.’s vice president and chief information officer. “It cuts down the amount of time it takes so we can keep the job on target. We don’t have to wait for approvals as long. We do occasionally FedEx things out, but it’s reduced. We’re attempting to eliminate all FedEx and UPS costs unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Gilbane has 2,000 employees and is expanding its national scope to a global one. In contrast, New England Construction has 45 employees that work in markets extending from Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut to New Hampshire and New York. A third firm, Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence, has more than 200 employees who cater to a predominantly southern New England market.