In this second installment of “Procore’s Customer Roundtable: We’re In This Together” webinar series, Kris Lengieza, senior director of business development at Procore, talks with four construction leaders from around the country about working through COVID-19. At the top of the list – worker safety. Participants also discussed everything from dealing with project shutdowns to finding opportunities in the midst of new challenges.
Keep Things Moving
Amanda Finnerty, director of internal operations at Boston-based Commodore Builders, a construction management firm who specializes in commercial, institutional, life science and tenant interior work, says the company has had the majority of their projects shutdown by state and/or city officials.
“We do still have some essential projects running and construction has been deemed essential, but we are mostly shutdown,” said Finnerty, who is part of Commodore’s new COVID-19 task force. “We’re trying to keep things moving and getting all of us through this together.”
Laura McLean, training and implementation manager for AMCAL General Contractors, headquartered in Agoura Hills, California, said her company’s projects were still operating but under the specter of having to shut down at any time. The company builds subsidized, affordable multi-family housing in Washington, California, and Texas.
“Right now, all of our sites are up and running,” McLean said. “Most of our office staff is working remotely. Our sites are deemed essential industry until the moment we become a vector for infection. So as soon as one of our sites becomes a problem, we know that we risk everything shutting down.”
Kevin Rohr, with Greiner Electric in Denver, Colorado said his company’s office staff is working from home while the construction sites continue functioning with enhanced safety procedures. Greiner, which specializes primarily in commercial construction projects, said most of their sites are “continuing to function with enhanced safety procedures and just trying to deal with the situation the best that we can with as little interruption as possible.”
Deborah Fields, operations manager with Cascade Built, a general contractor in Seattle, building multifamily, mixed-use projects, said her firm’s projects are termed nonessential because they aren’t building federally funded housing. However, the company continues to have engineer-specified work to prevent damage and spoliation.
To ensure safety and compliance, Cascade set up work plans, identified the people who would need to be on-site, listed exact activities they would perform each day, and specified on the drawings where they’d be working.
Staying Connected While Social Distancing
Some might say that some form of social distancing, in a small way, began before it ever became a global edict.
“How many apps do we have where you order pizza, you pay for it through your app, you go in, you open a little kiosk, you pull your pizza out and you go home and never interact with another person?” asked Rohr. “That situation has now grown by everybody getting away from the offices, working from home and from remote spaces. Wherever that is, they’re still part of the team. Technology is allowing us to be able to do those things.”
All participants said their companies have started using more video or audio conferencing to keep teams connected.
“We’re not just sending emails back and forth. We’re not just calling back and forth. We’re able to get on video conferencing,” said Rohr, who added that Greiner employees were using Procore’s Zoom integration.
New Challenges, New Opportunities
All participants reported using the Procore platform, from teaching people to use Procore Documents to expanding their use of Procore’s Training Center. Some participants said they’d discovered new aspects of Procore, and Finnerty spoke of how subcontractors were discovering the advantages of the platform. Implementing a 100% electronic submissions policy helped to increase acceptance and adoption by subcontractors at Commodore “and that’s been perfect with Procore, said Finnerty.
She explained that one of her company’s superintendents received a text from a sub asking about the “Procore thing” and why he needed it. After the super explained, the sub logged in and tried it. In about five minutes, he texted back, “Oh, man, I’m good. I know what I’m doing.”
Finnerty also said her company requires everybody who enters a job site to complete COVID-19 training using Procore’s Training Center.
Meanwhile, Fields said her company is using the Photo tool to show safe distancing and to enforce 100% of the company’s personal protective equipment requirements.
“In addition to that, we’ve also added what we like to refer to as cost to COVIDs, and we are now tracking all of that work that’s being done under those new cost codes, both in the daily reports and RFIs, and so on,” said Fields.
Challenges also present opportunities, and McLean and Fields said their companies were using this time to introduce their subs to Procore and help them understand the platform. When things return to normal, they will have higher adoption rates.
Rohr said his company was focusing heavily on health indicators.
“It ultimately starts with people coming into the job and leaving the job, and making sure that people are monitoring their health,” Rohr said. “We used to make sure that when people came to the project they didn’t have any injuries when they started or when they left. And now, we’ve extended that and ask if they have sniffles, fever, or a sore throat. And if anybody has any of those symptoms, we make sure they get the proper medical attention and cleared by a doctor to go back to work.”
Panelists talked about the importance of leadership involvement, both at the company level and across companies. Finnerty said the senior leadership team at Commodore Builders was working with other company leaders to develop best practices for keeping the workforce safe and to help people feel comfortable on the job.
Finnerty recommended that people try out Procore’s Training Center for communications. She also said documenting job site conditions both helps people stay informed about them and serves as a record.
McLean stressed using video conferencing to improve information exchange.
“We have a ton of information to coordinate, whether it’s new posters, a full pandemic response plan that we have, or the daily wellness check-ins and inspections,” McLean said, “but nothing really helped the people in the field until we got everybody across the country in a Zoom meeting. We’re doing it once a week now to go over what we’ve put in place, what we’ve heard, what we’re dealing with this week, and then let everybody ask questions in real-time.”
McLean also explained how people sometimes don’t want to bother the field workers because they think they’re too busy. However, with something this important, including them in the conversation helps those in the field to feel connected and a part of an organization that wants to look after them.
“Well, the one piece of advice that I would give to everybody is to communicate effectively,” Rohr said. “This is the time to be exercising those leadership skills that we’ve all learned through experience and through time. There’s so much information floating around out there, and some of it is just flat out wrong, some of it’s bad, some of it’s good, some of it’s incomplete. And that is really what’s driving a lot of the anxiety about the current situation.
“As leaders, we need to be the ones communicating to our people, telling them what the actual truth of the situation is, and what our response is, both individually and company-specific. But even in just normal everyday interactions, effective communication is critical.”
Fields stressed communication, notification, documentation, and more documentation as four practices to help stay on track.
“Making sure that you follow up a phone call conversation with a document, or an email to confirm,” Fields said. “Make notifications, whether it be the subs or owners, whenever something is decided or requested or needed. We’ve found that following those practices, especially in this situation, has proven to be very beneficial.”
Be sure to register for the upcoming “Procore Owners Customer Roundtable” free webinar on Thursday, April 23 at 11AM PT. Where you will learn more about:
- How the current crisis is compelling construction leaders to be more or less innovative.
- How they are using technology to practice social distancing.
- What this means for their current and future projects.