Saving Time and Money at Level 10 Construction
They are two of the biggest names in the world: Amazon and Facebook. These giants of industry have come to be known for innovative and unique workspaces for their employees. Building these office spaces is a complicated, daunting task, and it's one that Level 10 Construction knows all too well.
A Massive Project
We recently had the opportunity to visit the men and women of Level 10 Construction right in the middle of one of their largest projects: Moffett Towers II in San Jose, California. The sheer size and scope of this build are staggering. Five 8-story buildings rack up a whopping 1.8 million sq. ft. of office space complete with kitchen areas, conference rooms, and laboratory space. Amazon and Facebook will house their employees in this new office space, which will be home to hundreds of new employees. Add to that three parking structures, an amenities building with a basketball court, swimming pool, and gym as well as green spaces and community gardens throughout and you'll get some idea of the complexity that a project of this size carries with it.
As the General Contractor, Level 10 has to coordinate with sometimes upwards of 20 subcontractors on any given day and ensure that everything is working smoothly and the entire project is progressing according to schedule. The difficulty in working on a building for high-profile and demanding clients like Amazon and Facebook is ensuring that every subcontractor in the field had the material that they needed to do their jobs. In addition, they have to ensure that one crew isn't holding anyone else up because of a delay or change.
Igor Charsov, Senior Field Engineer with Level 10, described the precision required on the Moffett Towers II project in this way: "An 8-story buildout like this, and with such a tough schedule, it's important to be precise," says Charsov, "On a daily basis, we have one subcontractor following another on the floor and any type of delay can really affect the schedule heavily. For example, a small issue such as shades or a finish that someone would normally not really pay attention to can end up holding up a schedule. What had happened on one of our projects was the shade manufacturer just couldn't get the shades out in time, meaning that we couldn't build our soffit. That just created a domino effect where we couldn't finish our ceiling, the guys underneath the ceiling couldn't install their partitions, and a lot of the finishes were getting delayed."
Delays due to miscommunication, materials, or change orders are all too common on complex projects, and they can end up costing GCs plenty of time and money. The Superintendents and Field Engineers at Level 10 needed to find a way to make sure that every subcontractor was working according to the schedule and that any issues were addressed quickly. That way, they could ensure that one small holdup wouldn't cause the dreaded domino effect and slow everything down.
An 8-story buildout like this, and with such a tough schedule, it's important to be precise.
— Igor Charsov, Senior Field Engineer.
An Hour and a Half a Day...
It soon became apparent to Level 10 that the old reporting and communication methods just weren't cutting it anymore. "Previously, daily reports were done on a desktop program where you would go back at the end of the day, and maybe you'd have some notes in your notebook where you would write all this stuff down and type it all into a program or an excel spreadsheet of some kind. You'd save it, log it in, sign it and do all that stuff" said Mike Brennan, Superintendent for Level 10. "You'd be out in the field collecting information all day and hopefully writing it down if you weren't being stopped or pulled away, and then you'd have to go back and read your notes that hopefully made sense eight hours later."
What Brennan is describing is a method of organizing jobsites and coordinating subcontractors that might feel familiar to many in the construction industry. It starts with writing down what had happened in a notebook, then typing it all out in an excel spreadsheet for the office to use. While that system undoubtedly worked well for many years modern construction has changed the nature of the game. Moffett Towers II has subcontractors coming in and out frequently. Every one of them depends on another to do their job. If one gets delayed, they all do. And, with deadlines getting shorter and shorter, you can see how precision becomes key in coordinating everything. When precision in planning and communicating is required you can easily see how "reading notes that hopefully made sense 8 hours later" has a lot of room for error. All it takes is forgetting to write down one important change or delay and suddenly the domino effect comes into play and the entire schedule is thrown off.
However, beyond the possibility of inaccuracy or missing something important was just the time it took to transfer the notes into a spreadsheet at the end of the day. Brennan notes "It was usually an hour, hour and a half a day that you'd be doing this." That time comes right at the end of the day when the rest of the crews are heading off. That means it's the superintendent's job to head back to the trailer for that extra hour and a half to slog through the paperwork. Trapping them in there for that long is definitely not the best use of highly skilled professionals.
Raken and Egnyte save us a whole bunch of time and money, and that's the two keys of construction right now. Time and money.
— Igor Charsov, Senior Field Engineer
Keeping it All Straight
So how do you avoid chaining your superintendents to a desk for an hour and a half? Give the subcontractors an easy-to-use app that helps field workers complete their construction daily reports while giving visibility to the office. According to Andrew Martin, a Level 10 Superintendent over the Moffett Towers jobsite, that's what Raken helps them accomplish. "My day to day function is coordinating with my field personnel, and coordinating them throughout the day with the trades and what we've got going on," he says. "This is where Raken comes in. I'll go in there and see what subs are onsite, what their manpower count is, and I can coordinate that with what my field is telling me by what they are logging into Raken. If something doesn't add up I can just call that sub and say 'hey, what's on the app isn't what I'm finding between Level 10 and whatever subcontractor it might be.'"
According to Martin, Raken has helped them coordinate their subcontractors by comparing what's happening onsite right then and there with what Level 10 had budgeted. Any discrepancies can then be adjusted on the spot rather than finding out about them later.
But it isn't just Andrew who has his eye on what's going on in the field. Evan Sinclaire, Field Engineer with Level 10, says "In my daily activities I go around the site snapping photos of what happened that day. If there's ever a question if the work got done or didn't get done, I can go back to those photos in Raken and check to see if it was actually done or not."
When Martin and Sinclaire work together their ability to precisely capture what's happening in the field helps Level 10 keep the project on course. Martin can see not only what the subcontractors are reporting themselves, but can then compare that with budgeted hours while Sinclaire captures photos that show exactly what happened that day with no room for dispute or error. It's a one-two punch of construction field management that's done as they walk the site throughout the day rather than at the end of the day in a trailer.
If there's ever a question if the work got done or didn't get done, I can go back to those photos in Raken and check to see if it was actually done or not.
— Evan Sinclaire, Field Engineer
Raken and Egnyte Integration: The Final Piece
While Raken helped the Level 10 team keep everything running smoothly on the Moffett Towers II project, Level 10 really unlocked the technology's full potential when they implemented the Egnyte integration. Egnyte is a cloud file storage and management system that integrates with Raken. As soon as a daily report is signed in Raken, it is automatically placed into the right folder within Egnyte and stored right alongside other important project documents like RFIs or Change Orders.
We have over 50 people using Raken and Egnyte on this project alone," says Charsov, adding "every single project document is stored on Egnyte, and if I need to find anything it's organized through folders. If it's an RFI just click on the RFI folder, go to RFI 400, and there it is. It's all at your fingertips. I don't have to go run down to the office and ask them to open this folder for me, whether it's subcontracts, RFIs, or even the latest drawings which is the most important being in the field.
What Level 10 has done, in Charsov's case, is to empower him with the information he needs right there in the field. Egnyte and Raken together are on his iPad or phone. That enables him to answer questions and keep the project moving, without spending the time running to and fro from the office to the site. Essentially, technology has allowed him to do his job more effectively and with less red tape. When you allow your teams to spend more time doing the work they love and less time chasing paperwork, you minimize the risk of miscommunication and mix-ups. More time in the field and less in the trailer is good for everyone.
Saving Time and Money
Perhaps more than the time saved in paperwork, the accuracy of the pictures, or the ability to access important documents on the go, Raken and Egnyte has given Level 10's engineers and superintendents peace of mind when it comes to these important documents. "At any time your computer or iPad can crash and everything can disappear," says Charsov, stating the worst-case scenario for documents in Excel spreadsheets stored on an office computer's hard drive. "Having your daily reports on Raken, having all your pictures uploaded to Egnyte with all the project documents, you never have to worry about a thing."
Daily reports, RFIs, change orders, and drawings are important pieces of construction documentation. Losing them, whether it's in a binder in the office or a hard drive that someone takes with them when they leave the jobsite, can end up costing GCs dearly if they ever need to access those documents again. Because Raken reports are automatically synced to the cloud in Egnyte you never have to worry, as Charsov says, about losing anything again. That kind of peace of mind is priceless, especially on large and complex projects.
Raken and Egnyte save us a whole bunch of time and money," Charsov says, "and that's the two keys of construction right now. Time and money.
How do Raken and Egnyte help Level 10 save time and money?
- Each superintendent is saving an hour and a half a day without having to log notes into Excel.
- Discrepancies between field and office are spotted more quickly.
- Photos can be used to avoid costly delays by showing exactly what was and wasn't done.
- Engineers save time running back and forth to the office by having all their project documents at their fingertips.
- Subcontractors avoid delays because engineers and superintendents are able to coordinate them more efficiently thanks to the increased visibility.
As of now, Level 10 is on track to hand over the keys on the Moffett Towers II office complex to Amazon and Facebook on time and on budget. Their consistent track record of on-time deliveries without going over-budget has contributed to their standing as the 3rd largest GC in the Bay Area. We chalk that success up to the skill, expertise, and hard work of professionals like Igor Charsov, Andrew Martin, Mike Brennan, and Evan Sinclaire. We're just honored that Raken and Egnyte helped them do their jobs more efficiently than ever before.