Throughout the world, EllisDon is known for their impressive accomplishments and reliability in the construction industry. Headquartered in Ontario, this building services giant has spent the last 65 years delivering quality projects and expanding their earnest reputation with every new innovative structure under their belt. While they are still primarily based in Canada, EllisDon has become a global bedrock for construction projects, and with annual revenue surpassing $3 billion, it’s clear they have a knack for prosperity.
One of their latest mammoth projects is the new Providence Care Hospital in Kingston, Ontario. No stranger to hospital projects, EllisDon’s expertise with this type of work is why Infrastructure Ontario and Providence Care awarded a $350 million contract to them, as part of the overall $800 million tab for the project. They head up Integrated Team Solutions, a consortium of construction companies charged with the project’s November 2017 completion date. Since this mental health hospital is a design-build-finance-maintain (DBFM) venture, EllisDon will be tasked with maintaining the new Providence Care Hospital for a 30 year period once construction is finished.
“Fieldwire is absolutely saving us time because we’ve got all of our contractors on it, we can assign tasks and deficiencies to them right away. It saves us quite a bit of time.” - Mike Armstrong, Asst. Project Manager at EllisDon
Real-Time Issue Tracking
While Providence Care Hospital has a multitude of duties to juggle, Assistant Project Manager Mike Armstrong’s primary focus is managing the scope of the building envelope and any exterior work, such as concrete, landscape, civil, curtain wall and masonry. He’s also one of the most tech savvy members of the EllisDon team, so it fell upon him to find a modern solution to daily field inefficiency. Armstrong also credits Alana Bonney, QA/QC LEED Coordinator, with helping adapt Fieldwire to suit EllisDon’s processes. With anywhere up to 700 workers on-site at any given time, there is a very real need to keep the team both on-task and up-to-date regarding issues that need attention.
“We’re concentrating on deficiency work,” says Armstrong. “The hard part is that this project is a big machine, and the more you fuel the machine with data, the more it needs to be managed well. Fieldwire is great because you can capture and control it all in one spot. I bet you it’s probably saved us needing 2-3 QA/QC people, in all honesty.”
The massive size of the Providence Care project creates a steady flow of punch items to deal with, and as they rack up throughout the day, Fieldwire becomes vital toward logging and tracking each item’s status. Tasks are created for every deficiency, and the Providence Care Hospital team designates a priority, due date, and category for every task so that expectations are clear. Each individual task collects all of the data pertaining to specific snags, such as notes, photos, checklists, and file attachments. This makes handling every issue a lot easier.
“The other benefit is we also added the client onto Fieldwire, so they could see in real-time what we’re tracking as deficiencies and how we’re closing those off,” says Armstrong. “So it eliminated the back-and-forth questioning when they do a walkthrough. You know, sending emails saying, ‘Hey we noticed this, hey we noticed that, etc.’ So we can eliminate those questions just by having them be on the system with us. They could go in and see themselves that we had picked up issues and were dealing with them.”
The real-time task management system is a core attribute of the Fieldwire construction app, sending both email and mobile push notifications to all associated parties on the project whenever there is an update to each individual task. The hospital will include 270 patient rooms on four floors and must meet LEED Silver standards throughout the entire structure, so there is understandably a wealth of progress updates that need to be tracked daily. Being able to manage and monitor tasks in real-time helps turn the stressful notion of keeping an eye on everything into a simple, automatic facet of on-site routine. They even take progress tracking a step further by connecting with EllisDon’s Gate Three ERP system. Utilizing Fieldwire’s open API, EllisDon is able to integrate Gate Three with Fieldwire to make data exchange seamless. By uniting these best-of-breed programs, their team removes the pain of double data entry and further streamlines the way they monitor project headway.
Real-time updates also aid in boosting communication throughout Mike Armstrong’s team, allowing them to convey new information immediately instead of hunting each other down to pass along any updates, requests, or hiccups. That makes quite an impact when you’re working on a 30-acre waterfront project site. And even in the absence of WiFi, all the new data can still be recorded in Fieldwire while offline and then sync to everyone else on the team once internet connectivity is reestablished.
“There was a general issue of communication of deficiencies and doc control. So Fieldwire just provided one convenient hub for deficiency work, and the ability to communicate to the trades anytime from any location. So that’s the biggest thing,” says Armstrong. “Somebody doesn’t have to go out with a set of drawings and a camera to take pictures, and then come back and write the reports. They’re just doing it from an iPad as they go along.”
Collecting all information and data updates in a refined report is another strong communication tool, and Fieldwire helps Armstrong’s crew act autonomously to maximize the time they spend working each day. Armstrong can create PDF or spreadsheet reports on the fly and on a schedule, so that each of his colleagues will receive clear, detailed instructions regarding which tasks need to be dealt with. Beyond assignments, reports are also great ways to convey progress, create inspection and punch lists, and analyze the overall efficiency of team effort.
“Fieldwire creates a punch list that gets delivered weekly to the trades via reports. Somebody doesn’t have to manage that process - once set up, it does it automatically. And then what we’re doing is just following up with them to make sure,” says Armstrong. “They get the report, we make them go through the report with one of our supers to say, ‘Yes, this item’s completed. Here’s a picture to close it off.’ And then we close off the item. So as fast as we’re opening items, we try closing them just as quickly. Fieldwire definitely helps with that.”
Modern Plan Management
Fieldwire’s efforts to streamline construction projects go beyond task management, but plan viewing and versioning as well. There is no longer any need to struggle with transporting large drawings into the field, as Fieldwire makes it possible to upload every single project drawing directly into the app, where you can version each one and mark them up as you go on your mobile devices. It’s a powerful feature that Armstrong and EllisDon have taken full advantage of, making each day a lot less back-breaking for their comrades on-site.
“Unfortunately, Fieldwire wasn’t introduced to us at the beginning of the project, so we were doing the old school method of big drawing table rooms,” muses Armstrong. “Then Fieldwire entered our lives mid-way. Now all of our field staff have converted to iPads. All of the drawings are uploaded on Fieldwire, so instead of carrying drawings around, they take their iPads around, record deficiencies, and manage that whole process. Everything gets input and closed off through Fieldwire.”
One of the most convenient aspects of plan management in Fieldwire’s construction software is that sheet hyperlinks are automatically read and enabled once the upload is complete. The Providence Care project has a mountain of drawings to keep up with, so being able to navigate through them without creating hyperlinks for every sheet is a tremendous blessing. It certainly facilitated easy adoption of the app throughout the ranks.
“Once they figured out that all the hyperlinks were built in and they didn’t have to keep flipping pages around - they could just press a button and go into the section detail - they got on board pretty quickly.”
Creating tasks for each deficiency and placing them directly on their drawings is an advantage that Armstrong and his team have fully embraced. On a project of this scale, this functionality has made a big difference in how they coordinate their contractors and relay information. Those paper drawings remain in-office now in a room that has become akin to a museum.
“We still keep drawings up on the wall, since we haven’t fully converted to having TV screens in a room with Fieldwire displayed on it. But that’s what I see us going to next, and not even printing drawings anymore, to be honest.”
Construction Done Right
On a beautiful site overlooking Lake Ontario, the new Providence Care Hospital is shaping up to be another massive success for EllisDon. Mike Armstrong and his team have made immense strides toward completing the project, and as the hospital continues to take shape, they continue to rely on Fieldwire to help them boost collaboration and efficiently manage deficiencies. No matter the job or location, the ample benefits that Fieldwire provides can be enjoyed by any construction team ready to improve their daily operations.
“I would absolutely recommend Fieldwire to others in the industry. Our project is a quick train, and the train was getting derailed a little bit, so we had to focus our efforts. Fieldwire really helped with that.”