Graham is sorting out the tools from the toys as the size, scope and complexity of projects is pushing the need to innovate.
The company has dubbed its thoughtful approach “innovation with a purpose.”
“It’s rooted in the fact that construction is not a high margin, high profit business,” explained Matt Gramblicka, Graham’s vice-president of IT and enterprise applications. “Anything we do has to be cost effective. It has to make us better at construction, keep people safe or add benefit to clients. That really limits what you can do. You want to make sure any dollar you can spend, you are getting dollars of value back out and getting better for the next opportunity.”
Gramblicka is currently applying the philosophy to a major rebuild of Graham’s IT core. It is centred on an advanced version of Graham’s SAP enterprise resource planning software combined with the industry solution InEight, which form the nucleus of the company’s Toolbox Next Generation (TNG), a suite of frontline systems and processes that will change how Graham delivers its projects.
Solution design for TNG began in 2018 and as of June 2022, the full solution will be pilot ready.
Graham’s original Toolbox was developed in-house roughly 20 years ago. It was based on the concept that any piece of data entered by any source at any point in the construction cycle would become common across all tools, offices and departments for the project’s life and beyond, forming a common base of reusable knowledge.
Toolbox’s integrated nature aimed to leap past the construction industry’s siloed departments using multiple data sets and presentation tools with chronic duplication and errors.
“There wasn’t an application built specifically for the construction we were in – mostly vertical buildings and infrastructure and some industrial,” said Gramblicka. “With our growth curve we needed something more robust for complex projects.”
During the past 20 years, Graham has grown from doing roughly $200 million a year in business to close to $4 billion. It has also branched out to more types of work, including vertical, water, infrastructure, industrial, service, maintenance and operations.
“Projects are more complex, there are more risks and more stakeholders, so collaboration and access to information is really critical. Having a connected platform that is web accessible allows us to have all the parties on the same playbook,” said Gramblicka.
He noted Graham’s focus is on repeat clients that are seeking value over price and is encouraging early contractor involvement.
Graham chose InEight as it was the most connected solution that would lead to the most integration across the entire construction lifecycle.
Gramblicka added Graham has been giving input to InEight’s team as it develops the software which could improve it for the rest of the construction sector.
“The hope and goal is it will benefit others in the construction industry,” said Gramblicka. “Some might argue it’s giving away the secret sauce, but if other partners have good tools and quality, if we ever do a joint venture with them, it’s an easier transition.”
The vision for TNG is to track a project with a digital model available to all stakeholders, all the way from concept and construction, through operations and maintenance.
“Every area – especially estimating, safety, and QC tracking – will advance,” said Gramblicka.
TNG aims to maximize consistency throughout the North American organization of 24 offices and more than 2,200 people.
According to Graham, the companywide improvements to efficiency and effectiveness as processes and execution methods become fully repeatable enables employees to be redeployed seamlessly between divisions and across geographic locations.
Gramblicky said Graham has been rolling out pieces of the new solution but is looking for a project to pilot the full process through the whole construction cycle.
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