Everyone is concerned over how the current global crisis is affecting their business.
As an essential business, Rosendin has been able to continue operations. Still, we have certainly not been exempt from safety concerns, supply interruptions, cost fluctuation, workforce uncertainty or virtual interaction. As the situation became increasingly serious, the executive leadership team took early steps to address safety and project concerns and understand how our supply chain vendors were going to react. These steps became a plan of action.
As a result, current projects have experienced very few cost or schedule setbacks and we hope that some of the lessons we learned can help to other businesses and contractors in this uncertain time.
As with many lines of business, there are a lot of moving parts to any renewable project: engineering, estimating, procurement, installation, closeout and, above all, safety.
Each of these functions has a unique set of criteria and a particular sequence of implementation to be most effective. The personal interaction between team members has always allowed decisions and direction to be determined quickly and effectively – until people became separated.
The challenge then arose of transitioning interpersonal connections to phone, email, and online. The necessary tools exist, but the need to collaborate remotely took a bit of retraining. As a result, the Renewables Team mandated weekly collaboration calls with each group: engineering, estimating, procurement, project management, and field.
Additionally, the leaders for each group met weekly to review pursuits and ongoing projects, in order to stay in touch on needs and deadlines. Our teams needed to settle on a single interactive platform, of which there are many: Zoom, Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts – to name a few. The key is to select a platform and stick with it, as bouncing from platform to platform creates confusion and frustration. It took some getting used to, but once the team became comfortable, everyone was able to interact in a similar fashion as we had when we were in the office.
After we established committed meeting times and a platform, the real work began. We were getting back to “normal operations” in a time where people don’t see each other in an office. Within a few weeks, most rough spots were worked through, leading to the efforts and processes we now have in place.
The staff has worked exclusively out of the office for the past 10 weeks. With weekly staff checks as well as twice-weekly project check-ins, most jobs have run smoothly. This, along with team-wide electronic page-turn reviews, has improved constructability and design quality. The only trouble is when engineers make assumptions without positively verifying them with the Project Manager or Field General Foreman. It seems assumptions are not as apparent online.
Rosendin’s estimating group has been working electronically in the office, rather than with paper drawings, for several years. The adjustment the group had to make was committing to review estimates and pursuits online every week. Estimating communicates with engineering, project management, sub-consultants, subcontractors, and preconstruction teams several times per week. Estimating also maintains a log of costs and lead times for hardware and equipment, in order to understand what is provided for a specific project, before passing this information to procurement for purchase.
Rosendin has a reliable network of suppliers and vendors who we worked with at the outset to understand equipment availability and cost. As a result, we have been able to make critical purchasing decisions, including bulk buys, to avoid shortages and logistical hang-ups. We could not have done this without the established relationships with our entire supply chain. This crisis has shown us the vital importance of maintaining good relationships with our suppliers and vendors.
Construction and Safety
Perhaps the most sophisticated effort we must accomplish is orchestrating the delivery, staging, inspection, installation, and startup of a project. There are tens of thousands of parts and assemblies, with hundreds of craft workers, multiple subcontractors, consultants, and project stakeholders. In the best of times, this effort is daunting, yet the vast majority of the time it is successfully accomplished.
In the current climate, the same work must be done, but under more complicated circumstances, all while safety in the “new normal” has changed. We are now enforcing social distancing, wearing face masks as part of our required PPE, sanitizing equipment throughout the day and have implemented staggered break schedules. These measures have been put in place to keep our people and communities safe from exposure, all while maintaining a secure site. In this sense, the crisis has taught us that putting trust in and relying on the people who build our projects is vital.
Rosendin’s foremen and superintendents have developed tools, jigs, and techniques to keep our craftspeople safe while maintaining installation efficiency and delivering a fault-free project. Without the innovation, insight, and ingenuity of the entire team, this would not be possible.
This global crisis will end and we will return to our everyday lives. The lessons Rosendin has learned during this time have created a new environment and processes that we will continue to implement and build upon. The new way of business has its challenges. Still, the relationships we have forged with our suppliers and vendors, along with applying the talent and innovation that our field and office staff possess, have been crucial in helping us deliver our projects during a time when the industry is struggling to complete work.
Our key takeaway from this pandemic is all about people. Continue to invest in people inside and outside your organization; it makes all the difference.
Ron Wilson is vice president of engineering at Rosendin.