Capitalizing on the onslaught of tablet devices at construction sites and integration with several back-office contractor applications, Guido Construction used Mendix's application platform to streamline a complex contract bidding, change order, and approval process.
When it comes to project complexity and documentation, few industries can rival the challenges of the commercial construction industry. Whether it’s juggling multiple subcontractors or carefully tracking countless change orders, a construction project’s outcome and profitability are only as good as the carefully managed documentation behind it. For Guido Construction Company, a $60 million commercial contractor in South Texas, growth and success created greater challenges in managing document flows.
According to Maryanne Guido, chief executive officer, workflow management soon became an overriding concern for the company. “At any point in time, we might have 10 to 20 separate projects underway,” she said. “They have different sizes and teams, different durations, and different budgets. But we need to track them all very carefully to ensure the end result meets specifications and that we hit budget and profit numbers.”
Previously, Guido Construction looked at out-of-the-box commercial software solutions – but they were ill-suited to the task. “Those are expensive programs,” she said, “and were designed for multi-billion-dollar global firms. So we started to use an Access-based platform with different modules. But as our business evolved – we started using iPads in the field, for instance – well, the system was sluggish and didn’t provide a lot of visibility to our data. We wanted something that fit our business and our people.”
When I saw the first iteration, I was very impressed with the user experience of the application and immediately knew we were going in the right direction. Then with new feedback, we could make important adjustments to the app very quickly and easily.
A standard construction process can be document-intensive – from RFIs and Contracts to submittal/approval of change orders to product data and punch lists. With so many documents and milestones, the possibility of missteps or overlooked approvals is great. To bring structure and automation to the process, Guido partnered with a consultant to create a new custom application using Mendix's application platform, the agile development solution that lets business experts collaborate every step of the way. With Mendix, developers start with high-level requirements, share results immediately, get the app in the hands of key users quickly, and iterate for optimal results.
At first, Guido was skeptical, fearing that the cost, time, and complexity of creating a custom application for construction would create unacceptable business risks. “I thought we were taking a big chance here,” she said. “When I saw the first iteration, I was very impressed with the user experience of the application and immediately knew we were going in the right direction. Then with new feedback, we could make important adjustments to the app very quickly and easily.”
The new application – created by one consultant with just 8 weeks of work – delivers the right information to subcontractors and lets them clarify the details of the plans and conditions. The company previously had to rely on numerous backend applications to track that info – which was time-consuming and error-prone. “We see a significant improvement in the way we manage our work,” Guido said. “The app consolidates a number of different back-office applications – some of which our clients require us to use – into a single interface with interactive sharing of information – like the submittals and clarifications and verifying product data in the construction documents. All of the contract amendments – the change orders – follow the same automated, structured process, so we always have a clear picture of what’s going on and what’s awaiting approval. And everyone is doing things the same way, so we have more uniform results.”
More than 30 project managers at Guido and its subcontractor partners use the new application. As a result, there’s great accessibility of consolidated information and better oversight and cost control. Every cost is agreed to and every piece of work is approved – before the work gets done. “And because we’ve captured that information properly, we can show it to our clients if any questions arise,” Guido said. “I can pull up the change orders and cost approvals instantly and nip any potential disputes in the bud. We also have a dashboard screen that shows us the key metrics and project status. That helps us keep things on time and on budget.”
Punch lists – the final construction items that must be completed before final sign-off – were previously captured using a digital camera and a laptop atop a wheeled cart, a cumbersome arrangement. Now, Guido project managers use an iPad’s built-in camera to take pictures, add messages, and upload each item to the application. “It’s given us greater accessibility to the information and accelerated our project close-outs.”
In addition, the Mendix app also helps Guido refine its future bidding by letting project managers enter annotations about the milestones and skills of the workers on the project. “That way, if we’re bidding on a similar project in the future, we know who the key players are and what they did on that project. Since public entities in Texas no longer select bidders based on lowest price, it’s essential for us to emphasize our quality and experience. This app helps us do that quickly.”
Moving forward, Guido expects to integrate the application with its Timberline accounting system. In addition, the application will be available in the Mendix App Store as a commercial offering, creating an additional revenue source for the company.
Founded by Louis L. Guido Sr. in 1927, Guido Construction Company is a commercial construction contractor with expertise in restoration, institutional, recreation, healthcare, and industrial projects. With numerous awards for high-profile engagements, such as San Antonio’s River Walk, the $60 million company employs 125 people and has played key roles in prominent construction projects throughout South Texas.