Ray Cisco is the Vice President of Chicago-based James McHugh Construction Co. He has recently been faced with the challenge of making McHugh more cost-effective and cost-efficient during the COVID-19 pandemic. One strategy that Ray has found success with is looking to technology and software built for the construction industry to ensure McHugh is able to continue work remotely and comes out stronger on the other side as construction ramps up again.
James McHugh Construction Co was founded in 1897, initially specializing in masonry work, but it wasn’t long before McHugh had established itself as a general contractor in the mid-1920’s. McHugh is responsible for building some of Chicago’s most recognizable landmarks, including Marina City and Water Tower Place – both of which being the world’s tallest concrete structures at the time of their respective builds. They became trailblazers in the industry by pioneering the use of fiberglass concrete forums as well as the climbing crane. Today, in addition to Chicago, McHugh has added an office in Nashville and has built projects across the USA including Louisiana, Texas, California, and Minnesota.
Bridgit’s CRO, Sean Erjavec, sat down with Ray for an exclusive Q&A. Below, you’ll find our behind-the-scenes look at the interview.
The challenges of effective resource management and workforce planning
Sean: Can you give me some color as to how you used to manage resource planning and some of the challenges that you faced? Obviously, you took a look at Bridgit, and that evolved internally for McHugh. Can you give us a sense in terms of how you used to manage it and maybe some of the challenges you might’ve had with that process?
Ray: Being that we are such a large self-performed company, and maybe it’s a little bit of the concrete mentality. You get a lot of iron workers, carpenters, you like to just kind of stay in your ways a little bit. So honestly, we always just used an Excel spreadsheet. It was very cumbersome, it was long, it was difficult to share. It was spread out so long when we’re trying to do bar charts across a spreadsheet. It’s just you always knew where people were, but you weren’t able to forecast really well out in advance of where you should, unless you’re strolling all the way across an Excel spreadsheet. And it wasn’t interactive. And you kind of had to sit in a room or you could share it maybe a little bit, but you kind of sat in a room the old fashioned way and said, I’m going to put this person there, this person here, what do we have coming? Well, we’ll move them there. And a lot of times you realize, oh shoot, we doubled up and we got that person listed on a proposal, plus we have that person listed on the job.
With what was going on, we kind of said “How can we manage our resources better? What can we do as a company? How are we going to share?” So that’s when we kind of approached Bridgit. We attended a Bridgit Bench webinar, and as you know, we jumped on and got started as soon as we could. Also, click here to see a featured image of Mallorie Brodie, Co-founder of Bridgit.
Managing estimates and pursuits with Bridgit Bench
Sean: You are using it from the day-to-day operations. You may be looking at some of your forecast pursuits, understanding where guys are going to be plugged in. Part and parcel of that is you are using Bridgit Bench to track estimates and bidding. So give me some insight into how you gys are using Bridgit Bench. And then also, how have you configured Bridgit Bench to give you more value on a day-to-day basis?
Ray: So we’re actually taking it all the way from, I won’t say every RFP, okay, but a lot of times when we get the RFP. If it’s one of those quick “I just need a clear schematic set of drawings. I need quick pricing in a week”, we’re not going to use Bridgit in that form. But if we have a full RFP and that we know is probably going to be a pretty lengthy proposal and bid process, that’s kind of where we’re starting.
So we’re setting it up in multiple phases. We set it up in estimating, to pre-construction, to construction, to warranty at the end there. And it starts off with our estimating department, and what they’re doing is they’re assigning the appropriate estimators to that job that they will be bidding, and then kind of assigning their workload of what they have. What we’re able to do with that is we have a pretty big estimating group, but they can see that we have these four individuals working on this project, this project and that project. So then we can allocate the estimators kind of appropriately to who can handle what job you get the most attention to that estimated side.
“It’s impressive being that we can share [our resource plan] now. When we did the old staffing on that Excel file and maybe five or six of us were looking at it, I can share this with anybody we want and they can view. So anybody can really see where the staffing is. It isn’t just going to be the three or four people that are probably assigning staffing at all times. Anybody can see it. We use it, we give certain people limited access, so they can kind of move people around in and out that they have of their own. But it’s been a great tool for us.”
Building a culture of transparency
Sean: So with Bridgit Bench, it sounds like you are leveraging the different permissions, whether you’re providing view-only or administrator access, etc. I know that more broadly speaking, we’re seeing increased usage of the tool itself just by limiting permissions, but just to allow greater transparency. And it sounds like you are taking advantage of that as well?
Ray: Absolutely. I just had someone at the head of HR say, “I never know where anybody is” and that was so easy to say, “Hey, here you go. Now you can view it whenever you want, because now you know exactly where they’re at.” So definitely the transparency is great.
“It’s a hard market out there right now. It’s a hard industry. I will say [Bridgit Bench] has been extremely beneficial to our company. We believe we’ve become much more efficient. We’re able to manage our people a lot more efficiently. The transparency, as you mentioned before, has been well received from everyone in our company, I will say. And we do have some of the older generation that were always hesitant and they’re using it now. So it’s been a very easy product to use. And overall it’s really helped in our processes.”
Building an effective tech-stack
Sean: So obviously we talked about Bridgit and our resource planning solution and how you are getting value over the last little while. Just to give other people some greater perspective, what’s the rest of your tech stack look like? I believe you are using Procore. What other tools would you be using that are kind of core to your business today?
Ray: The core that we use for project management is Procore. The accounting software we use is Viewpoint. I know everyone will have different opinions on Procore and Viewpoint, but those are our main two, as you’d say, tech stacks that we use. There’s a bunch of things behind the scene. When you get into tech law and you get into stuff that the field’s using, they’re using all different things. But from a project management standpoint, I mean, what we’ve tried to do is we’re trying to give a minimum… The individuals that are in the field are busy. They’re out there looking like if I got to give them 10 different places to go to try to find information, look up information, or see information, it gets confusing to them. They have 10 different logins, they have 10 different passwords, whatever it may be.
So what we’re really trying to do is minimize to as few [tools] as we can and grow those tools. Because you can link Viewpoint to certain things, Procore to certain things and get it into one centralized location and go from there. And it’s great, even for the benefit, like Bridgit here, I can link that to Procure. So if I’m in my Procore system, I can just click on Bridgit and it pulls it right up for me in front. And I can see exactly where from my iPad, my phone or my computer.
Sean: Nice. I think you implemented our solution in April. So it was just at the early stages of the pandemic here. More broadly speaking, we’ve seen just a lot of usage around leveraging custom fields. It could be additional users, a lot of people shifting dates, etc. So did you see increased usage data, whether it’s shifting dates, adjusting allocations and so on during those last few months? How have you been using the tool outside of how you might’ve used your spreadsheets in the past, for instance.
Ray: I actually just shifted two projects today, unfortunately. So basically the group meets every other week, but the group that has full access to it, we’re constantly shifting a project. So then when we go into a staffing meeting or anything like that, it’s already up to date. Our staffing meetings right now are probably taken 15, 20 minutes at most, because we’re updating it between those two-week periods. And we’re shifting jobs, as you talked about it, updating anything that can be updated. We just go in there, kind of just say, “Hey, we on the same page? No, we might have to switch this person or this person or whatever”. We might talk about an individual person. How can we align the right person with the right client.
“We can all see it live on our screens, but we go in there and we’ll say, hey, we’ve got a few unallocated. What should we do with them now? And it’s a 15, 20 minute at most, where it used to be a good hour, hour and 15, 20 minutes. So it’s made us more efficient, and like you said, the shifting of projects, we use it all the time.”
Implementing a new software
Sean: We, on our side, always talk about white glove service, where we try and work with you guys as quickly and as efficiently as possible to get the tech up and going. But how did you guys find the overall implementation and support of getting this tool operational for you guys? Was it a big or small lift on your side?
Ray: Well, I’ll start with on our side. I mean, during a pandemic, jobs were being canceled. We were all struggling as groups out there, as everybody was. How are you going to keep the projects moving? How are you going to do it? Cost becomes a major issue because can you push these costs down more? Or can you not? Is it more cost towards the job? So bringing up a new product probably wasn’t the best of ideas to our CFO at the time, but what we really did and your teams worked really, really well with us, is working to put a cost analysis together. And went through it, analyzed the cost of the product, analyzed the cost that it would save for us because every company wants to save cost in one way, shape or form.
And for us being that even, using the example I used, to take an hour meeting and make it 15 minutes. Now we’re all out there being more productive in the field, making more money for the company. So we did that cost analysis. And our CFO, as any CFO, was probably hesitant at first, but we went through it with them, explaining it. And he was very happy with the analysis and what it was going to save overall.
With that said, you guys were very beneficial in helping that transition, the webinars you guys did, the live product showings that you guys did with all of us. Honestly, I think you guys did such a good job showing us, we were able to just show it to our CFO and the rest of the exec team, myself and Kate, we showed it to the rest of our exec team, and they were all like, all right, you guys got it, run with it. You know what I mean? So we were able to do that, as you know, because you guys did such a good job on the front end of showing it. I think you guys had us up running in maybe 10 days at the most, maybe 7.