Since its founding in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood in 1944, Sellen Construction has played a significant role in growth across the region. From humble beginnings building naval radio stations during World War II, Sellen has grown to become one of the most successful builders in the Pacific Northwest and is listed as one of the ENR top 400 general contractors in the U.S.
Sellen’s success is rooted in its purpose: to improve the lives of those around them, as builders, partners, and neighbors. While this philosophy has led to success for the team at Sellen, making timely decisions can be challenging in the fast-paced world of commercial construction.
Jamie Miller, Director of Engineering Development, is responsible for developing staff across multiple projects throughout the Seattle area, including a team of 50 engineers looking to advance their careers with Sellen.
Coordinating a large team across projects at various stages of completion, Miller understands the challenges of manual workforce planning and the benefits of tech adoption.
“Our biggest challenge was that we all had our own systems. I had a system for the engineers; the executive team and project directors had a system for project management staff; and field operations leadership had a system for managing superintendents, assistant superintendents, and foremen,” said Miller. “We all had something different, and it required a lot of coordination to know who was on what project and when those projects were starting. It was very hard for us to consolidate our information with, on average, five people with five systems trying to manage staff on our construction operations side.”
Sellen’s experience using other tools didn’t provide adequate decision-making insight.
“Our previous system was a spreadsheet of projects with some rows built out to add people,” said Miller. “We have weekly meetings for business development and operations, and we would spend the operations meetings talking about staffing and not talking about the business because we were busy coordinating between our different systems.”
Miller and the team at Sellen began using Bridgit Bench for workforce planning in the fall of 2019 after a successful experience using our punch list solution, Bridgit Field. After upgrading to Bridgit Bench, there was a significant increase in the visibility of staffing changes throughout the construction office.
“When our COO on the field operations side changes a superintendent, I actually get to see it,” explained Miller. “Previously I would find out much further down the road when it gets brought up. That’s the biggest thing – we’re all working out of the same platform.”
The switch to Bridgit Bench has led to increased collaboration on project teams as they’re being assembled.
“Team dynamics are really important to us. We don’t just throw people on a project without thinking about how they’ll work with each other,” said Miller. “We look for strengths that complement each other. Bridgit Bench really helps to foster collaboration because everyone can see when I’ve assigned an engineer to a project and offer feedback about their working relationship with the other team members.”
“Bridgit Bench really helps to foster collaboration because everyone can see when I’ve assigned an engineer to a project and offer feedback about their working relationship with the other team members.”
Those strong teams help Sellen stay competitive when bidding on projects.
“I think we’re building better teams from the inception of the project. We have the RFP in-hand and we’re all on the same platform, we’re collaborating better on what team we’re building right away,” explains Miller. “Having a strong team can help us win a project. I think Bridgit Bench has helped us assemble compelling teams in a more efficient manner.”
Predictability and forecasting
Bridgit Bench’s all-in-one Forecasting Dashboard helps accurately predict labor and recruitment needs – something that was a major pain point when planning teams in spreadsheets.
“The forecasting tools have been huge for me,” said Miller, who would often spend hours consolidating spreadsheet data. “The ability to forecast has been a really big deal. I don’t have to spend hours creating the spreadsheets and then telling everyone how to interpret them because it’s only basically in my brain.”
“Now I’m able to click a button and see that I need four more engineers in October, or it’s showing me that I’m short three engineers today.”
Jamie Miller, Director of Engineering Development at Sellen Construction
Miller appreciates how easy it is to share feedback with the Bridgit team and how quickly it’s implemented.
“We have been very impressed with the response when we have ideas or when we wish Bridgit Bench could do something differently,” she said. “ Bridgit has been a breath of fresh air. We throw out an idea for them and six months later they’re telling us, ‘Here it is.’ It’s just been wonderful how great and supportive Bridgit has been compared to some of the other software out there.”
For general contractors that are thinking of upgrading their workforce planning, Miller shared some final thoughts.
“I would say, don’t be afraid of new software. Especially in construction, people can be worried that it’s going to take a lot of training time or that it’s going to be hard to learn. Bridgit Bench is insanely easy to use. We’ve added more and more people to the tool and they’ve gotten up to speed within a week or less because of how easy and intuitive it is.”