Walsh Construction – part of The Walsh Group – is one of the largest general contracting, construction management, and design-build firms in North America. The firm operates out of 20 regional offices, working with union labor and union subcontractors in the building, civil, and transportation sectors.
The firm prides itself on exceptional customer service while upholding the highest standards of ethics, quality, and safety. These standards are not merely mandates, but cultural practices that translate into project excellence.
The firm conducted a company-wide effort to promote a culture of safety. The success of this initiative inspired Walsh to reevaluate its quality standards. The goal was to improve analytics and data-management around quality in all areas of project delivery.
Quality as a holistic measure is and has always been part of Walsh’s larger corporate initiative. The company continually seeks ways to improve deliverables for its customers, and recently chose to evaluate its quality measures for areas of improvement. Walsh discovered that a lack of detailed data and complete model accuracy could lead to inefficiencies on the jobsite. This traditional way of working often meant navigating multiple sources of truth, slower communication between teams, and potential project delays. With its customers top-of-mind, Walsh resolved to close the gap on incomplete data and inaccurate models.
Walsh chose the Orange County (OC) Streetcar project in California to launch a new way of working. The OC Streetcar project is a modern streetcar line that runs 4.1-miles between downtown Santa Ana and Garden Grove, connecting with several of the county’s busiest bus routes along the way. On a large-scale project that involves multiple disciplines, the team needed a solution that would create better communication and coordination between project stakeholders.
“We needed to ensure proper document management,” says Dan Smolilo, Director of Process and Innovation at Walsh Construction. “On an infrastructure project like this, we needed to effectively layout the drawings and get them into the hands of the field in real-time. Without this, we’d run the risk of working off an outdated model, which could result in schedule delays and costly rework.”
Walsh’s goal was to break through the stigma of “business as usual” and leverage new ways of working that would meet the highest standards of quality. “We needed to take a look in the mirror to understand our current process and procedures, and areas for improvement,” says Smolilo.
The long-time Autodesk customer chose to leverage Autodesk Construction Cloud™ – the cornerstone of which has been PlanGrid – to improve processes on OC Streetcar for better quality. The Autodesk team partnered closely with Walsh to develop a training program that would increase adoption in the field.
“The team helped us to define dashboards and onboard field workers. This contributed to the successful utilization of the tool on the project,” says Smolilo.
The team also adopted organized document management to allow the team to find and use the most up-to-date drawings and information, so teams are always building off the right model. When rework occurs, the punch list and issue systems allow Walsh to track and follow up on these mistakes, resolving them promptly. PlanGrid makes it easier for workers to access the critical information at the click of a button rather than searching for data manually.
“We’ve done much revision. Whether it’s looking at ourselves and our practices and procedures, down to training and operations. We’re tracking and trending any issue that comes up on our project to understand where we are, what we need to do to improve, as well as where we need to adjust our training,” says Smolilo.
“Sherrie Kapssof, our document control manager, was an integral part in ensuring the team was up-to-speed on the newly developed practices and procedures,” says Smolilo. “With the power of PlanGrid, Sherrie streamlined the process of maintaining and managing documents, which led to standardized best practices and several benefits. Due to her hard work and dedication, the OC pilot project was a tremendous success and is the example we use across all of our other projects.”
Many of the quality improvements Walsh has experienced across the organization are intangible, but one of the most noticeable enhancements is in time savings. Regular maintenance and updating of drawings can be time-consuming, but with these new processes that involve PlanGrid, Walsh saves between two and three hours per week. The method of closing out drawings that previously took between three and six months now takes only a matter of weeks, thanks to the ability to edit models in real-time.
While the numbers are impressive, what Walsh is now able to deliver to clients is invaluable. Providing a higher quality process from start to finish improves client relationships. The ability to prove the value of the increased quality has changed the way Walsh bids for projects. Clients can now see the strategic and innovative side of Walsh as a construction company—which breaks down barriers and improves not just individual project experiences, but the industry.
“At the end of the day, it’s about effective transformation and truly understanding how we work and how we can work more effectively,” says Smolilo. “Construction is an incredible industry with incredible people, and we want to make sure that’s the perception everyone has of us. We want to showcase the incredible things that we do and build, and the incredible people that we work with. It helps us achieve our mission statement, being “the builder of choice and the employer of choice” with a high focus on ethics and quality.”