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How Barton Malow Delivers on Its Lean Construction Approach with Autodesk

At Barton Malow, Lean construction isn’t just a delivery method—it’s a key part of the firm’s global culture. From automotive to energy to industrial projects, the ENR 400 company embraces Lean principles to maximize project value and minimize waste.

“Lean is essentially having respect for people, and part of the way we do that is by making their jobs easier through technology,” says Liz Fox, VDC Manager at Barton Malow. “If we streamline the way that they're working, then the hope is that they can go home on time at the end of the day.”

As the technology implementation lead at Barton Malow Company (the general contracting arm of the firm), Liz is always looking for ways to help teams work better together. And when an automotive client, an architecture/engineering firm, and Barton Malow were exploring Autodesk Construction Cloud concurrently, she had the opportunity of a lifetime to get everyone on the same page.

Enhancing Data Transparency within a Single Environment

In 2020, Barton Malow and one of its biggest automotive clients were both exploring new construction management solutions in hopes of finding design-to-construction capability within a single platform.

At that time, the automotive client had invested hundreds of millions of dollars into building new battery plants and tapped Barton Malow to serve as general contractor and partner with its architecture/engineering firm.

With three firms constantly sharing files and updates, there had to be a single source of truth. Barton Malow and its partners began to wonder what it would look like to share all files in a central environment without having to copy files between platforms.

“Typically, every group on a project is working in different environments,” says Liz. “We're trying to level the playing field between the owner, specialty contractor, general contractor, and architecture/engineering firm.”

Standardizing Practices and Eliminating Ambiguity

Barton Malow used Autodesk Construction Cloud on the automotive client’s design-build project for the first time in December 2022 on a diesel truck plant called “Project A.”

“We used Project A as the guinea pig, and we started working with the design team almost immediately to create workflows in a certain order so that it made sense for that project,” says Liz. “By starting with design review, we could test that workflow and fine-tune how workflows should function on future projects.”

With so many internal and external collaborators using Autodesk Construction Cloud, Barton Malow created a playbook in partnership with Autodesk, which outlines best practices for folder structure and permissions, including data access and standards to meet the needs of each team.

Creating playbooks has also been beneficial when bringing new team members like subcontractors on board and communicating how they are expected to function; each player can own the data in their hub but also share the information with other teams.

The playbook also helps eliminate ambiguity in the turnover process, when Barton Malow’s role is complete and the files are handed off to the client. After Barton Malow successfully onboarded onto Autodesk Construction Cloud, the company assisted the client with its adoption process as well.

“The client was leaning on us quite a bit to model adoption in Autodesk Construction Cloud,” says Liz. “We were able to share some of our own training with them and demonstrated how critical training is for their own implementation.”

Bridging the Collaboration Gaps

Barton Malow works on projects with a variety of delivery methods, including design-build and design-bid-build. For Project A, the diesel truck plant, the client opted for a design-build approach, with Barton Malow responsible for managing both design and construction work on the project. This integrated project delivery (IPD) approach would help the client, Barton Malow, and the architect/engineer keep an open line of communication throughout the project, which was mobilized in March 2023.

The Autodesk Bridge tool in Autodesk Construction Cloud became a critical component of this massive project. Autodesk Bridge allows Barton Malow, its design partner, and the client to share files from their unique Autodesk Construction Cloud instances, so each party can review and collaborate while still retaining ownership of their respective files.

“Autodesk helps us adhere to our model of Lean construction. We’ve set up a step-by-step workflow to eliminate any confusion and created a one-stop shop with Autodesk to ensure the success of our clients and partners.”

-Liz Fox
VDC Manager at Barton Malow

To simplify permissions and collaboration, Liz created a repository project for the automotive client that gives all partners access to the project and a playbook outlining common practices, like how to upload files, where to save them, and so on. Once the central project was set up, it was easy to create automations within Bridges, so the latest information is pushed to the client clients as soon as it is updated.

On Project A, there are over 1,200 outgoing Bridges from Barton Malow that share files with their client and the architect/engineer, and over 1,600 incoming Bridges from those parties.

“As team members give feedback, everything updates,” says Liz. “The automotive client always has the latest and greatest information, so they never have to worry about working off of a six-month-old playbook that maybe hasn’t been updated.”

Ensuring Client Success

Today, Barton Malow is using “a little bit of everything” within Autodesk Construction Cloud solutions, including Build, Docs, Takeoff, BuildingConnected, and TradeTapp. The firm is also rolling out Autodesk BIM Collaborate for model coordination on several projects, with Project A the first to fully use Model Coordination.

Autodesk has helped streamline Barton Malow’s partnerships and enhance collaborative efforts, gaining transparency and efficiency. On the automotive client’s Project A alone, there are 300 team members on the job, with 4,800 documents that have been closed out and still more being sent back and forth ahead of the Fall 2025 completion date.

Within the IPD delivery model, the Issues tool has been revolutionary for the Barton Malow team.

“I think Barton Malow uses the Issues tool more than anyone else that I've ever seen,” says Liz. “In the world of Lean Construction, RFI is like a bad word because it doesn’t level the playing field. We rely heavily on the Issues tool to have the same conversations we would be having via RFI in a typical setting but with a more collaborative process.”

Leveraging Autodesk, Barton Malow has been able to advance its data strategy, eliminating data silos and communicating faster with the latest information.

“Autodesk helps us adhere to our model of Lean construction,” says Liz. “We’ve set up a step-by-step workflow to eliminate any confusion and created a one-stop shop with Autodesk to ensure the success of our clients and partners.”