How one US-based demolition contractor is going paper free
20 December 2023
Jeff Sparkowich, Lead Estimating and Pre-Construction Director at US-based company SJ Cantwell, talks to D&Ri about what it was like to introduce a digital project cost estimating and a progress tracking software system for onsite operations.
In both demolition and the wider construction industry, the latest digital products and services, such as digital twins, telematics and 3D printing, can make a big difference to the efficiency of both onsite project activities and a company’s general administrative and business activities.
Take US-based contract SJ Cantwell for example. Every year SJ Cantwell puts out between 100 and 150 project bids a year. Depending on the project, each bid is a task that can take the company’s lead dismantling and siteworks estimator anything from a few hours to an entire week.
However, following SJ Cantwell’s recent investment in two digital products from B2W Software (a company owned by construction technology giant Trimble), this time has now been significantly reduced and has enabled both its onsite workers and its business directors to focus on other essential tasks.
SJ Cantwell recently invested in the B2W Estimating and B2W Track software programmes.
B2W Estimating, which comprises centralised resource databases, templates and cost structures, lets users import Excel tables and other cost databases, connect with electronic bidding and DOT programmes, and add data from vendors and subcontractors.
It also includes templates that are pre-populated with costs, that B2W says eliminates the time it would take estimators to search for those figures, thus making it quicker and easier to complete project bids.
“Once bids are won by S.J Cantwell, the data is transferred directly to B2W Track. The performance tracking and analysis application replaced paper field logs with electronic logs for recording labor hours and production quantities along with equipment and material utilization,” said B2W.
“Getting that performance data electronically allows collaboration between the field and the office, and faster analysis and adjustment of operations. Reporting capabilities within the software presents progress on the job according to production accounts and versus the estimate or plan.”
While this allows SJ Cantwell to review actual performance compared to a project’s original plans on a routine basis, Here, Jeff Sparkowich, Lead Estimating and Pre-Construction Director at US-based company SJ Cantwell, talks to D&Ri about what it was like to introduce the software and how it has impacted the business.
D&Ri: Can you give us a brief overview of SJ Cantwell?
S.J Cantwell has 25 employees with the average project being around a million dollars, which typically entails any demolition or site work required to complete the project.
We are most prevalent in the commercial and municipal sector, with a few projects in the industrial sector. We have 30+ pieces of equipment, notably with our CAT 385 with full demolition attachment array and our CAT 336s and 349s both with a full range of demolition attachments.
What motivated you to go paper free?
When did you and your team decide to adopt the B2W software system?
When we started to achieve growth beyond what we had anticipated at the time. We felt in order to capitalize on the growth and continue the upward trajectory, using a software like B2W for estimate and track would greatly improve our chances to continue the growth.
We had met with B2W previously and were on the fence about their product and if we were big enough to utilize it, so once we felt we grew into the size that made sense, it became clear it was time to adopt the software.
We were very interested in what the B2W team had to offer from day one, and with them being a New Hampshire company started only 20 minutes away from where we were based at the time, it felt right to use their services.
When did you begin using the B2W software?
I started using B2W in 2020. I worked through the implementation and startup with their team and got the system up and running for the company. We started with Estimate and Track which we found extremely helpful in our growth and management. In 2022 we adopted Maintain as well to keep up with our growing equipment fleet.
What did the training process for your team include and how long did it take for everyone to get up to speed with it?
At the time of implementation, I was the only one using the software for the office, so with it just being myself the implementation was quick, I think it was about 2 weeks by the time we got every class and lesson in between estimate and track.
Once that was complete, we held a training session for the infield track reporters, which took about 4 hours and from there everyone picked it up right away.
How did your team adapt to learning how to use the software?
In general, everyone found B2W extremely easy to use, and the learning curve was rather short. We had concerns about the field staff understanding it since they had never used a digital field log before, but once they realized it was the same as the paper ones they did every day, just on an iPad, they jumped right on board.
How has learning to use new technology impacted your daily workload?
I think one of the most valuable benefits this provided that I did not anticipate is with the metrics gathered by track and the easy to use pay item system in estimate. I have been able to spend a lot more time thinking about projects outside the box that has become a staple of our company. Since I had the information so readily available, I could price the projects multiple different ways to see what method would be most cost efficient and help secure the project.
Is SJ Cantwell now operating completely paper-free as a result of using the new software?
We are almost completely paper free. We still utilize paper plan sets for the field crews since it tends to be an easier way to take in the project. We have methods of plan viewing digitally, but to date we have not found one that satisfies what the crews are looking for.
Is there anything you wish you had known or done before adopting a digitial system such as this?
I wish we knew how easy it would be to implement - the time constraint to get it up and running was going to be significantly less than we thought.
I wish we’d had a better cost coding structure in place. If we had created a better cost code system prior to implementing we would have been able to integrate it with our accounting and save even more time and effort.
Every day we waited was a day of lost data. Every day the information track provides helps create trends and indicates patters in job performance and estimate accuracy that has only helped us grow, so if we had gotten the system even 1 month sooner and got one more jobs on the system, we would have that much more data to work with.
What advice would you give to other contractors that are thinking about going paper-free?
We would say it is a lot easier than you think. Do not get overwhelmed by the fancy features and realize at its core, you are working with a spreadsheet and a daily job log, and you can make it more or less complex from there depending on what you want to get out of the product.