OLD SCHOOL, NEW TOOLS: Gilbane Assistant Project Engineer Mallory Prentiss checks the progress of a job with electrician Jeffrey Silva.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
By Victor Paul Alvarez PBN Staff Writer
There are a lot of stories in the news these days about Internet-based companies that empower employees with the best technology and support so that innovation comes standard.
What you don’t often read about are local companies who build things with brick and steel and are able to innovate as well as anyone in Silicon Valley.
Gilbane Inc. is such a company.
This famed Rhode Island business uses state-of-the-art technology to make sophisticated models in-house, then avails itself of the latest communication technology to ensure cooperation and innovation among its employees.
By the way, those employees are the main reason for the company’s success, as Gilbane’s Sue Klawans, director of operational excellence and planning, is quick to point out.
“Our employees are the drivers of success,” she said. “They embrace and initiate ways to improve, and Gilbane encourages and supports the implementation of those ideas.”
“We’re using Building Information Modeling to model first, then build in the field, saving time and money” Klawans explained. “We’re using iBuild and interactive scheduling techniques to encourage collaboration and communication on jobs, which drives efficiency and innovation.”
That efficiency and innovation comes much to the delight of their clients. Like any successful company, Gilbane is constantly balancing employees’ abilities with clients’ needs. Its lean philosophy means delivering what the client wants, when they want it, with maximum value and minimum waste.
“Our company’s lean philosophy is one of continuous improvement,” said Klawans. “We are always looking for new ways to improve and add value for our clients.”
Innovation poses a challenge to any business, but it may be more challenging for a company such as Gilbane. Building custom facilities for each client includes thousands of variables, from the schedule to the suppliers to the design of the building.
“The schedules are now so tight that we really need the entire team aligned toward a common goal and acting as partners. This can be difficult due to the stringent completion dates, but tools like BIM, iBuild and Schedule Risk Analysis help us in this effort,” Klawans said.
On a more philosophical note, Klawans said there is a difference between innovation and evolution. It’s a difference the folks at Gilbane have embraced.
“Change is evolutionary and accumulated change is revolutionary,” Klawans said. “Because we’re doing hundreds of projects with unique requirements, innovative thinking is necessary every day. The key is to harness that innovation to be of value to all of our projects … . We continue to ask ourselves, ‘What are the most important initiatives to include in the cycle of continuous improvement?’ ” •