M. A. Mortenson Company Growth Requires New Estimating System
With 11 regional offices in the United States and operations in Canada, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based M. A. Mortenson Company plans, executes and manages construction work with a focus on clean energy, inspiring spaces, reliable infrastructure and productive environments. Projects range from higher-education facilities, high-rise buildings and high-profile sports arenas to high-tech energy generation, storage and transmission. With more than 4,000 team members, M. A. Mortenson's expertise spans business strategy, planning/design, construction, and optimization of facility assets.
Company Expansion Drives Need for B2W Estimate
The company was founded in 1954 and grew to become a national leader in vertical commercial construction. A push from the company to expand into the self-perform horizontal markets, particularly civil work, drove the decision to implement B2W Software's B2W Estimate.
"As we became more active in these new areas, our existing estimating systems did not cross over very well," explains Ryan Linder, Estimating Manager for M. A. Mortenson's Heavy Civil division. "We quickly realized that we needed specialized software to match the capabilities and the level of excellence we were used to on the vertical construction side."
Initial success using B2W Estimate led to the use of the software in Mortenson's Solar, Wind Energy and High-Voltage Transmission Groups. Luke Carlson, Chief Estimator for Mortenson's Solar Group explains, "When we expanded into the solar market, we needed an estimating software solution that was especially strong in supporting us on projects where we self-perform the majority of the work. We needed to be able to set up crew options in the software that included both labor and equipment and we needed the ability to easily report overall crew production rates as well as individual man-hour production rates."
Carlson adds, "The flexibility of the program has been very helpful. When you expand into new industries like solar, the ability to easily create new task templates has been important. We're doing work that hasn't been done before and need a software solution that allows for that flexibility and creativity."
Importing and exporting to and from Excel and other programs has also been vital. Linder cites a large DOT highway and bridge project with more than 500 bid items as an example. "With literally a click of the mouse, we exported from B2W to Excel and then upload directly to the DOT Bid Express program with no file conversions or added steps required. We do this routinely with large and small jobs, and it's a huge time saver."
"The other related advantage we find with Estimate is the ability to easily pull in and manage input from subcontractors and vendors," Linder adds. "We appreciate having everything in one place and being able to review an entire bid on one screen."
Mortenson has sought advice and support from B2W primarily when upgrades are made to the software. "They respond immediately and take the time to make sure our questions are answered and we are all set with the solution," Linder explains. "One thing that has impressed me is that, if they don't have an answer on the spot, they find it and come back to us right away." He also says the annual B2W Users Conferences are extremely valuable. "The presentations and especially the chance to meet one-on-one with the experts at those conferences have increased my knowledge and helped us get even more out of the software."
Adding B2W Track for Field-Centric Cost Management
One update Mortenson made was to add B2W Track to work in combination with B2W Estimate as a unified software platform, with the two workflows connected and providing real-time insight into project performance to keep projects on schedule and on budget.
While an accounting or ERP system is the go-to tool for managing project costs at many heavy construction companies, those systems are specifically designed for recording and reporting after costs occur. The limitation is that they are not very effective at helping contractors stay on top of project costs where and when those costs actually occur - in the field and at the operational level.
Step one is transferring data from the bid, so field crews have clear and accurate production targets. M.A. Mortenson estimators work in B2W Estimate for their heavy civil projects, and then transition bid data seamlessly to B2W Track, the tool project managers live with and use through the life of a project.
"It's been really fun to watch as our project managers and our superintendents are planning a project. They really want to dive into the details and they want to have B2W Track set up right so they're going into the field with good data they can rely on," says Vice President and General Manager Eric Selman.
"When they take over the job they have a sense of ownership and accountability for how they are going to run the job - taking the insights from the estimator in terms of volumes and quantities and the plan that was put in place at the start of the job," adds Information Services Director Jason Tschetter.
The B2W platform has also created a feedback loop for continuous improvement. Estimators go directly into B2W Track to see how their estimates are actually performing, and they can use the data to inform future estimates and schedules.
Mobile Data Capture and Agility in the Field
Foremen and superintendents on heavy civil projects at M.A. Mortenson Company record actual production, materials and labor hours with B2W Track. The iPad helps them to do it on the spot. The performance and payroll data goes directly to the Oracle ERP system, eliminating the inefficiency, delays and errors that invariably go along with paper forms and redundant data entry.
More importantly, leaders in the field can compare actual performance to projected performance daily. That's a big and critical improvement over paper based time cards and field logs and it allows them to move quickly to adjust operations and make corrections to stay on schedule and protect profitability.
"Formerly, the data we would get to make business decisions was very much delayed," Sellman concludes. With Track, and being able to get at that data not just weekly or monthly but literally daily, my leadership team and our project management can really make smarter, quicker and better decisions."