Four ways to enable innovation in construction

At Skanska, we encourage our employees to continuously innovate for the benefit of our customers and our communities, transforming the way the construction industry approaches problems and solutions. Over the past few years, our employees have come up with ideas that have changed the way we manage and deliver projects, especially in the areas of prefabrication, BIM and through the use of mobile apps.

How have we fostered such innovation? Here are four principle ideas we follow:

1. Provide tangible support

In any industry, it’s tough to break away from “the way things have always been done,” especially when it requires a time commitment outside of the normal work day. We had to come up with a better approach.

In 2010, we launched an Innovation Grant Program, with dedicated resources and staff. At its foundation, the grant program provides funding to individuals and teams to research, develop and transform their ideas into repeatable solutions that deliver value. We “put our money where our mouth is” and, to date, Skanska has invested over $1 million in the grant program to support 25 projects. We have three full-time staff members devoted to this initiative: working with employees to brainstorm ideas, conducting research and implementing successful products throughout our organization. Additionally, we have established connections with nearly 15 universities and colleges to help work on grant research, which helps ensure our developments are on the cutting edge and which provides a way for talented students to engage with our industry.

2. Connecting people

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 The inSite Monitor app, which helps us better monitor environmental conditions in sensitive environments.

Meeting face to face is key to understanding people and the challenges they face. In the first year of our grant program, we traveled to jobsites across the country, meeting people and hearing what on the job might be keeping them up at night. After hearing several of the same stories, we started to connect people who shared issues and got them to brainstorm ways to improve. When people know they aren’t the only one facing an issue, they are more likely to work together to find a solution.

Our inSite Monitor app, for example, originated from our hearing about a hospital renovation project in Tampa, Fla., at which we needed to monitor dust and noise near an active neonatal intensive care unit. We had also been in touch with an employee in North Carolina who was interested in exploring mobile app technology (still an emerging technology at the time). We connected employees at both jobsites and, together, they came up with a concept and applied for a grant.

Today, the inSite app is a turn-key system any of our jobsites can put into use. The system monitors noise, vibration, dust and differential pressure and connects to an iPhone app so anyone on the project can view the data and will know of any issues in real time – compared to the old system where readings had to be taken manually at intervals throughout the day.

3. Create repeatable solutions

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The time our teams save using this DayFacts digital daily superintendent report gives them more time to devote to critical jobsite activities.

Grant applicants must keep in mind that ideas must be applicable across multiple regions or projects. This is important as Skanska has 39 offices nationwide. We want to focus on areas of our business where adoption of new methods will be high and scalable across the country.

Before DayFacts , our digital daily superintendent report, craft workers manually wrote down their daily reports of manpower, equipment, safety and weather, and submitted them to project superintendents – this process was time consuming and hard to track and archive. With this new web-based system that mirrors the old process, teams save three or more hours a week doing their reporting. Currently, the system has been used by over 250 jobsites across the country.

4. Recognize people

Our employees feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they see their ideas through to implementation, as they know they are positively affecting how Skanska – and their colleagues – operate. We make sure to recognize our employees for their extra time and work. Throughout the grant process, we showcase the names and a faces of applicants on any internal publicity. Additionally, at our annual National Management Meeting, we give out an Innovation Award to someone who has gone above and beyond in their work supporting innovation.

These four principles have enabled Skanska to be at the forefront of such initiatives as BIM, prefabrication and jobsite efficiency, helping us lead the way in innovation.

 

Tony Colonna

Tony Colonna

Senior vice president of innovative construction solutions

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