Industry Contributors

How A Construction Giant Eliminated Gray Work and Boosted Productivity

January 8, 2024
6 min read

Consigli Construction went from disconnected systems and thousands of spreadsheets to detailed reporting and real-time data.

Consigli Construction

Hunting for the right person to email. Manually transferring data from individual forms to a database. Gathering multiple sources of data for a report. These are all examples of Gray Work, the often grindingly tedious tasks that take up employee time and sap productivity, not to mention morale.

Indeed, a Quickbase survey from earlier this year revealed that Gray Work is extensive throughout a range of industries. Half of survey respondents said they waste more than 10 hours per week chasing information from different people and systems, and another 10 hours on administrative, manual work.

As a large, employee-owned construction company with roots in the early 20th century, Consigli Construction was no stranger to Gray Work. In the construction industry, each project is distinct, and the challenge of managing complex workflows is particularly acute. What’s more, an array of contractors, subcontractors, and project managers often keep their data in separate systems or offline documents. A 2022 Foundry survey found that 70 percent of construction professionals lack visibility into the availability and delivery status of materials needed for job sites, and 55 percent face communication gaps between project management teams and job sites.

Five years ago, Consigli Construction turned to Quickbase to help eliminate some of its Gray Work, starting with inefficiencies and confusion in their processes for purchasing materials. The company is now using the platform to help with construction management and overall project tracking, staffing, resource planning, safety tracking, and strategic planning. We recently connected with CIO Anthony Chiaradonna to talk about this journey, and the impact that eliminating Gray Work has had.

Quickbase: Looking back five years, what prompted you to consider a tool like Quickbase?

Anthony: Looking to improve our data sprawl and our ability to capture information. There's always this need to keep yourself organized, especially in construction, where many projects are very different and we're dealing with different owners on every single job, in some cases different subcontractors and clients.

We were using things like Excel and SharePoint and pieces of our accounting system to capture information in a very structured way, but those tools can be very hard to standardize and templatize or use to bring information forward in reports. We wanted to bring a lot of data together.

What Gray Work arose from that data sprawl?

Our end users and employees were doing a lot of work in the middle. They were creating files, saving it to the right place, then emailing it out to the right people. On every construction project, those three steps were done many, many times.

For example, we collect information on incidents that happen on a job, whether a safety incident or a broken car windshield. People first had to find the right form and then log it into the right system, then fill out forms and PDFs in parts of our project management system. Now that we use Quickbase, we simply scan a QR code when an incident happens. It's unique and attached to the job, so you don't risk a mistake by putting in the wrong job. And the system knows who you are because of a single sign-in from the Quickbase app.

Then when you submit that incident, you don’t have to think about who to send it to. The Quickbase workflows say, OK, if it’s this type of incident, we need to notify these people. It's immediately sent to them and then tracked in our reporting log. Conversely, people who don’t need to be notified don’t see anything, so it doesn't take up any of their time.

Same thing with tracking of marketing tasks for construction projects. Marketing might need to know when a project is starting or ending, who's staffed on it, or when it’s booked for photography. People used to have to figure out who to email to get these updates or what spreadsheets to look at. Now it’s all right there in the app.

Sounds like people are spending much less time hunting.

Yes. A lot of our shift to Quickbase was driven by a focus on employee retention. We asked ourselves, how can we give our employees tools that will help them do their jobs efficiently? How can we take away the things that frustrate them or make them feel like they’re not being supported? We're almost a $3 billion company, but have just 2,000 permanent employees. A different industry that doesn’t rely on subcontracting would probably have 10,000 employees. So, we have to run efficiently and be able to handle the work that comes in. We estimate that for each construction job, we’re probably saving a couple hours a week just in hunting and pecking time. With 130 or 140 active jobs, that adds up.

What other impacts have you seen from the reduction of Gray Work?

Now that we’re collecting and structuring information efficiently,, we've stepped up our ability to analyze it and create reports. In regards to safety, we’ve started to get better at seeing what’s happening and what we need to do about it, whether it’s making sure people are wearing their safety glasses or that we have the right gloves on job sites or the right safety training in place.

We’ve also used Quickbase to more effectively learn lessons on jobs. When a job closes, we ask the team to click a button and fill out a survey. The answers feed into our searchable knowledge base, along with other project info. So now it’s easy for people to learn about what we’ve done before. Before Quickbase, you'd have to go to another application and run a report – far more time-consuming. Our next phase will be to use AI and machine learning to learn more from the data, help us make decisions, and give us insights that we're not even thinking about yet.

Any other lessons learned that others could benefit from?

The most important thing we did while implementing Quickbase was remaining super focused. It’s easy to get scope creep, getting excited about lots of different workflows and automations. But you can get to a point where now you're inventing something that you didn't think you needed, and you haven’t solved the original problem yet. We finished the first problem — the tracking of purchasing on construction jobs — and then moved onto the next.