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‘Lean construction’ helps Boldt tame hospital costs
Photo: Field Superintendent Mike Gassert demonstrates Boldt’s digitized drawings in the builder’s trailer at the Mercy Hospital expansion site. BusinessNorth photo.
As the healthcare marketplace evolves, it’s an ever-escalating challenge for independent hospitals to compete against large integrated providers. Equally challenging is the construction of newer, better, more efficient facilities by those independents. Hospitals are expensive to construct, funds are not plentiful and, when building them adjacent to existing facilities, timing and cleanliness are critical.
Those factors are not ones that hospitals alone must consider, but also their construction contractors. They must constantly rethink operations to drive down costs while improving quality.
“Our ‘lean’ journey began in mid- to late-90s. We learn more each and every time,” said Shelly Peterson, group vice president and general manager at The Boldt Co. in Cloquet. “We have a continuous improvement department. There are numerous tools out there that we use. It’s innovation. It’s thinking differently.”
Boldt employed those practices, called Integrated Lean Product Delivery, during the $28 million Cloquet Community Memorial Hospital project that was completed last year. Now, they also are being used in the $28 million expansion of Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake, which includes a two-story addition and multiple new amenities.
Key to that process is “Building Information Modeling,” Peterson said.
“It’s the way we function and collaborate as a team,” she said, “getting engineers, architects, estimators and others involved early on.”
Those processes have allowed the firm to remain on schedule seven months into the Mercy Hospital expansion despite one of the harshest winters in decades, Boldt officials said last month in their construction trailer in Moose Lake.
A 3D model is being used to implement the design of Mercy Hospital, explained Michael Ellingson, Boldt senior project manager. Within that model, which incorporates computer assisted design, are all HVAC, structural, mechanical and electrical systems.
“One of the great successes we had was with structural. It went together perfectly,” Ellingson said.
“It’s an amazing tool once it’s all set up,” Field Superintendent Mike Gassert said while Field Engineer John Acheson called up detailed construction diagrams on a 55-inch fl at screen. With a few keystrokes, they zoomed from a broad rendering of the exterior to detailed wiring schematics and everything in between.
The system’s advantage, they explained, is that everything can be displayed in layers, which allows for better work scheduling. As construction progresses, Boldt knows exactly which subcontractors are needed when the time for their work is optimal. A variety of Autodesk programs are used in the process, including Revit, AutoCAD and Navisworks.
“If it’s done correctly, it doesn’t take any extra design work, and by using clash detection software, the mechanical and electrical doesn’t run into a column or a beam or anything like that,” Ellingson said.
The programs have generated some simple efficiencies that reduce time and labor costs, noted Project Superintendent Roger Thieling. For instance, by comparing floor (and ceiling) data with mechanical and HVAC specifications, they know where to install hangers (which support ducts and pipes) when they pour concrete for each new level.
In the past, workers would have waited for the concrete to set, then drilled holes and installed anchors to support the hangers.
“There’s just tremendous time savings,” Thieling said. “If we had drilled anchor holes, workers would have needed hydraulic lifts, which get in the way of everybody else. You also have to consider all the junk that can get in their eyes when drilling thousands of holes, so it’s a safety thing too.”
As part of the process, Boldt uses the PlanGrid application, which allows drawings to be called up on tablet devices through an Internet connection on or off the work site.
“Workers can click on any part of the drawings, review what’s there, make notes and even e-mail them back to an architect,” Thieling said. “Drawings have become so bulky – maybe 400 pages, so this is a much better way to keep them updated. It’s a lot cleaner way to do it.”
Other aspects of the process are distinctly non-technical. For instance, rather than each contractor having its own trailer, Boldt provides one large enough to house several together.
“It’s called the big room. The mechanical, electrical and framing contractor are all in one building, with separate offices, rather than having different trailers. We’re finding this setup has improved collaboration between us,” Gassert said.
Inside that trailer, several walls are covered by white boards that are covered by sticky notes. Each contains information addressing the status of various types of work at various parts of the project. Reviewed at a daily meeting, BOLDT continued from page A14 they assist with both micro and macro scheduling, Theiling said.
“We like to micro schedule our work. We have a standing meeting at 2:15 when we look at these boards. If something hasn’t been done, we know it today and we don’t gear up to begin something else for tomorrow. It makes us better planners,” he said.
“It helps identify problems, then as a team, we solve those problems,” Ellingson added. “Margins are tight, and we try to work as a team so everybody has an opportunity to make money on a project,” he said. “There really is huge value in this type of process.”
The Boldt Co., which turns 125 years old this year, also has been selected as general contractor for the Ashland Cancer Center and for ALLETE’s Boswell 4 generating unit upgrade in Cohasset.Previous BusinessNorth Exclusives Articles:
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