Client: Knutson Construction Services
VinZero Partner: U.S. CAD
Industry: Cloud & Construction
Autodesk Solutions: Autodesk BIM Collaborate, Autodesk BIM Collaborate Pro, Autodesk Revit, AutoCAD, Autodesk Navisworks, Autodesk Point Layout
While the industry was a slow adopter initially, innovative firms have begun approaching technology adoption more strategically. Popular solutions are seen as dynamic elements that are key to economic survival.
That’s why Knutson Construction created a virtual design and construction division focused on identification and successful adoption of technology.
A full-service construction firm based in Minneapolis, with offices in Minnesota and Iowa, Knutson is an example of a firm that is redefining its relationship with technology. Katie Montag leads the virtual design and construction division.
“The focus before I joined was on coordination and clash detection. That was our bread and butter,” Montag says. “To stay relevant and to continue growing, we needed to expand beyond that. A large component of my role is being able to be looking forward and looking out to what’s next and what we can leverage to get ahead of the curve. It’s unpredictable and changes every day, but that’s where we want to be positioned so that we don’t have to be reactive.”
Knutson’s technology partner is U.S. CAD, which provides the firm reality capture technology and production services, including coordination and Revit modeling, as well as guidance on Autodesk construction technology solutions, training and implementation. This year, Knutson moved to Autodesk Build, a collaboration and project management system.
Montag’s mission is to expand Knutson’s services and leverage building information modeling and other software to boost productivity and to reduce risk. Essentially, Montag assesses a solution’s potential return on investment, but “that doesn’t necessarily have to mean pure dollars,” she says. “An investment could make us more efficient with our time or enable us to expand into new markets or earn a new client.”
Promising solutions are given a proof-of-concept trial run on a project within Knutson. Project teams say what’s working, how easy a product is to use, how accessible it is on-site and remotely, and ways to improve it. This real-world testing also lets the firm identify potential benefits for clients.
“We’re finding that we’re solving for problems people don’t necessarily know they have yet,” Montag says. “It’s gratifying to show an improvement in a process that they didn’t understand was an issue.”
Knutson’s robust due diligence ensures each investment generates strategic value.
Returns on coordination solutions can be relatively easy to realize, especially on complex projects such as healthcare systems and buildings.
On healthcare projects, “we leverage BIM Collaborate to make sure that we have all of those systems in place and make the data and visualizations available for training on the owner’s side,” Montag says. “After handover, they retain all of that information that they can now use for monitoring the building or scheduling maintenance.” Because the software is in the cloud, the data can be continually used and maintained. While useful on its own, this solution can also foster a longer-term relationship with the client.
Coordination and visualization also are improved with solutions that, for example, deploy QR codes and use laser scanning. For example, Knutson is a self-performing concrete contractor. Coordination is crucial in this scheduling-intensive activity. The firm has improved the process by using laser scanning before a pour to assess flatness. “We can grab a tape measure and pull one dimension, ... or we can laser-scan and pull thousands of dimensions at one time,” Montag says.
Knutson used Autodesk BIM Collaborate on two buildings for Minnesota’s Rochester Public Schools to deliver a better experience. The platform upgraded communication and coordination, providing the firm and the school district access to coordination models on iPads.
“We all know people speak in pictures, and when you have clients less familiar with building and looking at plans, we use the model to help owners make decisions and to visualize them,” Montag says. In addition to seeing the project more clearly, stakeholders can use visualizations to predict building management and maintenance.
“Facilities managers love to walk through that model and get excited to start using 3D modeling on their end as well. That’s a turning point,” Montag says. Giving owner-operators easier access to project data improves customer service, helps Knutson differentiate itself and improves project handoff.
But staffers have to use the solutions to realize their benefits.
When Knutson deploys software, the virtual design and construction division brings it to the site and works with project teams face to face. The division also offers one-on-one and group training on the solution, rather than relying on self-guided learning.
“You have such a varying degree of generations in the workplace. Understanding their challenges and pain points is key,” Montag says. “We make sure that they understand the function of the software, how to use it and, if they have a problem, how to solve that. ... When we roll it out, we stick with it. If you throw it out there and walk away, that adoption rate goes down significantly.”
Build relationships with project teams.
Invest time in vetting solutions.
Stay engaged to track issues and opportunities during deployment.
Support staffers with training.
Helping clients embrace technology requires focusing on soft costs and expected savings, because those areas are where interests often lie.
“We work with the clients so they see the value of that technology,” Montag says. “Maybe we can open the project faster. Maybe we can reduce changes so you don’t have to pay for a change order.”
The conversations are getting easier, Montag says, because “after a year of being remote and very digital-based, everyone is much more familiar with the terms and the benefits.”
That’s one reason the industry is ripe for the type of holistic, strategic adoption of technology seen at Knutson. People are ready for it. As a result, strategic implementation of solutions such as BIM has power to improve transparency, optimize workflows and increase profitability across the sector.