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Digital Toolbelts: Tools and Technologies for Construction Success


from Construction Executive

Hearing the term “Digital Toolbelt” might raise some eyebrows, and while the term might be taken literally in today’s fast-moving technological environment, a Digital Toolbelt is not something that one puts on before hitting the jobsite.

Instead, it’s a collection of easily accessible tools that are making an impact on the field. For contractors, subcontractors and their team members at Barton Malow, the tools and technologies within the Digital Toolbelt are opening new avenues for success.


On the field, the best way to showcase progress is by illustrating it—literally. Complex jobsites often require pages upon pages of layout schematics in both the planning and implementation stages. But what if one could simplify it? Through modeling software like Tekla®, Sketchup® and more, crews have a way to provide visual representation of how work will be executed, where it will be executed and for how long.

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In the planning stages, providing multidimensional site modeling and logistics is vital. As all in the construction industry know, time is quite literally money. Early identification and planning in the visual-centric sense give teams the opportunity to look at the lifecycle of a project before it even begins. This is happening across several Barton Malow projects from the Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit to the renovations at Notre Dame Stadium. With 3-D, 4-D, 5-D (and even 6-D) modeling at one’s disposal, it becomes easier to identify areas of concern, remove hazards and improve logistical hurdles, all of which eliminate inefficiencies to create more value for both the contractor and the client.


Speaking of efficiency, the construction industry has seen its share of workflow woes over the years. Often, teams are scrambling through increasingly dated and unreliable forms of communication; forms or illustrations get lost, a team member’s handwriting is illegible and other struggles inevitably decide whether or a not a project reaches its milestones on time. That’s where collaboration platforms step in. Barton Malow utilizes software like Bluebeam® Studio, Box® automation, Raken® and more to do a number of things that 21st century construction requires: easily convert files to any format, mark up sketches with notes, store and share files to enhance collaboration, create in-depth reports and organize documents to ensure a productive workflow across a project’s lifecycle. This kind of collaboration becomes even more thorough when team members are given tablets, smart phones and other handheld tools that allow them to quickly access a trove of information for each and every project.

But what happens when one needs to take collaboration a step further? This is the case at Barton Malow’s Penn State University Biomedical Engineering Building project. “As you could imagine, constructing a new, large laboratory facility in the heart of campus includes quite a bit of logistics and planning,” says Chuck Brawley, Senior Project Director. Through the Hoylu Huddlewall, a collaborative display tool that allows for logistics, Last Planner® activities and more to be showcased in a large format view on a wall, teamwork takes on a familiar, yet innovative approach. With several technology-enabled collaborative tools that can be featured on the display, each team member present has the ability to clearly identify hurdles, talk to others, mark-up the display and plan ahead to eliminaBarton Malow 3te waste—whether in materials or man-hours. From the phone in a foreman’s pocket to the tablet in a project director’s hand, the synergy of innovative tools being used at Penn State is just one reflection of Barton Malow’s commitment to collaboration.


The growth of Digital Toolbelts has revolutionized the way construction companies look at innovation. The benefits of creating a technology-enabled workforce are evident. Increases in safety and efficiency mean projects are done correctly and on time, budgets are done on or ahead of time and clients are satisfied. The future of the Digital Toolbelt will expand what crews can do even further. From HUD displays, to virtual reality and wearable safety technology, a myriad of potential changes are coming toward the field. For the construction industry at large, an innovation revolution is currently underway; it’s best to not get left behind.

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