The Sundt Experience: January 2016
Center for Craft Excellence Training New Generation of Skilled Workers
Few industries were hit harder than construction during the Great Recession. In those challenging years, 8.2 million jobs were eliminated, including 2.3 million in construction. Arizona alone lost 700,000 positions.
A large percentage of those who lost jobs were experienced craft workers. As the market has improved, some of those men and women are returning to jobsites. Others have retired or moved on to different careers, creating a void to be filled by younger workers. According to the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), the average craft professional is between 48 and 52 years old.
Companies seeking to employ the best in the industry will have to play a larger role in growing their own talent. This is what prompted Sundt to establish the Center for Craft Excellence this past June in the company’s original Phoenix office building. The Center enables Sundt’s craft employee-owners to enhance their skills and perform highly technical work.
The Center provides workers opportunities to earn NCCER Certified Plus status through journey-level skills assessments and comprehensive training and development for equipment operators, equipment mechanics, industrial carpenters, pipefitters, ironworkers, electricians, welders and millwrights. The Standard Craft Training program can take up to four years to complete.
“The Center helps separate Sundt from other contractors,” said Sundt Operations Manager Ken Dean. “It helps us recruit young people to our industry.”
Another inspiration for creating the Center is the company’s increasing focus on complex industrial projects such as power plants and water treatment facilities – projects that often require hundreds of highly skilled craft workers on the jobsite.
“Through the NCCER, our goal is to have a highly skilled workforce that has been taught the best way to perform the required task of their trade,” said Sundt Craft Training Manager Sean Ray. “Our projects are becoming increasingly complex, which means we must have a workforce that excels at performing the highest quality work in the safest possible manner.”
The Center for Craft Excellence offers:
Standard Craft Training
Sundt’s training and development program provides a comprehensive process for entry-level workers and an assessment program that enables non-experienced or minimally experienced workers to enter training at a level commensurate with their skills. The program features multiple levels of instruction; modules include math, blueprint reading, layout, safety, quality and productivity, and include detailed hands-on exercises to improve craft competencies.
Journey-Level Skills Assessment
The National Craft Assessment and Certification Program is administered by Sundt in cooperation with NCCER. The assessment process provides a snapshot of an employee’s craft skills at a given time. The assessment is divided into two parts. The first is the Knowledge Verification, which is a written test that assesses the employee’s knowledge of a subject within an area of expertise such as pipefitting, industrial concrete or ironworking. The second part is the Performance Verification, a hands-on demonstration that measures the employee’s ability to perform skills in that area of expertise.
Completion of the written assessment and corresponding performance verification results in our craft employee-owners earning NCCER Certified Plus status. This is the highest level of craft training credentialing recognized through the industry and in the standardized NCCER training curriculum. Those in the program retain their certification regardless of their place of employment.
While classroom-type lessons are important, on-the-job training is a critical component of the program.
“If we are on a project that has screw pipe requirements but most of our folks have never done screw pipe, we can get the NCCER modules associated with threaded pipe, teach our guys the curriculum and perform hands-on training all on the jobsite,” Ray said.
Wherever the lessons are learned, Sundt plans to be at the forefront of craft training as the construction industry evolves. It’s the only way to attract the best and brightest workers.
CSU Channel Islands Project Delivers the ‘I’ in ‘BIM’
Sundt is among many firms using Building Information Modeling (BIM) for design and construction services, and it has proven valuable for both contractor and owner. But despite BIM’s widespread use, it still isn’t well understood.
So let’s break BIM down to its roots to establish what it is and why it creates great value. At its core, BIM is a 3D model. Models provide a dynamic and safe environment to “test” our design, learn what works (and what doesn’t), discover how to improve a design, determine whether it’s buildable, and in the simplest terms, see our result and how it will perform.
Great models allow us to test all “components” of our design and learn how they will interact. Because BIM is a model based on information and data, it has the power to accurately simulate how our structure will operate in the real world. And because we are modeling our building (or structure, actually, since BIM can apply to most built forms), BIM should be our most useful tool to create successful structures. Models also allow multiple disciplines to design and work on the same project: architects, engineers, contractors and subcontractors.
People often talk about BIM solely as it relates to the transition from 2D to 3D, but that only focuses on how BIM provides efficient design. Unfortunately, most projects have a fragmented BIM process. Designers use it for design, but contractors are held to 2D documentation. They use BIM for coordination and prefabrication, but deliver 2D documentation during closeout to the owner. In essence, different parties often play with only parts of a model, and none really sees how the whole operates. Think about a kid with a plastic model of a modern jet, but he only builds the wings. The problem with this process is that valuable information (the “I” in BIM) generated during each phase of a project is not shared with parties downstream. A good portion of this data is required for building operations, leaving the owner to recreate or capture for the second or third time.
For example, an electrical engineer may use computer analysis tools to determine the spacing, size and wattage of light fixtures. However, when he or she delivers the design to the contractor for pricing and construction, information is delivered in 2D drawings and written specifications. The electrical contractor builds a 3D model, coordinating the design with other subcontractors. The model includes geometry and data based on manufacture-specific make and model, but the deliverable to the owner only includes 2D shop drawings and PDF equipment submittals.
A good portion of the data developed during design and construction is also needed to manage the building after construction. This data is often manually entered into asset and facilities management systems by the owner’s staff at considerable costs and with a high potential of input error.
At California State University Channel Islands’ Sierra Hall, which was designed by CO Architects and houses science labs, offices, lecture halls and related support spaces, the owner decided to do something different. Sundt developed a process to capture the data the owner wanted and deliver it in 3D model and spreadsheet. The spreadsheet allowed the university to automate the population of its asset management software with data captured during design and construction. More than 70,000 data fields were delivered in the spreadsheet, of which 53,000 were embedded in the provided 3D models. Some of the data fields included unique ID numbers, manufacturer, model, installation dates, specific location, equipment type and associated equipment such as shut-off valves.
Data was separated into spaces, floors, walls, doors, windows and equipment types, allowing the university to populate different sections of its asset management software with data pertinent to each area. By working with Sundt, the university was able to more efficiently populate data into its asset management system.
We were able to get the system up and running faster, thereby allowing the university to manage and maintain its new building and provide a quality learning environment for students and staff.
Delivering the “I” in BIM is a critical component to the success of any project. Sundt uses the tool to improve customer service and build projects that meet and exceed owner expectations.
Case Study: Las Cruces High School Pedestrian Bridge
Sundt was tasked with installing a fully enclosed pedestrian bridge, which was a focal point of the redefined high school campus, over one of the busiest streets in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Closing the street for a significant length of time would have negatively impacted the community and high school staff and students. The work was performed as part of larger renovations and additions made at the school. The project was designed by Alley Associates.
In order to minimize street closure time, the crew planned to build the bridge at ground level on site, then move the bridge into place. This approach dramatically reduced the amount of time the street would be closed to less than 48 hours. Otherwise, the road would have needed to be shut down for close to 30 days and then partially closed for more than 60 days. Due to the span of the bridge (more than 100 feet), the team had to install the steel frame in two pieces. This required careful precision since the two pieces had to fit with a tolerance of less than half an inch. Thorough quality checks were conducted and the bridge was set in less than eight hours.
Everything went as planned for the education project. The entire process was completed in less than 48 hours, allowing the street to be re-opened. For this community, shutting down El Paseo Boulevard and installing a large structure like the pedestrian bridge was a big event. We set up a viewing area near the construction site that allowed the public, students and staff from the high school, board members and public school officials to watch the process, which helped mitigate the inconvenience. Sundt was nominated and received a state-wide quality award by the New Mexico Public School Facility Authority for our work.
The client’s reaction
“Sundt had an excellent detailed and timely communication process. They worked in a true team concept. They involved everyone in the communication process. All were encouraged to share their ideas and were part of the problem-solving system. Sundt’s personnel were responsive to all of our questions even if they were small concerns.”