Blog - Interview with Project Manager Chris Sweeney

Interview with Project Manager Chris Sweeney of Rowan Electric

Rowan Electric in Carlsbad, California, is a family-owned business that is experiencing tremendous 20% year-over-year growth. As the company began more work on larger, more complex projects, the need for a construction project management solution became more evident.

How did you get into construction?

I have always found construction work to be very rewarding and love to build things.  I worked in construction in between school sessions. The best part is to see a project to completion, and the finished product puts a smile on many people’s faces.

A general contractor I used to work for advised, “If you’re going to get into a trade, get into electrical.” They are there at the beginning of the project and all the way into the end.” Electrical is a very skilled trade with lots of smart people. Many people are terrified of electricity, so there will always be side work.

What brings you to Rowan Electric?

I started with Rowan Electric as a 1st-year apprentice at Associated Builders and Contractors.  After graduating from ABC, I handled specialty projects for Rowan as a Service Technician.  Shortly after that, I became a Foreman in the New Construction department building larger and more complex buildings.  After years of gaining invaluable experience completing projects from the ground up, I was promoted to Project Manager last year.

What differentiates Rowan from other contractors?

With over 30 years’ history, Rowan Electric has an excellent reputation in San Diego. When I was in school, I would see the Rowan Electric trucks. On the back of every Rowan truck is the word “Integrity” in big bold letters. It speaks volume of the company. Now that I have been working at Rowan Electric for many years, I can vouch that “Integrity” is definitely part of the company. Mark and Paul Rowan are stand up guys and wonderful people to work for.

What are some of the projects that you are most proud?

We recently completed the Amazon distribution facility in National City. It was great to see all the technology and robotic equipment needed to distribute all the packages quickly. It was great to be part of a brand that is integral to many people’s lives and knowing that many of the packages that I order will pass through those facilities and end up on my front door.

We also recently completed a senior living facility in Temecula. That was a great project to be a part of and give elderly people much-needed assistance in their day-to-day living. We take for granted all the benefits and advantages that we have for us, and it is nice to know that such facilities are available.

Tell us what your job was like before eSUB:

Fortunately, I have been using eSUB my entire time that I have been a project manager. However, I can tell you when I was a foreman, eSUB would have been so useful for me. Before eSUB, we used paper for our daily reports. Then we took pictures of those paper daily reports and emailed them to the office. With eSUB, we have cut down many of those steps and provided a direct line of communication from the field to the office. Now the Foreman complete reports with so much more detail because eSUB makes it that easy.

Tell us about your “day in the life” as a project manager.  

eSUB is a big part of my day as a project manager. eSUB is open on my computer all day. Every day. I am managing nine projects currently, so I start my day in the Corporate Management section of eSUB. From there, I review all my projects on one screen. I can see all the Field Notes and Daily Reports from all projects to see activity in the field. Our foremen do an outstanding job documenting information in the field, which is great at keeping me in the loop on delays, hold-ups, and issues. It gives me a good task list on what high priority items that I need to tackle for the day.

Tell us how your implementation and training process went.

eSUB was really easy to use, but formal training with the eSUB team was great. The eSUB team has really helped streamline our processes, and they worked diligently to get all of our project managers and foremen comfortable.

Also, the customer service has been top notch.  Justin [Director of Training and Implementation] and Brian [Client Success] have been really responsive. Any issues that we have, they immediately take action and help us as needed.

A big problem with software/technology is adoption in the field. How has the field adopted with using eSUB?

What has really helped the field adopt to eSUB is explaining to them that eSUB is here to help us, save us, and keep our doors open. We were able to show them how eSUB helps save time in the field on everything they are doing. It is their one-stop shop on project documents – drawings, RFI logs, Submittal logs. Everything is right there for them. Once they recognized that they have all the information at their fingertips, our foremen have said, “Wow…this has everything I need.”

Because the documentation and storage are limitless, there really are no barriers for them. Our foremen and field teams are doing a great job at documenting everything. And the level of details they are providing has been very helpful.

What is your favorite feature/thing about eSUB?

My favorite feature in eSUB is the Correspondence Toolbox. Delay letters, outstanding RFI reminders, outstanding Submittal reminders – I have been using these templates a lot. It saves me time because I do not have to draft letters from top to bottom. I simply insert my notes into pre-formatted templates and select the eSUB documents (RFIs, Submittals, Changer Orders, etc.) to reference in the letter.

The “Confirmation of Conversation” template is one that I often use as well. Many times contractors give our foreman directives in the field or provide verbal approval on items that have strayed from the initial plan. The “Confirmation of Conversation” template confirms the conversation and releases us from any liability from the owner.

What piece of advice would you give to other Project Managers?

Force yourself to use eSUB and dig into it. Once you get used to it and discover all the tools at your fingertips, eSUB will be your greatest tool. You will know exactly where information is and quickly pull all the information you need.

How have you “eSub-bed the Job” i.e. developed best practices using eSUB?

I “eSUB the Job” in many different ways.

The Cost to Complete report is how I “eSUB the Job.” From there I can track actual hours against estimates, determine how we are progressing, and how much labor is left on the project. Depending on how the project is progressing and forecast, I can have a discussion with our superintendent and schedule more labor accordingly. This has helped tremendously to open up communication and coordination throughout the company.

I also “eSUB the Job” using the Corporate Management module. From there, I get an overall view of all my projects to glance at any issues quickly.

What are some tangible benefits that Rowan Electric has experienced using eSUB?

Many times the General Contractor has added a lot of scope, but they have not changed the end date. Our team has to work overtime to complete these jobs within the time given. When the project is complete, the General Contractor questions the work and labor activity. We can show them documentation on changes as well as the daily reports to validate our work and help us get paid.

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