Interview with Rich Kennard, Technology Implementation and Development Manager of Above All Store Fronts

Above All Store Fronts (AASF) is a family-owned and operated construction business that specializes in the furnishing and installation of fully engineered architectural exterior wall systems throughout New York and the Tri-state region. AASF has more than 100 years of combined experience in façade systems and employs over 200 employees, including an extensive custom fabrication facility, an estimating department, and a team of design engineers to coordinate the detailing and integration of complex wall cladding conditions across various exterior wall systems.

 

As the Technology Implementation and Development Manager, Mr. Kennard manages all the construction technology programs at Above All Store Fronts. The company utilizes eSUB as its field data collection and operations solution, and Mr. Kennard serves as the executive administrator. In this role, he sets up the system and users, troubleshoot issues, and manages the roll out and training on new features.

How did you get into construction?

I graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from NYIT, and I was fortunate to work in for a large Architecture firm for about five years. Around 2005, the work at the architecture firm was starting to slow down. I was able to transition into my current Industry of Glass & Architectural Metals, For the next eight years I would work in a drafting department for a Glazing Subcontractor, and I loved it. Five years ago, John Cashel, the owner of Above All Store Fronts, reached out to me about starting a drafting department at his company. Above All Store Fronts had been in business about 20 years already, so it was an excellent opportunity to build a drafting department from the ground up the right way.

 

In addition to my drafting experience, I have always been involved in technology and computers in general. John quickly discovered my interest in technology, and my role expanded. Throughout the next five years, I doubled as Drafting manager and in-house Construction Technology / IT. A little over a year ago we brought onboard Chris Hamilton to assist me in the drafting department as my roles in technology expanded. About six months ago I handed off the drafting department fully into Chris’ more than capable hands and started my role as the Technology Implementation and Development Manager for Above All Store Fronts. It’s been an interesting journey and transition, and I loved every second of it.

 

What differentiates Above All Store Fronts from other glazing contractors?

John Cashel, the owner, is the reason that Above All Store Fronts is where it is. John’s reputation, relationships and his dedication to customer services is a significant reason for the company’s success. He treats each customer as if they are #1 and emphasizes that all of us must do the same. Customer service is one of our core value in addition to teamwork and employee-centrism.

 

In addition to delivering a premium level of service to customers, John treats his employees remarkably. He is the best boss I have ever had.  He ensures that we have the best tools we need to do our job well. All field foreman, supervisors, and project managers have iPads. His dedication to technology, including implementing eSUB project management software and other tools, is helping us to be more cutting edge and competitive than others in this field.

 

Above All Store Fronts has been in business for 25 years. In the past five years, we’ve multiplied eight-fold in both company size and revenue, and there is still so much growth in our future.

 

What were the challenges that Above All Store Fronts was facing that caused you to seek a project management solution?

When I first started at Above All Store Fronts, Dan Tagliaferri, who was the head of project management Department, and I, decided to create a Microsoft Excel workbook to help us run our projects. We used that workbook as our single place to keep track of purchase orders, submittals, etc. The workbook was extremely elaborate. It had 42 tabs, visual basic, hyperlinks. It worked fine and met our needs. However, we outgrew the workbook in under a year. On top of that, Above All Store Fronts was growing so fast that we knew we could not manage it without help.

 

How were you sharing information between the office and the job site before eSUB?

Phone calls. Emails. Pictures and texts. It was random. There was no formatting and no standardization. We were running by the seat of our pants. Everyone ran their projects differently.

 

In the office, we updated our Excel workbook diligently. We scanned all documents including submittals, purchase orders, and change orders. Everything was saved on our servers. It was all taking up a lot of server space.

 

eSUB helped to centralize and standardize project information and make it all accessible from the cloud.

 

What is your favorite feature of eSUB?

For managing projects, the ability to track labor and costing is our number one priority. Closely looking at progress and how the actual costs are tracking against our estimates. Four years ago, when we were looking for a software solution, there were not many that were aligned with Subcontractors. Job costing is one of the things that differentiate eSUB from other vendors.  Larger PM Software solutions, like Procore, were more focused on general contractors, and at that time did not offer the tracking we needed. eSUB is developed for subcontractors which is where those cost codes and job costing metrics become very important to be competitive in our estimates.

 

How do your team share and access drawings from the field?

eSUB has excellent features, but it didn’t have the document management capabilities that the other project management solutions had. This was something we realized, very quickly, that we needed for the field. eSUB required full document upload or download, and just didn’t work well in the field. eSUB recognized that it lacked in this area and solved those challenges by partnering and integrating with other document management vendors like PlanGrid and Autodesk’s BIM 360 Docs.

 

We investigated PlanGrid because one of our counterparts in Boston MA, we know used it. However, it just did not work for us. We liked the more recent addition to eSUB’s partners in Autodesk’s BIM 360 Docs. We love the ability to download on the fly and auto hyperlinking. Most importantly, the ability to attach those drawings to an eSUB document, just like it was in eSUB.

 

Our drawings are not small anymore. We do not work off three-page drawings. Our projects typically span 25-30-page drawings, and the architectural CD set could be upward of 150 pages. Waiting for drawings of that size to download on Wi-Fi or cellular data takes forever through eSUB. Then navigating the drawings in the field is cumbersome because it’s just a pdf and none of the pages are labeled.

 

So, BIM 360 Docs bridged that gap, and our field guys love it.

 

How was the process of implementing BIM 360 for your team?

Honestly, the hardest part was getting the iPad back from the field for me to load the application. I also had to implement a mobile device management (MDM) software on our mobile devices. This helps ensure that all the software on our mobile devices is updated and current without them having to bring them back to the office.

 

Once BIM 360 Docs was downloaded, getting our foreman to create accounts and to log in was a challenge. They aren’t the most technologically advanced and are very used to hard copy drawings. Once they saw how easy it was and how beneficial it was to be able to zoom into a document to see better clarity of a detail, their outlook changed and now they love the program.

 

Have there been any instances when outdated drawings wasted time and material?

This happens often. We send our drawings on the delivery truck with the material deliveries. Sometimes they forget to take the drawings out of the cabin of the truck and give to the foreman. Other times when the field crew is starting the installation and running into a problem, they call the office for clarity. We ask them, “What version of the drawing are you working on – what revision?” When they look at the top sheet of the paper, it is the wrong one. We ask them, “Have you checked eSUB? No? Have you checked BIM 360? Not yet. Well, those are the things you should look for first.”

 

Hopefully, BIM 360 will eliminate a lot of that wasted time making calls and searching. We wouldn’t have BIM 360 Docs if eSUB did not realize that this was something that would benefit every user and created the integration.

 

 

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