Each week, we have been sharing stories from the jobsite. Our “Behind the Build” series has featured incredible stories of those building our cities, offices, hospitals, infrastructure and more. This week, we speak with Grace McGregor Kramer, Director of Strategy and Operations for a Pennsylvania based company, McGregor Industries Inc. Below, she shares more about her first experiences on jobsites and how technology has been an integral part of her company’s growth strategy.
What first got you into construction?
I work in my family’s business–McGregor Industries. We are a miscellaneous metals fabricator and erector with a focus on the manufacture and installation of high rise tower stairs. We will be celebrating our 100th year in business in 2019! I grew up listening to my parents talk about the business at dinner, and always knew it was something I wanted to do. I currently work alongside my father.
Do you remember your first experiences on the job at McGregor Industries?
Yes! I started working at McGregor knowing nothing about construction–so I began my tenure by rotating through all major departments, starting with the shop. I spent three months working in our miscellaneous metals shop (tack welding, cutting, learning how to lay out–the whole nine yards), then I spent time working in drafting and the field.
What do you love most about the industry?
In construction, you are building something real.
There is something really incredible about walking into a building and seeing a stair or a railing that was manufactured and installed by McGregor.
Which projects are you most proud of and why?
We just completed a large stair project at the Wynn Casino in Boston. The project was accelerated and consisted for 60 different egress stairs, so it really challenged our team to use all of the tools that we have to coordinate such a massive project–PlanGrid included.
We have several other large high rise stair jobs that we are wrapping up now. 1441 Chestnut in Philadelphia–which will house the W Hotel–is a 52-story building with three stair towers that went from the ground to the roof. Because we were able to coordinate and fabricate the stairs ahead of time, McGregor Industries was able to stay with the concrete structure during the duration of the project so that the project workers could use the stairs to safely get from floor to floor during construction.
What do you spend the most time doing at work?
My job is to get work and make sure that the work that we get is profitable. I am lucky that I get to spend time in most parts of our business, from sales and pricing to the nuts and bolts of detailing, fabrication and installation stairs on the job. If something really doesn’t work in the field, I get the phone call. That’s why technology like PlanGrid is so great to help us communicate with our ironworkers in real-time to get them the information that they need to troubleshoot any issues that may come up.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Lack of communication is the cause of the majority of problems on the jobsite. Upfront communication and collaboration during the shop drawing review process often mitigates these issues. At McGregor Industries, we try to work with the architect, engineer, construction manager and other trades up front to ensure we are shipping stairs and other products that fit and can be installed safely and quickly in the field.
How has technology changed the way you work in construction?
Technology has been critical to our growth as a company and our ability to make and install stairs and railings quickly, safely and efficiently. Early on, our detailing team really embraced BIM, and today, with some upfront collaboration with the design team, we are able to figure out complex project elements during the shop drawing review process. For example, with our high rise tower stairs, we work with cross-functional project teams early on to determine the best dimensions for the stair core–figuring out the required egress and working out to the surrounding structure, walls, etc. We combine models with other trades to ensure that once our stairs ship to the field, our ironworkers can install quickly and safely so that the rest of the workers on the job can use the stairs ASAP.
How did you first start using PlanGrid?
A construction manager we were working with required us to use PlanGrid for a job in 2014. Around the same time, our new field director wanted our foreman to use tablets in the field. We loved PlanGrid’s functionality on tablets, and how easy it was for our detailing department to use, so we rolled it out internally for all of our jobs.
At the most basic level–we can communicate very quickly to our guys in the field so that they don’t lose time looking for or waiting for information.
Not only does that save us time and improve productivity, but it also fosters a culture of communication and collaboration for our team.
What’s your favorite PlanGrid feature?
This may be basic, but I love that if there is ever any issue in the field, our site foreman can quickly markup a drawing and communicate that issue to our detailing team. Our detailing team, in turn, can quickly upload a new version for them to work from in the field. The reduction in lost time and an increase in productivity and morale is huge and helps us continue to deliver on safety, schedule and value to our customers.
Any recommendations or thoughts you want to share with the next generation of builders?
Don’t accept the status quo!
Construction is changing rapidly, and it is an exciting time to be working in the industry. Just because something is done one way, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.