How Lemoine reduced errors and improved decision-making with Join
Estimating mistakes can cost contractors thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, before the project has even begun. Often, it’s the accuracy of an estimate that will make or break a contractor’s profit.
This became all too real to J. D. King, Vice President of Preconstruction at LEMOINE, one of the nation’s top contractors, when a $200,000 Excel mistake became a “lightbulb moment” for transforming their preconstruction process.
This case study will take a deep dive into how the preconstruction team was able to protect against errors, build confidence with owners, and speed up decision-making to make their preconstruction process more efficient. Keep reading to find out how Join can play a key role in preventing costly errors with checks and balances and better cost certainty.
Table of Contents
- A costly calculation error in Excel
- Transforming the preconstruction process
- Gaining confidence from owners
- Mitigating risk with CMAR
- The results
A costly calculation error in Excel
While working on a large multi-family project, the preconstruction department was using an incredibly complicated Excel spreadsheet to calculate saving options and provide estimations for the owner.
One evening, they received a call from the owner who was ready to finalize the deal, so they opened the spreadsheet, calculated the number, and the owner signed off on it.
When the owner sent the contract over the next day, the preconstruction team realized something was off. Comparing the spreadsheet on two computers, they saw that the estimation was $200,000 lower on the computer they used to provide a final quote to the owner. The reason? It was simply because the iterative calculation option wasn’t turned on in Excel.
That’s how a simple calculation error during a late-night negotiation turned into a $200,000 error that was too late to fix.
After deciding to swallow the cost and move forward with the project, the preconstruction team was determined to make sure that a mistake like this would never happen again. They realized they needed to take a close look at their decision-making and estimation process, and began to investigate solutions.
Join was on their radar at the time, so J. D. convinced LEMOINE’s leadership team that it was worth trying if it was going to prevent any more calculation errors. The preconstruction team was also looking to improve accountability and transparency within their team, and ultimately inspire confidence with owners.
“We’ve got to hold architects, trade partners, and ourselves accountable for making sure that we’re helping make the right decisions throughout precon. No one makes money in preconstruction—it is all about signing the contract. We’ve got to be able to control the estimation process iteratively, and provide reliable, real-time information to our clients.”
Vice President of Preconstruction, LEMOINE
Transforming the preconstruction process
The preconstruction team decided to implement Join because it was an online solution that facilitated a much more collaborative decision-making process. The platform tracks all the details of each decision, who was involved, and why that decision was made. Join also takes data from Excel and provides an easier, more consistent way to assess the cost impact of each decision in real-time.
Here’s how the preconstruction process was transformed by switching from Excel to Join:
Join has made their preconstruction process more efficient by eliminating the need for data entry in Excel, or copying it over and reviewing it.
Join has empowered some of the younger estimators to get in and update items, whereas previously the senior estimator was the only one who could modify that Excel file. Now, they’re in Join, updating it, getting numbers from trade partners, they’re plugging in estimations. They own their scope of work, and they’re accountable for the numbers in there.
Getting design teams and owners more involved:
Architects and owners now have easier access to see where the numbers are at in Join, especially at key decision-making milestones.
Managing procurement lead times:
With the construction industry facing crippling supply shortages and long lead times, securing early release packages is vital. Join has helped the preconstruction team to instill confidence in an owner early enough that they feel comfortable agreeing to award them a certain portion of the project, to an early release package or a long lead material package without a GMP.
Owning project data:
With Join, it’s easier than ever to interpret and present project data. You know exactly how your project is progressing at any given time.
“Join isn’t simply a value engineering tool—it’s a decision-making tool. A collaborative decision-making tool for all stakeholders to be involved in.”J.D. King
Gaining confidence from owners
One of the biggest changes the team noticed after implementing Join was improved confidence from owners.
With all the decisions and work tracked in Join in a way that’s easy to understand, owners can look behind the scenes into the process the team has gone through to arrive at an estimate.
With Join, owners know that there’s been no stone left unturned, and have confidence the preconstruction team and their architect, engineers, and contractors have done everything they can to make a path to come in on budget.
“We don’t ever want to go into a meeting and just deliver bad news,” said J.D., “So when we have to deliver bad news, we want to come equipped with the path to move forward. In fact, Join gives all of us the confidence to go into a meeting because we can see clearly where we’re at. So we won’t meet until we’ve got a plan in Join—it’s that important to us.”
With the price of materials dramatically fluctuating and reaching historical highs, escalation is a major challenge contractors have to contend with. In a market like this, being able to make decisions fast is not only a competitive advantage, but essential to keep projects on track.
“This past year we haven’t been able to value engineer fast enough to overcome escalation. Our conversations with our clients have changed with a more pressing need for decision-making. Any time that you delay, the cost is just going to go up with escalation, and we can’t guarantee pricing out past a certain time. Either you spend some money or we cut scope, because in a month from now, any work that we’ve done is going to be evaporated by escalation.”
Join has helped the preconstruction team speed up decision-making with owners by giving owners a path to their budget no matter what. When reaching big project milestones where the owner must decide whether to “move forward” or “pause,” the preconstruction team members use Join as a powerful ally to deliver budget updates. The team is able to prove their worth, provide an accurate picture of the numbers, and gain the owner’s trust. Ultimately, this trust makes it possible for owners to move forward with confidence.
“We constantly tell our estimators that you cannot sit back and wait for things to happen—you have got to move the ball. And what better platform to achieve that than Join, where those decisions are right there in front of you at any given time, and to see how those decisions can affect the project.”
Mitigating risk with CMAR
After state planning regulations finally kicked in to allow CMAR, this contractor is leading their market forward in modern delivery methods. At the moment, 90% of their contracts are design-assist and many of those are CMAR. As
well as being a collaborative delivery method, one of the major advantages of CMAR is its capacity to mitigate risk for owners.
However, CMAR is not simple. When dealing with the complexities of a collaborative delivery method like CMAR, Join can help the process go as smoothly as possible. The online environment streamlines communication between different disciplines, and provides a space where all stakeholders can lend their expertise on everything from material options to constructability.
Join also helps with CMAR delivery because a team can clearly demonstrate all the work that’s gone in over the course of a project. The platform provides total visibility on all the items that have been reviewed, so the owner can see the big picture and appreciate the process the contractor has gone through to arrive at different options.
Avoiding costly errors:
The team achieved their goal of making sure a costly calculation mistake would never happen again.
Transparency and accountability:
Join enabled the team to deliver on their value of being open-book with owners, providing the information they need when they need it.
Accelerated decision-making process:
Faster decision-making has saved valuable time and given the team a critical competitive advantage when working with long lead times.
Confidence from owners:
According to J.D., “Join has given all of us the confidence to go into a meeting and really know where we’re at. I think it gives owners the confidence that our team has done our job and really proven our worth of why we were selected so early in a project.”
“Join is ingrained in our delivery method. It is a part of who we are, and if you were to take that away, you would be cutting what we do as a company now. I honestly think that if I go do our next project with an owner and architect, and I don’t pull Join up for them, they’re gonna ask where it went. We enjoy it so much that we don’t tell people what Join is called, because I don’t want my competitors to find out about it! We really value being able to deliver information to an owner in such a clear and succinct way.”J.D. King