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OE Construction Corp

Teaching the Basics…Again!

The reality is that training new employees is an ongoing task as new workers continue to enter the industry and your company; these six tips can help.

There are times in construction when a company brings in new employees (young, old and in the middle) that have limited experience in the construction industry. They make up a diverse group and a true challenge when it comes to integrating and training new employees into the company culture and operating means and methods.

So, here we go again you might say. As contractors, we are all searching for the best workers we can find, but for many that list appears to be shrinking. We often find that the one significant behavior that must change among all of our leaders and experienced supervisors is that we all must be more engaged in training and educating the new workforce.

This reality is sometimes tiresome for many seasoned veterans, but what are we left to do to move past this situation if we do not commit to training. As one Foreman told us, “I know I’m going to have to train the new guys, but it gets old real fast!” Translation? “This really stinks!”

Well, let’s jump right into some ways that we can tackle this reality and put the complaining aside. Consider some of the best lessons we have found in teaching the basics to our new employees.

1. Don’t wait for any opportunity to train and educate…just do it

There will be very few perfect times to train and educate if you are thinking of classroom based learning. Just not going to happen that way. Perhaps 80% or more of the effective training and educating takes place right on the job site…so don’t wait for the magic one to two hours to conduct your training. The job site is the place to start and follow up with specific safety and equipment training outside the job site to really hone in on the additional knowledge and skills for each employee.

2. Turn every work task into “mini-learning” sessions

If your mind is set to look at every action your people need to perform as learning sessions, this will greatly change your attitude, approach and behavior about training.

Many of these tasks are simple but critical to a better, safer and profitable result. Don’t overlook teaching your new workers the most basic of tasks to ensure that what little they do know, they will perform consistently.

3. Educate workers on the “why”

Rushing to train a new worker on how to add water when performing soil compaction will be better taught if the employee understands why and how we do what we do. Again, if employees learn the “why?” behind what they are going to do physically, they will more quickly connect the dots on how to be more effective in applying your instruction.

This method also tends to strengthen the new worker’s understanding when they run into a problem and helps them to correct errors faster.

4. Teach – Demonstrate – Watch – Debrief

Breaking the actual learning process down, try to follow the sequence of actions described for this point.

  • Teach is to educate
  • Demonstrate provides a visual model of what the employee will want to emulate
  • Watch allows you to observe the effort put out by the worker to replicate what you have both taught and modeled
  • Debrief allows you to question the new worker about what they just performed and what they might do better on their next effort

This four part teaching/training process is easy to follow and simply needs to be repeated over and over as you move a new worker through their learning experience.

5. Teach and train in smaller bites of time and process steps

Most of our new workers just do not learn everything we want them to in one lesson, much less in one day. While most contractors realize this, their efforts to train their new workers often fall short of anything resembling a thorough and well thought out training effort.

If the new employee’s experience in the first few days leads them to doubt the company’s commitment and support, there is a very good likelihood that the employee may quit before the first week is up.

6. Develop a training plan and spell out the first 90 Days

Do not train by using the old “shoot from the hip” method…it doesn’t give you a very good return on training. Instead, sit down and map out exactly what you are going to train new workers on, breaking down the task or action into specific steps.

Also, consider who is the best individual(s) to train the different tasks and processes your crews follow when working, and assign them to train on those areas.

As the workforce of today and the future enters into the construction industry, training is one of the important ways to retain workers and build your company. Some contractors experience employee turn-over rates that are over 50% in a month. This is non-productive, frustrating and impacts everyone in the company.

Rather than postponing the inevitable or hoping that you or your HR Manager can magically find trained and motivated workers, give more focus and energy to turning all of your leaders and better skilled workers into trainers. Be patient with your new employees; spend extra time with them, encouraging them to come to work and to be patient with themselves.

Training isn’t easy…that’s why so few do it. However, for those contractors who will invest in doing more and better training with their new employees, they will realize greater results faster than most of their competition.

Good Training!

OE CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION

OE Construction Corp

Excavation and Site Work Contractor Digs In with Connected Technology from Trimble

Customer Profile
OE Construction is a Colorado-owned and operated excavation and underground utility company. Founded in 2006, the company services include overlot and site grading, structural excavation, site utilities, stormwater management and demolition with customers throughout the Mountain West.

Business Challenge
Continued advancement and innovation in processes and technology have been a hallmark of OE Construction since its inception. A critical step is the investment in systems that drive project productivity and efficiency while improving quality for customers.

Solution
• Trimble® Earthworks Grade Control Platformimage1
• Trimble SPS882 GNSS Smart Antenna and Trimble Tablet
• Trimble SCS900 Site Controller Software
• Trimble SPS852 GNSS Modular Receiver
• Trimble CCS900 Compaction Control System
• Trimble Connected Community
• Trimble Business Center

Benefits
• Calculate accurate real-time volume measurements from machines
• Less chance of rework
• Eliminated need for survey stakes
• Average 20% productivity increase
• Transparency with clients/general contractors


Since its inception in 2006, OE Construction has been an earthwork and site development company with a technology edge. While a then 19-year-old Chris Olson, founder of the company, started with just a skid steer and a mini excavator, he knew that he could make a difference in the dirt moving business with a good team, a strong work ethic and a little help from technology.

Early on, he began evaluating the benefits of Trimble technology to improve productivity on the job and provide better quality to the customer, and to help expand into underground infrastructure and site utilities. He initially invested in Trimble TSC2 Controllers, receivers and base stations, as well as the Trimble GCS900 3D Grade Control System for multiple machines.

The company grew revenue from $150,000 the first year to $20,000,000 in the first six years, working on a range of earthwork projects as well as expansion into utilities. That sixth year proved to be a milestone year for the company.

Enter 3D Site Prep
In 2012, Trimble initiated the first phase of construction of it new Rockies campus in Westminster, which included a 125,000-square-foot, 4-story building. OE Construction was all in as part of the civil/site preparation contract.

Olson recalled, “We needed to make use of 100% machine control along with all of the Trimble behind the scenes technology and tools. In 2012, machine control and 3D site prep was very new to most of the industry.”

Working closely with the regional Cat dealer, Wagner Equipment Co. and the Trimble dealer SITECH Rocky Mountain, OE Construction fully adopted 3D grade control as well as Trimble Connected Community and Trimble Business Center office software. With these solutions, Olson was able to cut the excavation schedule on the project by more than 30%. “With such tight margins, anytime we can cut our schedule and move more dirt faster, we have a chance to make money on a project,” he said. “That’s an ROI worth making.”

Happy with the productivity gains enabled by Trimble technology, the OE Construction team fully adopted 3D project design and management for all future work and made more investments in surveying and machine control technology. Those investments would pay off again and again for years to come.

image2Quality Results
With help from technology, OE Construction has moved from a small player in the local Denver market to an innovative leader in the underground utility and earthwork market segments.

The company has continued to advance its fleet with technology-enabled solutions, most recently with the addition of the Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform, Trimble’s next generation machine control system with dual GNSS receivers for high accuracy, stability and performance of the blade in 3D.
The 3D Trimble Earthworks solution was particularly valuable on a recently-completed two year, multi-million dollar massive redevelopment and adaptive reuse project of the former University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. Responsible for all underground utilities and earthwork work on the project, OE Construction relied on Cat 349 excavators with Trimble Earthworks 3D and automatics, and a Volvo EC750 excavator with Trimble Earthworks 3D indicate.

“The value of Trimble Earthworks on a project such as the Health Sciences Center is better efficiency and measurement of the soil volumes while excavating, loading and ultimately moving the material at the site—volumes that are important to the client, the engineer and OE,” said Olson. “With Trimble Earthworks, we have real-time accurate data that is available on a moment’s notice to everyone involved in the project.”

image3The Trimble Earthworks-enabled excavators are also helping the company expand services beyond oil and gas and commercial developments to landfills.

Currently, the OE Construction crews are using the Trimble Earthworks-equipped excavators for landfill site excavation on multiple job sites around Colorado and other nearby sites. A typical landfill project requires the movement of from 200,000 to 600,000 cubic yards of soil. The excavators are combined with articulated haul trucks to facilitate the movement of material from one location to another.

“We’ve seen huge value of the technology in landfill expansions and new builds because the job requires the movement of hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of material,” explained Olson. “There is certainly more risk on these jobs. Accuracy is essential, as is delivering a product to engineering specifications. We could do these jobs without technology, but our costs would go way up and we would need more equipment and manpower.”

On average, Olson said he sees 10-20% improvement with technology. When asked what’s next for OE Construction, Olson is quick to say, “We’ll continue to embrace technology to improve our processes on the job and in the office. We firmly believe that technology is the key to success today and in the future.”

OE Construction Corp

How To Determine Which Lot Is The Best Fit For Your Project

As a commercial builder, you probably break ground on new projects all the time. From warehouses to office buildings, to apartment complexes, and more, you’ve likely done your fair share of site preparation. However, you’ve also probably noticed that some groundbreaking is much more complicated than others. 

While you don’t always have a say in where your clients choose to build their properties, there are lots of things to consider. What makes one lot a better fit for a project than another? 

From cost to soil quality, to location, and more, we’re breaking down how you can determine which lot is the best fit for your project. Using this information, you’ll be able to help guide your clients towards choosing the right lot from the beginning. 

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Consider Budget

The first key aspect of determining the best lot for a project lies in the budget. It’s essential to consider the cost of the lot but also the cost of the land preparation, building materials, and construction itself. If your client chooses a lot that’s far out of budget, then it’s doomed from the start. Annual taxes and project timeline for the lot are also crucial for budget consideration. 

Think About Location

Sometimes the best-priced lots are priced that way because their location is subpar. It’s critical to assess the site. If you’re building a building that needs to be accessed by customers, then it needs to be in an area that customers can easily access. If it’s a project where only employees need access, you’ll still want to consider their drive time and ease of arriving at the lot’s location before signing the dotted line.  

Consider Legal Restrictions 

Be sure to check on zoning laws, usage restrictions, and the municipality plans for the lot’s location. Ensure the lot isn’t unknowingly located inside of an HOA district, or otherwise subject to some stringent rules. The worst thing would be to purchase and break ground only to realize that the original plans aren’t possible. 

Investigate the Topography

If you haven’t seen the plot, it’s imperative to investigate the features of the land. Are there hills, or valleys, or cliffs in the area? If the lot isn’t close enough to go and take a peek, you can always peruse Google earth to get an idea of the general land topography.  

Think About the Weather

Is the lot in a flood zone? Is it in an area that gets hit by particularly rough weather? It’s crucial to know the weather conditions before you start building. While inclement weather might be a downer, it could also reduce the cost of a lot significantly. So, it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons of the weather. If it’s located in a flood zone, the lower price probably isn’t worth the extra you’ll pay in insurance. However, if it’s in an area that gets a rough storm now and again, it might be worth investing in better building materials like ICF blocks, and taking the reduced upfront cost. 

Run a Percolation Test 

A percolation test, or a perc test, is particularly important if your lot is in a rural area. This test assesses the land’s ability to drain water through the soil. This test determines whether or not you can put a septic system on the property. If the lot is unable to connect to the municipal water lines and doesn’t pass this percolation test, it probably isn’t land you wan

While we’re talking about water, it’s good to know what public utilities the lot has access to. Again, this is going to be more important in rural areas. However, you’ll want to know if you’re going to have the ability to connect to municipal water lines. Additionally, take a look at the lot’s access to roads and public transportation. Is the lot accessible, or is it landlocked? 

Survey the Soil and Run the Environmental Tests

While you might want to skip this step, don’t do it. Environmental tests are done to ensure that the soil at the lot is not contaminated. This report is also where you’ll discover any poor soil conditions that might hurt the building process or the structural integrity of the future building. Completing these tests often results in a report called REC’s, and they’ll address any potential environmental concerns. It’s crucial to do these tests to avoid any construction issues. Additionally, if there are any environmental hazards, like toxic soil contamination, the property owner could be responsible for it if it’s discovered later, even if they weren’t responsible for it. 

Consider the Work that Needs to Be Done

After assessing topography, soil condition, budget, zoning laws, and more, you have to assess the amount of work that needs to be done to the lot before starting the build. If it’s a hilly area, it doesn’t matter if you get the right level, have the best team, and build the perfect building, the land will have to be excavated and graded first. To truly help your clients, it’s vital to look at the project holistically, from beginning to end and get a full scope of the entire project, not just your part as the builder. 

The Best Lot for Your Project

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Using the tips above, you’ll be able to adequately guide your clients towards the best lots for their projects. Remember, choosing the best lot is not all about cost or construction. 

The perfect commercial project starts with selecting the right lot from the beginning. Determining which lot is best often requires some in-depth analysis of environmental factors, zoning laws, topography, and more. 


Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve efficiency, and increase property value.

OE Construction Corp

Why Stormwater Management is Important in Construction

Doctors take an oath—the Hippocratic Oath—that states that they should do no harm. Construction companies should probably do the same! A major part of any project is working through the logistics for safety, both for personnel and equipment, as well as the site and the environment around it.

Changes in our climate are indicating that rainfall and rising water tables will change how the construction industry deals with stormwater and other environmental impacts, as part of their day to day reality.

What is stormwater management?

Imagine the earth without man-made objects on it. Rain and melting snow would all have their natural paths to runoff and rejoin larger bodies of water, without being blocked, rerouted, or otherwise altered.

Now add people, buildings, roads and the general infrastructure that comes with humankind. Suddenly, the natural pathways are disrupted: how much water can flow and where it can flow is altered.

With the aim of doing no harm, the construction industry needs to put emphasis on carefully considering how to manage stormwater as part of a larger, integrated solution, when excavating, building and forever changing the landscape.

Why is stormwater management important in construction?

As mentioned above, every change to the landscape, whether its roads, buildings or other constructs, interrupts the natural flow of runoff. If not properly managed, flooding can result.

Further, adding a lot of water-impervious surfaces—think paving paradise to put up a parking lot!—creates a runoff surface that takes pollutants into natural waterways in ever greater quantities.

Managing stormwater is essential for both the health and safety of people, as well as the environment.

Managing stormwater effectively

An effective stormwater management system will incorporate three factors:

  • Treatment of water quality
  • Control of runoff
  • Infiltration of runoff into groundwater

Developing communities around the country have historically depended on detention ponds to hold stormwater runoff and release it slowly, controlling it as it returns to a natural body of water.

However, the frequency and intensity of storms are a concern in our ever-changing climate, making many of these holding ponds insufficiently sized. Further, they weren’t designed to feed into the groundwater system, so the third factor noted above is effectively ignored.

Finding ways to control runoff more effectively has several benefits:

  • Lowers the possibility of localized flooding and resulting damage, following intense periods of storm activity.
  • Feeds into groundwater supplies, recharging these for use as the water supply of the community.
  • Reducing pollutants that are added to the water supply via groundwater, which affects all of us directly, as well as the ecosystem that supports us. Runoff can include bacteria from trash and animal waste, oil, gas, and grease from vehicles, toxic chemicals like pesticides and so much more.

This is the kind of action that needs to be taken at the beginning of any construction project, with the larger ecosystem/environment surrounding the project in mind. There are federal, state and local laws that govern how permits are acquired to excavate and build in order to minimize the human and environmental impact of stormwater.

So while it may seem like one more level of government to get through in a project, the importance of having a well-designed stormwater management plan in any construction project cannot be overstated. At OE Construction, we take safety seriously: for our people and for the environment.

OE Construction Corp

Should You Groom High Performing Employees for Promotion?

In a word: yes.

The days of promoting people based exclusively on seniority are over, in most every industry, though the practice lingers somewhat in construction and could be what prevents some companies from retaining staff.

After all, the idea of taking a job with a company as a young person and remaining with that same company, moving up the ranks until retirement, has more or less gone the way of the dodo bird. People will move and construction has some of the highest attrition rates of any industry. It’s hard to attract and train new people with potential and it’s even harder to keep the people you have. 

After all, construction is one industry where experience really counts, so you don’t want to lose your more senior personnel either. Frankly, you don’t want to lose anyone, right? So the goal is to figure out how to develop and promote high performers, actual and potential, regardless of age. 

Look for potential and develop it

Look at your teams and figure out who has the potential, if not yet the full knowledge or experience, to be the kind of team member you need at a higher level. Once you’ve figured out who those people are, do what you can to develop their skills. 

“If employees understand how they can advance and progress in their careers, then they are more likely to remain with their companies long term.” (Source)

Many people leave companies for a lot more reasons than just pay. Some of those reasons include a lack of opportunities to learn, grow and get promoted. While it might feel counterintuitive to spend a lot on training , when those people could just leave and another company could benefit from your efforts, you are far more likely to retain high quality staff if you offer them ways to grow in their jobs and a path for achieving this growth.

Remember too that training and development isn’t just for the younger set. More senior personnel could be getting bored in their work, without new challenges and opportunities and a path to promotion. If you want to hold on to your high performers, regardless of age, you need to make sure they are given the responsibilities and challenges that suit their abilities.

How can you develop potential, beyond training programs?

There are myriad ways to develop high performing staff so that they can grow and reach potentials that will allow you to promote them. 

“Offering competitive pay is important – perhaps even a given in today’s tight labor market – but beyond that, employers need to start thinking about how they present opportunity in a strategic and compelling way to their workforces. Training is important and has its place, but if it’s not offered as part of a comprehensive career development program, then training is simply a way of paying attention to human “doings” rather than considering employees as human “beings.” (Source)

The key is to have a process for doing so. You want to avoid spending resources on people who aren’t high performing or interested in promotion, which is valid: some people enjoy what they do and would prefer to stay put! You also want to avoid spending resources without having a way of evaluating whether or not they are effective. In other words, are you getting a good return on investment? Any process that doesn’t allow you to assess that isn’t going to be effective, in the long run.

However you establish your career path / growth development process, it’s a good idea to include benchmark evaluations of skills that align with corporate objectives. For example, safety—and having as close to a perfect safety rating as possible— is a major corporate objective at OE Construction. So evaluating someone to groom them to a management role might include more than looking at their specific hard skill set; we would need to look at their way of thinking, their ability to initiate and deal with change and so on.

How can you evaluate skills that your employees don’t always use / display in their day to day work?

One evaluative method could be to bring the high potential employee in and ask them to work on a problem that the company is currently having in the area of safety that they might be able to lend perspective on. They can be tasked with researching and developing a solution to the problem, which they will then recommend to you. This gives you a chance to really assess their ability to think, learn, adapt and assess, all important qualities as one moves up the ranks of any organization.

Another option is to send them to an industry conference on your behalf, with the requirement that they provide you with a detailed report on what was achieved / learned at the event. These are all important views into the way an employee thinks and performs when given something to do that is outside of their normal zone of operation. It will provide tremendous insight as to whether or not they are the high performers you want to groom for growth.

In an industry that finds it increasingly difficult to staff positions, in addition to the fact that baby boomers are retiring, leaving holes in the upper ranks, it’s important to identify those individuals who might be able to rise to the occasion!