How to Stay Competitive in Preconstruction—Frank Dale Construction Case Study

The world of construction is extremely competitive. One of the biggest drivers behind this competitiveness has been the emergence of rapid advancements in technology, especially preconstruction technology. With the advent of features like building information modeling and data visualization, project owners are expecting increased output from general contractors with shorter turnaround times.

This isn’t an easy ask even for big contractors, but it can be particularly burdensome for small to mid-size contractors. When your company has a leaner operation, you don’t have as many resources as larger competitors, and you also need to maximize the resources you do have. And it’s difficult to pursue more projects when you already have a dozen other deadlines you need to meet.

The Challenge

When we think about obstacles to the challenge of winning more projects, becoming competitive with larger contractors, and increasing your own company’s growth, a few obvious ones pop out.

Labor Shortage

First, perhaps the greatest and most pressing issue at the current time is the nationwide labor shortage. With people quitting left and right, many commentaries and journals are calling it “The Great Resignation”. Although no industry has escaped unscathed, construction has certainly been one of the hardest hit: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report that found 88% of contractors are having moderate to extreme difficulty finding skilled laborers, and 35% of contractors have turned down work because of these shortages.

In preconstruction, this issue has been exacerbated due to the high amount of employees reaching retirement age and deciding to leave the workforce. Because most retirement-age preconstruction professionals are in high-level, senior roles, it is incredibly difficult to find replacements who can match their knowledge base and experience.

Outdated Technology

The second issue is technology or lack thereof. Many preconstruction departments are still using outdated construction estimating software that simply cannot keep up with modern demands. Some software, like MC2, no longer even offers updates or technical support anymore. Others, such as Excel, are unable to offer features that a preconstruction department needs to leverage data, like an accessible cost history database and data visualization.

Not Enough Time

The third obstacle is that of time, and similar to technology, not having enough of it. It’s not just about having the time to pursue more projects; it’s also about the time to sit down and start investing in some of the tools that can help you operate more efficiently. While construction estimating software is certainly an obvious solution to the issue of labor shortages, it does require a significant amount of time: to determine what you need from a new construction estimating software, to research the available options, to schedule demos, and make a selection and finally start implementation.

Frank Dale Construction, a general contractor based out of Southlake, Texas, found themselves facing the latter two issues. The preconstruction tools they had been using had served their purpose for a while, but as Frank Dale’s goals shifted and grew, they discovered that their tools weren’t growing along with them.

The Solution

Frank Dale Construction was founded in 1997 and has since become a forward-thinking leader within the construction industry. Their portfolio of work includes commercial, industrial, healthcare, and fitness and aquatic facility projects to name a few.

When their preconstruction team found that their construction estimating software was struggling to keep up with increasing demands, they decided that there was only one solution: evaluate and adopt a new construction estimating software that would be able to evolve with them as a company. Frank Dale Construction didn’t secretly have extra hours in a day, but they knew that the investment of their time would pay off.

If you’re also facing that challenge, there are three major steps you can take to move toward adopting software that can maximize your resources and significantly improve your efficiency.

  1. Choose people on your team who are passionate about technology to start evaluating construction estimating software
  2. Understand what you truly need from construction estimating software and don’t just go for the flashy features
  3. Speak to your peers in precon to see how time spent investing in technology pays off

Choose people on your team who are passionate about technology to start evaluating construction estimating software

Software evaluation isn’t a one-person job. It takes a team to come together, determine gaps in your processes, and then set out to research the available options.

Chances are that you have several people on your team who have always been passionate about emerging technology and who take the initiative to bring new ideas or ways of doing things to the team’s attention. As you pull together the group who will take on the majority of evaluation, don’t be afraid to rely on those who love exploring new terrain.

Understand what you truly need from construction estimating software and don’t just go for the flashy features

One piece of advice that often gets overlooked? Johnny Rhea, Vice President of Preconstruction at Frank Dale Construction, says it’s making sure you don’t get too overwhelmed by the vast array of options available. “There are a lot of these really cool features that would be really fun, or you have this thing that would make this one task easier, but did not address the overall purpose,” he said.

Speak to your peers in precon to see how time spent investing in technology pays off.

Last but certainly not least, seek out the perspectives of your fellow peers to get a better picture of why investing time in adopting a new construction estimating software is worth the payout.

Updating your toolkit offers a host of benefits, including saved time and increased efficiency. But perhaps most importantly, it allows you to become more competitive with fewer resources. While labor shortages are concerning, they are also a reality of our industry and investing in construction estimating software that can keep up with your output and demands helps buffer you from the ups and downs of the workforce.

But don’t just take it from us. Johnny Rhea observes: “I’ve been really pleased that we were able to find a tool that met the criteria that we were looking for, of being able to provide a structure that gives us the benefits of that but not provide a straitjacket that keeps us from being able to be fluid and move with the differences of the job . . . It’s checked those boxes of being able to do what we do faster, with efficiency.”