Friday in the Field: Working Smarter Through Advancing Technology

Matt Gwinn
Having worked in the aviation sector for more than 25 years, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kathy Caswell, marketing lead of our aviation sector, to discuss my career and experiences within the industry.

We started talking about my latest project, providing program management support services and implementing Primavera Unifier on a major airport capital improvement program.

Kathy Caswell: How long have you worked at Faithful+Gould in the aviation sector?

Matt Gwinn: I came to Faithful+Gould in 2002 and my very first project was to provide oversight on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Explosive Detection System installation for an airport in Atlanta.

Now, we have advanced to the point of using systems like Primavera Unifier, which is an outstanding tool for companies and clients to use for project delivery.

I started working in aviation about 12 years before that when I joined Delta Airlines in the Technical Operations Facilities department of the company. I actually began my career as an architect before transitioning to the project management side of aviation in 1991.

KC: What drew you to the aviation sector?

MG: My role in the sector was born organically through contacts I made as an architect. I also have a background in building and life safety codes, which helped steer me to a project management role in aviation. It allowed me to move around the industry, working as a life safety subject matter expert for Delta Airlines and then as a technical committee member for aviation facilities for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) before joining Faithful+Gould.

KC: What trends have you seen in airport planning over the years?

MG: Well, I suppose this extends beyond just the design and construction industry but, in general, I've been amazed by the advancement of technology. I'm dating myself here, but when I first started with Delta, we didn't even use Windows. We had a disk operating system (DOS)-based computer system, and everything was done on paper with carbon copies.

Now, we have advanced to the point of using systems like Primavera Unifier, which is an outstanding tool for companies and clients to use for project delivery. That's a big element of my current work, where we are working on implementing Primavera Unifier for a large-scale program.

KC: How has Primavera Unifier helped in project delivery?

MG: Primavera Unifier works as a common platform for projects that extends to all team members on a project including the owner, consultants, designers and contractors. It is a paperless system that improves efficiency by aiding with more timely approvals of requests for information (RFI)s, submittals, contracts, change orders and invoices. It is also an exceptional tool for auditing purposes as each step of every project business process is tracked, making sure there is a clear record at every phase of the project. I like to think that the system becomes the "single version of the truth", which I think we can both agree is crucial, particularly for large projects with so many moving parts to coordinate.

KC: Absolutely. Are you working on a project like that right now?

MG: Yes. It's a program actually. Currently, Faithful+Gould is part of a joint venture of three companies providing program management support services for the capital improvement of a major airport on the west coast.

It's a major $5.5 billion program, encompassing approximately 230 individual projects, including a new terminal building, hotel, parking garage, firehouse, air traffic control tower and changes to taxiways, as well as many other improvements.

KC: What is your role in in this program?

MG: I am the team leader of this joint venture, responsible for the co-ordination of all activities and Faithful+Gould team program deliverables.

KC: What has the program entailed so far?

MG: We are providing cost management, schedule management and a robust implementation of Primavera Unifier, our electronic project management system. This is a particular focus of the program for consistent project and cost controls across all projects.

KC: How would this project be different without Primavera Unifier?

MG: Well, for starters, airport project managers have historically completed their projects utilizing the methods and systems of the various contractors they used. For a program of this magnitude, this kind of system would make it difficult to complete program financial reporting, which is extremely important to the client. With the system fully operational, all projects will be using the same processes and reporting tools which will allow program level reporting to be consistent and useful to our client.

KC: Have you been involved with this kind of Primavera Unifier implementation before?

MG: Technically, we began working with the same client on a different contract to provide this implementation of Primavera Unifier about a year and a half before we won this capital improvement program support contract. We have continued and enhanced our initial implementation plan under our new contract. That said, I've never worked on a Primavera Unifier implementation at this scale.

...we are in the process of training approximately 400 people, and by the time we close it out we will have eventually trained up to 700 users across all of the projects.

Before this current assignment, I was part of a Primavera Unifier implementation we performed in Houston for another client but it was much smaller, spanning over four total projects and 30 users, so it was certainly different. On this program, we are in the process of training approximately 400 people, and by the time we close it out we will have eventually trained up to 700 users across all of the projects.

KC: Have you faced any new challenges working on this scale?

MG: In general, the real challenge with Primavera Unifier is to get all the parties to participate in the new system. This extends not just to the client, but also the design and contracting teams. Most contractors have their own systems and are understandably resistant to changing their methods of work.

Even after the client is on board, we must keep the other teams are up to date and fully aware of the benefits to encourage full participation and buy-in from the consultants and contractors. That makes our training so important.

KC: How's that been received so far?

MG: I am pleased to say that the program has been really successful to this point. This has been the result, not only of both the diligence of our team and exceptional system we have in place for training, but the enthusiasm of our client. We have a client who has fully accepted the system and is diving headfirst into the process, which has allowed us to deliver our services and for them to reap even further benefits of the system. We still have much to do; this particular project will extend for at least another three years, with the full program continuing over the next five, but we have been able to make some great progress so far. That's really been thanks to our ability to work smarter.

KC: I like that way of putting it, "work smarter".

MG: It's really what Primavera Unifier does as a system, allowing users to simplify and streamline their process. It's just a matter of getting everyone on the same page, so the end-users can reap the benefits of the system. As a project manager, it's great to be able to facilitate this for such a large program. The whole idea ties into my overall professional philosophy - to learn something new whenever possible and fully engage with new systems. We can provide a valuable service when we can facilitate a smarter, more efficient project delivery for our clients.

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