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Established in 1988, Grindley is an Australian owned construction company which has built an enviable reputation for delivering quality projects in the health, aged care, retirement, commercial and education sectors. The company prides itself on a collaborative and conservative approach to business, offering tailored solutions to meet their clients goals ensuring optimum project outcomes.

 

Grindley’s repeat client base includes most of the major aged care operators in NSW, a cross section of public, catholic and independent schools and a range of commercial and government organisations.

The company adopted HammerTech’s platform in late 2019. We spoke with WHSEQ Manager Craig Young.

Safety has long been a goal in the construction industry, but accountability and knowledge have enhanced what can be achieved

Grindley WHSEQ Manager Craig Young was exposed to the construction industry from an early age, and moved quickly into the field after leaving school, completing a Bachelor of Construction Management in tandem with his day job. For as long as he can remember, succesful builders have placed importance on safety and avoiding injury, as well as aspiring to a quality outcome for both project and client. The goals themselves have not changed, he argues, but the tools and pressure to achieve them have.

 

“What has changed is our own and the public's knowledge and understanding, and therefore accountability,” Craig explains. “This has prompted people to think more about their actions and how it affects both themselves and others. The saying ‘If it's not documented it hasn't happened’ is holding people more accountable”, while people are wanting more transparency about who is doing and the quality of the documenting.

Commitment is at the heart of the Grindley promise

“Grindley's core value is Commitment,” Craig explains, noting that a statement of Commitment is included on the company’s website home page and underlies everything Grindley does. “We commit to our clients and to our team that we'll provide a service carrying the hallmarks of quality and value and that we will demonstrate an unwavering focus on safe and healthy work practice, for the prevention of work-related injury and ill health.” This sort of commitment is essential for companies who want to be here for the long term. “I'd suggest there aren't many companies that are in their thirty-third year of business who don't believe that quality and safety are part of the foundations of a successful construction company.

Cheapest not always best

Providing value is an important part of Grindley’s approach to serving its customers. But Craig would like to see a deeper understanding of how quality and safety are assured in the construction industry. ”There will be many factors, but typically you get what you pay for,” he notes. “There will always be someone willing to do it cheaper, but will they meet your expectations, let alone exceed them.”

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Success depends on adapting and evolving

No company can afford to rest on its laurels, Craig says. As the construction environment and client needs change, and as competitors enhance systems and processes, Grindley must also invest in staying ahead. It was this ever-present focus on improvement that led to Grindley adopting the HammerTech platform.

We are always striving to improve our system and ultimately our performance,” Craig explains. “After a review of several options, we considered HammerTech to offer the best solution for us, for the workflow we were wanting to achieve greater efficiency from.

Before making the decision, though, the team at Grindley went through an exhaustive process that including identifying their objectives and needs, understanding exactly what was offered by different software products, and assessing HammerTech’s service, advice and experience during a trial period.

“Just as important was gathering an understanding of the level of support that would be available to us after any decision to proceed,” Craig adds. “In hindsight, it's refreshing to see that our key contacts today are the same people that sold us the software.”

Digital transformation is a means to an end, not a goal in itself

Digital transformation in itself is not a key aspiration for Grindley, Craig says, but where digital provides a tool to improve performance then naturally it becomes relevant. “What's important to Grindley is delivering projects that exceed our clients’ expectations. If 'digital' provides the best tool for any one part of our system to achieve that objective, then we'll do 'digital'.”

So while Grindley was not looking at software platforms for their own sake, the construction company was looking to improve efficiencies. HammerTech's software provided the best way of achieving that, Craig says. “It wasn't long ago that printing kilometres of drawings, conducting lengthy in person inductions, archiving boxes of paper records, let alone taking 100’s of photos only to have to plug in a cord to transfer those files to a computer, sort them, insert them manually into an electronic document and email it were realities in the construction industry. Digital is certainly proving to be the best tool for many parts of our system and we see that continuing. Though client relationships, organisational culture and staff loyalty can’t be replaced by digitisation, digitisation can provide a tool to assist.

Ultimately, driving efficiencies flows through to the bottom line

“Part of being a successful company in the long run is being profitable,” Craig notes. “When improving our system, an initial question is always to consider whether the proposed change will make us more efficient. The change to our system through incorporating HammerTech has, as expected, helped us achieve greater efficiency compared to the previous associated workflows.” He points to a couple of important aspects of this - operational efficiencies achieved with the HammerTech platform naturally contribute to profitability. Just as important, though, are the reporting aspects of the software.

The daily reporting assists with tracking performance to understand and confirm that operational efficiency and compliance is being achieved.

Leadership and Education are the keys to driving change, including successful implementation of new software

Successful implementation depends on leadership, education, communication, and recognising that every company is unique.

 

If others can't see the benefit and the reason for doing things differently, there is no incentive to change, Craig says. “Leaders leading by example is crucial. The key personnel within the company need to be convinced that the software is providing the best solution to your problem and will assist your system with achieving greater efficiency. Once those people are convinced, those who are going to roll out the software need to be educated in the workflows that incorporate the software. And those people then need to be relentless in distributing that knowledge to the workforce.”

 

It is also important to consider which roles may change and how, due to the new workflows.  Existing personnel may not want to change, so communication is a key element for a successful implementation. “I wish I’d known then what I know now,” Craig adds. “We would have had more of a focus on education. Example providing greater evidence showing how the change will benefit the company - if management don't do that and the personnel can’t see the benefit, how can you expect them to embrace the change.”

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A good day is about balance

A productive and healthy day is as much about work performed as it is about the time in between. Craig typically starts the day with some type of physical activity, before reviewing the calendar, the day's plan and catching up on the happenings from the day before. “I’ll update the day's action items and get going, with a brief break and some fruit mid-morning to refocus.”

Recent months, with the impact of COVID-19, have meant significant less time away from the office during the day – and therefore more in it! But whatever the day holds, he tries to finish the same way. “I try to be home early enough to uphold the Dad duties and dinner and unwind, before hopefully getting to bed early enough to recharge to do it all again tomorrow.”

Personal goals are also a mix of work/life. Craig describes them as: “Being a better Dad and husband, while on the work front it’s about gaining efficiency and therefore productivity, while achieving the required compliance and maintaining my own standards.”

You can learn more about Grindley and its work here.

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With 30-plus years in the industry (including the last two with Nicholson), Chris says safety is paramount.

“The construction industry involves numerous high-risk activities at most stages of the build, and safety must always be a key priority,” he says. “It may be a bit of a cliché, but we really do want people to go home to their loved ones each day without injury.”

There are reputational issues for a company like Nicholson Construction too, which has built its respected brand and track record of safety and quality over more than 125 years.

“Quality of our final product reflects pride in what we do. We look to achieve a great result for our clients that meets or exceeds their expectations.”

“Nicholson Construction has committed to this over many years by obtaining certifications for AS/NZS 4801, ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and FSC Accreditation. We have recently been awarded 6 years re-accreditation with the FSC and are aiming to gain certification for the new ISO Safety Standard, ISO 45001 later in the year.”

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It was a passing comment from a colleague that ultimately led to Nicholson adopting HammerTech’s platform across its business.

Initially, we had been trying to develop our own internal system working with developers to try and set up an ‘add on’ to our existing document management system, “Chris explains. “We had a CAPA Module in place and were focussing on expanding to on-line induction and plant management, and intending to branch out from that. However, we were experiencing many delays and not getting far at all.”

“I had heard of HammerTech some time earlier, but couldn’t remember the name until a new site foreman, who had previously been working in the West, mentioned it in passing one day. Straight away I knew that was the name of the product I had heard of. From that, I looked up the website, watched the video and read all the information about it, and thought this is very much along the lines of what we had been trying to do ourselves.”

Chris passed on the information to Richard Nicholson to have a look at and soon the company was meeting with HammerTech to explore the system’s potential.

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It turned out the HammrTech system was able to offer even more than Nicholson Construction had hoped. “We were aiming for a system that was digitally-based, could be used by local and regional site teams to manage things such as CAPA’s (“Issues” on HammerTech), inductions and plant management. But we found when we looked into HammerTech that a whole lot more was available to us.”

The additional HammerTech features enabled Nicholson Construction to broaden opportunities to manage safety and other operational aspects in a cooperative and consistent manner. In particular, Chris says HammerTech:

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Nicholson Construction is also looking at new ways to use the platform in the quality assurance field.

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Nicholson Construction makes use of everything the HammerTech system has to offer. “Some sections get used more than others, such as Inductions, Equipment, and HSEQ Inspections, but all have some level of importance to safety management,” Chris explains. “We are now adding our own custom sections to further improve the way we utilise the system and these sections can be turned on and off, specific to a project.”

Staff training has been integral to the system implementation. “Training rolled out as projects came online, and remains ongoing to ensure all users are getting the best from the program,” Chris says. “Overall acceptance of the digital platform has been very good and has led to individual improvements in our site teams.”

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There have also been issues to overcome along the way, as with any business change. “Some of our paper-based forms we used in our initial set up were in need of review and at the time, I did not have the time to effectively conduct these reviews, so some of our initial set up on the system has required review and update over time,” Chris acknowledges. “This has not really been a major issue though because, as we have developed a better understanding of how the HammerTech system works, we have not only revised documents but made them more effective.”

Another issue concerned the effectiveness of the wireless network so that the Sign-In tablets were able to link in properly. This was resolved by purchasing more up-to-date printers with an in-built modem, providing a LAN that the site team could log their devices into.

And there are always more lessons to learn, Chris adds. “The journey continues, as does our constant mindset of how we can use HammerTech to its maximum capacity to ensure effective safety management, consistent guidance and practice with the aim of Best Practice.”