Distinguishing Toys from Tools: Graham Pursues Innovation with Purpose

June 2, 2022

In a world where technology innovation is sold as the solution to nearly any challenge, it can be difficult to distinguish innovation that delivers genuine advancement from change that’s mainly driven to keep up with popular trends or generate publicity. To sort the tools from the toys, as it were. But while such an approach is the more difficult, industry participants that put in the hard work of undertaking only those innovations and technology that actually improve process efficiency, safety, cost, speed of execution or quality might achieve the more lasting success. This would prove equally beneficial to their stakeholders – especially clients.

This is the foundational idea of Graham’s “Innovation with Purpose” approach. “As opposed to one-off, gimmicky tools that are ‘chasing cool’, we are implementing sustainable, repeatable solutions. While on the surface these might appear to be less buzzworthy, they are really moving the needle,” observes Matt Gramblicka, Graham’s Vice President, IT & Enterprise Applications, who has been part of the company for most of the past 30 years, “We are rebuilding our IT core around the concept of connected data to build our projects better, to maximize the benefits of process innovation, and to improve communications with stakeholders.”

Innovation with Purpose reflects a mature concept of industry leadership – selecting and implementing only the most effective and most appropriate innovations, rather than rushing to be first with every idea. That explains Graham’s focus on rebuilding its IT core. It is centred on an advanced version of Graham’s SAP enterprise resource planning software combined with the industry solution InEight, which form the nucleus of the company’s Toolbox Next Generation (TNG), a suite of frontline systems and processes that are revolutionizing how Graham delivers its projects. Solution design for TNG began in 2018 and as of June 2022, the full solution will be pilot ready.

Graham’s original Toolbox was a remarkable innovation in its time. It was based on the simple but then almost revolutionary concept that any piece of data entered by any source at any point in the construction cycle would become common across all tools, offices and departments for the project’s life – and beyond, forming a common base of reusable knowledge. Toolbox’s integrated nature aimed to leap past the construction industry’s siloed departments using multiple data sets and presentation tools, with chronic duplication and errors.

Now, says Gramblicka, TNG “is part of a family of solutions to make the construction work seamless, using common solutions.” The vision for TNG is to track a project with a digital model available to all stakeholders, all the way from concept and construction, through operations and maintenance. “Every area –especially estimating, safety, and QC tracking – will advance,” predicts Gramblicka.

TNG aims to maximize consistency throughout the North American organization of 24 offices and more than 2,200 people. The company-wide improvements to efficiency and effectiveness as processes and execution methods become fully repeatable enables employees to be redeployed seamlessly between divisions and across geographic locations. “This is a unique opportunity to reduce the amount of ‘custom’ work that isn’t really custom, so you’re not reinventing known processes, materials and solutions every time,” notes Gramblicka.

Every innovation Graham is undertaking must yield demonstrable value and cannot be a one-off that dies after one project. “Clients are looking for value, quality and timeliness, and the right price, and we are leveraging technology to deliver on all these project attributes,” is how Gramblicka sums it up. In all instances, Graham’s fundamental aims are to improve how the company delivers projects and to increase value for clients. That is Innovation with Purpose.

Watch for more articles in Graham’s Innovation with Purpose series.

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