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Selecting the Construction Materials Consultant with the Systems That are Right for Your Project Needs

At Terracon, we are continually looking for opportunities to provide more value to our clients and improve the way we do business. Hiring and training qualified people to work in construction materials is the most important investment we can make. In addition to having the right people in place, companies must invest in innovative systems that help deliver critical information to clients with speed and efficiency. Terracon’s Seamless Service Delivery approach gives us the ability to do just that. Using this process, we can comprehensively manage all of the information we collect for our clients’ projects. This system allows our project team to easily track, manage, and distribute field and laboratory reports in real-time and quickly sort through the information to consult on critical issues. We can schedule technicians, track costs and budgets, communicate progress, and keep clients up-to-date and informed every step of the way. This technology has allowed Terracon to achieve faster communication, more consistency, and faster turnaround of reports on projects.

Terracon's CMELMS deviation screenThere are many choices in selecting a construction materials engineering and testing (CMET) consultant, and there are a lot of companies building their own data management systems or buying “off the shelf” software. Not all are the same. Here are some important questions that owners should ask before hiring a CMET consultant.

What does “deliver information in real-time” mean?
Our clients often ask, “What exactly is real-time?” Real-time seems to have many different definitions. For Terracon, real-time is communicating verbally while on a site and having written documentation summarizing the information within 24 hours. Our clients can expect that within 24 hours they will see reports that have already been reviewed by the project manager when failing tests and specification deviations have been identified. Terracon has numerous examples of important projects we have worked on, such as the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., and the Baha Mar Resort and Casino Development in Nassau, The Bahamas, where our ability and commitment to quick, on-time delivery was critical to our securing the project. Knowing the consultant’s definition of real-time is important since this term has varied definitions.

How do I know failing tests and project specification deviations are being addressed?
The most critical information a CMET consultant provides for a client is information related to failing tests and inspection observations that are not in compliance with the project specifications. Terracon’s system allows us to easily track this information in a tabular Project Deviation Log and quickly distribute it to all parties. The log is updated as new deviations are recorded and existing deviations are resolved. This information is critical in keeping the project on schedule and reducing the risk of costly delays that can occur when deviations are inadvertently covered up prior to resolution. The deviation log is a valuable tool in assisting Terracon and our clients in discussing these critical issues as they occur and determining the appropriate action needed to resolve the deviation.

What is your quality process when delivering information that quickly?
Speed is important, but speed at the expense of quality is not. So, it is critical that CMET consultants have a quality program in place that works as fast and accurately as their attention to speed. At Terracon, we have a companywide Quality Management System (QMS) to ensure the validity of our test results. We establish, implement, and maintain a QMS in each of our CMET operations.

Representatives of the AASHTO Materials Reference Laboratory (AMRL) assessment group performed an overall review of our QMS manual. Their review comments were extremely complimentary of our quality system. One AMRL representative called it a “shining example” for our industry regarding its thoroughness, ease of implementation, and maintenance.

How flexible is your system in delivering the results the way I want to see them?
Many companies are set up to deliver test results and reports to clients one way only for the sake of speed. Make sure that you select a consultant that can format their systems and processes to your needs. Our system lets clients choose how often they receive reports, who receives them, and where the reports are delivered. Plus, Terracon’s Client Document Website stores all project-related documentation and allows clients and other approved parties to review the testing and inspection reports. It can manage an unlimited number of reports and data for easy delivery and storage and can easily be made accessible to all members of the project team. In addition, our system can be utilized to upload our information directly into our client’s internal website or to a third party website.

How long has your company been using this system and on how many projects?
There are companies that are just beginning implementation of this type of technology. Make sure that the company you select has a proven track record for implementing these systems on your project. Terracon has used this system for more than ten years on some of the most high-profile projects in the country, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., the Formula One racetrack in Austin, Texas, and the Sprint Arena in Kansas City, Mo.

How do you maintain your software and how will you continue to improve it?
Software enhancements and upgrades are critical in today’s changing marketplace. Selecting a company with control over their tools is important. Many companies use outside IT firms unfamiliar with the critical nature of our business to manage their software which has limitations in controlling the important functions of the program, making sure that data is backed up, and that the systems you are using are always available. Terracon develops our proprietary systems in-house with our own IT staff, which provides us with great advantages in continually developing our software and maintaining quality in accordance with industry requirements.

Terracon also provides full connectivity between our field personnel on the project, office engineering staff, and our clients. With over 1,000 field personnel equipped with laptops and smartphones, this system further enhances the value of our services as we continue to optimize our communications with clients and ensure critical information is transmitted quickly to the project team.

There are many questions to ask when selecting a CMET consultant – how firms responsively and reliably communicate is important to meeting your needs. Learn more from our Seamless Service Delivery video or contact your local office’s Materials Department Manager.