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The Critical Path Method in Construction Where does Elevator Contractor fit in CPM?

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, May 28, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Columbia Elevator deleivery crate

Crate for delivery This crate is ready to be shipped according to Columbia’s Sequentially Staged Delivery strategy. Columbia used this technique successfully during construction of New York City’s World Trade Center Complex Towers 3 and 4 and 432 Park Avenue building

To ensure jobsite confidence and peace-of-mind for its customers, Columbia’s Account Representative strategy is to keep its contributions to construction projects off the so-called Critical Path. The Critical Path Method (CPM) originated in the 1950s as a project modeling technique for many fields, including construction. An early high-rise application example was during the development of the original New York City World Trade Center Twin Towers in 1966. CPM proved to be a successful management tool for defining the shortest possible completion period for a project. 

While competitive factors and maximized profitability often demand the quickest possible completion of a project, realistically there are fixed limitations on how fast a building can be built. Certain aspects of a construction require lead and wait times that cannot be avoided. For example, it takes a certain amount of time for the concrete poured for a floor to dry before the next floor can be added, and then again for that floor to dry before adding the next floor above it. Determining the shortest amount of time possible to construct a building involves taking all critical items – the conditional pieces that cannot be started until a prior process is finished – and lining them up end-to-end to calculate the aggregate time required to complete the entire chain. Arriving at this measure of total time defines the Critical Path.

With the Critical Path for a project established, there are many functions that can be performed in parallel as the path rolls out. In construction, this is particularly true regarding installation of the elevators: how and when various stages of the installation are executed – ahead of or in harmony with Critical Path milestones – without being integral steps on which any other items on the Path depend. Columbia delivers its products for installation precisely when needed or earlier, to prevent its contractor clients from ever becoming an obstacle on the Path that would delay the entire building.

Unfortunately, our contractor customers sometimes get placed on or near the Critical Path through no fault of their own. This happens because our customers’ clients, the building owners and developers, have so many early-stage areas of concern on the construction site, they often don’t worry about providing the elevator contractor the timely, necessary information needed because they are concentrating on other items first. Initial priorities are items such as the foundation and the plumbing that need to be addressed before the building can even start to go up. Next come architectural items such as the exterior of the building and the lobby. Elevators are typically slated for late-stage delivery, often with the building more than halfway up before elevator contractors are even allowed on-site. One of the project’s most critical and time-sensitive items for the building owner is the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy which cannot be issued until there are running, code-compliant elevators in the new structure. It’s for that reason that the elevator contractor needs to get all the information needed to start fabrication as early as possible in the approval process to ensure that it isn’t the elevator which is holding up the issuance of the C.O.

Next time, we will share how the Critical Path supports our clients – the installing elevator contractors – keeping their work on schedule and benefiting the overall construction process.  

  

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Columbia Elevator: A Critical Path to Customer Service Part III: Pay-It-Forward Culture for Customers

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, May 14, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Dione Birdsall, Director of Customer Operations

Dione Birdsall, Director of Customer Operations urges customers to maintain regular contact with their
Account Representative.

I’ve been proud to talk about how Columbia’s ‘Pay-it-Forward Culture’ inspires teammates to take great pride in their work and gives us all a chance to support each other as individuals, not just fellow employees. This culture has encouraged us to revitalize Columbia’s commitment to customer satisfaction. At the urging of our teammates, we have reorganized the way we accept orders for our products to make the process even more customer-centric. 

Previously, we were structured in a way that separated orders into segments to be addressed by experts in different departments, such as estimating/quotation, order acceptance/approval drawings, production/engineering, and operations. We’ve even talked about how those different departments interface in some of our earliest blog postings. But, it became time to make a shift when we encountered a business challenge.

When customers inquired at any time during these different stages of production, the receptionist went through an arduous process to determine the stage of the job process to connect the customer caller with the appropriate department. Now, each Columbia customer has an assigned Account Representative, who is intimate with the status of each job and can provide quick, accurate answers to any query. The team determined that this would be better for the customer, and it has shown to be true!

Columbia’s Account Representatives support our customers through the entire job process from providing estimates, to ordering a job, to reviewing and approving design and engineering specifications, to developing unique solutions when a construction site problem arises, and to resolving those field issues in the best way for our customers. Columbia Elevator teammates’ strategic response to the needs of and influences on the elevator installer’s construction jobsite issues has truly increased our focus on the ‘people’ side of the equation. Our customers call upon us for our Pay-It-Forward Culture, in addition to our solution-driven products.

  

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Columbia Elevator: A Critical Path to Customer Service Part II: Pay-It-Forward Culture for Teammates

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, April 30, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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As part of its “Pay-It-Forward” philosophy, Columbia believes that having a “happy team” of employees, deeply committed to the company’s objectives, is key to achieving them.  In the top photo, (left to right) Chief Operating Officer Ken Hendrickson, Chief Executive Officer LJ Blaiotta and Laura Blaiotta are preparing to serve dessert at Columbia’s Bridgeport Facility’s Summer Field Day.

As part of its “Pay-It-Forward” philosophy, Columbia believes that having a “happy team” of employees, deeply committed to the company’s objectives, is key to achieving them.
In the top photo, (left to right) Chief Operating Officer Ken Hendrickson, Chief Executive Officer LJ Blaiotta and Laura Blaiotta are preparing to serve dessert at Columbia’s Bridgeport Facility’s Summer Field Day.

at Columbia’s Kansas manufacturing plant, a holiday dinner is being served to staff by (left to right, in white shirts) Chief Customer Officer Marc Dinkes and Chief Executive Officer LJ Blaiotta

In the middle photo, at Columbia’s Kansas manufacturing plant, a holiday dinner is being served to staff by (left to right, in white shirts) Chief Customer Officer Marc Dinkes and Chief Executive Officer LJ Blaiotta.

In the lower photo, Columbia’s Miami Director of Engineering Klever Calderon and Executive Director of Operations Tom Birdsall (left to right) are behind the grill preparing a late day barbeque for staff.

In the lower photo, Columbia’s Miami Director of Engineering Klever Calderon and Executive Director of Operations Tom Birdsall (left to right) are behind the grill preparing a late day barbeque for staff.

At Columbia Elevator, we believe that having a 'happy team’ deeply committed to customer-centric mindset is a major key to achieving our objectives. We have developed our own version of the virtuous spiral, called ‘Columbia’s Pay-it-Forward Culture.’

At the top we have Columbia Elevator as the corporate entity or the ‘solutions provider.’ Columbia Elevator must satisfy, or better yet, make raving fans out of its employees and customers. To accomplish this, we strive to treat our team members kindly and respectfully. We have a genuine concern for their well-being and are dedicated to creating an environment that fosters a sense of pride, self-worth, and fulfillment.

From the way they are treated, our team members are inspired and empowered to ‘pay it forward’ to our customers. I see our team members caring deeply about their work and regularly going the extra mile for the customer. It is our hope that the resulting exceptional experience for our customers will convert them into raving Columbia fans who strengthen our enterprise with the business they bring. A healthy Columbia can then increasingly invest in the well-being of its team and continue the cycle of Pay-It-Forward.

Almost two years ago, Columbia’s revitalized commitment to its team members led to the formal creation of an Employee Engagement & Enrichment division with two primary goals: to create an environment where team members love their jobs and to continually invest in the growth of team members. A volunteer committee was assembled to take an active role in expanding Columbia’s employee focus.

The committee’s first steps were to expand the ways we recognize team member contributions; increase the use of two-way, transparent communication; and increase the sense of community and belonging throughout the organization. Columbia Elevator was founded as a family company, and this committee is dedicated to maintaining that family culture through company-sponsored quarterly events, various monthly meetings, newsletters and company-wide memos, and a robust continuing education program.

This focus on turning customers and employees into fans of the company and creating a supportive, respectful culture has influenced the structure of how Columbia interfaces with our customers. Next time, I’ll talk about how Pay-It-Forward has enhanced our customer interactions.

  

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