Blattner Energy Uses TextMarks SMS to Improve Construction Communications, Prevent Injuries and Cut Costs
Blattner Energy has built some of the largest energy projects in North America, and the company takes pride in delivering collaborative construction services that help them finish projects on time and under budget. Blattner employs TextMarks as a tool to streamline construction communications for large job sites, enhancing site safety and reducing administrative overhead by coordinating resources in near real time.
Blattner Energy has been providing large-scale construction solutions for more than 110 years across the United States and Canada. Founded by David Henry Blattner in 1907, Blattner and his crew helped build James Hill’s Great Northern Railroad connecting St. Paul Minnesota to Seattle, Washington.
Over the years, Blattner Energy has developed a reputation for innovative, quality work in the energy sector which continues to this day. Part of that winning formula is a commitment to communication with all project members (whether Blattner employees or not) and adjusting resources to handle a project’s unexpected challenges, weather, and delays.
The Need for Effective Construction Communication
Michael Rahn is a Site Safety Coordinator at Blattner Energy and is all too aware of how important effective communication is in keeping his team safe and controlling costs: “If people are unaware of what’s going on at the job site, you’re at risk of equipment damage or bodily harm. If you don’t bring people in the loop and there is miscommunication, that’s when something can go wrong.”
Communicating clearly and rapidly with the the 500 employees on a job site is an essential part of keeping the team safe and maintaining a secure job site in the sometimes hostile outdoors. “Text messaging allows us to be effective with communication and get people up to speed quickly,” says Rahn. “They are all outdoor job sites where we build solar plants and wind farms.”
His team has utilized TextMarks in all different locations and conditions: “I’ve worked in California in the Mojave area…in Mississippi, and Colorado, and continue to use it on job sites,” Rahn adds. “We use SMS for weather warnings and to let everyone know that storms such as tornadoes are approaching. You can imagine what can happen if people aren’t informed. You don’t want to be out there that’s for sure. TextMarks has eliminated complacency on the job site. We know where the storm is and we just send one text message with TextMarks.”
“Text messaging allows us to be effective with communication and get people up to speed quickly…with one click and one text message you can send it to everyone on the job.”’
Preventing False Alarms
Rahn first heard about TextMarks on a wind turbine project in the Mojave Desert. The internal communications tool was implemented after the automated early warning system employed to prevent workers from being injured or killed by lightning fell short. “The problem with the [earlier] weather warning system is that it sends a lot of false alerts for lightning,” says Rahn. This was problematic, Rahn describes, because that means that workers either stand down and slow the project unnecessarily or, worse, they learn to ignore false alerts.
Switching to TextMarks to send weather alerts via SMS has made a huge difference on the job site. “TextMarks has eliminated complacency on the job site,” says Rahn. “We’ll monitor the weather and see what’s happening. We know where the storm is and we just send one message with TextMarks.The guys know that a person is using reasoning and logic to send this message out and it has meaning because it’s coming from someone making that decision.”
Streamlining The Process
One of the added benefits of utilizing TextMarks has been the improved efficiency for teams communicating in a few-to-many scenario. Having the ability for a few team members to rapidly disseminate information to the team reduces the time and costs associated with managing employees spread over a large geographical area.
This is important when something as simple as a rainstorm can be a major disruption to work conditions. Previously, getting the word to the team was a bit of a nightmare: “Before it wasn’t as organized. You had to make phone calls, get on the radio, send emails – you can imagine all the different avenues of communication that you have to use to get a hold of everybody. Sometimes if you didn’t have everyone’s number, you’d have to have someone else get a hold of someone.”
“What’s really nice about [TextMarks] is that rather than having all these guys speculating..and all 500 people calling the foreman trying to figure out what’s going on that day or coming in unnecessarily, we used it to let people know to hold off until conditions improve. With one click and one text message you can send it to everyone on the job.”
This saves hours of time as well as keeps company costs down by ensuring teams are only on site when work is ready to be done. “When you think about how much money it’s saving in the grand scheme …there are a lot of indirect costs with communication, people having to take time off, or having to go back and call everybody again, it takes a lot of time,” Rahn describes.
Rahn uses one of the most time-worn adages in construction to sum it up: “And time is money.”
A Simple Start To Keeping Everyone In The Loop
Some may think that creating a command and control messaging system like Blattner Energy uses takes considerable time and energy to start and maintain. However, Rahn feels that this couldn’t be further from the truth. By building TextMarks into the orientation process, everybody is immediately brought into the loop. “On their initial visit to the project, if they have a cell phone, we make sure they get signed in. The whole process might take 30 seconds, and it’s pretty slick. You send a text message off with a keyword to 81411 and you’re hooked up. It will give you a confirmation saying welcome so that they know they are in the system.”
On top of that, Rahn uses TextMarks co-manager features to assign team members who are authorized to send messages to the team. This way, everyone with proper authority can immediately send a message to keep the members of the crew safe and alert. “My team really likes it because you can use TextMarks from a phone or computer.” Rahn gives an example where a foreman may want to warn members of an energized electric circuit that could be an extreme safety hazard if crew members are unaware. “We can say, hey avoid this area from 3-5pm, so it really enhances communications on the site.”
Overall, Rahn believes this is an essential communication tool for making job sites safer and more streamlined: “I’d recommend TextMarks because it’s user-friendly, it’s very easy to sign up ,and even easier to send out messages. So that’s a definite plus.”