School: The Ohio State UniversityMajor: Civil Engineering / ConstructionCompany: The Beaver Excavating CompanyInternship from 5/11/15 — 8/13/15
My name is James MacAdam and I am currently in my third year at The Ohio State University. This past summer I was an intern for The Beaver Excavating Company for the second summer in a row. Since it was my second year and I had already learned about the company and what they do the previous year, they put me on site on my second day. The job site I was sent to was the “Carroll County Energy” site in Carrollton, Ohio. I was told that it was, in the end, an $800 million power plant project that would provide power for thousands of homes. Bechtel Engineering was the primary contractor and Beaver excavating was doing the site work, including half a million cubic yards of excavation and hundreds of linear feet of storm sewers, under drains, and RCP pipe runs. In addition, Beaver was constructing a soil nail wall/mse wall that ran alongside the main access road to the plant.
It was my job to act as the Project Manager and QA/QC assistant. I spent about half of each day in the office trailer doing my daily tasks, and the other half outside in the field, either shadowing or assisting a foreman or tracking site progress. I attended many job meetings between Beaver and Bechtel and was able to participate in the meetings by reporting our weekly progress, man hours worked, and other trackable aspects related to the site. My daily tasks included collecting all of the timesheet/daily reports from the foremen, entering everyones hours into a time tracker sheet, figuring out the cost per unit production of whatever we were working on the previous day, emailing these results out, writing a daily report to email to Bechtel, inputting all aggregate received the previous day, checking invoices, and assisting anyone in the trailer in any way that I could. Each day consisted of the usual tasks and then something new to experience. One week I spent most of my days in the field with a GPS rover and dumping the 631 scrapers in the fill. Another couple days, I spent most of the time assisting the surveyor and staking out manholes, catch basins, and boundaries of cuts and fills.
My favorite project during the summer was when our main project manager of the Soil nail and MSE walls went on vacation. The superintendent on site left all of his duties as my responsibility for the week. I spent that week getting my daily responsibilities done as quickly as possible and then spending the rest of my day at the wall location or ordering materials, tracking progress, in meetings about the wall, updating the PMs tracking sheets, and answering all of the questions that I was capable of. This week was very enjoyable for me as I got to act as a project manager and experience the work that goes into being one.
What results did you achieve on the project(s), and what impact did they have on the company?
Since i had already spent one summer with Beaver, I was able to assume larger responsibilities this past summer than the year before. The daily unit cost report emails were a large success throughout the summer and it allowed the company to see how successful the job was each day. When the costs were deep in the negatives, upper management within the company would respond asking why the unit costs were performing poorly, and I would meet with the foremen to find out and respond. The daily unit costs of each project is something the Beaver takes very seriously, as they help with estimating future jobs, they help with estimating job profits, and provide the company with other useful productivity information. The daily unit costs on the soil nail wall and MSE wall were especially important to the company, as constructing these walls was a brand new part of the company. The owners of Beaver and the bidders from the office kept a close eye on the costs that I reported each day on the wall and it helped them with bidding other similar projects.
Also, a large contribution that I had to the company during my summer internship was doing the random requests from the PM, QA/QC, Superintendent, and foremen on site. Examples of this was when I had to fill in for the foremen and stand in the fill and dump 631 pans for a week, when I directed aggregate trucks, dumping them, and collecting their tickets, and when i made elevation to station number sheets for the wall project manager. Arguably, my greatest impact was when I was able help the surveyor in a big way. The surveyor was constantly given drawings from Bechtel for extra work, manholes, catch basins, and pipe runs and the coordinate system that Bechtel used was different than the system that Beaver used in their GPS rovers. The surveyor would have to spend time converting each point he was given, which was often hundreds of points, before he could enter them into the site’s layout on the GPS system. I was able to create a program in Excel’s VBA editor that when he input each point’s number, latitude, longitude, and elevation, it automatically converted each number to the equivalent value in the coordinate system we were using. He then was able to upload this sheet, with all of the points entered, to the GPS system and store them in all of the on-site rovers. The surveyor thanked me for this weekly as it saved him hours of converting numbers when he could have been laying out structures. I loved being able to have a positive impact on the company and to help out with the job site in any way that i was able to.
What real-life technical or business skills did you learn during the internship?
During my internship I was fortunate enough to learn a great deal about the construction industry, how a job site is run, and real – life technical and business skills. College is a great way to learn the basis of engineering and learn all of the formulas involved, but field experience in incomparable and irreplaceable.
First off, I was able to learn about having a working relationship with others, and how to properly communicate. As part of my internship, I had to communicate and interact with Bechtel on a daily basis. Representatives from Bechtel were in our job site trailer every day asking about our daily activities, conducting progress meetings, asking questions, answering RFIs, discussing design changes and talking job schedule with us. I was able to sit in a lot of these meetings, be a fly on the wall during these meetings and even participate in them. I learned how important it is to have a strong working relationship with those who you are working for and to be able to communicate with them respectively and effectively. In the same manner I had to develop a working relationship with many within our company. There are a lot of players in the construction industry and they must all be able to do their part separately, but also work together efficiently and effectively. This all starts with communication and I was able to see this firsthand during my internship.
I also learned how to solve problems and adapt when things don’t go according to plan. All summer long, their were new challenges everyday, be it the weather, design changes, unexpected terrain underground, price changes, accidents, people quitting, etc. But since construction projects are on such tight schedules, changes must be made to keep going and not fall behind. One must be able to be quick on their feet and come up with creative ideas to go around each obstacle and stay on schedule. I was fortunate enough to witness this many times and even experience it a few times over the summer internship.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
This past summer I was fortunate enough to gain valuable field experience with a construction company, have a positive impact on the company, and take away a lot of valuable information that will affect my life in a positive way. The first thing that I learned was just how much planning and organization goes into a construction project. The main thing that I learned from the project manager was organizational skills. The project manager kept track of everything. This included each load of aggregate, each days production, any invoices we received, all shop drawings, all meeting notes, and much more. I had to adjust to this as I was not accustomed to being so organized. By the end of the summer I was able to find any paperwork or look up any information about the job, or any value that was wanted very quickly. Everyday there are random requests and needs for information and being well organized is the only way to be able to find the necessary answers. Also, I was able to learn a lot about the construction process, which led to me being even more interested in studying the construction field in school. I learned about all of the different players that went into just one project and how so many different people need to do their jobs correctly to make the job site successful. I learned how being able to network and build good working relationships with others is very important. People are constantly working together and the best way to get things done efficiently is to collaborate and build good working relationships.
Some other things that I was able to take away from the internship was to always pay attention to details, communicate clearly and professionally, being a good employer takes a lot of hard work and construction is a very demanding field, and many other smaller real world skills. I felt like I had a much better understanding of the construction field at the end of the internship and it made me excited to start a career in construction someday in the near future.
Where do you think technology will make the biggest impact in construction in the next few years, and how will it do that?
Technology is constantly affecting the construction industry, making it more precise, more efficient, safer, more advanced, and easier. I believe that the biggest impact that technology will have on the industry in the upcoming years will be in 3D modeling. Over the summer, since it was a mass excavation project, we flew drones over the sight once a month and these were able to tell us how much cut and fill that was still on site. This technology amazed me and it will continue to improve in the near future. This technology makes estimating easier and more accurate, makes scheduling and planning easier, and speeds up the construction process. In the near future drones or a laser technology will be able to go around any project and compare it to drawings, see weak spots, make calculations important to the project, and create a 3D model for those on the project to see.
It is amazing to see how much technology changes the construction industry each year and there are countless ways that technology can have an effect on the industry. I am excited to see how new technologies will play a role in construction in the next couple of years. Equipment will change, processes will be improved, and construction projects will be able to become more and more complex. This is exciting to me because I enjoy technology and I have a strong, and growing, interest in the construction field.