Insider Insights: Mortenson Executives Talk Driving Decisions

Mortenson Director of Project Controls Frank Sarno, and VP and GM for the Denver Operating Group Maja Rosenquist discuss decision making.
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Mortenson Construction can consistently be found on Forbes’ list of the largest private companies. They specifically seek out highly complex projects because, as one of their integrated construction managers simply states, “We know we have the tools to do them.” They’re working on the only manufacturing facilities campus of its kind in the world, and they just finished one of the fastest hospital builds in the US. So what sets Mortenson apart?

How are they consistently able to deliver results against the highly compressed timelines these kinds of projects require? And what do they anticipate the market will demand of them tomorrow?

We recently spoke with Frank Sarno, Mortenson’s Director of Project Controls, and Maja Rosenquist, the Vice President and General Manager for the Denver operating group, to get their thoughts on what’s driving innovation in the construction industry today and how Mortenson’s philosophy of embracing that innovation has helped them deliver quality and speed on complex projects.

Maja Rosenquist, VP & GM, Mortenson Denver Operating Group
Frank Sarno, Director of Project Controls, Mortenson Construction

Factors Driving Innovation

Q: What are some industry challenges you’ve noticed driving innovation?

MR: The expectations on how quickly we build our projects and the price point to which we build them will be more and more of a factor in the future, so we’re always challenging ourselves: How can we bring the best people and tools to build smarter, more cost-effectively and faster on a regular basis? And we need technology in order to have that certainty of outcome at the end of the day.

FS: We’re always looking for intuitive solutions to process information and collaboratively share documents in increasingly efficient ways. For example, our project teams have found that Bluebeam Revu batch functions help to create intuitive workflow processes to create documentation to be shared, with the help of Bluebeam Studio and the Bluebeam Revu iPad app.

Q: How do you keep up with emerging technology and turn it into a standard business practice?

FS: At Mortenson, we have a dedicated group of virtual design and construction (VDC) team members that make up our Integrated Delivery Advancement Team (IDAT). They have been promoting company-wide adoption of VDC best practices for over 12 years. The group also focuses on the emerging technologies in the marketplace by reviewing, piloting and implementing technology that makes a compelling difference in how we deliver our projects and interact with our trade and design partners.

Q: How do you bring people in the field up to speed with technology?

FS: Mortenson utilizes our Best Practice Database and our internal social media platforms to promote and implement new technology. When a new technology is intuitive and improves the standard process, word spreads quickly.

Improved Project Delivery Through Technology

Q: Why is fast collaboration important for construction teams?

FS: It is absolutely critical for project teams to communicate new construction documents and changes as quickly and effectively as possible. Printed documents are obsolete before they are delivered to the project trailer on fast-moving projects. So Mortenson relies heavily on Revu to assist us with the documentation and communication of project changes. Revu helps us to create and maintain new document sets for trade partners and collaborate simultaneously within Bluebeam Studio. Electronic document control, distribution and collaboration are musts for today’s projects.

Q: What role does technology play in how you convey your value to the owner?

MR: More and more of our customers are saying, “Prove that the investment you’re making in technology is paying off for us.” Inherently, we know that is something that’s paying off in terms of the results we’re achieving on a daily basis, but we do need to demonstrate it to some of our customers.

We partner with academia and other organizations to put the results out there, because there is a front-end investment, both in resources and technology. We’re absolutely committed to the fact that Revu, for example, is allowing us to build better, smarter, faster—it’s more efficient and ultimately it delivers a higher-quality product for our customer.

Staying Ahead of the Innovation Curve

Q: As the industry shifts more and more toward innovations that Mortenson is already employing, how will you use technology to maintain a competitive edge?

FS: There certainly is pressure to remain at the forefront of the technological advancements that are changing our industry after becoming a pioneer in the BIM and VDC space, but through our core values and focus on lean innovation, our team members have the ability and responsibility to investigate new processes and technology that provide value for the customer and the project team.

MR: I think the future is going to demand more from the construction industry, and our customers will basically lay out a problem and look to the industry and our partnership for problem-solving innovations. For example, the team at Saint Joseph’s really embraced technology and prefabrication in such a collaborative way that we see that methodology as a benchmark. We want to continue to leverage that strategy, improve upon it, and have the next generation execute it on future projects.