4-1-Forum: A Different Animal

 

“The art of stadium building… it’s a true art!”

Erik Carlson, Parsons Technologies Project Manager, continued his assessment.

“Stadiums are way different than hospitals and data centers. The schedules are tighter. They’re just different animals than other projects.”

The Milwaukee Bucks arena is one of those “different animals.” Its official name is “Fiserv Forum,” but locals call it the 4-1-Forum, after the local Milwaukee 414 area code. The arena seats 17,500 and carried a price tag of $524 Million. Parsons Technologies was engaged by Johnson Controls to provide the AV technology infrastructure for the “front of house” and all of the AV fabrication and installation for the “back of house.”  Parsons Technologies also was hired by Deer District LLC (Bucks ownership) to design and install all of the arena event lighting. Think programmable spotlights, lasers and anything else that makes you say, “Wow! How did they do that?”

“Front of house” refers to the main bowl where the event takes place. Here, Parsons Technologies, under the project management of Erik Carlson, installed the network of signal paths that send picture and sound from anywhere in the bowl to practically anywhere else. That path starts with 54 broadcast boxes throughout the arena, with an average of 80 signal inputs per box. The boxes are the point of connection for the multitude of camera, audio and data feeds needed to cover a modern sporting or entertainment event. From the broadcast boxes Technologies pulled 256,665 feet of signal cable to various points inside and outside the arena. The primary terminus is the truck dock where television network production trucks full of video monitors, switchers and recorders are connected to the arena.  In essence, they tap into the building’s nervous system. That 256,000 feet of cable equates to 48.6 miles; laid end to end, it would stretch from Fridley to Taylors Falls.Milwaukee Bucks

The AV infrastructure for the arena was designed and specified by Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc. WJHW is responsible for fully 50% of the stadiums and arenas built in the U.S., including Minnesota venues Target Center, Target Field and US Bank Stadium. Johnson Controls was Parsons Technologies direct client, and Mortenson was the General Contractor. The Project Manager representing ownership on the Fiserv Forum build was ICON Venue Group.

“We’ve got a great relationship with ICON,” added Erik. “We worked with them on the Warriors arena in San Francisco and the Penguins arena in Pittsburgh. And with Mortenson, we’ve got great history with them, too.”

Then Erik explained what “back-of-house” means. “Back-of-house is any arena area that isn’t the main bowl: clubs, suites, concourses, bathrooms, restaurants. If it gets picture or sound, we installed it.” Parsons Technologies built out AV equipment racks at a prefabrication facility set up specifically for this job. Components were installed, wired, programmed, tested and shipped as complete tested units. The result was a major build that was completed and commissioned on time. And a first season of Bucks basketball without technical issues where everything functioning as designed.

“The owners are happy, the fans are happy, ICON is happy, the GC is happy… that’s the end goal of every arena build,” added Erik.

When asked about special challenges encountered and overcome, Erik responded with what you’d expect from someone with 29 stadium jobs under his belt. “We still get surprises, but they’re pretty few and far between. There’s not much we haven’t seen.” Then he went on to recognize the field leadership with boots on the ground in Milwaukee.

“The field leaders make it happen. Lead Foreman Scott Dorner, Foreman Ben Smith and Senior Systems Specialist Alaun Pederson provided the great planning and great leadership that made this a Parsons job. They plan so far in advance and have done this so many times before, surprises are rare. Parsons jobs feel like Parsons jobs no matter where they happen, even with different subs, because of field leadership. They look like a 100% Parsons job. Consistency is key.”

4-1-ForumParsons field leaders work with local trade partners to help them understand and deliver Parsons quality and value. “At the end of the day, our trade partners are better for having worked with Parsons. They would never be exposed to the experience without Parsons field leadership.” Another example of Enriching Lives, and not one that many of us think about. Erik summed it up. “This leadership group is second-to-none.”

In the end, a stadium project with no drama, no excitement, nothing newsworthy. Happy owners, happy clients, happy fans. Just another example of Parsons understanding of value and commitment to deliver it. Totally unremarkable.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty remarkable.

Remarkably unremarkable.

Super Bowl Makes Minneapolis the “Most Mobile-Friendly City” in US

One year before the Vikings’ 2017-2108 season even began, preparations were underway for Super Bowl 52 at U.S. Bank Stadium. With over $1 billion invested in permanent network upgrades and Advanced LTE technology, wireless data capacity was increased by 500%.

Preparing for Increased Data Usage

Verizon spent the past off-season increasing DAS capabilities by 48% to handle the exponential jump in traffic and now has over 100 DAS zones stadium-wide. Amidst the upgrade process, Verizon discovered that in-stadium DAS traffic for Vikings home games was greater than the previous Super Bowl in Houston.

On game day, there was over 50 terabytes of cellular data traffic, double the amount from the previous year. To put it in perspective, 50 TB is the equivalent of streaming HD video for 1,208 days straight. WiFi usage also broke the record held previously by last year’s Super Bowl, but numbers have yet to be released. Verizon experienced the highest average download speeds of all national carriers and was used by 57% of attendees, an annual growth of 12%. AT&T saw a slight decrease in in-stadium traffic but led all carriers in traffic outside of the
stadium. According to Verizon and AT&T, top uses for cellular data in and around the stadium included web browsing, video, social media, and other sports apps. The most significant uptick in wireless use was during the halftime performance followed by a large spike during kickoff.

Parsons is proud to have been involved with the design and implementation of these upgrades. Our dedicated field staff worked tirelessly with engineers and vendors to fine-tune and maintain these systems during events to ensure peak mobile performance at not just the Super Bowl, but all venues hosting an event during the week. This cutting-edge technology has made Minneapolis the most mobile-friendly city in the country and reaffirmed Parsons’ position as a premier mobile solutions contractor. Read Verizon’s full list of game-day facts here.

Taking Steps to Execute Our CTS Initiative

In the pursuit of fulfilling our Parsons Technologies vision statement to be the premier technologies innovator, provider, and employer in North America, we recently refocused our training initiatives. One of these initiatives aims to achieve a larger percentage of employees with certification in the Audio Visual (AV) systems industry. The Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) credential is administered by the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA, formerly InfoComm) and is a symbol of credibility, gives evidence of technical proficiency and professionalism, and shows a commitment to excellence and conformance to industry standards relating to all aspects involved with providing installed AV systems. The CTS certification program has been in operation for 30 years and is the only AV-specific credential that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This certification is widely adopted and recognized in the AV industry among customers and consulting firms and is often listed as a requirement in project specifications.

Individuals from each Parsons branch and department have been selected as candidates for the CTS training and certification program, a total of almost 20 individuals. Parsons entered into a licensing agreement with AVIXA to become a training provider for a preparatory class offered to the CTS candidates before taking their certification exam. This CTS prep class is a 3-day class that covers important topics on the exam and that also have application in the real world. The class is separated into four domains: (A) Creating AV Solutions, (B) Operating AV Solutions, (C) Conducting AV Management Activities, and (D) Servicing AV Solutions. Classes are being broken up into four different sessions based on locations and job responsibilities; the 1st session took place the week of November 20th and the last class will be completed by the end of February 2018. A CTS exam textbook and login access to additional online training are provided to each candidate. One-on-one mentoring is also available to ensure that each person has complete knowledge and the confidence to be able to pass the CTS exam administered by Pearson Vue testing centers.

Continuing education of 30 credits every three years is required to maintain certification, much of which can be achieved through approved online webinars. There are also two specialized tiers of CTS certification; CTS-D for Design and CTS-I for Installation, which further distinguishes commitments to technical competence in these areas.

Parsons currently has six individuals with CTS certification (including two with CTS-D). This initiative is a large step forward in continuing to be the premier provider of AV systems in North America.

 

Planning is Lean

Parsons believes that the Last Planner System is effective because it drives connection between people planning in the office and people executing in the field. Pre-planning is the most important phase of any project and Lean planning boards offer a bird’s eye view of the next six weeks on your project.

Using the Last Planner System to plan our work has had an almost incalculable effect on our teams internally as well as on the project site. These visual planning boards allow our teams to get out of the assumption stage of planning and transition to a demonstrable and concrete plan that we can all collaborate on and reliably commit to.

Assumptions interfere with good planning. Assumptions are when we assume that we know what to do because we are the experts and have done this countless times before. In reality, the size and complexity of projects have increased throughout the years. The failures and pitfalls of project execution lie in the assumption that we are all on the same page, which is easier said than done. The Last Planner System creates visual planning boards that serve as an opportunity to illuminate all assumptions and turn them into agreements based upon the conversations held during the early planning phases. These visual boards allow us a comprehensive view of the project in six-week increments while thoughtfully managing the work we plan to accomplish, as well as eliminating the constraints that include unanswered RFI’s, design clarifications, or vendor equipment clarifications. The Last Planner keeps the team planning and eliminating constraints on a weekly basis.

Thank you for following our Lean Ready videos! Although this is the final week of our Lean Ready series, this is just the continuation of our Lean journey—and hopefully yours as well! Being Lean is a mindset involving continued dedication to reevaluating your work at all stages of execution and asking yourself a series of questions, including: “What can I do to improve this?”

If you would like to look back at the entire series, you can look at the Lean tag on our website or check out our Lean Ready album on Vimeo. As always, we welcome your engagement on our blog or on social media.

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Reliable Commitments are Lean

Reliable commitments require reliable planning. Parsons uses Lean planning boards which become a spatial tracking system for achieving project milestones and deadlines.

Without reliable commitments to our customers and trade partners, planning will fail. Lean Ready teams are prepared to deliver on their commitments to the rest of the team, striving to improve established commitments through Lean thinking. What does Lean thinking focus on? Eliminating waste to create reliable workflow throughout the project life cycle.

We have come to realize that waste is everywhere, because everything is a process, whether you’re making a cup of coffee or installing a light fixture. There will be less process waste if you come out of automation mode to watch and learn. During your observations, you will find waste and recognize ways to eliminate it. We are often in a rush or planning on the fly, so we do not have the necessary time to properly address real problems. These problems are frequently fixed with temporary solutions, but being Lean Ready has taught us to plan early enough so that we can keep an eye open for improvement on existing standards. As a result, efficiency improves in addition to reliably committing quality to our customers and trade partners.

Although we have one week left of our 7 Week Lean Ready series, Lean doesn’t stop here. We welcome your engagement on our blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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Team Integration is Lean

Lean Ready teams are integrated teams. These team members have thoroughly planned each phase of their work early on and are prepared to engage with the collective trade partners to determine the most efficient transition between trades. They have vetted through constraints and are better prepared to reliably commit to the rest of the team.

A Lean Ready team starts each project with the appropriate tools necessary to execute the project successfully. Imagine how much better your project could be with efficient planning, team cooperation, and effective communication. At Parsons, we believe that if our project team is skilled at team integration, our customer’s project benefits with better performance.

Project team integration is another way of saying project coordination between team members. When teams integrate correctly, the project benefits as a whole. Our Lean Ready teams have processes in place that help foster integration, which in turn prepares us to fully integrate with the project teams on site. These processes include but are not limited to, discussions around site material handling, punctual delivery schedules, all materials on wheels, tact, and flow, and the elimination of constraints and barriers make being Lean Ready an asset to our customers.

Have you worked on an integrated team? If so, what was the most important take away from that experience? As always, we welcome your engagement on our blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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Parsons Electric Awarded Annual CHASE Award

In October, Parsons was awarded the annual Construction Health and Safety Excellence (CHASE) award by the Associated General Contractors of MN (AGC). Started in 2002, the CHASE program is a partnership between Minnesota OSHA and the AGC. It was designed to recognize AGC member contractors for their safety programs and performance, including those that reduce the number of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities at participant construction industry employers. It publicly recognizes contractors with exemplary safety and health programs and site-specific plans. Parsons has received CHASE Level 2 designations since 2005, signifying our company’s demonstrated commitment to safety and incident/injury reduction. In 2013 we were recognized as the first subcontractor to achieve Level 3, which is a project-specific award. We continue to participate on several Level 3 projects.

Each and every person on our team deserves a special thanks for contributing to our safe culture at Parsons day in and day out.

Read about select past years we’ve received the CHASE Award here and here.

We Deliver Flow

Being a Lean Ready team helps with project flow. As a whole, project flow refers to the manner in which work progresses through the project lifecycle system. “Good” flow describes a system where work moves through steadily and predictably, whereas “bad” flow describes a system where work stops and starts frequently. Reliable and predictable planning reduces starts and stops which improves project flow.

Our Lean Ready teams are mapping their processes for each phase of the project lifecycle to align their teams better and to look for any waste in their current processes. We prepare ourselves to assist in the trade partner project planning sessions by being fully aware of what we are capable of delivering and how soon we can deliver it. Accomplishing this involves eliminating waste in our own processes—including the early detection and removal of constraints that could impact our workflow. We are vetting our lead time constraints, design, materials, and the decisions needed before production starts.

Flexibility ensures that even when there is an obstacle at the job site, the project team is ready to make accommodations to finish on time or ahead of schedule, regardless of the circumstances. Parsons applies Lean Planning to create a flow-supportive project environment on each job site. What ways do you ensure flexibility on a job or at the office?

So far we’ve covered safety, scheduling, and flexibility in our Lean Ready series. We hope it’s inspired you to look at ways you can be Lean Ready in everything you do. We’ll leave week five’s topic a mystery, but for the time being, we welcome your engagement on our blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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Schedules are Lean

Our schedules are Lean! Shortened schedules are part of meeting the ongoing needs of our customers. One of our solutions to continually meet this need is to be Lean Ready when we begin to schedule. When we reduce the duration of different processes on site, the final cost (which includes time and materials) decreases for everyone. This leads to greater savings for our customers.

Being Lean Ready means we plan early to determine prefabrication opportunities. When we can build assemblies in our prefabrication shop we can reduce the amount of time we need on the project site to get our work installed. Using this approach, onsite slab and wall rough-in work is often cut in half, which allows for the project teams to move on to the next stage in construction.

Reducing material handling labor, eliminating defects, reducing waiting times, and focusing our talent on value added tasks creates a reduced schedule while increasing overall value for our customers—something that is beneficial to everyone involved on the project. How do you schedule? Do you use Lean to improve efficiency and reduce waste? Have you considered all of the areas that there might be waste? Are your schedules Lean?

This is the third video in our Lean Ready series. As always, we welcome your engagement on this blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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Safety is Lean

What motivates you to stay safe on the job site? Our safety program Journey to Zero and our Lean Ready practices improve job site safety because lean projects plan ahead for the right equipment needs. Not only that, Lean job sites are clean and organized with reduced material handling and less job site waste.

Part of safety is planning and that’s what lean is. If you have a good plan you’ll have tools there.
Our Lean Ready practices incorporate early planning to identify ways to reduce onsite material, waste handling, and onsite storage. We create detailed material handling plans to accommodate project flow through the work spaces throughout the life of the project. Just in time deliveries reduce storage clutter which helps keep the site clean. Materials on wheels improve the handling of materials that are on the site. A clean job site is a safer job site and ultimately means there are fewer things to move around, trip hazards, and opportunities for an individual to strain their muscles moving unnecessary material or using inappropriate tools and equipment.

This is the second video in our Lean Ready series. We welcome your engagement and sharing of this content. Let’s get Lean!

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