PROVIDENCE, RI – Ron Simoneau is vice president of Shawmut Design and Construction in Providence, a national construction management company whose presence in Rhode Island has grown substantially over the past several years. He responded recently to questions posed by the Providence Business News.
Shawmut’s presence has grown substantially in Providence from $76 million to $103 million in 2015. What is driving that growth? Is it primarily in academic projects?
Over the years, the academic and health care markets have always provided revenue stability for us through repeat business. Over 85 percent of Shawmut’s revenue comes from repeat work, with the other 15 percent typically representing new clients who are growing. Maintaining such a large amount of repeat business is extremely difficult and speaks volumes about performance and reputation in an industry where you are only as good as your last project. In 2015, we were able to build on our strong revenue base of repeat business by adding some large, non-institutional projects, including a major renovation to the Newport Marriott.
How does Shawmut perceive the Rhode Island market? Is there enough demand for work to justify investing resources and personnel here?
The Rhode Island market has undoubtedly struggled over the last several years, especially in the design and construction industry, but it is absolutely a market we continue to invest in. The academic institutions, which we’ve built relationships with, remain strong and continue to expand and maintain their campuses, and there is a significant increase in new, developer-led projects planned for Rhode Island. The other main reason we continue to invest in Rhode Island is our belief, people, not companies, design and construct buildings. Rhode Island has some incredible talent and we are always looking to hire the best and brightest people who also possess the right attitude to fit within our intense client service culture. One of the toughest challenges for a firm’s ability to grow in our industry is the lack of skilled people. This applies not only to the skilled trades, which are facing a marked decline as their workforce ages, but also to leadership and management roles. We believe we can fill those roles in Rhode Island.
What are some of the most recent projects begun in Rhode Island, if you could provide some examples?
We are currently constructing the new Woodman Community and Performance Center at Moses Brown School, as well as the new School of Engineering at Brown University. The Brown project is especially interesting because it is being designed and built utilizing an innovative and highly collaborative contract model known as “Integrated Project Delivery,” in which all of the participants are aligned on a shared vision of success for the project, and become stakeholders in the project’s success by sharing in the risk and reward.
What some recent projects that you would describe as most significant?
We recently completed the new Academic Center at St. George’s School and the new Applied Mathematics building at Brown University, which was delivered utilizing another highly collaborative, contract model, design-build.
How does the “lean philosophy” employed by Shawmut apply to major construction projects?
There is so much improvement to be made in our industry. Over the past five decades, the design and construction industry has failed to improve labor productivity whereas the same metric has nearly doubled in all other industries. Shawmut is now three years into our “lean” journey with dozens of projects completed utilizing lean. We are now starting to consistently realize the benefits and rewards and are able to pass these back to our clients in the form of savings. Shawmut’s collaborative approach aligns perfectly with lean methodologies, such as Target Value Design and the Last Planner System. We are able to further maximize the benefits by combining lean with tools such as computer-generated 3-D building models, known as BIM, to expedite coordination, increase fabrication readiness and maximize prefabrication, all of which help to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. We have also taken lean’s focus on continuous improvement internally and are overhauling all of our internal processes to eliminate wasteful, non-value-adding work, to dramatically improve efficiency. As a 100 percent, employee-owned company, each individual can really get behind and own this transformative initiative. It’s really been a great differentiator so far. And I think it will continue to be one for quite some time.