1:1 with NAWIC Pittsburgh Chapter President Sheree Thomas
Sheree Thomas, NAWIC Pittsburgh Chapter President, discusses her experience as Founder and President of SB Thomas & Associates, Inc., a certified woman-owned, disadvantaged business (WDBE) providing advisory construction management services.
Established in 2007, SB Thomas & Associates, Inc. (SB Thomas) is a certified woman-owned, disadvantaged business (WDBE) providing advisory construction management and cost estimating services to various organizations, including higher education institutions, K-12 schools, public/government agencies, and public housing authorities. Since its inception, SB Thomas has successfully completed construction management projects for public schools, county and city housing authorities, and other public agencies. The firm recently completed work as advisory construction manager on a new facility for a community college, and is currently providing construction management/critical infrastructure services to a county public works department.
Streamline construction project workflows and automate construction management activities through more effective communications in real time using Microsoft 365 business applications to improve communication, control project documentation, and fully document construction activities.
Implement the VPO Construction Project Management cloud-based platform, including customized workflows and the Submittal, Request for Information, Change Order, Field Management, Document Management, and Archiving modules.
Saved time and money via real-time, cloud-based construction project management.
Formalized construction project workflows and automated communications.
Maximized resource utilization.
Table of Contents
- About SB Thomas
- Cloud-based Auto-tracking
- Construction Project Status Updates
- Contractor Communication
ABOUT SB THOMAS
As a woman-owned business, SB Thomas has grown and prospered in a business segment that has historically been male-dominated, with many larger-sized, second-, third-, or even fourth-generation firms competing against it. SB Thomas made its mark during a time when women were rarely thought of as business owners let alone business owners in the construction industry. The company’s success is a testament to the quality of the construction management services they provide, as well as the firm’s commitment to leveraging technology to streamline and automate construction management activities for the benefit of its clients, according to SB Thomas founder and president Sheree Thomas.
“Because many of our clients are public entities such as schools and authorities, their projects carry more stringent documentation management and records archiving requirements to maintain transparency into a project’s execution,” Thomas explains. “Many people don’t realize just how much paper and documentation are involved with public construction projects, and streamlining the flow of documents and automating, managing, and archiving communications are an important part of the services that we provide.”
Until 2018, SB Thomas used Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, manual updates, and the sending of email messages back and forth as their primary communication means for performing documentation and construction management services. “With our former approach, it was always difficult to confirm when documents were filed by contractors,” Thomas recalls. “We are continually on the lookout for better tools and systems that help us improve our services and streamline the construction management process. That’s why we evaluated cloud-based construction management platforms a few years ago, and ultimately decided to select the VPO construction project management system.”
After evaluating a few possible solutions, SB Thomas chose VPO because it is affordable, customizable, and can be accessed by multiple prime contractors, which was a critical requirement because of a Pennsylvania law requiring that public agencies utilize separate prime contractors (e.g. general, electrical, mechanical, HVAC, etc.) on public projects. “The cost and the ability to customize our solution were the primary reasons that we chose VPO, but I also liked the fact that VPO is a woman-owned business and is local to Pittsburgh,” Thomas notes. “We felt a real kinship working with VPO. The VPO cloud-based solution enables us to communicate more effectively in real time using Microsoft 365 business applications to help control project documentation and fully document construction activities.”
CLOUD-BASED AUTO-TRACKING OF PROJECT DOCUMENTATION
Since implementing the VPO Submittal, Request for Information (RFI), Change Order, Field Management, Document Management, and Archiving modules, SB Thomas has completed several roadway projects on a multi-year contract with a county public works department, a window replacement project at a 150-unit apartment building for a city housing authority, and a new training building at a community college.
“Prior to implementing the VPO construction management system, we tried to manage project documentation by attaching PDF files to email messages and/or storing them in a shared Dropbox account, but that was more of a document repository than an actual construction management system,” Thomas explains. “Our main issue with that approach was auto-tracking the flow of Submittals and RFIs, for which we are responsible. Working that way, there were also opportunities for things to get lost or missed. With VPO, auto-tracking of documentation is much less daunting and easy to achieve because we are all familiar with Microsoft 365 business applications and SharePoint, and there’s less chance for something to go missing working in VPO.”
CONSTRUCTION PROJECT STATUS UPDATES WITHOUT SITE VISITS
Another benefit that SB Thomas has realized since implementing the VPO construction project management system is the ability to update a project’s status without having someone actually travel to the construction site. “Designers/project managers like VPO because they no longer have to go to construction sites to get an update,” Thomas points out. “They can just go into VPO and view project photos and daily reports to obtain the current project status. That became critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic when visiting different sites and interacting with various personnel became challenging.
“This is another example of how VPO has made us more efficient,” Thomas stresses. “We no longer need to track documents or actions taken manually or spend time traveling when we can get more up-to-date information on multiple projects via VPO. In short, VPO automates the administrative effort of managing multiple contractors on multiple projects."
CONTRACTOR COMMUNICATION AND ARCHIVING PROJECT RECORDS
In addition to helping SB Thomas keep abreast of project status and progress, the cloud-based VPO system makes communicating with and coordinating contractor participation on projects more efficient and effective. With the ability to administer various levels of user rights—read only, read/edit, can’t access—SB Thomas can incorporate contractors into their VPO system, providing only the user rights that the project participant needs for submitting or obtaining information.
“VPO helps to streamline everything associated with the on-site construction work and keeps the flow of documents moving. Because many of our clients are public entities that require us to hand over all documentation upon project completion, we also value the Archiving module, which makes it much simpler and easier to manage and transmit project documentation to our clients.”
SB Thomas & Associates, Inc.
PO Box 1041 Moon, PA 15108
Phone: +1 (412) 264-0970
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