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Modern in Cedar Rapids, IA, has been a mechanical contractor in the Eastern Iowa market and beyond for over 80 years. This third-generation family business has had tremendous growth and built a positive culture with loyal employees staying with Modern for decades. Modern’s areas of expertise include plumbing and piping, sheet metal/HVAC, a service division, an industrial specialty division, refrigeration, and compressed air.

“I have been with Modern for 23 years and seen its amazing growth firsthand,” said Jim Tedrow, Piping Operations Leader. “We’ve moved into three different shops, beginning at a small shop of 27,000 square feet to currently a 90,000 square ft. building with office space and a fabrication floor for piping, plumbing and sheet metal. Now, that’s grown, and we’re looking at another expansion.” The growth at Modern has been spearheaded by leadership committed to innovation and investing in resources and technology helping all aspects of the business.

MSUITE helps prioritize the work for our shop managers to make sure we’re on the right track.

Jim Tedrow
Piping Operations Leader | Modern

Serving Heavy Industrial Clients

Modern has driven a substantial stake in servicing some of the largest heavy industrial and energy corporations in the Midwest with expansive facilities. The services begin at new construction plant and builds to performing ongoing maintenance. “It’s amazing, we’ve constructed these large facilities decades ago and still provide ongoing services and maintenance…  

We value our customers, and they value the relationship to handle immediate needs. Modern is good at adapting and overcoming challenges to make things happen. It’s a service model that is adaptive to the changing needs of our clients,” said Tedrow.

Industry Trends for Fabrication

MSUITE provides the “window into a shop” for more than the fabricators. It provides critical visibility and communications to workers in the field, designers, engineering, project managers, and customers. This is significant because MSUITE gives multiple stakeholders involved in ensuring project success a single-source platform for collaboration, production, and delivery.

Staff can update notes and place things on hold, update due dates, which helps the fabrication shop operate in sync with other departments at a high level and keeps everyone on the same page.

“It helps prioritize the work for our shop managers to make sure we’re on the right track,” said Tedrow. “Lastly, having complete visibility and tracking work in progress enables us to use metrics for improving self-performance within operations, production and build up field staff.”

Problems & Challenges

Brandt-KPIManual workflow causing miscommunication and excessive administrative efforts led Modern to develop and utilize a technology solution to manage their fabrication operations in unison with other departments.

The high-volume work, the priorities, managing staff, documentation, and schedule changes, all make production very complex and causes communication to either be nonexistent or delayed in a traditional (highly manual) working environment. “MSUITE fills this gap and allows stakeholders to update data that automatically resets priorities, indicates delays or schedule changes. In addition, all of those moving parts impacting production and deliveries enable real-time fabrication visibility on more substantial projects,” said Tedrow.

“Quality control and quality assurance are always challenges in any business. MSUITE improves quality assurance and quality control with automating digital documentation and tracking by eliminating things we used to do manually that are now auto generated,” said Tedrow.

Paperless Job Floor and Digital Tracking

MSUITE offers several features that help Modern digitize its operation:

The Digital Fab Shop - BrandtA paperless job floor – Knowing the drawings on the floor is always the latest and greatest—no more losing drawings or building off the wrong document.

Weld Log Tracking – Digitally capturing welder ID, welding procedures, heat numbers, inspector, QA process, QA results for reporting and administration.

Nondestructive evaluations are more manageable – Having to X-ray test, Welder IDs and numbers, and other data is mapped, captured and easy to generate reports eliminating manual entry.

Closeout Documentation – Automatically generating multiple documents such as Drawing Status Report, Weld Tracking, BOL, & Final Drawing Markups.

“Creating a paperless job floor, improving QC, closeout documentation, and Weld Log Tracking are value-added benefits of the real-time productivity gained through enhanced visibility and eliminating communication gaps in one platform – making MSUITE a game-changer for Modern,” said Tedrow.

Improving Worker Performance

Everyone moves at different speeds, but MSUITE tracks employee productivity automatically and helps provide Modern with actionable data to help improve employee performance no matter the level. “Historically, this was a “gut” observation or manually adding stats to spreadsheets, but these types of tasks are eliminated from managing and helping staff improve performance,” said Tedrow.

“The selling point to our team for adopting technology is that it’s hard to estimate the benefits of offsite fabrication construction. Being able to leverage data in MSUITE and provide it to the Design and Estimating departments enables Modern to win more business,” said Tedrow.

In the field, Modern’s mentality and goal are to grow people, work more efficiently and build for the next generation. In the case of Modern, it’s the arrival of the 4th generation.

Tech Adoption - Cultural and Behavioral

The MSUITE team came on-site and trained staff, and the technology evolved over the years. “The customer support team is very effective, and their support desk is second to none, and they’re speedy to respond.” Being a Union shop, or even if we were Non-Union, the key to adoption is leadership communication, adaptability, and explaining how MSUITE improves employee and organization performance. With any technology adoption effort, there’s a cultural and behavioral change.”

Mr. Tedrow has spoken with a lot of his peers running union and non-union shops, and he explains that “it’s going be tough to implement with the old school mentality types, but there’s an overwhelming strong case for technology in this segment.”

Modern has a different mindset for change. It’s an innovative contractor; they’re always on cutting-edge technology across the organization. This mindset is illustrated from top to bottom of the construction firm.

Return On Investment

  1. Control and Product accuracy process run as high as 95-98%, translating to a low 2% failure rate on parts coming out of the fabrication shop.
  2. Superior Quality Control & Quality Assurance support – Weld Tracking, Document, and Closeout Document Tracking.
  3. Paperless Fabrication Shop floor
  4. MSUITE eliminates many manual tasks and enables them to increase the productivity of operators and automatically track employee time. 
  5. MSUITE provides production and productivity transparency and communication tools to keep projects and personnel on schedule.    

Better Visibility, Communication, and Real-Time Transparency for Heavy Industrial or Energy markets

“If we’re doing a large industrial job, MSUITE offers “Full disclosure” of what our fab shop is doing and what we’re working on at any stage,” said Tedrow.  Changes from different stakeholders impact the project life cycle. The Project Manager can add notes for changes or place items on hold, so MSUITE automatically triggers notifications for the engineer and fabrication team.

If a customer is provided access to MSUITE, they can put something on hold and clarify where projects sit to the delivery schedule.

“MSUITE enables notifications to stakeholders, and it’s super easy and keeps all the messages and data in one platform and automatically connected to the production schedule.  Archaic data silos (email in-box, spreadsheets, paper, phone calls, product changes, etc.) are nearly eliminated.  Important tasks, messages, drawing notes, deadlines, change requests, schedule changes that sometimes fall through the cracks are averted because everyone is on the same page with real-time data in MSUITE, said, Tedrow.

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