Project Manager Paul Becks rallies his crews to accomplish great things

TJS_6748

(L-R) Becks discusses a safety concern with project executive Patrick Oaks after their weekly safety meeting.

Paul Becks admits he’s a demanding person. As Welty-Boldt’s field manager on Akron Children’s Hospital’s $200 million “Building on the Promise” expansion campaign, it’s a vital personality trait that helps him lead hundreds of crew members to keep the project on time and on budget.

“When you’re the type of person who has high expectations for your team, I think if the team respects that, they step up and the entire team performs on a higher level,” said Becks, a Lean Six Sigma-certified Team Leader Training instructor. “The entire culture is based on that mutual respect. It’s because of that we’re able to accomplish such great things.”

TJS_6782

Becks talks about progress in regards to the schedule with HVAC foreman Chris Fowler and his teammate.

Becks facilitates the process of planning each task on a rough basis about 6 weeks out. Then, as that specific task approaches, he’s busy getting all the details and components in place and finally, he rallies his crews to implement it.

He and his team set up the workers for success, thinking through all the potential pitfalls prior to implementation. If any issues do creep up, he works hard to resolve them quickly and efficiently so there’s minimal disruption on the job site.

TJS_6772

Paul Becks (on left) discusses the HVAC vertical risers with the installation team.

“I like to think we’re building one of the most complicated machines out there,” he said. “The number of pieces and parts that come together to make a building, I don’t know if anybody has ever counted, but it’s quite a lot. And we’ve scheduled it so tightly that if there’s a hiccup, it pushes back our ability to [complete the next step].”

To keep his team informed, Becks holds daily huddles with all the trade partner project managers. They discuss issues or concerns on the job and make every effort to resolve them right then and there.

TJS_6821

Field manager Paul Becks (on right) discusses logistics for the pedestrian bridge installation with iron worker foreman Louie Cataldo.

In addition, he hosts “Lunch and Lean” meetings on Wednesdays with the construction team, where they watch educational videos or hold discussions on ways to work more collaboratively and efficiently.

Becks also gets together with his construction crews for impromptu lunches and happy hours to keep the morale high.

“A lot of people talk about team building. We look at the root cause of it and say if you need to build your team, there’s probably something deeper,” Becks said. “If you just fix those underlying root causes … you won’t have to build your team. The team builds itself.”

Becks got his start in construction early on. His father also worked in the industry, but he discouraged his son from following in his footsteps due to the job’s demanding nature.

But while attending Ohio State University as an aerospace engineer, Becks realized construction was where he belonged. He wanted to build things. He wanted to be out in the field amidst the action, so he switched his major to civil engineering and has never looked back.

Since then, he has helped transform the region by working on major construction projects, including the Cleveland Clinic’s Intercontinental Hotel, Akron YMCA and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. headquarters.

“I always love these projects here in downtown Akron,” said Becks. “There’s just a certain sense of pride that you have building what I consider to be a landmark for our city. We’re not just building a building. We’re building a $200 million-plus life-saving machine. That’s a really good feeling.”

Building on the Promise superintendent gets into the Christmas spirit

Tom Conti with Christmas tree he and his family donated for the construction site.

Tom Conti with Christmas tree he and his family donated for the construction site.

With Santa Claus’ yearly trek around the globe quickly approaching, Building on the Promise Project Superintendent Tom Conti wanted to do something special for the kids.

They hold a special place in his heart, especially after his 9-year-old son was hospitalized at Akron Children’s about 5 years ago with the West Nile virus.

“When you have something like that happen, you’ll do anything for these kids,” said Conti of Welty-Boldt. “I know what they’re going through..”

While driving by a downtown Cleveland construction site a few years back, he spotted a Christmas tree hanging from a crawler crane. He loved the idea and someday wanted to do something similar on one of his own job sites.

With Akron Children’s $200 million expansion project well underway, he finally had the perfect spot not only to carry out his plan, but also ignite the Christmas spirit in the hearts of all these special children.

“It was an idea and I wasn’t sure if it was going to pan out,” said Conti. But, he set out to make his wish a reality anyway.

First, he approached Akron Children’s executives and All Tower Cranes — the company supplying and managing the 2 cranes on-site — to get their blessings and determine the safest way to execute the plan.

tom-hauling-xmas-treeThen, Conti and his family traveled out to the Bolivar-based tree farm — the same one they’ve purchased a tree from for their home the past 20 years — in search of the perfect Christmas evergreen. Once they spotted the 13-foot beauty, they immediately got to work, cutting it down and attempting to haul it away.

“The tree was so large we couldn’t budge it with the sled,” laughed Conti. “So, we walked back to the shanty and talked the crew into hauling the tree with their tractor. . That was the only way to get it out.”

xmas-tree-suspended-at-nighThe Welty/Boldt carpenters decorated the gigantic tree on site with 450 LED lights. They powered the tree with the 12-volt car battery and converter that All Tower Cranes donated to illuminate the tree each night.

Then, Conti and the team put together a plan to rig it up 150’ above the ground on the east tower crane — the one that faced the kids in the hospital.

They used a cabling system that traveled down the tree to secure it on the crane hook. To ensure safety, All Tower Cranes recommended a safe distance off the ground based on blustery wind speeds and ensured the tree could not blow across any pedestrian locations.

“I’m excited the whole plan came together for the kids,” said Conti. “All we’re getting is positive feedback from the staff that the kids are just amazed by it.”

Cranes tower above the rest in jobsite safety

These German-made cranes include anti-collision technology for jobsite safety.

These German-made cranes include anti-collision technology for jobsite safety.

When you’re building a 7-story medical tower, communications among construction crew members are vital, especially when you’re at the top of two tower cranes.

At 249 and 209 feet tall, these cranes provide full coverage of Akron Children’s medical building construction site. But they also create a potential collision hazard called crane interference, putting workers and property on the ground at risk.

Paul Becks

Paul Becks

“One swing can affect the entire job site,” said Paul Becks, Welty-Boldt project manager. “Cranes are a constant presence above large construction sites, requiring constant attention and safety protocols.”

There are two members of the construction team on each crane – an operator, who sits in a seat at the top, and an oiler, who performs maintenance.

The operators need to communicate with each other and the oilers at all times to avoid potential interference.  The possibility for miscommunication occurs when operators are busy with other aspects of their job, like monitoring load capacity and moving loads.

“In keeping with the continuous improvement mindset of the project, we saw an opportunity to spur positive change on both our jobsite and in the industry,” Becks said.

All Tower Cranes, the company that provided the two German-made cranes, learned of anti-collision technology being used in Europe that wasn’t yet in use in the U.S.

Convinced that this technology was something that would positively impact not only the Akron Children’s project, but also the construction industry, All Tower Cranes installed the device free of charge. The installation is the first of its kind in the United States.

On Aug. 13, a French technician and two mechanics from All Tower Cranes performed the installation.

All that was required was the addition of a sensor on each crane, which ties in with those already on the cranes to monitor weight and movement.

View from one of the cranes

View from one of the cranes

The new sensors, which communicate wirelessly in real-time, provide a 360-degree view of the other crane’s location, which the operator can see on a monitor. The device senses potential collisions, overrides the operator controls to stop both cranes, and counter-swings to compensate for momentum.

“The operators still have the primary responsibility for crane safety,” said Becks, “but they appreciate having the added level of assurance that the failsafe device provides, as do the workers on the ground under the cranes.”

The crane technology has great potential to improve jobsite safety, which is why Becks was so excited to get it.

“We not only want to drive innovation, but we want to help the rest of the construction industry,” he said.