Case Study: Rising Through the Ranks with Construction Tech
Catherine Park Community Centre
Sydney-based Belmadar is a small building company, but thanks to its systems, it’s punching above its weight successfully competing against larger companies. Not bad for a sector experiencing prolonged disruption.
Belmadar has been able to do this by refining and digitising its systems and processes, says Michelle Uhlhorn, the company’s Business Development Manager. It’s also created more efficient and safer worksites, as well as increased sustainability.
“With so much disruption in the industry, this creates a lot of opportunities to move into new sectors and work with new clients,” Michelle says.
Dawn Fraser Baths Redevelopment
Insight Into Their Approach
Among its 35 staff, Belmadar has a full-time design manager who analyses value engineering at the tending stage. That approach helps save time and money for clients.
Brett Drew, the company’s HSEQ (Health, Safety, Environment & Quality) Director, explains.
“We first build the project conceptually on paper as a very comprehensive submission, with a detailed cost breakdown, identifying where clients can add value; and by working through our construction methodology, we can easily outline and update the risks as we get on site and start digging.”
That approach helps Belmadar compete against larger firms.
“We’ve been successful because our systems and processes, such as for health and safety management, are better than others. Plus, we tackle a lot of tricky projects like heritage or adaptive re-use that other construction firms can’t or won’t do,” he says.
These projects aren’t greenfield sites, so Belmadar has to be mindful of construction noise disturbing existing childcare centres and offices, for example, to “keep the transition from construction commencement to use as free of disruption as possible from go to whoa”, Brett says. In other words, the project has to be as efficient as possible.
Eric Tweedale Stadium
The Complex Made Easy
Belmadar is building on a 60-plus-year legacy. Its current four directors bought the company in 2012. Their collective 125 years’ experience spans across health and safety, pre-construction, procurement, tending and more. These days, most of Belmadar’s work involves partnering with repeat clients or referrals from existing ones.
Its solutions-based building expertise makes complex projects look easy. Belmadar’s average project size is currently $8M and, by the end of 2022, will increase to $20M. That’s including the $65M Illawarra Catholic Club and Travelodge Hotel redevelopment in Hurstville (see below rendered image).
Illawarra Catholic Club & Travelodge Hotel Redevelopment
Its projects have won 16 awards from the Master Builders’ Association.
Belmadar mainly work in commercial construction, but also occasionally does design-and-construction projects. Clients include state and local government authorities, and those in the education, sports, hospitality, and health, sectors, and even synagogues. Most of their projects are located in Sydney, but they’ve recently ventured into the Southern Highlands.
New Market Stables
The Breaking Point
Belmadar’s pursuit of best-fit digital technology has significantly contributed to its achievements.
In mid-2020, the firm’s HSE manager, Damien Cavanough, had thought the company’s paper-based induction was fine until he visited a project site for a spot check.
“I picked one guy out to find his induction material. There were 12 volumes of induction folders that weren’t alphabetically tabulated. It took four or five hours to find that induction.”
As for the SWMS folder for each site, within a few months of the life of a project, “the paper sometimes ripped in the folder, or the register might get lost”, says Damien.
“I thought to myself, ‘there must be an easier way to capture this information electronically’.”
The inefficiencies of those paper-based systems seemed a world of pain in comparison to the digital system Belmadar has been using since 2019 for the rest of the business – the project management software Procore.
Coca-Cola Amatil Technical Facility
Building on Procore
Soon after the paper search incident, Belmadar trialled two software solutions for health and safety that plugged into Procore. The 1Breadcrumb app was “more user-friendly and flexible and far outweighed anything the other could offer”, says Brett. They also found that the depth of integration 1Breadcrumb provided was astonishing in comparison to the alternative system, specifically in regards to things like visibility of man hours on site through Procore.
Another plus was that they didn’t have to rely on a third party to make software changes. On top of that, site workers had their own digital trade wallets which allowed them to upload their respective licenses, tickets and competencies once, and then freely resubmit these from the app when required.
Damien says: “Now with 1Breadcrumb, the induction materials, SWMS, the licences, emergency evacuation plans, subbies’ personal details and more are all in one spot. I can just look on my iPad to see the information in real-time. I don’t have to go back to the office, which might be several floors away if we’re working on a multi-storey project.”
1Breadcrumb has reduced the need for meetings because the app can send notifications and alerts to workers on site. It also creates ‘hold points’, so workers have to read and sign their SWMS before their SWMS can be approved.
Sydney Town Hall
Saving on Time, Costs and Trees
Fast forward to now and digitised processes have completely transformed health and safety monitoring for Belmadar.
Damien says: “It makes my job so much easier. I can do a lot more throughout the day because of Procore and 1Breadcrumb. There’s no filing, no photocopying, there’s no hunting for the right folders and handwritten registers. Once you enter information into the app, it creates a time stamp to register what you’ve done, and you can see it in Procore immediately.
“You get a lot of pushbacks with new technology with tradies who are set in their ways, but they have really come on board and seen the benefit of this software. It’s freed up time for our guys who just want to get out and build the project.”
And, there’s sustainability and audit trail benefits, too. Legally, Belmadar must keep safety records for up to seven years. Before using 1Breadcrumb, those records were stored in archive boxes which meant thousands of papers and problematic accessibility.
Damien says: “Now we’re saving more than a few trees because the information is stored on the cloud for reference.”
Meanwhile, Michelle says the app has really helped Belmadar lift its game.
“1Breadcrumb is customer-centric and has been instrumental in us getting the Federal Safety Commissioner’s Accreditation in March 2021, so we can work with government and institutional clients.
“Our partnerships with 1Breadcrumb and Procore are key to our tools to compete successfully against larger companies, removing the risks going with a smaller builder.”
Madsen Building Façade Refurbishment