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9/15/2004
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Construction & Engineering: Building On A Strong Tech Foundation

Construction companies look for apps that can be managed around the globe.

Construction and engineering companies thrive on highly mobile and distributed technology that lets workers set up construction sites fast and pull up stakes just as quickly as they move from project to project. To do this, companies need a strong, standardized infrastructure and applications that can be managed across worldwide locations.

Standards are essential to helping contractors collaborate on successful projects. For Emcor Group Inc., a $4.5 billion-a-year company that provides the electrical and mechanical design and construction for large projects, collaboration helps it avoid "collisions" among the various electrical and mechanical infrastructures that cost time and money, group CIO Joseph Puglisi says. For years, Emcor has used Autodesk Inc.'s AutoCAD software to provide a standardized virtual overlay of ductwork for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; electrical piping; and plumbing to ensure the systems don't interfere with each other in the final construction.

Emcor in March rolled out a PeopleSoft Inc. enterprise-resource-planning application for its facilities-management group, which provides building- and property-management services. Previously, the various divisions of the group used different applications to manage enterprise-resource-management functions. "We did this because we need transparency into the business in order to show we're saving customers money," Puglisi says. Facilities-management employees can access the PeopleSoft application through the company's 5-year-old Emcornet site. The site already provided Emcor employees with access to a consistent set of safety and cash-management apps.

By the end of the year, Emcor will roll out an IT-asset-management system across its three divisions: construction, energy, and facilities management. Although the company has offices in 38 states and the District of Columbia, eight Canadian provinces, 15 U.K. locations, and South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, Puglisi wants to be able to coordinate operations and materials "as though everyone is in the same room."

Facilitating global operations is a priority for Fluor Corp. as well. As its customers expand and invest in operations globally, the $8.8 billion-a-year engineering and construction company's employees must operate worldwide to meet those customers' needs. "This puts a strain on IT, which needs to mobilize quickly," says Robert Taylor, Fluor's senior director of IT. To achieve consistent IT scalability, Fluor signed a seven-year contract last year with IBM for on-demand hardware, software, and services.

Looking ahead, Fluor is testing radio-frequency identification technology to better track inventory worldwide. Another possibility for RFID, Taylor says, is to embed devices in concrete to let contractors know when it's safe to build.

INDUSTRY LEADERS
Company Revenue in millions Income (loss)
in millions
Bechtel Group Inc.
$16,300
--
Centex Homes
$10,363
$828
Pulte Homes Inc.
$9,049
$625
Fluor Corp.
$8,806
$157
Lennar Corp.
$8,348
$751
Emcor Group Inc.
$4,535
$20
Foster Wheeler Ltd.
$3,801
--
Beazer Homes USA Inc.
$3,177
$173
Gilbane Inc.
$2,771
--
Swinerton Inc.
$2,751
--
Parsons Corp.
$2,519
--
McCarthy Building Cos. Inc.
$1,450
--
Barton Malow
$1,350
--
DPR Construction Inc.
$1,150
--
M. A. Mortenson Co.
$1,103
--
Brookfield Homes Corp.
$1,023
$88
Skanska USA Building Inc.
--
--
Financial data is from public sources and company supplied.
Revenue is for latest fiscal year.
Dashes indicate companies requesting financial information not be disclosed.

SNAPSHOT
INSIDE COMPANIES
Average portion of revenue spent on IT 1%
Companies using radio-frequency identification 6%
Companies globally sourcing products and supplies 47%
HOW COMPANIES DIVIDE THEIR I.T. BUDGETS
Hardware purchases 18%
IT Services or outsourcing 13%
Research and development 5%
Salaries and benefits 34%
Applications 21%
Everything else 9%
INDUSTRY FINANCIALS
Average year-over-year revenue change 16%
Average year-over-year net income change 75%
DATA: INFORMATIONWEEK RESEARCH
See year-over-year shifts in business-technology practices for this industry.
Compare and contrast this year's data with last year's.

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