Digital integration is the solution for The Kirlin Group.
Every great business starts with drive, passion, and entrepreneurship. The Kirlin Group is no different.
Founded in 1960 in John J. Kirlin’s basement, the construction company today specializes in mechanical contracting, construction management, fire protection, and mechanical services; it also owns and operates five fabrication facilities. At any one time, The Kirlin Group can have a couple hundred construction projects going.
Although it started as a family-owned company, this is not a small operation. And what the company is doing might be the grounds for a revolution in the construction industry.
Over the past five years, many senior executives and previous owners of the business have retired. With a new generation of leaders, the executive management team knew that they needed to come together and build a new strategy.
Kevin Walsh is the first CEO of The Kirlin Group to have come from outside of the business, and only the fourth CEO in the history of the company.
“The Kirlin Group had some great bones, which lends itself to being a great platform to build on. The new executive management team is excited about the future: we want to take the company to the next level,” he shared.
By implementing new technology and transparency tactics and strategies, Walsh believes he and his team will not only guide The Kirlin Group to become an industry leader, but that the company will also have a part in reinventing the construction market as we know it.
Mission & Vision
Although drive and passion were easily found within the workforce and culture of The Kirlin Group, a formal strategy was not. To begin his “Year of Change” in 2017, Walsh implemented a balanced scorecard management program to get feedback from the company’s employees.
“We came together and made some key decisions, including focusing on our strategic plan utilizing the Balanced Scorecard framework. We needed common ground: a value statement and a mission that rallied people around our goals of integrity and accountability.”
Today, the company’s mission is to make the world more comfortable by protecting, enhancing, and improving people’s lives. Its vision is to make a billion lives more comfortable by 2020. Within these foundational statements, The Kirlin Group developed its strategy.
These foundation statements have given the company’s leadership a platform on which to institute other changes and drive the strategic vision.
“We’re becoming more customer-centric by controlling the fabrication process, expanding, and launching new initiatives. We want to attract new talent, and one of our avenues will be through our enhanced internship program.”
The Introduction of Tech
Construction is not often known for trend setting, for the use of the newest technology, or change in general.
“The environment in construction is changing, albeit slowly. However, the only thing constant in life is change. At Kirlin, we want to be a leader in driving the change.”
Walsh shared that while there has been some expected pushback to the digitization efforts he and the leadership team have been making, he understands that change can truly only come from one place.
“The key to making meaningful change is to have employees take an active role and lead the push,” he said.
The Kirlin Group has upgraded its project management system so that information is available to workers in the field. With tech everywhere, Walsh recognized that the speed of implementation of new systems is easier today than ever before, but it was also very important to implement a collaborative cloud-based system.
“We are driven by our Balanced Scorecard and founded in our strategic objectives. One of those objectives is to ‘Ensure the right information for decision making’, which led us to adopt proven, cutting-edge cloud-based tech very quickly,” Walsh said in reference to the company’s adoption of Procore, a construction management platform, which is currently being used on over 250 projects.
Shifting Culture Through Technology
The Kirlin Group’s technological upgrade is complemented by a shift in company culture. They even hired an aptly named culture consulting firm—SHIFT—to help.
“When I was young, my grandfather was notorious for saying that you need to listen twice as much as you talk,” Walsh shared. “When I came onboard, I wanted to take action, but I needed to seek first to understand.”
This was more complicated than Walsh had anticipated.
“The hard part is that companies are living, breathing organisms, and ours has 1,300 individuals. The challenge was how to listen to all of the voices and use the ideas in a meaningful way?”
In his effort to bring technology to the company, Walsh turned to data. And what the data told him was that there was a desire for technology. From the use of tablets in the field to finally abolishing the three-part forms—Walsh shared their use of paper was astronomical—there was a lot that needed to change.
“I come from the Fortune 500 world,” he said. “Here, the first job site I went to still had a punch clock. People were faxing or handing in timesheets.” All of that has changed in the last year.
The anecdotal evidence from the employee survey enhanced the direction Walsh and his team set to move forward. With SHIFT, The Kirlin Group has worked to develop a roadmap to bring the company into the age of digitization, both from a technological standpoint and from a culture standpoint.
Safety in VR
As Walsh shared, safety is the culture at The Kirlin Group. But he goes a step further, claiming that safety is part of his own personal brand as well. The death of a coworker on his first jobsite impacted him significantly, and has driven his relentless pursuit of safe work environments since.
The Kirlin Group is setting the curve in this aspect, becoming one of the first companies in the construction industry to pursue VR training technology.
“One problem we have in this industry is that when it comes to safety, people seem to learn by experiences. The mark of being a piledriver for a while was missing two fingers. How is that a good way to learn that you need to keep your hands out of the way?” Walsh said.
The company is currently storyboarding ways to implement VR in safety training, and hopes to have the whole system live by May of 2018.
Walsh sees the technology present a work site that has several hazards and things wrong. The trainee will have to walk through the work site identifying the hazards. After the virtual walk through, the trainee will be brought back through, where the hazards they missed will be made clear. Walsh thinks it will be a game changer for worker safety.
“Contractors and construction companies are all very closed lipped with margins, productivity, and their practices,” Walsh stated. “But when it comes to safety, its universal. We’ll be sharing this technology with our peers when we perfect it.
“And,” he said, “it’s a pretty neat opportunity for us to become a leader in the industry.”
Kirlin is a privately held group of construction companies that collectively specialize in Engineering and Design, Fabrication, Construction, Commissioning and Service. Our works extends throughout the United States and in select markets overseas.
We are comprised of full service specialty contracting companies capable of performing any type of commercial, industrial and governmental construction and renovation projects. On any of these projects, we may serve as the construction manager, general contractor, mechanical contractor, fire protection and/or service contractor.
The Kirlin Group HQ
515 Dover Road, Ste. 2100
Rockville, MD 20850