Easing Supply Chain Concerns: Digitally Tracking Structural Steel
The supply chain is fast becoming the top concern for any construction process. What can General Contractors do to mitigate supply chain issues and deliver projects on time?

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 58 seconds  

It’s no secret— 

building materials are in short supply and construction costs are rising nationwide

Amidst uncertainty around the structural steel supply chain, the builders at GEODIS Park in Nashville, TN needed a solution. They needed to be sure their approximately 6500-ton structural steel package for the largest Major League Soccer stadium in the U.S. would be fabricated and delivered on time and in-sequence. 

“We wanted to really understand the supply chain from fabrication, to mill order, all the way through to erecting on site,” Trevor Delong, General Superintendent, said. “As a superintendent, the most frustrating part of a project is not knowing where your material is at.”  

To gain insight into critical path items like structural steel, the team implemented an RFID (Radio-frequency identification) tracking system called Jovix. The system uses small tags to track the location and status of each steel member throughout the supply chain.  

“We’re able to look ahead and see that there are forecasted issues, which in other jobs we’d find out the day of,” Mary Miller, a superintendent overseeing the structural steel scope on the project, said. “We can forecast issues 2-3 weeks out and that has helped us keep all 50 ironworkers working the entire time, which is the most important part.” 

“The old way, we relied a lot on what the fabricator was telling us,” Ron Stodolka, Senior Project Manager, said. “We had to trust them at their word. But a lot of times, they tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.” 

How It Works 

Each steel member gets an individually numbered tag associated with the shop drawings. At each stage of fabrication, the shops scan the RFID tag which updates the status of the steel member within Jovix. When steel is delivered on site, RFID gate readers passively scan the steel members and update the status. When a piece of steel is erected, the ironworkers scan the RFID tag before flying the member to show that the piece has been erected. 

The data gathered by Jovix integrates with Mortenson’s 4D model that shows the sequence of construction over time. 4D Modeling is one of the best tools for communicating the schedule and sequence of a project. It allows those who are not versed with reading thousands of rows of data to understand the project from a visual approach. 

When items are updated in Jovix, the program automatically updates the 4D model, saving the Virtual Design team members from having to manually update the status of each individual piece of steel. 

“Now our PMs and Superintendents can visually see where each piece of steel is in the procurement cycle rather than looking at an Excel [spreadsheet] or dashboard,” Brandon Williams, a Senior Integrated Construction Coordinator on the project, said. 

Since finding success using Jovix, the Nashville team has expanded the program to track door frames and hardware. The system has also been deployed as the inventory tracking solution in the warehouse where materials are stored off site. 

“There has never been a time where we didn’t have steel when we needed it,” Mary Miller said. “We look at the steel status model and plan our work 2-3 weeks out so we can watch the stadium come together.” 

Mortenson has a long history of 4D modeling, dating back to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the late 1990s. Innovation and pushing the envelope are in the very foundation of Mortenson. When it comes to creating efficient and smart processes for our customers, we are ahead of the curve. Here are some other ways we are looking out for our customers by utilizing smart construction and helping them implement technology.