Behind the Build: Interview with William Hearon, Director of Engineering, Murray Company

The smooth flow of information is essential in pretty much any situation, but it becomes a make-or-break factor when working on construction projects. Since there are various stakeholders across multiple project phases, teams must ensure everyone is on the same page for the job to be completed effectively. 

William Hearon, Director of Engineering at Murray Company, knows just how vital it is to properly manage communications and documents when executing projects. Because his role involves coordinating between the engineering department and other stakeholders, William is passionate about streamlining processes and enhancing communication strategies.

In our latest Behind the Build interview, William discusses technology and how it transformed the way his teams collaborate and share information. He also talks about his career journey and his outlook on the future of the construction industry.

Check out what he has to say below. 

Tell me a little bit about Murray Company and what you specialize in.

Murray Company is a full-service specialty contractor that self-performs mechanical, plumbing, industrial, high purity, and civil work. We essentially specialize in anything involving pipes and ducts.

As for my role, I'm part of a group of engineers who help facilitate the design-build or design-assist process. We're a service within the overarching company, and we help facilitate the design and build of a contractual method; this can involve any number of things like assisting with technical questions that may arise through a client's specs or a design-assist approach in which we're performing a constructability review. On occasion, we have to reverse-engineer what other engineers have done and provide feedback and value engineering (VE) opportunities. If there are lessons learned from previous projects, we present our findings to the Engineer of Record (EOR) and shed light on what we've experienced in the past.

Walk me through your career and what led you to becoming Director of Engineering.

I joined Murray Company as a Professional Engineer with my California license. Upon starting at Murray Company, I had initially joined the estimating group where I spent a year learning our processes. After equipping myself with the tools and resources in estimating, I was ready to transition into engineering and then operations.  

From the operations lens, I’ve been able to have a more comprehensive view of the tasks that both men and women in the field execute on a daily basis, which then helps me tailor the systems they install. I have a clearer vision of how these often complex and large systems will be fabricated and ultimately put in place. 

Operations have helped me better understand where additional costs are derived, hence allowing me to better articulate and coordinate the necessary systems and routing. This journey through estimating, operations, and engineering has collectively contributed to my current role with Murray Company. 

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role? How does technology help you overcome those challenges?

With the development of CAD and Revit, we're shortening the design process. That process was once very long; it could take several years before a set of drawings went into the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), and then the project would go out to bid, after which the contractor would be awarded, and finally, the construction process would begin. 

Now, especially with design-build, the engineering and preconstruction process is drastically reduced, allowing us to commence construction much sooner than a traditional delivery method.   Furthermore, there's a much heavier effort upfront with the evolution of BIM Modeling and Coordination, and Prefabrication. 

Due to the increased speed of the delivery method, seamless handshakes between all the different groups are imperative. Technology has greatly improved our ability to efficiently pass information from one group to the next. Three-ring binders with color-coded tags, for example, are a thing of the past. Important documentation is stored on a cloud, easily and immediately available to all parties.  

If you find yourself wondering, "Why is this room like this?" you have the option to quickly access past drawings & RFIs and have that question answered. Technology has allowed us to look into the past easily and with significantly less paper weight. 

Technology has allowed us to be fully transparent with all information related to a given project or scope of work, eliminating data silos and fostering an environment for document and conversation tracking. 

Autodesk Construction Cloud has played a significant role for Murray Company in that regard. The platform enables us to store and manage pertinent information and tie it together so that everybody can consume it at their own pace. Should someone require a deeper dive into a specific topic, all the tools and information are a few clicks away. 

What were you missing (or what was the biggest weakness) in your previous technology stack that encouraged you to explore Autodesk Construction Cloud?

When BIM 360 came out, we started leveraging that platform to the fullest. We used “Issues” and all the various tools within 360 to assist with communication. 

Take, for example, RFIs. Before, we would receive internal RFIs via email and reply to the RFI via email. The consensus was that we’re literally sitting next to one another, exchanging remarks via email versus simply documenting the changes live. We were so stuck in the traditional construction contractual method that we needed documentation to validate why changes were being made. By pivoting to BIM 360, we were able to document our communication via the platform. 

As a progressive and always forward-thinking organization, we have since evolved from BIM 360 to Procore. With this more robust PM stack, we were able to incorporate RFIs, submittals, and cost-tracking in the platform. The concern with using Procore vs ACC was the need to always be in ACC for all modeling. 

Revit is an Autodesk product and it's fully integrated into Autodesk Construction Cloud. As a subcontractor, we must always be adaptable and able to work within the General Contractor’s PM software. We are required to track/store all our scope-related information, and because Revit is an Autodesk project, it allows us to do just that in one shared space. This helps us progress faster by being in one ecosystem vs three. 

With the development of Bridge, we are able to transmit information from our Autodesk Construction Cloud to the GC’s Autodesk Construction Cloud without having to constantly transmit and store all files. This is a crucial piece of the time-saving puzzle, as we quite literally cross this “bridge” daily. Autodesk allows us to keep our files to ourselves while still transmitting only those necessary so that everybody is abreast, with access to everything that’s current and relevant. 

How was communication managed between design and operations before Autodesk Construction Cloud?

Before Autodesk Construction Cloud, our communication was isolated. Each group tracked the transmission of documents within groups without any one group having the most current and updated information. The information flow within departments was only as fast as the game of telephone. 

With the use of Autodesk Construction Cloud, we have successfully moved away from this archaic and sluggish process by creating a collaborative, live, and efficient central ecosystem.  

As a specialty contractor, how has Autodesk Construction Cloud positively impacted your business? Why is this important to you/your role?

We're always at the tip of the spear. As engineers, it is our duty to collect all the needs and wants of the end user and ensure that these requirements are properly tracked, stored, documented, and delivered. Documenting all this information and making it accessible enables stakeholders to have better conversations with the end user. When everyone has an understanding of the “why”, the buy-in success rate is significantly greater.  

From our perspective as a specialty subcontractor, Autodesk Construction Cloud has allowed us to deliver an optimal system to our end users, allowing us to capture their needs from the onset of the project, track them with meticulous care, and deliver them with excellence.  

What do you value most about your partnership with Autodesk?

Autodesk listens. Despite Autodesk being a massive company, I still feel like we have a voice, and what we say is actually heard, received, and tended to. It feels like a partnership and our feedback matters. 

For example, we were having a struggle with the desktop connector. It became a very hot item because all of our projects are on Autodesk Construction Cloud, and without that file storage desktop connector, it becomes unusable. 

Autodesk immediately prioritized the issue in search of an effective remedy. Although it wasn't a next-day fix simply due to the complexity of the problem, we were heard and taken care of, and this is truly what we're looking for. Everybody wants software to be perfect, but as we all know, nothing's ever that way; it's always progressing. As long as it's developing in a manner suitable for our needs, we’re happy. 

When you think about the future, what are your plans to advance innovation and productivity at Murray Company?

I think increased automation is what the future holds. We have many manual processes that are very repetitive which I foresee getting more streamlined. Now that all the information is centrally located, teams can start doing data mining and provide more insights.

These days, we still rely heavily on emails, paperwork, and just old-school forms of communication, but luckily, Autodesk Construction Cloud has opened the door to a greener pasture of having one central environment in which to communicate and collaborate efficiently. Documents are now live logs we can manage and filter instead of exchanging red-lined spreadsheets full of clickable comments.  

What advice would you give to the next generation of men and women entering and preparing for the future of the industry?

Prefabrication will remain as important, if not more important, in the future. Through prefabrication, we’re able to save tons of time and waste in the field. The safety metrics speak for themselves, providing that prefab is simply the better way to build. 

That said, my biggest piece of advice is to understand that we build very real things in a very digital world. Everything we design has its digital twin inside Revit or similar software. Much time and effort is dedicated to building projects digitally, where they’re perfected before they take shape in our physical reality. I would encourage everyone to buy into the fact that we have to build it perfectly digitally first so it can be built perfectly in the real world second.  

Kelsee Campbell

As a Senior Customer Advocacy Program Manager at Autodesk, Kelsee has the privilege of working with Autodesk customers to champion their stories on the Digital Builder Blog. Kelsee strives to create an engaging experience that amplifies customer perspectives, fostering a sense of community and connection.