On a good day, running a live construction site can be tricky. Right now, running a live construction site—while taking into account additional restrictions put into place to halt the spread of COVID-19—is extremely tricky.
For Factory_OS, a modular-construction company based in Vallejo, CA, the main focus—once the company confirmed its essential status—was on how to open safely. With additional handwashing stations, personal protective equipment (PPE), and a social-distancing protocol in place, Factory_OS is almost back to operating at pre-pandemic pace. Watch the video to learn more about the journey of this company to stay operational during this critical time.
Note: Factory_OS encourages all employees to wear face masks. However, in Solano County, where the company is located, face masks are not mandatory, so it is ultimately up to each employee’s discretion.
Kevin Brown, President, Factory_OS: We are unique in that we’re a business where you really need to be here each and every day. We don’t fit the mold of a company where you say, “Our new normal is going to be working from home for half of our workforce.”
Jordan Easterling, VP of Technology + Innovation, Factory_OS: Factory OS is a modular fabrication/modular construction company really focused on providing housing that’s accessible to everyone.
Larry Pace, COO and Cofounder, Factory_OS: None of us quite knew how to deal with the pandemic. We tried to keep up with all the public correspondence and all the notifications as it relates to the health and safety and welfare of our workers while still trying to also keep them gainfully employed through this period of time.
Brown: I was working closely with Larry to make sure that we were an essential business—so confirming as these orders came out, as we talked to the carpenters’ union, that we were in compliance with all the orders. We put in place the safety protocols that were needed to not just be in compliance but also to make sure that everybody’s working in a safe environment and making the right decisions for the company.
Pace: We decided to do the very best that we could to implement the safety precautions during this pandemic, to keep our doors open not only to help fulfill our mission statement in affordable housing but also because of our employee base—our employees need their paychecks.
Don Morris, Production Manager, Factory_OS: I had to step back and take a look at how I was going to be able to adjust the crew sizes that were working, either in any one of the stations that are throughout the facility or within the units.
Pace: We’ve become far more accustomed to dealing with the protocol and the care that we need to take as it relates to social distancing, wearing masks, making sure that we’ve got the additional handwashing stations in our facility.
Easterling: I think Factory_OS has done a wonderful job, really embracing tech that may not be so typical in the construction space. People still like their paper, and all the folks here are very open to trying something, seeing if it does actually make their job easier.
We’ve adopted things like mass-texting systems to reach people directly on their mobile device, to communicate through some of the different cloud platforms that we have in terms of file sharing. Having different people working from different locations, all looking at the same screen, being able to zoom in, navigate the model, ask questions, add comments directly in the model—that is really, really helpful. And it’s something that we’ve learned that wasn’t necessarily intuitive, but actually we saw a pretty good boost in productivity.
Morris: We’re using [Autodesk] BIM 360 in here, and it’s a direct connection between our A&E [architecture & engineering] department and all of our floor staff. Our leads have been trained on how to use all of it. They can in an instant contact our A&E department, let them know that we have an issue that can be taken care of right away.
Easterling: One of the reasons that it’s worked so well for us is because we lump everything into a single point that we can look to. The biggest improvement has been adoption because we’ve been forced to use certain systems very quickly. And so it’s bubbled up a lot of things to the surface that allow us to retool and refocus and wield some of these tools a little bit more efficiently.
Pace: The efficiencies in which we can build—even doing the social distancing and the PPE that we’re doing here in the facility—is still way superior to the level of impact it’s going to have for conventional construction. We can build a less-expensive and better-quality product here than you can traditionally. So I see our phone ringing off the hook now.
Morris: As we’ve all been able to get our information and make sure that we’re doing everything that we need to, the morale has come back to a point where everyone is happy to be here.
Greg Nation, Production Lead, Factory_OS: I was the original first employee for Factory_OS. I’ve been here for about two-and-a-half years now—from day one, two-and-a-half years.
Jesus Sanchez, Production Supervisor, Factory_OS: Half of my life, this is what I’ve been doing. This is what I like. This is what I love.
Iris Chavez, Electrical Installer, Factory_OS: When I started working here, I started doing the cleaning, and then I learned the electrical. They gave me the opportunity to do that. And I do it. I feel safe because they provide everything—hand sanitizer, gloves, and face masks.
Nation: I’m blessed because I could pay my mortgage. I can feed my family. I can pay my bills. I feel I am truly blessed that I am able to come to work. It’s been essential to me.
Pace: I always tell people, if you come here at 6 a.m. and show up with me, and you walk the line, and you see the high fives and the thumbs-up I get, and the gratitude I get from our workers for the fact that we’ve kept them employed through this period of time—it’d give you goose bumps.