Construction is in Allyn Brice’s genes. He was drawn to the industry as a young boy and began running blueprints in the early 1970s. After high school graduation, he started working as a laborer for R.C. Stevens Construction Company
, Winter Garden, Fla., a firm started by his grandfather in 1926.
“As a kid, I knew I wanted to work in construction,” he says. “It just appealed to me and I couldn’t wait to get into the field and go to work.”
Brice’s grandfather was born just outside Boston and learned carpentry as a young man. He later worked as a carpenter on projects specializing in tile and trim work, and in other trades such as millwright, masonry and plumbing. Drawn to Florida’s thriving residential market, he moved his family south and opened R.C. Stevens Construction Company. The firm stuck to the residential market for the next 30 years until it began to work on the infrastructure that supports Florida’s rich agricultural market, including building and maintaining citrus plants.
Brice joined R.C. Stevens after high school in the 1970s as a laborer and later became a carpenter’s apprentice. In the early 1980s, he graduated from an apprenticeship program sponsored by Associated Builders and Contractors’ Central Florida Chapter
and worked his way up to superintendent.
However, after working as a superintendent with R.C. Stevens for 10 years, Brice needed a change. He started his own construction company in the late 1980s, where he went back into the field for 10 years.
“I was young, eager and anxious to be my own boss,” Brice says. “After 10 years of that, I wanted a boss back.”
Knowing his uncle was in the process of implementing R.C. Stevens’ succession plan with current owners Dave Smith and Tim Keating, Brice took the opportunity to close the doors on his own company in 1998 and return to the family business as a project manager. Now, Brice is the only person in his family who is still involved in the company.
Though he is glad to be back with R.C. Stevens, Brice appreciates the new perspectives he gained by running a small business and going back into the field.
“It gave me a lot of compassion for subcontractors and admiration for people who go out and start their own business, for the risk they take and pressure they’re under,” Brice says. “There is a ton of pressure that comes with making payroll and doing business, so I have a really high regard for them.”
That experience also helps Brice fulfill his duties as project manager. He says working on a big project is often similar to running his own business.
“I feel like I can do any role now,” Brice says. “It’s good for construction managers to know what it’s like to be a superintendent and to be the people they manage.”
Though Brice always pictured himself as a superintendent, he thrives as a project manager on the fast-track projects R.C. Stevens undertakes.
“I like the responsibility and satisfaction of getting a job done on time and on budget,” he says.
R.C. Stevens completes projects for regional clients and has built a longstanding relationship with a large beverage manufacturer that began in 2003 when the firm was hired to build a production line in an existing facility. Since then, R.C. Stevens has completed seven additional lines and various coolers. In August 2011, the company began its eighth project for the beverage manufacturer, an aggressive $40 million factory expansion managed by Brice.
The 300,000-square-foot project will enhance a 1 million-square-foot facility in Auburndale, Fla., that will remain fully operational during construction. R.C. Stevens is challenged with completing the massive project while adhering to a tight 10-month schedule and working around the facility’s day-to-day operations.
To streamline work, R.C. Stevens took a unique management approach. Instead of the normal team of one project manager and one superintendent, the company brought in five teams and divided the project into sections.
“Because it’s highly aggressive, we streamlined the teamwork to have several project managers and superintendents take on separate areas of the project,” Brice says. “With the volume we’re doing in this time frame, I don’t believe we would have been able to do it with just the two key guys.”
To coordinate with the factory and allow work to progress as smoothly as possible, R.C. Stevens holds weekly coordination meetings with the manufacturer’s staff so everyone knows what the other company is working on.
“We want to limit surprises. If the plant knows we’re there and what we’re doing, it’s able to adjust its production and methods so we both can work in the same areas at the same time,” Brice says.
Communication between both parties prevents interference among personnel, as well as ensures the safety of all employees. This is crucial given the number of people that come to the building every day: The manufacturer sees about 75 vendors and R.C. Stevens has about 280 employees onsite daily. Both companies use a “boots on the ground” policy, which entails having people on the floor where construction and factory operations are occurring to make sure everyone is working safely and out of harm’s way. All employees also go through safety orientation and training.
“The manufacturer also lets us know if they see something that’s a hazard or obstruction to their production,” Brice says. “Everyone works together to make it happen. They want this project to succeed as much as we do.”
R.C. Stevens also writes narratives, called plans of action, at every construction stage that address exactly what they are doing, how they are doing it and all the potential safety hazards they could encounter. Although balancing this kind of project with many stages, employees, safety precautions and schedule concerns is complex, Brice thrives on the challenge.
“I like managing people and working with challenging projects,” he says. “I like working on projects with a high degree of difficulty and the satisfaction of being successful.”
|In the 1930s, R.C. Stevens Construction Co. became one of the first contractors to use the design-build project delivery method, which the company calls “Right Track.” When using Right Track to design a project, the firm meets with a client very early in the design phase to fine-tune the price as the project is designed. This allows R.C. Stevens to determine 80 percent of the total project cost before breaking ground. |
Overall, the Right Track process addresses three client concerns—cost, schedule and quality—through team integration, cost, controls, value management, scheduling, bid management, constructability reviews, phase controls, reporting systems, long lead times and direct purchasing, safety management, warranty management and project close-out. For more information, visit www.rcstevens.com/right.
Jessica Porter is staff writer of Construction Executive