Miller Electric’s First Construction Wireman is Now BIM Coordinator

BIM Coordinator Mike Whisney just finished a design for an entire system of overhead conduit racks that can be built entirely in Miller Electric’s prefab facility and installed onsite in half the time and with one third of the manpower typically required. It’s one of the everyday innovations empowered by Miller Electric’s strong support of a proactive approach to electrical construction management.

For Whisney, coming up with the idea was second nature.

“The other guys who work on the BIM team and I were talking about how we could push the envelope with this technology and it came to us,” he says. “When you have an employer and a client who both want to use BIM and prefabrication as much as possible, there really is no limit to what you can accomplish.”

Whisney and the BIM team devised a way for Miller Electric’s prefab shop to create all the bends required for the conduit layout one right after another, further reducing the amount of time needed to complete the build.

BIM: The Secret Key to Electrical Efficiency

On any construction project, time and cost can become enemies of efficiency, especially when they work against each other. BIM saves both time and money by laying out precise designs before workers arrive onsite to install electrical infrastructure.

“We look at electrical drawings from clients’ architects and interpret what they are asking for,” says Whisney. “We see if the design is feasible and add in efficiencies wherever possible. Many times, we’re able to transform the models we are given into easier installations. It’s like BIM is the secret key. When people show up they ask for the BIM layout because they know if we follow it to a tee, we’ll save tons of time and labor.”

Saving time is essential, because unexpected delays will undoubtedly arise. Having that cushion allows the project to absorb the delays and still finish on time.

Other benefits of BIM include a safer work environment.

“BIM decreases the amount of field work and increases safety,” says Whisney. “I completed a design recently for all the telecom ducting and medium voltage requirements for a build and everything went smoothly and quickly. Instead of digging a ditch and assembling pipe manually in the ditch, our guys were able to prefab the pipe offsite in an ideal working environment and then install assembled racks all at once. It saved time and cut down potential injuries from trying to do that kind of job in a less than ideal work environment.”

Before BIM, Whisney Ran a Mobile Trimble Van For Miller Electric

Whisney is no stranger to using technology to improve efficiency and safety on electrical construction projects. After joining Miller Electric as its very first construction wireman 11 years ago, Whisney moved up to managing a roving Trimble station.

“Before I came to Miller Electric, I was cleaning ethanol plants,” Whisney says. “It was a dirty job and nowhere near as interesting or fulfilling as working for Miller. I entered the apprenticeship program and became a journeyman electrician. Then, I had an opportunity to work on the Trimble station and found that I loved it.”

A powerful tool for scanning, imaging and surveying, a Trimble Total Station lets Whisney and others who are trained to use it create 3D models, accurate visual site documentations and point clouds, all of which lessens the amount of time workers have to spend performing installations.

“Paul Stratman, who retired recently after 45 years at Miller Electric, taught me how to use the Trimble station while we were constructing the TD Ameritrade headquarters building,” Whisney says. “I learned how to lay out buildings using columns or whatever GPS coordinates I could get. From there, I would go to two jobsites a day preparing the sites with the points needed for installations. It was fun and I enjoyed it a lot.”

Moving to a full time BIM coordinator was a natural fit for Whisney, who says he loves what he does and who he does it for. “I’m always learning something new, and I really enjoy the difficulty and variety of my work. Everyone always wants a better design or a more innovative idea and Miller Electric encourages us to push ourselves to do the best work possible for our clients and for each other. It’s such a fun, supportive environment. They really care for us and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”