Builder Goes Wireless to Speed Construction Process

— December 05, 2007

By Jessica Binns

Kimball Hill Homes of Rolling Meadows, Ill., is a 68-year-old home-building company with more than 40,000 homes in 14 major markets in eight states to its credit. It employs a staff of 926 and generated $1.17 billion in revenue in 2006. For Kimball Hill, adopting a wireless solution was not about nifty handheld gadgets and customized mobile applications. Its needs were simple: keep sales and construction staff connected to corporate assets when they're stationed on the remote site where the latest housing development is being built.

But simple wasn't necessarily easy. It's essential that staff stay in touch with suppliers, clients and divisional offices throughout the building process. But setting up a T1 Internet service line in the on-site trailer office can take anywhere from six weeks to six months---not exactly ideal since the infrastructure would have to be dismantled once site development was completed.

Not addressing the connectivity problem slows down the construction process, which ultimately affects Kimball Hill's bottom line. Among the factors making better connectivity a necessity were:

  • Many of the business applications critical to the staff's daily tasks are network-based;
  • On-site sales staff typically made several daily round trips to divisional offices to hand-deliver documents, which was especially inefficient as the offices were often an hour away from the construction site.

To solve its connectivity issues, Kimball Hill evaluated several options and ultimately settled on a Sprint PCS Connection Card from Sierra Wireless. Though the card is typically used in notebooks with PCMCIA slots, Kimball Hill worked with Sprint and J4 Communications to engineer a desktop solution leveraging a PCMCIA adapter. This customization allowed Kimball Hill to stay within its equipment budget and also allowed the solution to effectively become mobile, since the desktop computers moved from site to site along with staff.

The solution enables Kimball Hill to use wireless connectivity to benefit its construction workers. Building staff improved their turnaround time by ordering materials online. New sites can now get wireless connectivity much more quickly than the multi-month turnaround for wired Internet access. Overall, 110 Sprint PCS cards have been deployed throughout sites in the United States.

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