Helix Electric is a large electrical contractor based in San Diego, California, with 10 locations spread across the continental U.S. and Hawaii. Helix regularly works on design-build projects of various scopes and sizes, including wastewater treatment plants, data centers, residential buildings, hospitals, and utility-grade solar projects. Featured projects include the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, Pendry Park City in Utah, and the AES Lawai Solar project in Hawaii.
Founded in 1985, Helix has created a passionate, tenacious culture with a “get things done” attitude, according to CIO Mark Mandarelli. But as the industry adapts to new technologies, processes, and a huge influx of data, Helix needs to do more than just work harder and faster if it truly wants to provide value to its customers and employees in the years ahead.
“It’s a big part of who we are, but getting things done in construction today is about finding tools to work smarter,” Mandarelli said.
When people think of construction tools, they typically picture physical ones, from hand tools to heavy-duty machinery. But digital tools have also become a critical part of day-to-day operations, with companies like Helix relying on myriad software applications in the office and in the field. And these digital tools, while hugely beneficial, do create new challenges.
As Mandarelli has seen firsthand at various stops in his career, employees use multiple software products, each with its own repository. Files to be shared were uploaded to one location, while drawings for viewing only were found elsewhere. The office staff looks in one place, and the estimators look in another, and on and on it goes.
“This created a problem where we had multiple sets of the same data,” Mandarelli said. “We could never be sure that everyone is looking at the right version of a file.”
Mandarelli knew he needed to address this problem when he joined Helix in 2021. He set a goal of creating a single source of truth for data. This common environment would also be central to keeping the data secure and giving IT proper visibility. And because Helix works on projects for the federal government that involve CUI (Controlled Unclassified Information) data, the solution would have to help meet various compliance standards, including CMMC.
He also needed to ensure a quality experience in the field, so workers could access files even in areas with limited connectivity, whether that was in a rural setting or four stories underground in the middle of a city. And they needed to have access at their fingertips on their preferred device, which meant no VPN, no driving all the way to the office, and no switching to a separate device.
It was a tall order, but Mandarelli already knew he had the right tool for the job.
Mandarelli served in a similar role at another electrical engineering firm before joining Helix. While there, he brought in Egnyte to address some of these same file-access issues.
“We were able to execute 40% more revenue with the same in-office headcount,” he said. “That doesn’t happen without different tools and different processes, and Egnyte was definitely part of that story.”
Given how successful that implementation was, Mandarelli opted to repeat the strategy at Helix. He and his team are in the early stages of rolling it out across the organization. They’re getting people the best possible accessibility, while balancing that with permission controls to protect files and give IT better visibility. They’re also boosting automation and integrating Egnyte with other software platforms and partners.
With Egnyte, files are automatically synced and users have the same quality experience whether they’re on a jobsite or in the office. Projects aren’t slowed down waiting for a file to load and time isn’t wasted working on the wrong version of a file.
“We're not always in a trailer sitting in front of a laptop,” he said. “The ability to deliver drawings, cut sheets, contract documents, or other files to a foreman, a superintendent, or anyone in the field is of tremendous value.”
Mandarelli also sees major benefits in Egnyte’s security features. The monitoring capabilities help flag potential problems like ransomware attacks or insider threats. Even better, IT is able to respond quickly.
“Traditional backups are slow and tedious to recover from,” he said. “They don’t give us the tools to really go in and ‘tweezer’ out what we need or focus on areas where there would be the biggest impact from recovering quickly.”
For Helix’s federal contracts, it uses the EgnyteGov solution to ensure it’s checking all the right boxes.
“It's an important part of our security posture to be able to satisfy all those requirements, and a subset of those requirements is specifically around the protection and access of files,” Mandarelli said. “With EgnyteGov, we were able to satisfy the requirements as outlined in CMMC in a very simple way.”
There’s also a big emphasis on repeatable automation. When a team member is added to a project, they’re automatically given corresponding permissions in Egnyte. When an employee leaves, the files on their laptops are automatically synced with Egnyte, saving IT considerable energy because they don’t have to worry about backing up and deleting files. These connected folders are also important for supporting workers who use multiple devices.
“Unfortunately, a lot of users store really important files on their computer. We can tell them not to and we can ask them not to, but people work in a certain way,” Mandarelli said. “How do we protect ourselves from the really critical or sensitive data that's on that computer? How do we manage that process? Egnyte can solve that problem.”
Helix is also integrating other applications it uses with Egnyte, such as Build. This will help synchronize files between systems, and support project folders, hierarchies, and permissions. Ultimately, this creates a single source of truth and a climate where everyone knows where to go for the files they need.
“With integration, it's about automation, standardization and consistency,” Mandarelli said. “It's become a major factor in how Egnyte brings value to what we do and how we do it.”
San Diego, California, USA
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