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Flynn Uses AWS to Streamline Construction Operations and Communications

2020

In the ultra-competitive construction industry, processing job-site data quickly and delivering information to customers fast can mean the difference between winning and losing business. To take on this challenge, the Flynn Group of Companies rolled out a new set of custom mobile and web applications to handle business workflows more efficiently and streamline customer communications.

The commercial roofing and building envelope company launched this initiative to make it easier for field personnel to process site photographs, craft proposals, document roof specs, and change work orders. Flynn also wanted to give customers immediate, self-service access to the status of their jobs.

About a year after Flynn deployed the applications in an on-premises data center, Alan Zych, the vice president of information technology, determined the company’s rapid growth required a cloud environment. Zych wanted to gain greater scalability and load-balancing capabilities while also adding an object storage system so the IT team could move data among servers without having to bring them offline.

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AWS delivered a highly scalable and cost-optimized cloud environment that we used to improve our workflow efficiencies and customer communications.”

Alan Zych
Vice President of Information Technology, Flynn Group of Companies

A Comprehensive Cloud Provider for Custom Applications

Zych had already established relationships with two cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), which Flynn relied on for nightly backups of public-facing websites. With an in-depth knowledge of both providers, Zych chose AWS to implement the mobile and web applications.

“AWS offers a wider range of technology services and constantly innovates services in advance of the other platform,” Zych says. “AWS also provides a cloud cost model that not only offers lower pricing but is also easier to understand. We can clearly see what we are paying for, and AWS wins out on cost in all the services that are important to us.”

A Cloud Environment to Take Applications to the Next Level

Zych emphasizes that the biggest bonus on the pricing side comes from Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), which provides the object storage Flynn requires for transferring data. Compared to the previous on-premises architecture, the various tiers of storage offered by Amazon S3 and its ability to link storage with lifecycle policy rules have reduced Flynn’s storage costs by about 30 percent while also providing more functionality.

In addition, AWS took a proactive approach to understanding Flynn’s requirements and then created an application environment to cost-effectively support the mobile and web applications.  “AWS delivered a highly scalable and cost-optimized cloud environment that we used to improve our workflow efficiencies and customer communications,” Zych says.

AWS Cloud Eases Software Development

To drive digital transformation, Flynn uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for highly secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud; AWS Elastic Beanstalk to streamline code deployment; and AWS Lambda to run code without provisioning or managing servers. These solutions help Flynn avoid infrastructure and deployment costs.

With these AWS services, Zych estimates that the Flynn development team has increased the amount of work it completes per sprint by 45 percent. The company also doesn’t need to hire someone to manage the AWS infrastructure, a savings of approximately $100,000 in payroll costs.

Additionally, Flynn relies on Amazon API Gateway to facilitate managing multiple release stages for each API version. “This makes it easy for our developers to test new functionalities and transition users to the most recent release,” Zych says. “And because we pay only for the API and data access calls, we are not charged high rates for service access.”

Field Operations and Customer Communications Reach New Heights

Flynn has realized several benefits by providing mobile access for employees to the custom applications on AWS. The field crews use their mobile devices to process everything from proposals to contracts and job specs. And it all happens at work sites, where crews can communicate with customers as they complete the forms.

“Given that we compete closely on cost, the technology gives us a leg up against our competition,” Zych says. “Instant communication results in unprecedented efficiencies internally and allows us to be more responsive to customers.”

With Amazon CloudFront serving as a content delivery network, Flynn’s applications running on AWS also give clients real-time access to repair updates, service notifications, and comprehensive reporting on completed and open jobs. This reduces stress on the customer service team when coordinating repairs. 

New Efficiencies Generate Revenue and Improve Employee Safety

Since deploying the mobile applications using AWS, Flynn has reduced the time to deliver quotes and bills to customers by 79 percent. Zych points out that customers who receive updates and reports more quickly tend to opt for long-term repairs rather than patches. “If a report takes too long, the customer’s memory of the pain fades, so they’re more likely to stick with a short-term fix,” Zych says. “But since we give them information immediately, we now see more customers asking for permanent repairs, which generates more revenue for the company.”

Employee safety has also improved. Flynn takes advantage of the Amazon DynamoDB database engine to track hourly updates on weather at job sites, and supervisors receive alerts when conditions arise that could affect the project.

“When we assign a project, we pull back aerial imagery for weather forecasts to determine the conditions,” says Zych. “This information has a huge impact on day-to-day operations since identifying extreme weather in advance stops us from accepting deliveries that involve cranes and gives us a chance to reschedule a crew to keep them safe.”

The Ideal Provider for the Cloud Journey

Zych is impressed with the entire AWS team—from account management to solution architecture and support. In addition to always being available, AWS hosted training sessions for the entire Flynn development team to get them up to speed fast.

“Because AWS documentation for developers is so good, our team can try new things and know they will never get stuck,” Zych says. “This is key because companies like ours can't embark on a journey to the cloud if the developers can't learn the technology. With AWS, we can pick up on new technologies quickly, and that ultimately reduces our cloud costs.”

About Flynn Group of Companies

Flynn Group of Companies started life in 1978 in the Canadian prairies, and became one of the country’s major roofing contractors. Today, Flynn has offices across Canada and the United States, providing products and services for the entire building envelope, including metal cladding, glazing and curtain walls, and waterproofing.

Benefits of AWS

  • Reduces time to deliver quotes and bills by 79%
  • Lowers storage costs by 30%
  • Increases development productivity by 45% per sprint
  • Avoids about $100,000 in payroll costs
  • Enables construction teams to work more efficiently
  • Provides customers with immediate access to job status
  • Tracks forecasts to identify extreme weather
  • Scales easily and balances application workloads


AWS Services Used

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes.

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Amazon API Gateway

Amazon API Gateway is a fully managed service that makes it easy for developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale.

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