Within sight of Chattanooga’s new Volkswagen plant is a company utilizing technologies like laser scanning and RFID (radio frequency identification) to help companies across the nation utilize data to make smart decisions about their facilities.
The company is Coast 2 Coast (C2C), a business founded by Scott Aaron and his father-in-law. What started as a sign industry service company has evolved into a multi-dimensional business with a strong focus on facility knowledge and asset management.
In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Aaron described his journey from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (MBA) to Chattanooga. Along the way, Aaron worked in Atlanta for an automation company and later for a Houston, TX industrial controls start-up company specializing in chemical injection technology for the petroleum industry.
Desire to be near family and the decision by his father-in-law to retire brought Aaron and his family to Chattanooga. C2C had evolved into a business that helped national franchises such as banks, drugstore chains and other companies undertake a rebranding as part of an overall corporate strategy or simply rebrand locations that they had recently acquired.
With Aaron involved, his father-in-law came out of retirement, handling the field work, while Aaron took the data and turned it into a single integrated electronic report rather than fragmented data that customers usually received.
“We would analyze the sites – everything from understanding the local municipal code to measuring street frontage and existing signage, and even examining opportunities for additional signs,” Aaron said. “We produced a single report book for each site” that included photographs and all of the measurements and other data that the acquiring company needed to know about each location.
Eventually, Aaron’s father-in-law retired again, and Aaron acquired C2C, becoming President.
By this time, Aaron had learned of the cyclical nature of the merger and acquisition world and the impact that the peaks and valleys were having on C2C. “We needed a steady workforce for quality assurance,” he explained. This led to asking the question, “What other businesses would require our services?”
After a careful examination of the market, Aaron said the answer was architectural surveys for national retailers that were expanding their foot print or considering renovations to existing locations. The decision allowed C2C to “learn the business and also manage the peaks and valleys,” he said. It also brought to the forefront a realization of the importance of technology.
“As the projects became larger and more complex, I realized we needed different technologies,” Aaron said, explaining that C2C is frequently engaged to recreate a set of existing conditions drawings for a facility when the original drawings cannot be located. Even when they exist, he says that they are often not totally accurate, a fact that Aaron repeatedly emphasized is a cause of costly construction schedule delays and additional redesign fees during a renovation project.
“It’s more work for us to verify existing drawings” than create a new set, he says, adding that C2C’s “secret sauce” is the integration of standard survey equipment that measures distance, angel and elevation with computer-aided design (CAD) software.
“This lets us lockdown quality,” Aaron emphasized.
Today, C2C incorporates a variety of technologies in its proverbial toolkit. One such item is what Aaron calls “a ramped-up version of survey equipment called a laser scanner.” He says C2C “bounces the laser off everything in a room to create a point cloud.” Such a technique ensures greater accuracy and is also particularly appropriate for complex or historical facades and mechanical system documentation.
C2C was also an early adopter of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and works with a variety of software packages including Revit, ArchiCAD and Bentley. Aaron describes BIM as a three-dimensional information rich representation of buildings, which over the next decade will revolutionize the way buildings are designed, constructed, and operated. This technology enables virtual construction that predicts problems that will occur during construction so that they can be resolved prior to turning the first shovel of dirt. He says that building performance simulations improve predictability of facility utilization and operational costs, as well as, owner understanding of decisions involving initial construction cost versus lifecycle building performance.
More recently, Aaron says that C2C has moved into two new areas – market diversification and cost management. In the case of market diversification, he says it includes healthcare, government, facilities and asset management technologies.
“We help clients understand the cost of facilities ownership,” Aaron says, explaining that this is particularly important to not only manage the maintenance costs, but also to ensure regulatory compliance with reimbursement requirements of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).
On the maintenance point, Aaron says his company can help organizations answer the question, “Where should I put my capital dollars to enable maximum impact?” As far as the regulatory item, he says CMS it’s about “properly assigning costs to square footage and space to various uses.” Failure to comply can be fraudulent or extremely costly.
The second new area of emphasis for C2C is another aspect of cost management. The company has integrated Real-time Location System (RTLS) technology with space and asset management systems to apply this technology to the challenge of medical equipment inventory management in healthcare facilities. Aaron explains that hospitals have excess inventory and higher costs because they cannot keep track of various items.
“We want to help drive better utilization of assets (for our clients), not just buildings but also high-value items,” Aaron says.
Under Aaron’s leadership, C2C has evolved from a sign industry service company into an entrepreneurially-driven, diversified company that is a market leader. It has done so by strategically embracing technology to deliver value to its customers.