The Project: Automate the entire process of managing large and complex construction projects over the Web.

The Payoff: Gilbane's sales jumped 15%, to $2.5 billion last year, in part because of improved customer satisfaction.

Erecting massive buildings requires powerful tools. But at Gilbane Building Co. in Providence, computers have elbowed aside the cranes. The nation's 11th-largest commercial-building contractor, with $2.5 billion in revenues last year, no longer owns and operates machinery. Instead, it manages multibillion-dollar projects and subcontracts out the actual work -- coordinating everything with a handful of software programs over the Web. That approach helped the privately held Gilbane grow 15% last year, in spite of a dour economy.

The 130-year-old company sets up Web sites to manage every project, pulling in subcontractors and customers. Architectural or construction problems -- say, a girder placed in the wrong spot in drawings -- can be solved in a day, not weeks. And someone else moves the metal.

By Steve Hamm

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.