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