Digital Dry Shack Blog

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Digital Dryshack #52: OmniClass for Job Cost

A colleague and friend of many years, Dominick Rose of CDM Engineering, introduced me to several months ago to the Omni-Class standard of construction classification. Omni-Class is a well-organized, multi-faceted methodology whose goal is, by its own definition to, "describe the Built Environment." A lot of smart people spent a lot of time designing this elegant schema, and it works. It uses multiple tables, each a wholly separate, organizational hierarchy, classifying various facets of construction differently. To name just a few of its several tables: Table 11 (Construction Entities by Function), sorts completed projects by function, assigning a numeric index to each primary type, (maunufacturing, education, medical, etc.) with a subset within each major type to all the numerous minor facility types and uses. It's a well-designed method of organizing the entire spectrum of facility types; all neatly finished and ready for us to use. Omni-Class includes the complete 2004/2010 Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) Masterformat index in its entirety in its Table 22 (Work Results). In its Table 21 (Elements),  is the complete Uni-Format index, (with the significant improvement of an entirely numeric form. In my opinion, alpha indexes are klunky and cumbersome). Last and certainly not least of its [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:29+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digitial Dryshack #51: Report from NAVFAC Hawaii Scheduling seminar

Chelsea's recent departure from Cassell Consulting for an engineering position at Schlumberger presented an unwelcome (due to her leaving) opportunity. She was scheduled to attend a seminar in Honolulu entitled P6 Scheduling Requirements for NAVFAC projects. So I found myself at the Honolulu office of the AGC in Hawaii on a Tuesday morning in August, slightly before the 8am start time. Glenn Saito of NAVFAC Hawaii presented the engaging and worthwhile topic to the ten of us present. We at Stenstrom Group and Cassell Consulting have designed a hands-on, comprehensive 3-day training session ourselves, specifically designed to navigate contractors through the demanding specifications of scheduling construction projects for NAVFAC and the Army Corps of Engineers. So I was especially interested to hear what NAVFAC is looking for, directly from the horse's mouth. I took the opportunity in Anchorage a couple years ago, to attend an excellent seminar presented by Craig Lance of USACE Alaska. As Mr. Lance did in his class back in 2010, Mr. Saito provided some excellent perspective on his department's scheduling requirements. I learned firsthand, the reasoning behind NAVFAC's Critial Path definition (Zero days total float), and why it specifies using Excel for the 3-week Lookahead. An [...]

Digital Dryshack: ENR Future Tech conference 2012: Future of Construction Technology

We just returned from ENR Future Tech conference in San Francisco, which was mainly geared to future technology in the construction industry. My goals for Rob & me were to make us think, and to generate ideas to help us provide more valuable services, with a higher level of expertise and broadened perspective, to our clientele. I wasn't disappointed. A quick 30,000 foot overview of only a few highlights from its lightng-fast program: Brian David Johnson, (Intel Corp.) futurist, on (what else?) the future: "you can't let the future happen to you." "First, Understand what people want to do in the, use...(a defined) Process to figure out what is necessary to get there." (Timeline of computing): "Compute Moves to Zero" mainframe- mini-workstation-pc-laptop-mobile-ubiquitous 1960       - 1970   - 1980    -1990 -2000   -2010  - 2020 "How can we free up people to be better?" ----------------- David Brown, (D. Brown Management), on targeting and achieving worthwhile change within a construction firm's culture: "Tech is a process; there is no end." (beware of) ...."change fatigue...resistance to too much change..." (we see this often in our work with contractors) Do mini-implelmentations, 4-week turnarounds. ask, "can the benefit be quicly summarized?" [...]

Digital Dryshack: Pricing Policy for our Upcoming Estimating Database Tools: All for $0

While driving down to the Bay Area for the ENR Future Tech conference in San Francisco, Rob & I took the opportunity to discuss several aspects of our business, and the industry in general. One thing our Business Consutant had asked me about recently was our plan for selling some of the new estimating database tools that Rob has been developing. So I asked Rob about his vision for our target market and an approximate fair value sales price. I'll have to admit I was surprised by his response: "Let's give it all away for nothing." Hmmm. Not exactly representative of fair value for all the time it would save users, not to mention his time in development. Following the funny look I gave him, he elaborated: "It's the Open Source model. We give away the software for free, and support it for hire. It's why Google Maps and Chrome are the best products out there. It's the extension of the Linux model. Instead of charging for our software, and bearing the full responsibility of upgrading, tweaking, and making it better, we go Open Source, and anybody in the world can improve its functionality and add new features. Our programming team can include the [...]

Digital Dryshack: Estimating Software Survey

I was intrigued by the request from Houston Neal of, to comment on his company's estimating software survey. As it was a topic near and dear to us and right in our wheelhouse, so I agreed. The link to the survey  follows at the conclusion, but first a few comments: The survey had a surprising number of participants by contractors earning < $5 mm/year, (almost half of the roughly 100 who participated), and about half as many were firms with > $ 100 mm, so the sample seems reasonably representative of the market as a whole, and sufficiently diverse to produce useful results. One number that didn't surprise was the leading estimating sofware isn't estimating software at all, but good ol' spreadsheets...(still)....and yet... While I did say not surprising, it is in my opinion, more proof that we are in a very conservative industry, even to a fault. For all the forward-looking companies who embrace BIM, Tablets & Time Capture technologies, there are 2 or 3 who still use spreadsheets to estimate, and paper for Daily Reports & Timesheets. As the presdient of a construction technology consulting firm, it never ceases to amaze me how backward-looking some of us are. [...]

Java Error in Primavera P6 Install – unable to access jarfile

A java error came up in the middle of a standalone Primavera P6 install for a client. We had just finished installing SQL 2008 and were running the database setup. When we would go to launch the database file we received the error: "unable to access jarfile lid\dbmt.jar” We examined the batch file, tried re-naming the pointed directories, modifying java settings, re-downloading Primavera P6 install files, and a host of other things. Nothing worked and we put the project on hold until the next day when it could be approached with a clear head. Thankfully, we were able to solve the problem when we resumed in the morning. The fix? Change your windows preferences to un-hide the “hidden folders.” Even though the java (jar) files were on the computer, they were hidden, and the batch file couldn’t run, which produced the jarfile and java home errors. Once we changed the setting, the install worked perfectly. To unhide your windows folders: Open Windows Explorer On your keyboard press the Alt key Go to Tools ---> Folder Options On the View tab, under Files and Folders, Click the bubble for “Show Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives” Full disclaimer that this fix won’t [...]

Digital Dryshack: Every Job is Different…or is it?

Every Job is Different. (Wait a minute...or is every job the same?) This issue is one we hear frequently from our clients, often as we attempt to standardize processes in construction operations, estimating, and project management. While the statement that every job is different is undeniably true, it's equally true that every job includes the same fundamental approach, requiring a similar set of procedures and methodology. I would argue that a difficult demo and remodel project is more similar to a new construction project than it is different. How so? Construction is still construction, and at the end of the day, the steps are the same. Bid qualification, subcontractor and vendor notification, estimate preparation and submission are components of every bid. Project scheduling, mob, construction, documentation, cost management, closeout, and demob are necessary activities that must be planned and executed efficiently, in order to achieve a good outcome. So rather than focus on the differences that set projects apart from one another, pay attention to their similarities, in order to streamline your company's process and methodology.

2017-01-14T08:23:29+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Feature of Work (FOW) Specs For Army Corp Projects in Primavera P6

Dealing with Feature of Work (FOW) for Army Corp Projects in Primavera P6 One issue that we have come across in developing a schedule for an Army Corp Project in P6 is how to treat the Feature of Work (FOW) in the Corp specs.   Often the Corp states three FOWs in the spec, for example FOW1, FOW2, and FOW3.  This will only work in P3, if you try to use them in P6, they will not carryover in the SDEF conversion.  This is because Primavera P6 is programmed to only allow specific Activity Codes in the SDEF Conversion.  They are: WRKP RESP AREA MODF BIDI PHAS CATW FOW Any deviation, for example an activity code named TEST, or the old P3 codes FOW1, FOW2, FOW3, will not export to SDEF! Also important to note, the spec will probably state that the FOW length should be 30 characters.  People report issues because Primavera P6 only allows a max of 20 characters.  However, in the SDEF conversion P6 is programmed to import the Code Description, not the Code Value for FOW only.  This means the max characters you set in P6 for FOW is moot in the SDEF export because it ignores the code.  The [...]

Digital Dryshack: Sage SQL Estimating first look

We got our first look at Sage Estimating's sql server product, coded version 11.2. Its most significant advantage is its modern database engine, (Microsfot SQL), which eliminates Sage Timberline's  Pervasive albatross of the last 10 years. (I hear rousing applause from contractors' IT departments around the country.) With that improvement comes a seismic shift in an estimator's definitions of familiar concepts such as files and databases. Estimates are no longer contained in the standalone Windows files we're used to. They now reside merely as data "blobs" in the overall database. Think of the sql database as a data "cloud" that resides on a company's server. All  estimates are now contained within that cloud. Sound chaotic? Actually it's not. Each project still has its own distinct identity within that "cloud", and can be viewed, and even exported as a separate element. The new estimating suite includes a Estimating Management Console & Data Migration tool in addition to its core estimating program. The Management Module. We were able to smoothly migrate our databases into sql using the migration tool with no issues. The management module gave us an Explorer-like console to view the individual project estimates. This early pre-release version doesn't contain any [...]