Digital Dry Shack Blog

/Digital Dry Shack Blog

Network Estimating vs. Standalone

Network Estimating is better than Standalone Estimating.  Follow our best practices for network estimating, you will be happy 99.6% of the time. I noticed a sudden flood of emails cascading frantically across my screen a week or so ago. One of our clients was experiencing the pain of a network outage with the estimating, takeoff, and scheduling systems on a Monday morning. Not a pleasant way to start off a week to be sure. The emails kept coming, sizzling and becoming more caustic by the hour. The system was down for slightly over six hours, which kept the department scrambling like a grammar school at its first fire-drill, trying to figure out ways to squeeze some productivity out of its collective time. All our usual techniques, restarting license server programs, bouncing servers, and our trusted, tried and true troubleshooting efforts were frustrating and fruitless. When all was said and done, it turned out to be the result of an IT system changeover during the weekend. With apologies, the skilled info systems guys admitted the error upon discovery, and they got us back up and running in time for the last couple hours of the shift. The Network Naysayers proudly rode [...]

Digital Dryshack, vol.1 #2: Back to Basics: use paper

Use paper? Not exactly a comment you'd expect to hear in the Digital Dryshack. But it's often key to solving one of the most common issues we hear from the customers of Cassell Consulting: Clean up the Estimating Database. This odious task takes lots of time, and yes, lots of paper too. Here's a technique I learned many years ago from Mark Reich, one of the bright minds then of Timberline, now of Dexter Chaney. Here are four simple steps (note I didn't say easy), that make up our"three pen method" of database cleanup: Step 1: Print the database items. I recommend exporting this list to Excel, where it's easy to control which fields print and which don't, as well as font pitch and line spacing. Then print on paper the separate reports by Division, so it's easier to measure progress. This is going to take awhile, and it's good to bite off doable chunks. Step 2: Red Pen (Delete items): Draw a line through the items that aren't necessary, for your company's successful estimating style. Then use the database editing tool built within the software, (or better yet ODBC), and delete those items. Step 3: Green Pen (Add items): [...]

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

Primavera P6 support Q: How to deal with cents (change), partial hours, and rounding in P6

We had a Primavera P6 support question today about how to persuade P6 to be accurate to the cent and partial hour.  If you are trying to prevent P6 from rounding to the nearest dollar or hour, there are two places to change your preferences to deal with cents or partial dollars & hours. The first is in User Preferences, where you can choose the number of decimals of your time unit: Go to Edit --> User Preferences In the Time Units Tab, adjust the number of decimals accordingly. The second place is in Currencies, where you can choose the number of decimals in your currency unit: Go to Admin --> Currencies In the Appearance tab, adjust the number of decimals to your preference.

The Digital Dryshack, vol.1, #1: Tech marches on

The Digital Dryshack for March 15 Welcome to the Digital Dryshack, the first post under our new name, (in actuality post #40). Hence the vol. 1, #1 title. Pop quiz: See if you can find a term that doesn't fit in with the others: BIM. The Cloud. iPad. Android. Smart Phone. App Store. Construction. Construction? Nope, the correct answer to that question is "None of the Above." Yep, our traditional, conservative, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" industry is under full-on, frontal attack by the relentless, irrepressible march of Technology. In case you didn't notice,  the solid underpinnings of the way our industry has done business for generations is passing quickly, right before our eyes. TME, The Military Engineer magazine, had an excellent article last month, "BIM meets the Cloud." Its author aruged that BIM's real potential reaches far beyond its well-known strengths of clash detection and visualization capabilities, all the way to multi-lingual global bid solicitation to facility lifecycle management. A lot of us are just getting used to the idea that we can see a building's interior before it's built. And along comes a guy who predicts bidding on a job on a set of digital plans [...]

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

Busy Winter

It's been a busy month here at Cassell Consulting. I've been overseas and  back on a training assignment for US Cost to three U.S. Naval bases in Europe. My assignment was to provide  five two-day US Cost Success Estimator sessions: one in Catania (Sicily), one in Rota (Spain), and three in Naples (Italy). The DOD demand for construction in Europe is robust, with a strong backlog of projects on the books.  Working with civilian engineers, most of whom are on two- to three-year assignments abroad offered me a small taste of the life of an expatriate. I'm ready to sign up. Most of those I worked with were enjoying the multi-cultural experience, had learned a foreign language (or two), and were content in their new country, knowing it was of fixed duration and that they'd be returning to the United States upon completing their contract. By the time  the plane was descending into Seattle some three and a half weeks after my departure, I truly wondered why I was back in the Pacific Northwest, as it had become my new norm to be half the world away. Since I've been back, we've been working on a variety of interesting projects [...]

Construction Software Reviews

Chelsea asked some time ago to write a blog piece on the different construction software lines that we support and sell at Cassell Consulting, construction software reviews. At first I resisted, thinking it was important to separate "church and state", that is, keeping our blog set distinctly apart from any sales topics. That said, I agree that it's in our cleintele's best interests to explain our products, specifically what sets them apart from one another, and what makes one a better fit than another. To start, it seems relevant to reiterate exactly what it is that we offer our customers at Cassell Consulting: First Class Customer Support is first, last, and always our hallmark. Our main mission to achieve the highest possible standards of excellence and customer satisfaction in our training, consulting, sales, and support services. With our focus on customer service and satisfaction established, estimating product consulting and support was what got us into business to begin with. Back in 1998, I found myself getting burned out working as an estimator-project manager for a commercial construction firm in Vancouver, Washington. One day the phone rang, and two weeks later I was on a plane to Sydney, to build a [...]

Five Predictions for 2012

-- Five predictions for 2012: 1. The construction economy will improve by 10% from 2011. 2. Tablet computers will replace laptops in construction field offices 3. BIM software will continue its growth 4. The stock market will hit a new historical high 5. President Obama will be reelected. 1. Call me Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, or blame my irrepressible optimism, but I see signs of the construction economy creaking slowly towards growth in the coming year. Without vast improvement in any one area, I see slight easing in lending, resulting in the private money faucet cranked ever so slightly more open, and government spending continuing at close to its current rate, (but falling slightly). Housing will sputter along with slight increases as well. This confluence of factors will precipitate a modest but clear improvement in the construction economy in 2012. 2. Netbooks are dead, laptops are cumbersome, and ultralight notebooks are too flimsy for the jobsite. That leaves tablet computers standing alone as the growth engine for data collection in the field for time-keeping, daily reports, and yes, even scheduling. Apps are being written daily for our industry. Oracle | Primavera plans an iPad app for its P6 flagship product [...]

Reconcile Bi-Directional Currency Conversions in US Cost

While training NAVFAC cost engineers in Japan last month I ran into an interseting scenario with Currency Conversions in US Cost. Some of the items (primarily local materials) were priced in Yen, while others imported from RS Means were in dollars. I envisioned merging multiple estimates after first converting all the items in the "Dollars to Yen" estimate to Yen, so that everything would be priced in the same currency before combining into one estimate. This turned out to be unnecessary, as Success Estimator can handle different lines in different currencies. The trick is to select the baseline currency, and convert only those items in a different currency to the one used for the estimate totals. Takeway: All items in the estimate must total to the one common currency, but different lines can be in any currency. Just make sure that all the items in a single line use the same currency, and then convert the entire line, if it doesn't match the currency the Estimate Total's currency

P6 Activity Won’t Schedule On Time

P6 Activity Won't Schedule On Time We received a call at 4pm on Friday afternoon (the obligatory Friday Afternoon Construction Emergency) concerning a scheduling issue: in spite of all attempts, a 10 day P6 activity with only 2 days remaining was showing a disconnected duration, a gap of 2 months between its Actual Progress and its Finish date. Worse, important Successor Activities were linked to the delayed Activity , so the whole logical path was being held hostage by the rogue activity. Try as I might, using all the tricks I know for manually controlling & updating progress, every time I scheduled the project, the Activity would disconnect from its progressed status, and show the same 2 month gap. I changed Duration type to Physical, manually edited Remaining Early Start, all to no avail. It looked like a classic case of Out of Sequence Activity, but all its Predecessors were 100% complete, so that seemed illogical. I should have run the Schedule Log report to check for Out of Sequence, but I kept thinking that if I kept at it, the solution would reveal itself. As usual, I should have listened to that little voice. Any time a progress bar [...]

How to Find and Recover a Lost Estimate in Timberline

Another recent call we received on the same trip to Alaska was from a distraught estimator in Hawaii. It seems that he had spent five hours on an estimate the night before, and when his ssession crashed at the end of it, the estimate seemed to have evaporated with it. He looked manually where he was sure he'd saved it, searched in Estimating Explorer, all to no avail. The solution was simple though less obvious to many of us than we might care to admit. The solution, How to Find and Recover a Lost Estimate in Timberline: I found it by using Windows Explorer, (not Estimating Explorer), by searching the drive where estimates are stored for the first 5 characters in the estimate file name. Sure enough we found it in a different folder from that which he expected it to be, fully intact with its total just as he'd remembered before the crash, not a byte of lost data. (And 5 hours saved, not wasted!) Takeaway: Try the simplest thing first. When looking for a missing file, spend about 5 minutes max looking based on where you think the file is. Then cut your losses and go straight to [...]