Digital Dry Shack Blog

/Digital Dry Shack Blog

How to Update Closed Financial Periods in p6

Following training we provided in Anchorage recently, a senior scheduler pulled me aside with a perplexing P6 problem. He had inherited the schedule for a hospital in northern Alaska that had been originally assembled by a cast of now-long-goners. By and large the schedule was reasonably solid, but some quirky behavior somewhere in its structure revealed itself every couple months, throwing pay apps out of balance. Try as he might, (and he's a solid scheduler), the errors kept recurring. One month all the pay items would balance, and the next there would be some math that just didn't add up.  It boiled down to our needing to adjust the amounts billed in some now-closed financial periods. The solution turned out to be simpler than we expected. Here is the solution to how to update closed financial periods in p6: 1) In the Details view, we opened the Resources Tab 2) We customized the Resources Tab to include columns for Units and Costs from the (now-closed) Financial Periods that were incorrect. 3) Consulting the manual, we entered the DIFFERENCE. in the Actual Units and Actual Costs for the period. (P6 will not overwrite the original value, but it will post an [...]

P6 Activity Code issue and fix

We took a call recently from a geographically-diverse company’s project manager who was having problems building  a new P6 schedule for an Army Corps of Engineers project. He’d been working for hours on it and was getting nowhere. Try as he might, when attempting to assign his Project Activity Codes to items, they were nowhere to be found, despite being correctly set up. Sound familiar? Chances are it might, as it’s an issue we’ve run into several times. I met the distraught project manager at a local restaurant, and we discussed his problem over lunch. The details: The problem is due to Activity Codes’ schizophrenic ability to lead“three lives”. Activity Codes can be created: at the Project level in the EPS at the Enterprise level. In this particular case, the scheduler had assigned Project level Activity Codes (correctly per the Contract Specs), AND GIVEN THEM IDENTICAL FIELD NAMES AS ENTERPRISE ACTIVITY CODES. This doesn’t work! The higher level code (in this case at the Enterprise level) will trump the lower level code (at either the EPS within the Project). The rule: Activity Codes created at different levels MUST be named differently. That difference can be as simple as a change [...]

Mid-Summer Update

This summer has been uncharacteristically busy, a good thing. Our 5-year strategic plan dictates that we expand our consulting services and resources, and we're doing that now. Some of those changes: We're pleased to add Rob Mazoros to our consulting team. Ron has extensive IT experience, including networking, custom programming and report writing. Additionally Ron is trained in Hard Dollar estimating software, and worked for years in California doing Timberline consulting. Rob just finished up a database upgrade for Rushforth Construction in Tacoma for us, including cross-indexing to both Masterformat '95 & 2010. He  is also working with us on building assemblies for an Anchorage client. We are fortunate that Rob and his family moved from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest, and joined Cassell Consulting in June. Welcome, Rob! We're adding Hard Dollar Estimating to our quiver of estimating products and support. Barry is attending training in Phoenix in mid-August to enable us to sell and service Hard Dollar, the well-known Civil / Sitework / Utilities estimating and project management system. We're working on adding BIM components to our products and services, with Beck Technology's D-Profiler, and Innovaya's Revit-to-Estimating interface. Plans are to adopt those late summer / early fall. [...]

P6 Recipe for Trouble (and how to avoid it)

We received this interesting email through our Oracle | Primavera Business Partner network at Stenstrom Group: "Increasingly, customers are calling into Oracle Support with Data consistency issues. It has come to our attention in the Channel that partners are training customers to use P6 in the following way: We found that customers are opening P6 in multiple browser tabs and making changes to both tabs. They were opening, editing, and saving from 2 active sessions.  For example, they may delete an activity from one session but in the other session the activity still exists.  When they save the first session, the activity is deleted but when they save the second session the activity exists again. This practice is NOT supported by the application and should not be recommended or encouraged. If you have questions or concerns please do not hesistate to reach out to your Channel Manager or RSM." My initial reaction was to think it unlikely any competent scheduler would deliberately work in different sessions on the same project at the same time. That was no sooner out of my mouth when I realized that I work routinely in 2 concurrent windows when modifying a Winest database that I [...]

How to Gain Job site Productivity in Two Words

Manage Better! (duh) I am an ENR-junkie, a habit I strongly advise for anyone interested in the construction industry. This morning's articles included a thoughtful one on productivity in construction. Its title? "Don't Blame the Workers." It's a standard office water cooler topic that those lazy s.o.b.'s out on the job site screwed up someone's (allegedly excellent) estimate through laziness, extended coffee & lunch breaks, standing around, etc. In fact, research clearly shows that workers out on the job aren't the primary cause for lost productivity. Most problems are due to poor project management planning: late material deliveries, inadequate or unclear task priorities, inefficient job site materials handling logistics, etc. Chris Heger, a superintendent for Turner Construction, says it this way: "I try to set them up for success rather than trying to avoid failure." In a nutshell that's the key for job site productivity. The guys on the site have been making their living working their craft for any number of years, know what they're doing, and take pride in their work. It's up to us to organize well, communicate well, and continually work toward achieving excellence, or as my carpenter-partner Vic used to say, "work towards zero." It's [...]

Estimating Tip: Change Unit & Productivity

I received a question from an estimator while working in Anchorage last week, common to all estimating systems. The process is the same, regardless of whether your company uses WinEst, US Cost Success Estimator, Timberline Estimating, or any other software we know of. Example: you've selected an item from the database, such as 3-5/8" steel stud partitions with drywall, and you'd  like to change the unit of measure from square feet to lineal feet, and insert the productivity based on LF. You've opened the Detail screen to make the adjustment, but the unit won't change. Why not? The solution: Close the Detail screen, and change the unit in the Takeoff Unit column first. Then adjust the Takeoff Quantity and Labor Production IMMEDIATELY! By definition, those values must be incorrect as you've changed the unit of measure. First, change the Quantity based on the appropriate conversion between the original and new Takeoff unit. Then reopen the Detail view and modify the Labor Productivity for the new unit. In Timberline Estimating and US COST Success you won't have to close the Detail view to change the Takeoff Quantity, but you will in WinEst. In all three, the Labor Productivity can be changed on [...]

Estimating Tips for On Screen Takeoff

In the course of our day to day activities we work with a variety of estimating software, and On Screen Takeoff is one that we see often at client sites. OST is estimating system "agnostic", that is, it  works just as well for companies using Excel as it does for companies using Timberline Estimating, WinEst, and US Cost Success. OST is an efficient takeoff utility, but I find some companies taking extra time with each takeoff because they don't know how to use some of OST's built-in time saving tools. Here's a couple tips that will save you time using On Screen Takeoff: Use Layers, and assign nearly all Conditions to Default Layer. Then create and use just a few additional Layers. I recommend creating "Layer 2" and "Layer 3". (I'm personally not a fan of Layers named for Interior Walls, Exterior Walls, and other Condition-based Layers). Then assign some Conditions to these alternate Layers, as needed to clearly differentiate elements when the Takeoff screen gets cluttered. It's an easy matter to switch the Layer assigned to a Condition temporarily to either isolate, or show its relationship to other current conditions. (Simply doubleclick to open the Condition, and choose a [...]

CSI Masterformat 2010 Sample Cost Codes

Most general contracting firms use the CSI Masterformat coding scheme for their cost codes, to generally match project specifications. For any General Contractor contemplating revising its cost codes, we strongly recommend using the 2004/2010 Masterformat, (50 Divisions), rather than the tried and true 1995 Masterformat (16 Divisions). Time marches on, and despite the familiarity and comfort zone of the old format, the new system is gradually replacing the familiar one. Don't make the mistake of  ignoring this progression (unless you're retiring next year). We've recently worked on job cost codes for two of our clients. We're sharing a more generic list of 2010 Masterformat Sample Cost Codes here, as a guideline for mid & smaller GC's. It's no secret that without solid historical job cost reporting, companies fail to close the information loop critical to profitability and effective company management. This sample set of codes is only that, and each company will require its own focused differences from this list. We're offering this up simply to help provide a good start. In our experience designing Job Cost systems over the past 15 years, we find between 200 to 500 codes is a realistic number. The trick is to find that balance point [...]

If it seems like it’s getting worse, it’s because it is

All the smart guys predicted the downturn would last through the end of 2010. So that means it should be getting better, right? Wrong. AGC's recently published  market data lend perspective to that vague hollow feeling that we have all learned to live with over the past few years. Material prices are up sharply this year, a full 4%  in just these three short months of the new year. Contract price? You guessed it, dead flat, (at historical ten-year lows). Volume? right again, down. (1.4% from last year's abysmal numbers). I don't know how it is your company, but we're pretty tired of this ever-worsening, bottomless recession.  I tend to lean toward optimism even in trying circumstances, but these times test even the most cheeful of us. If you have any good news, please send it along, we'd love to share some. In the meantime, all we can do is hang in there. Vin Scully, the hall of fame Dodger's broadcaster would remind us, "only suckers beef." Well said. I'll stick with my optimism, and head back to work.

P6 installs in the real world

Twice in the last week, long-time clients asked us about the optimum  implementation of Primavera P6 to best benefit their project management needs. As is most often the case, there is simply not a single right answer. However, the question is a common one, so I talked with the expert team at Stenstrom Group Inc, our Oracle | Primavera Business Partner, and came up with this list of options to shed light on the solution: Server install Requirements:  adequate SQL server resource availability Typical platform: MS SQL Server (option: Oracle, only recommended for larger installations, and if client has access to Oracle DBA). Location: centralized server Advantages: centralized Enterprise database, accessible via Internet regardless of user’s location, centralized IT management, more reliable data backups , (if configured by Client in MS SQL). Disadvantages: only accessible with Internet connection. Internet connection issues: Fragile Internet connections can cause data loss / corruption issues. Recommended Options: install P6 on Citrix server, Terminal Services, or RDP with a VPN connection for security.  This creates a more stable connection between the client and the server.  (dependent upon the type of Internet connection available to the client). Workstation install Requirements: SQL database engine on remote machine Typical [...]