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 [...]

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 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 [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Estimator’s notebook- January

We've been fortunate to be very busy throughout the last quarter, with the advantages and disadvantages inherent in a packed work schedule. On the one hand, it's our favorite problem to have, although it's been very difficult to keep up and produce the volume of work we've landed. On the other side, perspective is tough to achieve when you're giving it all you've got in the trenches, just trying to get the work done. Having solid strategic partnerships is critical in these situations, and we're fortunate to be able to count on some truly talented resources. Stenstrom Group Inc., N-Visions LLC, and PCATT are among those who have provided us with crucial support in these trying times. Stenstrom Group Inc is the authorized Oracle | Primavera Business Partner for the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim. Through SGI we represent Oracle | Primavera in one of our core markets, supporting NAVFAC and US Army Corps of Engineers contractors. We work together to meet the demand for software, training, and scheduling services as NAVFAC and the Corps are adopting P6 to replace the now-obsolete SureTrak and P3 for their projects.  Why Projects Fail is a link to a useful white paper I [...]

Multiple Float Paths in P6

We got a call yesterday from a company working on an Army Corps of Engineers design-build project with a tight schedule. The Corps' project manager expressed concern that the project would finish late. With the most recent (fourth) pay app, negative float was appearing, primarily due to delays in receiving approvals for the mechanical design.  We were already working with this Contractor on another USACE design-build project schedule, so Bob called me to request a couple reports for analysis of the schedule. He requested a critical path Gannt chart report, and asked me if I had any ideas for another report that would help their team review the schedule. I chose a multiple float path report. When I first noticed the multiple float path option in P6, it seemed like a complex software feature that would be difficult to understnad and work with. That couldn't be farther from the truth. The P6 multiple float path feature simply starts with the Critical Path (FP1), then calculates additional float paths in descending order of importance, based on calculations derived from the project's logical network. So FP2 and FP3 are not as crucial as FP1, but more than those assigned larger float path [...]