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DD# 74: Notes from the Floor, World of Concrete 2015

A first-rate trade show such as World of Concrete in Las Vegas is one of the better investments we think a company can make. It's an excellent opportunity to plug in to the latest and greatest tools, equipment, and technology that shape our industry. This year marks the 4th year of continued growth in attendance, coinciding with the continuing economic recovery in construction. I spent most of my time in the technology section, (no surprise), in the Central Hall of the Convention Center. I was primarily interested in what our partners were doing, as well in checking out the show as a whole. It's a daunting task to take in an exhibition of this size. Over a thousand vendors are displaying their best products, a dizzying array of attractions simultaneously competing for your attention. I attended only 2 days of the 4 day show this year, a shorter commando campaign compared to the full meal deal of past years. Back then I stayed the entire duration, affording the opportunity to take advantage of some of the excellent educational seminars on estimating, business management, and team-building, to name a few. Some quick highlights from the floor: ProEst's CEO Jeff Gerardi tells [...]

DD# 73: PC in Tablet’s Clothing

In the market for a business-grade, road warrior's laptop? A surprisingly solid choice might be a great laptop masquerading as a Windows tablet.  I travel too much to have any interest in a luggable.  If it's not thin, light, and fast, I'm not interested. Here's my specs: < 4 lbs. + < .75" thick >= 128 GB SSD >= 1080 dpi native screen res >= Intel  i5 processor + >= 8 GB RAM option for 2 external high-res video ports Windows 8.1 touch -screen I first bought the brand new Lenovo XXXX, barely over 3 lbs., with all of the above but the dual videos. If I hadn't hated the weirdly-rounded, slippery keyboard, I might have stopped there. But if you spend 10+ hours per day on a laptop, and you hate the keyboard, you hate the computer. So I went back the next day (in a different state), to try again. For a change, when I rattled off the above specs, Sales Dude didn't look at his shoes and tell me, "...the closest thing you'll find is the new...., but it doesn't support dual external monitors..." Instead, as soon as he said "...with the docking station...",  my ears instantly perked up. When he said "...docking station that [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Digital Dry Shack Blog|

DD# 72- Why the Cloud works for Business Travelers

Our work took us up to Alaska the first week of December, always a trip that I look forward to. Some people call it crazy, but I enjoy Alaska in the winter as much as in the summer.  One reason is that only Alaskans are there this time of year, as all the tourists have gone home or elsewhere. For instance, the population of Juneau physically doubles when five cruise ships are in, and all those visitors are packed into a downtown area never intended to fit that many people at once. Not to mention that stark, beauty of the magnificent, dichromatic blue and white landscape. But I digress. I no longer save much data to my laptop. It's much more efficient for us to save nearly all our files out to the Cloud, (at our company, Google Drive). There are many reasons, including real-time file collaboration, data synchronization, and one other big one - if you lose your laptop, you don't lose your data! And yes, some fine. upstanding citizen of Alaska's largest city benefited from my having left my business backpack in the car in plain sight, following a long day of P6 training for Cruz Construction up in Palmer. [...]

DD# 71: Time Impact Analysis for Schedule Extension

On a recent trip to Hawaii, one of our clients brought a problem to our attention that we've heard numerous times before. Their original one-year contract term had grown to eighteen months (and counting). With 80+ approved change orders, the contract price had increased  by more than fifty per cent. All in all that sounds like a good job, right? Wrong, because there's a catch - the Owner is insisting that all the changes are "concurrent", and that no additional compensation for extended general conditions is forthcoming. We've seen this time and time again, and the most effective tool to achieve contractual time extension is a good schedule, along timely documentation. Without either one of these components, the contractor is in a weaker position to collect what's fairly due. A good schedule includes: an approved baseline recent updates schedule entries for each significant change which affects time, (per the attached TIA doc) A US Army Corps of Engineers scheduling seminar in Anchorage provided the best "how to" document I've ever seen, attached here. It's a litigation-tested-and-proven method, to get your company the time extension justified by the project. Simply follow the steps in the linked pdf file, and you'll have much better success. Thanks to Craig Lance, [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Digital Dry Shack Blog|

News From The Viewpoint Construction Software Conference – Fall 2014

At the end of September, the team at Cassell Consulting joined the Viewpoint Construction Software Conference.  The annual event offered a preview of what is new and improved with the company’s many software programs and services for the upcoming year.  Its location at the Oregon Convention Center was evidence of the company’s surging growth.  In prior years, the company’s office complex in SE Portland and even a local hotel‘s re-purposed parking garage had legendarily served as headquarters.  But with over 1500 guests in 2014, only something like the one million square foot convention center would do. At a meeting for partners held right before the official events began, Viewpoint’s Tom Kobayashi previewed a new web interface with upgraded security and a dashboard that included Hourly Time, Resource Management and VPC integration.  We’ll have to wait until probably March of 2015 for that to be rolled out.  But for this fall, we were shown  Viewpoint for Estimating, Viewpoint for Cloud and upgrades for Project Collaboration, Content Management and Resource Management – which looks like it’s beginning to expand into a Scheduling Program.  It was clear Viewpoint plans to continue developing its family of programs to maintain its competitive advantage. “Collaborate” was [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |News and Events|

DD# 70: The “Swing”

I recently read The Boys in the Boat, a birthday gift from daughter #1, and a recent #1 NY Times Bestseller by David James Brown. If you're not familiar, it's about the University of Washington spoiling a gold medal sweep in the 1936 Olympics by Hitler's Germany. The Huskies' eight-man crew team won the gold in a three-boat photo finish, that was too close to call for many minutes. The book is set in 1920's and -30's America, reeling from not only the Great Depression, but the Dust Bowl just a few years later. That was unquestionably the most challenging, hardscrabble period that our country has ever endured. It follows a particular athlete who grew up largely alone, abandoned by his father, stepmother, and younger siblings, to fend for himself from age thirteen. What makes the book more intriguing and applicable to our construction business blog here, are the numerous back-stories involving a shared philosophy, work ethic, common goal, teamwork, and commitment to all of those. Not the smallest of those attributes is the inherent trust in one another, the belief and knowledge that you're not rowing the boat alone. Only with selfless teamwork and utter faith in each other, [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

DD# 69: Japan, Lean, Six Sigma

I spent the second week of July in Japan, providing US Cost Success Estimator training to NAVFAC engineers at the Yokosuka Naval Base.  Located on the south end of Tokyo Bay, the base is the headquarters for the US Pacific Fleet in Asia.  I had the good fortune  to work with Derek and Mark, talented civilian American expatriates currently assigned to the Navy's IT and Management operations in Yokosuka, (pronounced “Yo-kus-ka”).  Derek is the equivalent of CTO for the base, and Mark works with Derek on business / project management operations.  Over lunch one day, Mark explained his Six Sigma background and approach to projects, and the Navy's efforts to adapt industry best practices to its project management and business operations. "The problem", Mark said, "is that while we are often handed a good software system to implement, its selection based on a set of assumptions that are incorrect from the start, even irrelevant to the problem at hand. So we burn up a bunch of time and money, and never get close to fixing the problem that we set out to solve to begin with. Then, after months of effort and often hundreds of thousands of dollars, it's evident that adopting the software didn't fix the problem, and the project is canned. "The primary [...]

Digital Dryshack # 68: Scheduling Best Practices

15 Tips for Best-Practices Scheduling While discussing scheduling with a client in Hawaii recently, I found myself repeating over and over, a variation of “…scheduling best practices include…” Hearing these words repeatedly set me to thinking that I hadn’t recently seen scheduling guidelines set out in a concise, straightforward document. So here goes an attempt at that lofty goal. Rule # 1: Always maintain the best interests of the project in the schedule Rule # 2: Always maintain high ethical standards in building the project schedule That said, to paraphrase an old saying, “the hand builds the schedule, rules the project.” (You are in control over how you represent shades of gray. Represent your company’s best interests, as long as you comply with #1 & #2 above) Complete the logical network Don’t leave any open-ended activities. Every activity but the first has a predecessor, every activity but the last has a successor. Use the entire contract duration in the initial project schedule (IPS). Promising early completion carries significant legal implications, and is therefore often unwise. Be realistic with the logical network. Avoid “waterfall scheduling” (excessive Finish Start relationships where Start to Start is more accurate). Keep relationships simple. In most cases, [...]

Digital Dryshack #67: Tablets don’t take over the business world…yet

If you've been following the Digital Dryshack, you'll know we've been predicting that laptops are on the way out, with tablets taking over the portable business computing role. My favorites are the convertible models that include a detachable keyboard, offering both true tablet two-dimensional computing, with full-on laptop operability for more serious work sessions. With Rob and I due for new hardware, we started researching the specs of the different tablet models. The minimum  specs that I set for my main machine include 8gb RAM (16 preferred), modern 4-core processor, Windows 8.1 touchscreen, high-res display with dual video outputs, all in a 3 pound package. Rob's programming requires more processing power and 16 GB RAM, along with a more-forgiving 5 pound limit.  Asus, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Samsung all have promising new convertible tablets. But with a top-end limit of only 4gb RAM and single video card output, we came to the disappointing conclusion that tablets are still not ready for prime time as a serious business-class machine. Despite my prediction that laptops would be boat anchors by sometime 2015, we each bought laptops. My new Lenovo Carbon x1 hits all my goals in 3.0 lbs, fires both my external 27" ultra-high res [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #66, “Accumulator” items for Estimating Cost Analysis

Cassell Consulting is pleased to be working with Dominick Rose on several projects.  We first met at Timberline Estimating Conferences back in the '80s, in  his various roles as a senior estimating consultant, trainer, and database administrator. As Database Administrator most recently at CDM, Dominick, Alan Watt (DPR Construction), & I started the Northwest Estimators Roundtable, an informal group with the goal of sharing ideas as to the evolution of our unique discipline, construction estimating. One of our current projects with Dominick involves building a custom ProEst estimating database for an industrial contractor in the mid-west. A key component of our estimating database is the use of "accumulators", (items that sum overall quantities for estimate analysis). For instance, we use accumulators for the primary Level 2 sections of Div 03 Concrete, as follows: Sec 03-10-00 Formwork: we build an item "Form Oil & Accessories" Sec 03-20-00 Reinforcement- we build an item "Rebar Unload, Sort, & Accessories" Sec 03-30-00 Cast in Place Concrete: we build an item "Concrete Tools & Equipment" Each of these items automatically sums all work under its numerous subsections during  assembly takeoff. That quantity is then easily visible, for evaluating total man hours and dollars. It allows [...]