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.
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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): [...]
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 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 [...]
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 [...]
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: 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 [...]