Digital Dryshack Construction Blog

Home/Digital Dryshack Construction Blog/

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 [...]

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 [...]