Project management platform developers have long worked to integrate BIM, scheduling and field-report processing into systems to analyze progress and improve planning, coordination and communication. Now there’s a new kid on the block. Software is available to automatically assess work status by applying image recognition technology to video from reality capture tools like 360º cameras that go along for the ride on supervisors’ job walks. By integrating such ubiquitous, unobtrusively acquired background data into project management platforms, systems are emerging that can analyze productivity against plan and resources, from day to day, and even issue warnings about looming delays.
Panelists from PCL Construction, Hensel Phelps and WeWork showcase how they’re experimenting with such tools on job sites and share how they believe this technology will transform data capture, progress tracking and resource planning.
Most organizations struggle with accessing and visualizing project resource plans all in one place. Bill Gustaw, Solutions Group Team Lead at CMiC, shows us how the CMiC Resource Planning module pulls all the information you need for each project into a single interface.
Founded in 1978, Art Gautreau, Inc., dba AGI General Contracting (AGI), is a full-service commercial general contractor specializing in the retail food, drug and medical industries. Currently owned and managed by the founding family’s second generation, AGI continues to deliver on its founder’s vision of quality workmanship delivered on schedule and at a fair price. They have been successful at taking care of client needs while growing their company for the past 40 years. This is evident in their continual repeat work with existing clients and the ability to obtain new clients based predominantly on referral.
Many construction companies are stuck in an endless pattern of responding to emergencies and scrambling to keep projects profitable. It’s time to end the cycle.
If you want to escape the repetition of facing an unexpected project event, enacting a construction resource management plan in response and hoping you can keep a project profitable, you aren’t alone. The rise of digital technologies in business has left many companies realizing they can use data to shift from reactive operational models. The construction industry may be behind some other sectors, but it isn’t too late to adapt.
Shifting from a responsive project resource management practice into proactive resource planning can empower firms to maximize their assets and get more value from projects. To start, you need to cement the distinction between the two into your mind:
Resource management vs. resource planning
We could go through a bunch of analogies and metaphors to tell you why management is different than planning, but let’s keep it simple. Here’s a hypothetical scenario similar to what builders face all the time, and how the situation varies in each setup.
Here’s the scenario: You have a team working on a multi-unit dwelling project that begins with demolition of an old building. From there, the plan is to analyze the site post-demolition, create the foundation for the new structure and construct the property. Demolition goes smoothly. With the previous home out of the way, you are able do a deeper site survey and find that the foundation will need stronger reinforcement than you initially anticipated. You find out you can tweak the plans to use a reinforced material in strategic locations to make the change with minimal disruption, but you have limited supply of that material on hand.
How to respond with resource management:
In a traditional operational model, a construction firm would respond to this problem by analyzing what’s available relative to what is needed. There may be assets available at another site, after all. Your site manager notifies the project lead, who then contacts other sites to see if they have excess supply available to borrow from.
From there, you’re looking at multiple projects from the top down, trying to identify which timelines can be tweaked and which supplies can be repurposed to solve this problem. You now have to scramble to project adjusted timelines, see how long it will take vendors to ship replacement inventory, recalculate project costs and adjust revenue expectations. All of this is further complicated if you don’t have the budget space to deal with the cost overage.
Sure, you could just order new supply and put your multi-unit residential development on hold, but if you do that while you have available supply unused at another site, you’re wasting time. A good resource management strategy can optimize what’s available at a given time, but it comes with a great deal of overhead and relies heavily on coordination across teams. The potential pitfalls are plentiful.
How to get ahead with resource forecasting:
In this same scenario, an organization engaging in forecasting will have analyzed past projects and anticipated potential supply or financial shortfalls in advance. Your team may know that a project involving demolition and rebuild can introduce complications, but until you dig into historic data trends, you can’t really project the precise cost and material bills that can come with those complications. Furthermore, the business will have visibility into company-wide resource availability at the project’s outset.
An organization that is proactive about resource forecasting won’t necessarily anticipate every contingency, but they will have created flexibility in the budget, project schedule and materials strategy to accommodate for reasonable unexpected issues. In this scenario, this could play out in having extra reinforced beams in place from the start, knowing that unused materials can be passed on to a future project anyway, for example. If the capital isn’t immediately available, creative scheduling and project management could help to sidestep the issue.
Embracing a proactive approach
Resource planning is often overly complicated for construction firms because organizations can’t easily see what they have available at a given time and report on historic data trends. Modern enterprise resource planning solutions are changing this by combining user-friendly visualizations with intuitive dashboards so site, project and business leaders can easily get the information they need to make decisions based on the entire organization’s resource plan.
When these organizational resource planning tools are combined with collaborative project management systems that extend to the field, all stakeholders are left with the ability to generate and access the information they need to get ahead of resource challenges. Shifting from managing emergencies to getting ahead of problems before they arise.
To run a profitable operation, your resource managers and schedulers strive to achieve as close to 100% utilization as possible. Estimating resource supply and demand with a high degree of accuracy is key to your success. When resource planning estimates are reliable, they materially enhance a firm’s ability to optimize utilization and to quickly adapt to changes.
In construction, your productivity determines your bottom line. As a result, it becomes easy to fixate your firm’s efforts on time—the most quantifiable measure of productivity—but is this focus coming at the expense of other components of your enterprise? In other words, are you considering the effect of resources—and their management—on your overall productivity?
This eBook is an opportunity to explore how a proactive resource planning tool is the key to addressing both your firm’s—and the construction industry’s—wider productivity challenge. Use this guide to audit your own firm’s resource planning practices by weighing them against the best strategies and latest technologies in resource planning.
To learn more about CMiC Field—The Solution That Empowers Your Field Organization with Total Visibility—download the brochure.
To learn more about CMiC Enterprise—Your Construction ERP for Growth—download the brochure.
Running your business should not be based on guesswork. Unique to the construction industry, CMiC Business Intelligence (BI) simplifies the extensive and ongoing management of data across the enterprise. By embedding directly into the core CMiC interface, the widgets and components function within existing screens—displaying reporting and analytical functionality in an environment already familiar to its users.
CMiC BI was developed using the same tools—and was built on top of the same database—as the rest of the CMiC platform, allowing any authorized member of the organization to access accurate and real time data without having to migrate, convert or merge the information first.
Take a tour of the CMiC BI dashboard, presented by Gord Rawlins, President & CEO, and Oliver Ritchie, VP of Technology & Innovation.
You have a site manager facing a dilemma: A shipment of supplies just arrived damaged, making it impossible to work on the next stage of the project. There are a few options: Order replacements and delay work, change the plans to allow for alternative materials that local suppliers have on hand or adjust project strategies to allow for alternative work to be done while the supply issue is dealt with.
How would your site managers go about deciding which choice is best for this specific project? If you’re like most firms, your decision-maker will spend a couple of minutes thinking about the problem and make the choice based on anecdotal experience. Maybe the site manager knows that the vendor has a tendency to respond quickly to supply problems, for example, and determines that an immediate delay would be short and lead to less disruption.
This kind of instinctual decision-making is workable in small scale, but when you have a portfolio of projects running at once, you need your leaders to be able to make choices based on accurate data. This is where business intelligence tools come into play.
How BI works
It’s important to understand where BI fits within a broader analytics strategy. Big data is often approached as the process of gathering large amounts of structured and unstructured data and finding ways to put that information to use in day-to-day operations. For construction firms, the structured data can be transaction records, vendor performance profiles, and estimated and actual costs. Unstructured information can take the form of plans, equipment handbooks and similar forms of documentation.
As organizations engage with big data, they need to develop strategies to organize that information effectively and communicate it to end users. An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system provides the backend database for all of this information to reside, making it accessible to users across teams. BI technologies then take the data within your ERP system and translate it into reports, visualizations and similar user facing formats that let individuals act on the data.
In simplest terms, BI saves users from having to sift through large quantities of information to find out what is relevant by automatically presenting them with what is most important.
Where BI fits in construction
BI enables stakeholders within an organization to quickly access the information they need to inform decision-making in real time. Going back to our hypothetical site manager, that user could leverage BI to:
- Create a custom report for vendor shipment records and prices to identify which vendor is best suited to provide replacements and pin down the timeline for the day. This can be done in minutes, combining data from across the business.
- Chart the average cost of supplies to determine if local hardware stores or similar sources could provide a cost-efficient alternative.
- View big-picture financial details on how the business is performing to identify whether the organization can afford delays, possible overtime work or rush shipment of replacement parts.
With “embedded” BI at her fingertips, the site manager can go beyond making an estimate on the optimal decision based on experience and use real-world data to make the best choice relative to the specific set of circumstances in play at a given moment.
While these benefits are powerful in the field, they’re also extremely beneficial at the home office, where leaders can quickly ascertain business performance, monitor potential impacts to profitability across all projects and perform similar analyses in real time. CMiC makes these capabilities particularly powerful by embedding our BI capabilities into our ERP platform, creating a unified system that provides complete and timely visibility into a full range of actionable insights.
The CMiC BI advantage
Most BI solutions exist as specialized software systems that are designed to integrate with your back end databases and pull data at intervals. In many cases, this leads to limited functionality in terms of both the types of information the BI system can gather and the frequency with which it can do so. CMiC overcomes these limitations by embedding our BI solution into our ERP and field operations platform, allowing for seamless and complete access to real-time data across the enterprise. This results in a variety of benefits, including:
- Greater adoption and usage of BI capabilities because users don’t have to jump between their ERP and a separate BI tool — BI exists within the ERP.
- Simpler — and more effective — automation because the ERP can trigger automatic processes when the BI system identifies prescribed data conditions.
- Better decision-making as BI is built into existing workflows, allowing users to make better- informed choices.
Choosing an ERP with embedding BI takes away the chaos of decisions made based on anecdotal evidence and creates a structured process in which choices stem from real data and established best practices. CMiC makes this possible by making BI “pervasive” — it builds data analytics into everyday processes, ensuring users get the insights they need, where they need them, and when those insights can have the greatest impact on decision-making. It’s a whole new way of thinking about — and using — business intelligence … and it’s only available from CMiC.