How StratusVue Helped Northwestern Medicine Save $100k

Northwestern Medicine (NM) is an academic medical center based in the Chicago area. It serves as the primary clinical affiliate of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. NM strives to utilize technology wherever possible to improve operational efficiency.  As part of that effort, in 2011 NM mandated the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology on all construction projects moving forward.

The Project

NM could fully utilize the new standards they had established for BIM while building a new 3-story, 60,000 square foot medical office building in Grayslake, Illinois.

Data Migration & Management Requirements

NM knew from previous experience that the transfer of asset data (such as components of the HVAC, plumbing, or electrical systems) from construction to building operations was a highly imperfect process.  This was in large part because after receipt of the data, NM would be required to manually re-enter it into their computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) in order to operate the building properly.  This re-entry was a problem because it was:

  • Slow –  It routinely took months or even years to get the data entered
  • Inaccurate  –  Human error would inevitably result in mistakes
  • Incomplete  –  They wouldn’t discover until too late that they were missing some key information

Therefore, one of the key goals embedded within their BIM mandate was to eliminate the need to re-enter asset data into CMMS.  This same requirement was broadened to mean that the data must be generally portable, in case NM ever had a need to make a system or software change.

In addition to this, NM wanted to be prepared for the future when BIM technology would be used directly by facilities personnel to execute their jobs.  To ensure this could be done, they established a requirement that asset data and documentation must be retrievable through a model.

NM also wanted to ensure that after turnover the asset data would be easy to manage during ongoing operations.  If their facilities team was to have confidence in the technology, it needed to be simple to reference the data and keep it current. This needed to stay consistent as future renovation and tenant improvement projects were undertaken.

The Solution: StratusVue & BIMfx

With these requirements in mind, NM set out to identify a solution that would meet their needs.  They discovered that there was nothing available in the market that would suffice. This led them to engage StratusVue to develop the tools and functionality they required.  Through a collaborative effort between StratusVue, NM, and Pepper Construction, the BIMfx toolset was developed, enhanced, and employed on the Grayslake project.

How It Worked

With BIMfx, operating assets worth tracking for Facilities Maintenance needs are first assigned a unique “Technical ID”. That ID can be used to identify each piece of equipment.  BIMfx then generates a dynamic web link (URL) for each Technical ID. This references any data or documentation that has been collected during construction and assigned to that asset.  Building owners can use these URLs in multiple ways depending upon their needs. They can also port the BIMfx data directly into a CMMS or other operational software.

But the team knew that any solution had to address the process of collecting the data as well. Great technology isn’t useful without the right information to work with.  From years of working with contractors, StratusVue knew that the key was to keep the steps as simple as possible.  As a result, BIMfx offers Construction Managers a straightforward tool to manage and report on the collection process. It gives subcontractors the ability to provide the data required in spreadsheets they already know how to use.  This focus on simplicity makes it easier to collect the data during construction, rather than waiting until closeout.

Impact & Results

BIMfx met all the requirements that NM established as part of their BIM mandate for the Grayslake project.  To begin with, the data for all the building’s serviceable assets was ported directly into their CMMS before the building was even officially turned over.  The data migration process took approximately an hour, rather than the weeks and months NM had become accustomed to.  No manual re-entry of data was required. NM estimates that even on such a modestly sized building this saved them about $100,000 in avoided cost.

In addition, by using BIMfx to aggregate and associate the relevant construction data and documentation to key assets, Pepper Construction was able to provide a more complete data set before the building was even officially turned over to NM.  The tool made it transparent what data elements were missing.  This made it easy to connect submittal documentation with relevant assets to help facilitate this speedy completion.

Artificial Intelligence in the Construction Industry

We have all witnessed the rapid evolution of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) and what it can bring to our world.

But what exactly is AI? What is Machine Learning?

Artificial Intelligence in its simplest terms is a form of computer science that focuses on building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.

The creation of AI starts with machine learning. Machine learning is a subcategory of AI that creates the ability for systems to learn and optimize processes without having to be specifically coded to do so. Basically, it allows the machine to gain the intelligence to work on its own.

How is Artificial Intelligence Used in Construction?

Imagine feeding new buildout project information to AI and having the price and schedule of that project almost immediately. That is our future as an industry.

Once the desired results are set, peripheral data is run through AI to quickly gather the information needed.

Here is an example: The set goal for AI in this situation is to find referenced specifications, embedded schedules, and callouts. To do this, each sheet is mined for content. and cross-referenced with another set of plans.

As soon as we have the desired result, additional construction documents are fed through AI to continue the data mining. This is why it is important to save your historical data.

AI Also Has the Ability to Troubleshoot

While data mining, AI can detect if a sheet index is rotated to a portrait format rather than a landscape. Once detected, AI converts the text, associates the index, and links correctly. AI then asks the user to confirm the correction. Upon confirmation, AI’s settings adjust to recognize that specific solution in the future. Lastly, the sheet is converted to the intended view.

AI presents the opportunity to semantically understand structured and unstructured data. At StratusVue, AI notifies users which sheets are missed, doubled up, or associated. This eliminates the need for a project manager, professional engineer, or admin to find the issue manually.

Contact us to see StratusLink in action!

Leverage Your Construction Data with StratusVue

Mid-Market construction companies have a lot of opportunities to leverage data today in ways that were previously unavailable. We see the opportunity of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence making meaningful impacts today and more on the horizon. Whether you use a combination of CRM and an ERP with an occasional schedule or control your projects with Excel®, making the effort now to aggregate that data will help in unforeseen ways both today and very soon.

It’s Time to Leverage Your Data

The opportunity is now. Having observed many firms trying to leverage their data using a BI tool, such as PowerBI®, Tableau®, or any of the business intelligence tools available in the marketplace, it confirms what we all suspect. Data is the new oil. Having a strategy in place for storing your data is important for your future. Having as much historical data to interpret will help make better decisions

Level The Playing Field

Over the last month, we have seen the release of “Cortex 365” by Eos Group as a view into the future of managing data as a service. Cortex is a project history solution that enables siloed data to be managed and viewed via intelligence; giving you an immediate perspective on trends, benchmarks, and predictive analytics. In our previous posts, we discuss how mid-market construction firms can leverage these tools Afor the first time. This offers insights that are usually reserved for the largest of firms.

At StratusVue, we work with the project stakeholders to ensure that both the current project data and the historical data of your projects is consumable in a simple and meaningful way to benefit both internal and external users.