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.

How StratusVue Can Help Mid-Market Construction Companies

Data-driven decision making (or DDDM) is the process of making organizational decisions based on actual data rather than intuition or observation alone. Many mid-market companies usually don’t have the resources to accomplish decent data-driven results.

StratusVue enables your teams to consume all project data;

whether you use PowerBI®, DOMO®, Tableau® or homegrown reports. Data-driven decisions are the natural extension of the “Big Data” concept. Big Data’s roots are in the ability to connect data sources that were previously a silo and relating the information.

Improve the Way You Price a Job

Your ERP has a cost that associates to actual pricing. Connect that to your estimating and now you can compare ‘estimated’ versus ‘actual’ when you are pricing out a job for accuracy. Take that newly blended view and tie in a schedule that allows you to see if pricing is affected by staging and logistics. Those silos of structured data can now blend into a unified view for better decision making throughout your project.

Elevate Your Cost-To-Complete and Forecasting

During your monthly review of projected costs, you can spend hours going through each estimate item and PCI/PCO to identify what you expect to happen. When using a data-driven decision process, a PX can quickly bring up items automatically. This eliminates the amount of time needed to manually search.

This is a relatively new option for mid-market construction companies. StratusVue can enable your team and their abilities to leverage better data.

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The Evolution of Construction Project Drawings

The evolution of drawings for construction has reached the digital age. We are moving into the next era and it is an exciting time for those in the construction industry. For example, the current technology allows real-time sharing and maintenance of construction drawings resulting in greater efficiency on projects.

A Brief History of Construction Drawings

The concept of construction drawings dates back to the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. To many people’s surprise, these drawings often included descriptive specifications. However, the birth of the blueprint changed the course of drawing production forever. In 1842, John Herschel invented a way to reproduce drawings.  Cyanotype is a photographic printing process done by a chemical reaction that produces white lines on a cyan-blue background, thus dubbing the name Blueprint. This process was much more cost and time-efficient. It also increased accuracy when producing an unlimited number of copies.

Eventually, the whiteprint replaced the blueprint. This new style of drawing was typically on a white background with blue lines. Currently, technical drawings are produced using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files. Because of this, the files can now be saved digitally and sent directly from a computer to a plotter.

Drawing Tables: A Thing of the Past

Drawings originally needed large plotters to print full-size and scale-size drawings. Typically, this required a third party print house and large drawing tables. Often this called for a dedicated project coordinator or assistant to maintain these drawings; both on the site and in the office. Furthermore, when revisions were made, the old version of the drawings had to be physically replaced and redistributed.

Drawings on Tablets: The Era of Digital Construction Plans

Due to the evolution of technology, there is now the ability to digitally share construction drawings in various file types. Additionally, the project team can access the drawings from anywhere, at any time, and can distribute them to the project team in a matter of minutes.

As if real-time distribution is not enough, the team can revise or interst drawings into the project set without ever needing to leave their desk. Because of this, reproduction houses no longer need to reprint the technical drawing. Similarly, a project assistant or coordinator does not need to spend hours maintaining a set of drawings.

Today, field superintendents can open drawings immediately. They can see changes in real-time as the drawings for the project evolve. Likewise, the right digital tools provide the project team with the ability to annotate drawings just like they would on a drawing table with a red pen.

Today’s Tools

Many different platforms offer various solutions for digital construction document management. Having the right tools for the job can completely change the project’s profit. Some solutions address stand-alone documents, construction project management, cost management, and document management processes.

With StratusLink, built-in artificial intelligence can automatically “link” your plans. This results in your project drawings being interactive.

The benefits of using technology in the construction industry are countless. Are you ready to go digital?

4 Construction Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

Happy International Podcast Day! Podcasts are a great way to stay informed while respecting your time. Throw one on while you’re getting ready for work in the morning or during your morning commute.

To make things easy for you, we have compiled the top four construction podcasts to help you keep up with the latest industry news.

The Construction Leading Edge Podcast

Hosted by Todd Dawalt, this podcast is a “one-stop-shop” for construction professionals looking to improve their leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Each episode ranges from 30 minutes to an hour and covers topics such as effective hiring, punch list problems, and job site productivity.

ConTech Crew

Hosted by a variety of people including James Benham and Rob McKinney, this podcast hones in on all things Construction Tech. Listen to the latest trends, breakdown different software, and learn how to effectively integrate construction technology into your business.

The Art of Construction

Learn the best ways to grow your business with entrepreneur, Devon Tilly. This podcast hosts some of the best names in the industry and breaks down everything that is going on in the world of construction.

The Lien Zone Podcast

For those that are interested in construction law, dive into this podcast hosted by Alex Barthet; a construction lawyer out of Miami. Barthet covers a wide variety of construction law topics in each episode. 


Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know what you’re listening to!

Also, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to keep up to date with the latest StratusVue news.

3 Words That Best Describe StratusVue

One of our goals here at StratusVue is to make our clients feel like part of the family. While you can’t choose your family, you can choose which business partnership works best for you. The goal here is to give you a better understanding of our company and the relationship you’ll have with us. To make it easy, here are three words that best describe StratusVue.

We know that you are dedicated to your craft and you can expect nothing less from us.  Our team sees everything through to resolve.  That is within our development, support, and operations. Therefore, we do whatever it takes to keep you successful.
When you have a question or concern, we see to addressing it quickly and thoughtfully.  We understand that using new software can be a shift from your norm. Tasks that were second nature might now require more thought.  We empathize with what you are experiencing and will support you until it becomes second nature.
It’s not unusual that someone will call support just to talk. We know it’s important to feel heard and we appreciate you taking the time to call us.  We pride ourselves on knowing our customers and making sure that you know we are available.  We’ve woven customer service into our fabric.  We are here for you and because of you; that’s not lost on us.  

When you combine our culture, company values, and the program, we are one strong ally.  You have our word, that when you trust us with your project, you will get the best in return.

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5 Tips for Managing a Team From Home

We are working during a time where things are different.  Your kids walk into your meetings and your desk is steps away from your bed.  I know how you feel because I’m writing this from home in the same situation.

Today, I want to focus on things that I have found to be effective in working with and managing your team from home.

We’re In This Together

Don’t stress about the dog barking in the background or your child’s movie playing behind you while you are on the phone.  There’s no need to explain it; just move forward. You and your coworkers are all navigating this time together. If anything, this will humanize your team and foster stronger connections.

Get Personal

Make a point to touch base with your team on a personal level. We don’t see each other as often right now and a lot of office culture and team fluidity has been built on face-to-face interactions.  Since that doesn’t exist, we email, message, call, or video conference. While that helps keep the work on track, it’s not the same as reaching out by phone to check in on a personal level.

Trust Your Team

The temptation to schedule more meetings or check-ups is normal. But remember this: Nothing has changed in what your requirements, expectations or structure is other than the fact that now it’s remote. There’s no need to manage any differently than how you did before March 2020.  Your team might indeed need to adjust because work-life balance looks different now. But in the end, your expectations of them are the same. If the output is the same the management should be too.

Find Ways to Bring the Team Together Virtually

Set up virtual happy hours, internal contests, or simply take some time in your meetings to check in with your team to see if their needs have changed.  There are a lot of ways to keep your employees pointed in the right direction and make sure that they feel that they are an integral part of the machine.

Set Your Company Apart

This is a great opportunity to think about what makes your company, culture, and team different from the rest. It’s important to highlight those things to remind your employees of the company’s ultimate goal. This will refresh everyone’s focus and sense of pride to be working with an effective and goal-oriented team.

I hope these tips have eased some of your worries.  Even though you might hear about how bad things are and how difficult it is to be remote; you can take this opportunity to strengthen your team.  When the day comes that we get to shake hands again, your team will be smiling, excited, and more motivated than ever.

-Brian Anson, COO

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3 Ways to Minimize Project Risk During COVID-19

As contractors are met with new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial to find ways to minimize risk. Here are a few tips to help navigate these complex times.

Let’s talk about the biggest buzz phrase in construction – finishing projects “on time and under budget.”The reality is you’re going to face delays and unexpected costs. It’s imperative that you are documenting at every stage of projects. It is the single most important thing any general contractor or subcontractor can do to ensure full payment and, in worst cases, avoid litigation.
As deadlines loom and the work piles up, it’s natural for team members to put their heads down in an effort to get everything done. Working remotely can create an opportunity for communication to slip through the cracks. If you’re not following these two seemingly minor steps – communication and documentation – the owner of the project can turn around and say, “we don’t owe you anything because you didn’t follow contractual obligations,” and the finger-pointing begins.
Leverage Technology
One major step that’s going to help you with the previous points is having a single source of truth. Picture this: You receive a spreadsheet, make an edit, share it via email and suddenly there are numerous versions being emailed back and forth. By using software like StratusVue, you ensure version control and take a step towards the future of paperless job sites. It may seem daunting implementing technology, but doing so will have a massive effect on time savings. It’s not a matter of if, but when we will no longer see papers scattered around job sites.

Owners, now more than ever, are nervous about their projects. They not only want but need up-to-date documentation to feel at ease. Companies that provide accurate and timely data prove their reliability. This will appease owners on current projects and ensure future jobs. With all of your documents and communication in one location, you can focus on providing quality service.

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5 Helpful Tips for New StratusVue Users

Deciding to utilize Construction Management software is a big step. But taking the leap will increase your company’s efficiency as well as save you time and money. A painless implementation process and a user-first experience are vital to successful adoption and usage of your new software. At StratusVue, we want to make it as easy as possible to make the transition.

You’ll hear the word ‘process’ a lot in this blog. That’s the best thing about new software, it will create and maintain a process. The following five items will ultimately make the use of StratusVue seamless and successful.

Know Your Goals
A trouble-free and straightforward process is one of the main goals of every software. Therefore, it’s important to map out what processes to maintain, improve, and eliminate. That way, you’ll be able to use StratusVue to your full advantage.

Evaluate Your Strategy
With StratusVue, it is easy to delegate tasks to create additional savings. For example, assign an employee to focus specifically on document control. This creates consistency in the way projects are set up, run, and organized. All of your information becomes centralized and simplified.
Operating Procedures
Even though you may already have a successful process in place, it’s worth one more review. You might find areas to improve cost management. Look at how certain cost events are written as well as how far they go until additional approval is required. Also, consider how and when information is stored and if it’s beneficial. Cost Management is important; so providing our team with a good outline will ensure success.
Workflows and Approvals
To make the setup process simple, map out your current workflows and approvals of RFIs and submittals. Also, review cost events both internally and externally. Your internal checks and balances process will improve by utilizing a formal workflow.
Assign Tasks
The last thing is pretty simple but just as valuable. Make sure to decide who does what. It sounds obvious but when you break down who is performing what data entry on a project it will prove fruitful. Take a day and evaluate your projects to make sure that the team knows who is doing what.

Change is never easy.  Different things work for different people so having an unorganized system leads to inconsistency and frustration. So remember: StratusVue will help take your team to the next level in achieving one common goal. We are here to enable you to achieve great things!

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