How StratusVue Helps Maintain A Budget

Maintaining your budget is always important.  One of StratusVue’s goals is to keep your current and future budgets accurate using our forecasting tool.

The budget is a key factor of your project and is normally set by your company’s estimating department.  It’s vital to stay on track during the job so that the estimating department can refine their future proposals.

The issue is that the Estimator is typically not on the job site and the Project Manager is normally not providing the bids to your clients.   Therefore, communicating what happens on the project, and its effect on the budget, has to be as accurate as possible.  That’s where forecasting software shines. It is the only way to effectively relay actual project information to the estimating team during, and/or after the project.

Keeping Your Budget on Track

For Project Managers, our forecasting tool is the best way to make sure you know where your money is all the way up to project completion.  To achieve this, it’s recommended that you update your forecast monthly.

It’s important to review your costs for the following:

  • What’s complete?
  • What do I know is going to happen?
  • What do I think could happen?

By inputting your forecast numbers for those three items, your estimating department could look at your forecast at any point in the project and understand how they should adjust their internal numbers.

StratusVue: Forecasting from StratusVue on Vimeo.

Creating the Best Possible Outcome

As the project progresses and the risk is reduced, a final number should be generated.  When you start seeing the project finish line, there are two possible options: leave your final numbers as they exist or adjust your budget to compensate.

Ultimately, the decision depends on how closely the estimators follow the project and account for company culture. It is important to understand whether pricing differences are a scope miss, a unique one-time event, or an estimate bust. This tells the estimator what should be carried over to the next project or legitimate added scope.

In the end, the knowledge and management of the costs discussed above is the bread and butter of making money. The more you review, manage, and discuss your costs on the project, the more profitable your company should be in the end.

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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.

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?

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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