Location-Based Management System is the underlying principle for Vico's scheduling solutions. The basic tenet is that more granular quantities by location facilitates better planning AND controlling of the construction schedule.
Here are some frequently-asked questions that we've received from firms learning more about our approach to construction scheduling:
Q: What do you do with an organization that’s entrenched with what they think is CPM management?
A: We would love to help people understand the benefits of using a Location-Based Management System. If people are entrenched in one practice then I would recommend opening them to our BIM Path workshop series and enrolling a few people in that to understand where the differences are.
But it’s always difficult… Construction is a traditional environment where many people have done it the same way for a long time and we’re always going to be faced with certain parties who are very resistant to change. We’ve got everything from high level executive plans on rollout to the people with the expert knowledge that have dealt with the resistance and certainly overcome it in many situations. So if you need some help then please just get in touch.
Q: How does Vico help organizations overcome lack of proper planning and scheduling? Tools and methods don’t overcome commitments by management or even PMs and Supers.
A: Absolutely. So that’s one of the main reasons for showing both the combined process of Vico and Lean here and also the BIM Path series of workshops we do to support that. We know that gathering this information can be extremely difficult. So as you mention proper planning and schedule development is essential; and in order to enact that we have the schedule workshops which are really very in-depth and hold the hands of all of the team members that are required at different stages in order to gather the information, crunch the data, present the information and then have optimization sessions with the right parties. Gaining the right commitments at the right point in time is all supported by a very structured set of workshops.
I think, too, it would be very different if we simply went in, dropped off a box of software and left. I don’t believe at all that that’s the approach we take, but rather as Clive said - very collaborative one, a very educational one, and one that certainly is not threatening in anyway.
Yes, Vico is a software company and we take pride in the way that we implement our solution. It’s not something where we just drop off a CD to install and a flimsy instruction manual… You also get the years of experience and the experts that have implemented this worldwide on hundreds of major construction projects with some of the world’s largest companies. So we really are there to lend a hand and to make sure this is successful together should that be something that you are ready to change.
Q: Are there project delivery systems where LBMS and LPS process faces greater challenges like design build?
A: I think you’re always going to be faced with the biggest challenge being change. The process can certainly fit for any delivery system. It’s just a case of making sure that you are planning the right steps at the right time with the right people. It might work slightly differently with each delivery mechanism for sure. But we can work with you if that’s something that you’re worried about.
Q: Does LBMS automatically optimize your schedule or is that a manual adjustment?
A: Obviously, the process that we use centers around gaining people's production commitments… We’re getting there firstly with the data and productivity rates and the desired level of resourcing. Then we would go through a session of really optimizing: sitting down with them and seeing where sometimes they might need to bring in less resource and sometimes more resource than they had originally planned.
But manipulating the plan in order to optimize it is a very social process and a very important one to be able to get commitment to a plan that is achievable rather than something that is automated. So I would say no, we wouldn’t automatically do it, but rather it is definitely something that is a manual based process.
But that manual based process sure is fun because you see all of your variables in front of you and you’re able to manipulate them until the answer falls under your constraints for either time allotment or budget allotment.
And to add to that, there is an automated series of functions behind the system (because it’s an equation so you put the parts of the equation in and as you balance the system you optimize for that flow of work0 so you are provided the answer to wherever you draw the lines. So if you drag a line and change a production rate it asks you what you’re changing and the explicit assumptions to make sure you are going to achieve what you just said that you are going to try and achieve. So it’s really about automating what can be automated easily and providing you the best opportunity and fastest method to get your idea down on paper.
Q: Are there specific ways of dealing with non-construction tasks in the scheduling? Those tasks that tie up resources and slow down construction such as submittals and close out activities or are these tasks treated as construction activities in the schedule?
A: We have a few different ways of handling those. One we mentioned was the procurement… how we deal with procurement as a separate type of task and the milestones related there. And the tasks in the schedule, for example, submittals and closeout activities that aren’t quantity related.
We can represent them in a different way in the flowline. A thin line rather than a thick line to show that they are based on a duration assumption and do not have quantities behind them. And essentially being able to show things in different ways like that we are able to see which tasks are construction activities and which tasks are not specifically related to construction activities.
Q: How do you deal with distribution concerning the building process - many buildings in different locations with different floor numbers?
A: Both the hierarchies and the numbers of locations within each building project are incredibly flexible. We also have a concept called location systems which is a way of breaking down buildings for the same floor... So if you have a distribution system and you want to plan in a different location structure compared to your internal walls, for example, then you can just use a different location system for that so it’s entirely possible and very flexible to work with many different location structures with different floor numbers etc.
Q: Interesting that when drywall got behind (in webinar example) you added more people. How could you be sure that the problem was not due to unreliable material or another resource flow?
A: I think we were showing a target that was a higher production than what was achieved by the drywall team (and the example we showed was a very simple example). Essentially that could be based on many, many problems… Many areas that haven’t been discussed in that simple slide... We would obviously have that piece of information in the weekly sessions. So in subcontractor meetings we would have that discussion and that would be facilitated by both using the flow line and also the weekly work plan so the causes of deviation would certainly be tracked and discussed in those meetings.
And certainly we see people using Control for their procurement schedules as well so that those materials would have been on site on time. We track the quantity of material required per location and that is tied to its demand for the task that consumes it and we have a series of milestone checks that will be carried out in order to hopefully have a very reliable just in time procurement and delivery mechanism.
Q: What do you do when the owner wants a phased bidding process which uncovers more items that should be done in earlier phases of construction?
A: It’s something that we’re going to deal with in all systems. But one of the ways to incorporate this is to use 4D and 5D together in Vico Office (5D Cost Planner and 4D Schedule Planner work hand-in-hand). It really helps because there are so many more questions asked so much earlier in the process. So because of this social and collaborative nature we find that there are a significant number of “Oh, I didn’t even think about that” responses to questions. So I’d say that hopefully we would uncover more than traditionally, but we’re always going to be faced with the same ways to deal with new information.
So new information can be added to the system and there are many different ways so that’s probably a full day discussion rather than a quick succinct answer.
Q: How does Vico propose the concurrent scheduling of the non-location-based activities that enter into project scheduling such as design and procurement and closeouts?
A: Essentially it can be a non-location-based task. You can put those in and collect those on their own and make them non-location-based tasks or you could put them when desired in relation to a certain item in a certain location it can be shown in that location. So we would definitely say that the closeout process, inspections and sign off, would definitely be all in that location following the task that you have just completed.
People would have different preferences on how they manage design and procurement. We have a specific procurement section to the schedule and the design can be all as non-location-based tasks or if you want to you can incorporate them into the overall flowline.
Q: I work in a bioengineering and pharmaceutical construction industry. Often the design teams have not taken into account the physical size of equipment, commissioning requirements per system and even FDA and GMT qualification criteria. These are the things that come out in a phase bidding process. In other words, we do a lot of firefighting due to lack of planning and design.
A: There are two sides to this… One is that we actually incorporate the BIM modeling side of things into location based management. So BIM does have a number of areas where you could mitigate some of those problems. So say, taking into account that the physical side of equipment, maybe that doesn’t come to light until after more people are brought on and more details are provided. But from the planning side of things we can incorporate lead times and long lead items. We can incorporate some of the design schedule, some of the drop dead dates for the design requirements into the procurement scheduling for the flowline. So we can get more accuracy on when we need certain decisions to be made, but I know that there are many problems that a process such as this can help. But it probably has more to do with the social side of asking more questions and getting the answers that can be partly due to bringing the Last Planner System a lot earlier in the process… a lot earlier in the planning.
In the BIM Master class series webinar (BIM 201) we speak about a particular hospital where the owner had mandated that there would be no change orders on the construction and the element that made it the most difficult was that doctors and technicians typically wait until the last moment to give their specifications for equipment because they always want the latest model. And model sizes change year to year so it was very difficult to plan the case work around different pieces of equipment. So I would recommend that anyone interested in synchronizing the specification process for materials along with the flow of the schedule should take a look at that particular webinar. Because what we say at Vico is true… Coordination doesn’t just happen in 3D. Coordination happens in 2D, then in 3D and finally we coordinate the schedule.
Q: In the implementation of LPS how long can it take for these sticky note meetings? Do subs generally object to spending this time in the early planning or even giving their production rates?
A: A few years ago, subs would have objected as they were falling over themselves … they couldn’t get away from all of these bids that they were winning and work was so abundant that it meant that they wouldn’t want to spend any more time planning. They just needed to increase turnover by bidding on a few more jobs and they’d win more than they’d win now.
Essentially, in this environment there are two ways to look at it… One is that people are hungrier to win the work and they are more likely to put commitment in earlier and show they are really willing and committed to carry out the work... as well as describe how they are going to and help you understand so you can plan better.
The other side is that from the production data point of view - is it difficult to get their production information? Well, if they understand how it’s going to be used and the purpose of having everybody’s production data is so that we can protect people's workflow and make sure that they are not going to have conflicting disruptive behavior from other trades because we have done the same with them then they are going to be much happier to hand over the information.
Caption: Vico Services leading a Last Planner sticky note sessions with Subs and the GC.
As Clay Freeman always says, "If you ask one subcontractor for their data then they are likely to say, 'Hell no!' But if you ask everyone and you tell them why you are asking for that data and that you are going to manage all of his predecessors in the same way then they are a lot more open and they understand the reason behind it and therefore are able to provide the information."
Q: If we were to commit to this software how long would it take to implement on the jobsite?
A: So we’ve seen some great implementations in the workshop series… you can have a phased schedule planning discussion supported by the flowline data gathering and optimization and that can be a two day session spread out over a couple of weeks where the data would be collected and homework assignments go out to the subcontractors to provide the production information.
And the information comes back; we go back in and optimize the schedule… That can happen in a couple of weeks. But then the important stage starts and that’s the implementation of the plan.
So going into the controlling phase really does take a lot more interaction and a lot more support. It can be as simple as ticking boxes and sending updates to us for update, but if you are truly looking to get the best out of the system then there would be a person on site doing that. In order to get them up to speed there is a three day (two days planning and one day controlling course) We would then start the project based workshops and then we could be up and running having useable outputs within a month and then the learning process to start implementing in the weekly work meetings to ensure that things are going to plan would probably be an ongoing series of minor visits or web meetings to be able to ensure that everything is going on and that could last 6 months.
Q: Did you create the CPM schedule and then convert it to LBMS or were you given the CPM schedule?
A: The CPM schedule was provided as part of the contract document between the owner and the general contractor. So we started with the CPM and then we did what we call a CPM Match – a CPM Alignment. We took all of the logic...every line, over 30,000 activities…and we converted that into the LBMS schedule which resulted in nearly 2,000 tasks. So we didn't create the CPM schedule -- it was provided to us; but we did convert that CPM schedule into the LBMS operational schedule. We have a whole webinar dedicated to the topic of CPM Alignment if you would like to learn more. We also have a CPM Alignment service which Owners or GCs can deploy which includes optional workshops for superintendents, planners, and subs.
Q: What were the resources necessary to collect, analyze and report the data?
A: In the case of Northwest Tower, it was one person: me. I was embedded on the project to collect, analyze, and report the data. We have created a paper based on this project which we presented at the International Conference for Lean Construction in San Diego last year. Olli Seppanen, who is the director of VDC services at Trimble, and I delivered this paper that actually addresses a comparison of CPM reporting vs. LBMS reporting on a standard task list.
Q: Why is the percent complete increasing with decreased actual production?
A: In the examples that we looked at they had started work earlier than what was planned. So when we compare what we are targeting to what was actually completed we were still technically ahead of the plan. But when the workers were out on site in the field they weren't installing as much work as was anticipated. So that's why we're seeing that decrease in actual production. It's an interesting phenomenon when you compare a 100% duration forecast typical in a CPM environment where an early start would forecast an early completion vs. the LBMS environment where we are looking at work installed and we are looking at people involved in getting the work completed.
Q: Would it be safe to say that the benefits of this software would be better showcased in multi-storied projects as opposed to box construction?
A: Essentially the method is applicable and very advantageous as soon as you have one location. So if you are working in one location and you are gaining production metrics that will forecast what is likely to happen at the next location (even if there is just one more location) you will have a lot more data to be able to make better decisions in the subsequent locations. And that's the same for not just multi-story projects, but even for the phases of a site-based project... for the construction of a road or a bridge broken down into sections for continuous work. The idea is that we want activities to be continuous through every single location and they don't have to be stacked in a large building for us to get the benefit.
Q: How do you track the actuals?
A: We have a couple of different methods for collecting actuals on each of the different projects. The most popular that we implemented was an excel spreadsheet where the top part of the spreadsheet showed the various tasks vs. the various locations and the bottom part was that location breakdown structure. We showed this report on Northwest Tower. And the information that we requested that was contractually obligated for each of the subcontractors to provide on a weekly basis was the number of resources that worked on any one task in any specific location, the days that they did and did not work and the percentage complete for that location. So just collecting it form the subcontractors was part of the solution, but we also had to go out in the field and validate it. The best way I would validate it is enter the actuals provided... I'd walk the site with a superintendant or foreman and using the Control chart we could have more of an understanding as to what was going on and we would mark it up. And any alterations or additions were signed off and re-implemented or redone in the software. For more information on collecting actuals from the field, please read through Dr. Seppanen’s Best Practices for Production Control blog series, notably, the articles on Data Collection and Subs Self Reporting Progress.
Q: Are there any books for LBMS that you would recommend?
A: Olli Seppanen has the best book available. It's an awesome read. It’s called Location-Based Management for Construction.
Q: Did you find that you needed less detail in flowline vs. the CPM schedules?
A: I think that this question can be taken in two ways. Detail to me means detail in the actual locations that we're working in. And I think what you might be referring to is detail in the number of activities that we are looking at.
Now, detail in the locations? Yes. Like I had indicated, one of the biggest lessons learned on the Northwest Tower was planning the appropriate level of detail within those locations. But if you need to track tasks in those locations at a certain level of detail…for example: formwork/rebar/pour concrete... if that's the way that the work is going to be installed then sure, manage at that level. But if the real intention is that it is going to be formwork as its own task or activity and then rebar in its own location in its own way and then pour... Then track it at that level of detail.
So I don't think that there needs to be a difference in the detail of your schedule in terms of tasks. But certainly we want to evaluate the detail of those locations that you're going to be operating in so that you can better manage the subcontractor trade off.
Q: How do you track the impact of delays? It's obviously necessary to monetize these impacts so where is that taken care of?
A: We can add some fragnets inside the location based structure and track it in exactly the same way as we would do in a CPM based schedule. So that's the impact on the time basis. The data that you get from the completion reports inside of Schedule Planner and Production Controller will be used to monetize the impact and that will have extensive amounts of information that you will want to use on your delay claim or your delay defense.
So we have quite a few examples of where people are using the approach to both protect themselves against claims and also to make a claim against somebody else. So it really does provide the most information out there. Not relying on going back through thousands of daily reports and trying to piece together what happened. This shows you. It even has, in addition to the planning mode and controlling mode, a history mode to map out the day by day effect and impact and it's really very clear for people who are analyzing that. So people that are not even construction experts can understand when you show them in the flowline view the impact and be able to explain actually who is actually at fault. So there is a series of data and obviously you can either piece together that data and use it in existing systems or add the delays inside of Vico and save those files so you can show that impact to others.
Q: Did you use CPM schedule for any type of delay analysis due to the changes or can you still do this using LBMS?
A: You can certainly do this in the LBMS environment. I think the standard approach is, of course, to use a CPM analysis of claims. But using LBMS not only gives you a much more graphical look, it also provides that level of data. So I think that traditionally the CPM analysis is what the industry is used to. However that LBMS environment provides a more encompassing look at what the results are of delay analysis or changes on a project.
Q: How have the results that have come out of these projects been used on future projects to improve efficiency?
A: In this series of case studies, the tower project occurred first and the learnings from that project fed the medical office building. They saw such a benefit in using that methodology and in defining that process as their own company standard, that it was repeated again on the medical office building project. Data collection is also an important aspect...How many people, what was the actual consumption or production rate, etc. All this data is available for future bids as part of the GC’s cost database. So it had an instant impact on the projects they had as well as downstream historical data for bidding new projects.
The other thing to add is that we have a knowledgebase that we've collected, built and refined over time that is really helpful for customers that don't have all of this starting data. So there are a lot of customers that come to us and say "I really want to do this production based management and control but I don't have any productivity data and how do I get started?" And that's really where the 5D Data Pack comes in. We have collected assemblies that have all of the productivity data that we have refined over the years from our past projects. We would want to refine it with your own company’s data and develop it into a proprietary knowledge base, but that's a great starting point.
Q: How do you deal with scope changes or additions?
A: One of the benefits of Vico Schedule Planner is that it operates on four schedules. So you have you baseline schedule - that's what you would report to the owner. You have your actuals that you record in the field as they are coming in and from there you can generate the Forecast Plan. The fourth plan is what we call the Current Schedule and really that's where we are managing the means and methods. So in your example of a scope change or addition, if we are using a BIM model or 3D model, we can load that in and within the Vico Office environment we can assess what the differences are to that scope, and then we can publish that information into Schedule Planner to see what the durational impact might be.
Now if it's just a current plan where it's just a means and methods that doesn't necessarily have an owner approval requirement associated to it, then we can just manage it within the current plan. But if it's a real contract change, like a change order for example, than we would reflect that in the baseline plan so that the owner is aware of the impact to the overall schedule. So it's managed both within the Cost Planner environment, as well as managed in the Schedule Planner environment.
Q: For the case studies shown where the actual quantities of production measured from the 3D model or where they physically measured?
A: We did use the 3D coordination models that were provided as part of the requirement for the coordination process. We did not have to physically measure anything. However, we did look at a lot of the 2D documents to make sure that everything was in alignment. Leveraging the power of the 3D model means that we can produce accurate quantity takeoffs quite quickly.
Instead of measuring how much work is in place, we check off the location to say that everything related to this task in this location is complete; and therefore, it will evaluate the quantity of work, plus the amount of payment validation that is required for subcontractors as well. So it is not a requirement to physically re-measure in the field -- however that is assuming that the 3D model is providing the as-built information as well.
Q: Is there a trial version of the LBMS application available?
A: We would like as many people as possible to use this because the Lean Construction Institute really understands this is the way to implement on construction projects. We have an evaluation process that is very structured. It enables you to not only try the software, but we provide demo materials and allow you to have a supporting consultant from Vico for four weeks. We require that you get the backing from your execs to go through that evaluation process.
Q: Did you use variable production rates for equipment rooms, patient rooms, and corridors or was the production rate singular?
A: Obviously, every single room or environment that a subcontractor is working in is going to have a different level of difficulty. So what we did use was the consumption value or a standard productivity rate in our initial scheduling efforts. But then we went location by location to understand what their production factor might be. How difficult is this location going to be? Is it going to be 150% more difficult or is it going to be 100% right on target? The way that we did that was actually engaging the subs in planning sessions for each of the different locations to make sure that not only did they understand what the ultimate goal was, but also understand the complexity and be able to deliver that coherently to us so that we could create the schedule and forecast appropriately based off the difficulty of an area. And again that's part of that collaboration process which is so important.
And that location-based production factor is used in the first and last locations to show slow starts and slow finishes... 50% productive in the first location because of the starting difficulties and then a slower finish because of clearing away work and wanting to leave the location free for the next trade.
Q: How long does that conversion from CPM to LBMS take?
A: So when we took that first schedule from that KPMC Tower we had about 30,000 CPM activities and the resulting network diagram had over 150,000 lines of logic. This took about six weeks to produce a replica of that schedule in the LBMS environment. But in 80=90% of cases, we can produce an LBMS schedule from a CPM schedule in three weeks.
We also have an import/export to P6 and MS Project, but because of the differences between the schedules (separate work breakdown structure from the location structure, quantity driven durations, and the resource based calculations, plus four more layers of logic compared to the CPM engine), there is a lot more to it. We can very easily import a schedule from a P6 file but it would be no more useful than it is in a CPM engine until you started really working with it or adding some additional data inside of P6 before you import it.
Q: It's very clean looking at a single trade’s flowline view; however that trade’s flowline interacts with 2, 3 or 20 other trades working around them. How do you manage the flowlines for projects where there are numerous trade contractors interacting?
A: One of the features within the Vico Schedule Planner is to create custom views. You can create a custom view of only the successor and predecessors of one task. You can show 3 or 4 lines on a phase within a view set. And so that's really when you're trying to analyze these types of forecasts. Of course you could look at a flowline that could show as many as 2,000 tasks on a page, but that's not going to be very useful. So looking at 2, 3 or 4 tasks in one custom view can be very beneficial, as well as being able to deliver that information to somebody that might have new eyes. But we can always see the logic network within a task.
The one thing I love about views is once you do understand them, there can't be too much data in that view. You can see which trades are continuous, who's suspended, who's got too much resource, not enough resource...you can really understand a project’s health very quickly just by viewing a flowline view with the actual production and the forecast turned on with the alarm warnings showing.
Q: How much (if any) resistance was there from the subs?
A: At one end of the spectrum, they really love it. We made a request for what we would like to learn: "could you please validate these quantities for this type of framing?" and "what unit would you like to be tracked in?" and "this is our assumed productivity rate, what's yours?" They came with a packet of information and they were beaming.
Then you have the other end of the spectrum. For example, the mechanical sub was definitely a lot older and wiser than me in terms of construction and he did not like it at all. But walking through the process with him by opening the 3D model and looking at it, he pulled out a plan set and said, "Well, how long is this piece of duct?" Looking at the 3D model and clicking on the properties we saw it was 34 feet and he measured and said, "Ah, alright." So it was getting them involved in the conversation. And I think that they ultimately appreciated that we took the time.
So you do get everything from the ones that dive straight in to ones that are going to be a little bit resistant up front. But ultimately I think that subs see the bigger benefit and that's what we're hoping for.
And more subs are getting exposed to the planning process through LCI and customers that are really driving this collaborative scheduling approach. I remember being in one of the first meetings to implement this and one of the subcontractors said "I think something's up…something's wrong... in all of the 27 years I've been working construction I've never been asked about my production rate... Nobody cares about my productivity why should somebody start caring now? Something's a bit off, something's fishy!"
So as soon as you can honestly share the reason behind it – the sooner they will be on board. So if you ask one subcontractor, "Can I manage you by production rather than just checking 5 minutes before you finish your task that you're done or not done?" they'd say "Hell no, I don't like the sound of that." But if you tell them that you're going to manage the predecessor or all of the predecessors to their task in the same way, then suddenly they understand that will cause them less conflicts where they have less people working in the same space at the same time. They'll have locations free for them so that they are ready to go in with their material and lay down areas and work continuously. It's such a transformation. And then suddenly there's a pull for it and as long as it's a collaborative effort and not a dictatorship (and that's what this really is driving at getting their opinion first), then it's a very successful approach.
If a subcontractor is exposed to this and it's managed well and has a successful outcome, you have to think of the downstream ramifications. There is opportunity to leverage these types of successes to get more competitive bids.
Q: Could you give an example of the templates used for the different trades?
A: Hopefully people are familiar with the pull planning sessions where we use sticky notes. Our sticky notes are slightly different – they allows us to collect a lot more information than just a trade name and a duration and then the sequence based on where the sticky note lands. We are actually looking for the prerequisites, but also how we are going to monitor that task. So what unit we are going to use so that we can understand which elements form the 3D model are going to drive the quantities. And then we add also the resources expected and a production metric. So instead of asking for durations as you see in a couple of the examples duration is a choice based on how many people and all of those other factors we can add to influence that calculation. And there are a number of others that we can share with you if you're interested in seeing some. Get in touch and we'll share that with you via email or we can set up a web meeting as well.
Q: I'm working as a contractor at a hospital project and I am soon going to make my first project in Vico combining the 3D model with the LBS. I would like to know at what level it is recommended to make the tasks? How detailed should it be?
A: You have to make some assumptions up front about how the work is going to be installed in the field as much as how you are going to be able to track it. So this may be some conversations with your superintendant or with the subcontractors themselves. Find out what tasks they need in order to complete the work. Draw on the experience of those around you to define a standard task list and I think that that's a really good place to start.
Don't just consider the level of detail of the tasks (like how many tasks). Think about the level of detail of the location as well. And I think that is two good places to start. You'll understand how they are going to move from location to location. And you don't want those locations to be so big that you are going to have multiple crews working in one space. You want them to be just the right size so that you can hand off the locations appropriately between sub trades.
Q: Could you explain how the rejected alarms in one of the case studies had a positive impact on the production?
A: It could be the result of something colloquially termed as a “cultural discovery.” When we saw a positive increase it was often the case of work freeing up or somebody acknowledging this before our recommendation had been made. The spreadsheet that we produced wasn't the only set of eyes that were managing the project. It was a combination of a whole bunch of people but at the same time we found that sometimes when something was rejected it was because another measure was already being implemented by somebody else and so that's when we would see an increase in that production rate, for example.
How do you integrate added work and be able to separate that from base contract construction in your analysis and production rates especially when it's so intertwined with the base contract work?
So it is part of leveraging what we call the Current Plan. So, for example, on the Tower project and what you saw on the lower level two on the podium sides of the building, they did a complete redesign. Instead of fourteen operating rooms, they implemented sixteen - one of those being a mobile MRI machine. So this changed a lot of the work, a lot of the quantities, and obviously the workflow on that floor. So because there was a change order to the entire project cost, we included that at the baseline level, but any of the resequencing and bits of extra pieces of work that we had to accomplish like additional inspections or laser scanning for steel alignment...all those types of things we were able to do in the Current Plan. So you continually add things to the Current Plan as they come up. Anything that is an approved change you would approve it and it would become a part of your contract base line.
Q: What level of post BIM remodeling was necessary to compile location data support for quantities?
A: The idea of having a location structure allows us to use a model that has been created for design purposes and one of the pieces that we can do with the Vico Office workflow in the location management stage is to break up the model into the physical work areas and that is a non-destructive process to split the elements and re-quantify them for the scheduling workflow. And nondestructive meaning that you can change your mind as many times as you would like moving the zones around and it will re-split and re-quantify. That's not to say there aren't some benefits to either helping the design team to model in such an appropriate way that it helps the location management and data flow right through estimating and scheduling, but there are pieces of the Vico Office workflow that will allow you to build the location-based data that you need rather than relying on the architect to, for example, split a column by four... We will actually split that column inside Vico Office if it's not split in the design model.
Q: Do you have guidelines on how the 3D model must be built in order to achieve an accurate quantity takeoff?
A: Absolutely. We not only have a guideline but we also have a workshop process in which we collaborate with the design teams and contractors in order to create this specification. The process is called the Model Progression Specification or MPS – you might also know it as the AIA E202. The MPS provides a framework that defines guidelines for projects and then from those guidelines the project team creates the content for that project. So we can help you with that process just get in touch with us. There is a lot more information on our website as well, including MPS FAQs.
Q: Any chance to utilize LBMS in the project using Lean Construction and Last Planner?
A: The two complement each other so well. The LBMS process showcases the technology and the workflow - the repository for the data. But the Last Planner is really the social part of gathering information and gaining commitments and making commitments more reliable and having metrics to track that. So they complement each other so well and we are doing a lot of work in projects where both are being implemented with some huge successes. So yes, if you have a project that you are looking to implement both on them let us know and we can help and share our experiences as we have found really good processes that work for us. We also have a complete webinar introducing LBMS and Last Planner, as well as a whitepaper about combining the two approaches.
Q: If there is a major corrective action plan accepted that say involves re-sequencing many areas or locations do you need to modify the CPM schedule and recalculate the CPM and then update the LBMS as well?
A: LBMS is a system that is designed on the CPM network algorithm. Really we are leveraging the use of location. So in a CPM environment you would have to cut and change a lot of the logic ties between same activities in different locations in order to create a new sequence. Whereas in LBMS being able to leverage the additional levels of logic allows us to re-sequence work quite quickly just by deciding how we'd want to change those locations around.
As an example... when we were working to complete the interior phase of KPOMC tower the sequencing became a bit of an issue because we wanted to evaluate one, two, three and four crew scenarios and within each of those... Should we do the lower levels first or should we focus on odd and even floors through the tower – a myriad of combinations. So over the course of a day we were able to make about fifteen different variations on that schedule. In the same time the CPM scheduler who was very good at his job was only able to do two. His amount of breaking the logic ties took a lot more time vs. us just being able to re-sequence and apply to the entire schedule. So really one doesn't need to be updated before the other. Leverage the LBMS where it is useful understanding where the location sequence needs to be better for major corrective action planning and then you can look at ways of updating that contractual CPM.
Q: How is your system different or comparable to Synchro?
A: Synchro is a great product for some visualization of sequencing and they are very different. Lots of people think that we compete directly with Synchro as a 4D application. It just depends on what you are looking for... If you are looking for using a model to drive your schedule and having the quantities calculate each of your activities in each location and leveraging that connection between the models and the schedules then you definitely want to have Vico.
A nice comparison as well: Stanford and DPR wrote a paper comparing Vico Office with Autodesk, Navisworks and also with Synchro. And while they are great products for creating 4D simulations, the comparison that DPR and Stanford made with the CIFE program was the duration that it took to create the 4D simulation. And it was pretty complimentary to Vico Office. We saw on the outside end Navisworks took 20 hours, Synchro took 11 hours, and Vico Office took 2 hours and 51 minutes.
And the real reason behind that is that we use the location structure and we leverage the quantities in the model. So it really does streamline the process and it's not a second thought of gluing a schedule to a 3D model to create a visualization. It's actually a byproduct inside of the Vico Office workflow to create 4D simulation. So there are some differences. If you want to chat more than we'd love to talk with you.
Q: Is it difficult to take cost estimates and/or quantities and correlate them into the activities in the schedule for analysis? My past experience is that the breakdown for estimating is not the same the way that schedules are built. Also, the schedule does not usually contain activities for every single cost element in the budget. How does this all work differently?
A: One of the things when we built Vico Office was that we designed it to accommodate for that existing problem. The estimator has his own estimate and the Scheduler has his own schedule and they all tie together (not at every single point possible) but where they have common data.
So that's the worst case scenario is that you work in exactly the same way in estimating and exactly the same way in scheduling. But what you'll realize is that as you compare the two, you're assigning line items of quantities and costs to the schedule you'll find as you say there will be some scheduled tasks that don't have a line item in the cost. And there will be some cost items that don't have a line item in the schedule.
What that will do is really start asking questions that haven't been asked until maybe during the construction process rather than in the preconstruction process where we should catch these. And there are potential anomalies that can be caught from that mapping exercise. So that's kind of really low hanging fruit benefit number one, but as you build more data and you start to work on more virtual construction projects what we'll find is that the data in both of them will become more synchronized.
I like the example with formwork where the estimating breakdown is not built in the same way that the schedule is built... Most of the time if we're estimating formwork it will be one line item and that would include for the setting, so installing of the formwork, and it would also include for the stripping. So the breaking out of the formwork after the concrete has been poured. But in the schedule we might have two activities and we know that they are carried out at different times, so therefore we would want two quantities and actually that will benefit the estimate as well. It will make it much more accurate because we might use different resources, we might price it in a different way if consumption of hours per square foot formwork.
So what we actually see is in model-based estimating it is better and actually not any more work to have a line item in the assembly for the setting and the line for the stripping. And those come in associated with the tasks in the schedule. So there are a few different nuances if we implement a traditional workflow, but we made it so that you can do that and have a one to one relationship or a many to one relationship between the estimate and the schedule. But as you start to use and build more model based data or model based 5D information for projects you will start to develop them over time and breakdown estimates in more detail. And catch more errors between the two as you synchronize.
Q: The concept of LBMS is very close to line of balance. So could we use a line of balance software to develop an LBMS schedule?
A: It would depend on which line of balance software you were looking to use. Really, the principal in line of balance was that every location pretty much had the same amount of work and we would draw the line across. LBMS locations can change in size, complexity, production factor, etc. But also have a different quantity of work within them. And sometimes no quantity of work at all. So the two concepts are similar, but with differences. I would ask if you are using a specific line of balance tool let us know. I know a lot of people do that inside of an excel spreadsheet or draw it by hand as we saw in the Empire State Building example.
Q: When we say the word optimization like "we optimize a schedule in Vico Office" what are we optimizing to? Are we optimizing towards minimizing costs, minimizing resources, maximizing resource utilization? What is the goal? Or does each project have a different goal?
A: We are optimizing to risk. We all have a risk tolerance and within Schedule Planner we have five different levels of risk to which we can optimize. I think that part of that process is also optimizing the cost associated to the resources and the work that's going to be installed. How effectively can we manage that cost associated to the invariable risks of construction. But, of course, the ultimate goal of LBMS or one of the many goals is to really provide continuous resource usage for predictability for the project, for the owner, for the GC, and for the subcontractors. Part of that optimization process is looking at a lot of different variables and each project is going to have its own requirement that will result in an optimization process: cost, resource usage, risk, time, and so forth.
The most common is optimizing for continuous flow and protecting resource continuity, but really it's a decision on what you are looking to achieve. So if the owner says "I want to optimize this schedule and my metric for optimization is the shortest schedule possible." Then that optimization process would just be the amount of resource to achieve that duration. Now sometimes as a consequence you would have discontinuous work, but your goal in that optimization would be to achieve a certain duration. The benefit of using location based management is that it allows you to make those decisions and to try the "what ifs" and understand the impact very quickly.
We also have FAQ pages for each piece of the Vico Office schedule solution. Please be sure to check out LBS Manager FAQs, Schedule Planner FAQs, Production Controller FAQs, and 4D Manager FAQs. Each of these products is powered by Location-Based Management principles and specifically designed for BIM-based construciton.
Please also check out the following links to continue diving deeper into the subject matter:
Products: Vico Office LBS Manager
Products: Vico Office Schedule Planner
Products: Vico Office Production Controller
Products: Vico Office 4D Manager
Web Page: What Is Location-Based Management System
Web Page: What Is Flowline Scheduling
Web Page: What Is 4D BIM
Web Page: How LBMS and LPS Compare
Blog Post: Why the Schedule MUST Be More than a Movie
We also offer a step-by-step guide to our 5D virtual construction workflow with video tutorials. These videos are just 2-5 minutes in length, but illustrate how to use a particular piece of functionality. You can access the video library index and view just what you need, or download the complete set of training videos. We have training videos for Estimators, Schedulers, Supers, and anyone who does CM Reporting.