Vico Office Schedule Planner FAQs
Vico Office Schedule Planner is powered by Flowline theory, not critical path planning. The main difference between the two approaches is how they handle durations. CPM asserts that the Scheduler knows the durations and they are a data entry field. Flowline, on the other hand, asserts that durations is a scientific calculation of quantities per location divided by the productivity rate of the crew.
A Scheduler/Planner needs Vico Office Client, Takeoff Manager, LBS Manager, Scheduler Planner, Cost Planner, and 4D Manager and to incorporate BIM models into their scheduling process.
After reading through these questions, please navigate across the product line:
Also read through these questions:
Location-Based Managememt System FAQs (the theory which powers Vico scheduling solutions)
We also have a Vico Office Video Training Series designed for Schedulers, Estimators, Supers, and PMs. The videos are only 2-5 minutes in length, but dive deep into each piece of functionality. You can follow along on the website with additional commentary and resources, or download the series to your desktop.
We also have two whitepapers which explain construction scheduling:
Q: How exactly does the model geometry data drive the quantities and how is it all connected to the schedule and estimate?
A: Think of the estimate as feeding the schedule with all the cost data and resource data. So just as we assigned tasks to assemblies and components, now we assign resources and cost data from the estimate to the tasks. There is a separate task for each estimating item and one duration driver for each task. After completing the list of Tasks with mapped Assemblies and Components, the labor, material and equipment data can be used to calculate the number of work hours that will be required to complete the Task.
Q: I don't understand how the scheduling department is sharing information with the estimating side and vice versa. Can you elaborate?
A: At Vico, we count 3D, 5D, 4D. That’s because the construction schedule begins with the Cost Plan and the Tasks that have been assigned to each model element from the BIM. Now we can assign Location Systems for the project and calculate the quantities per location. Now our crews can flow smoothly through the locations based on their productivity rates. Finally, we can communicate the schedule with 4D Manager, a movie derivated from the model geometry, quantities by location, tasks per location, and crew productivity rates.
Q: I think I need a primer on Flowline theory first. Can you please elaborate what you mean when you say that Schedule Planner uses Flowline in conjunction with traditional CPM?
A: Of course. Flowline scheduling can look intimidating at first, but it's really quite easy as soon as you know what you are looking at. It's also important to remember that with Vico, locations play a critical role in both construction scheduling and on-site production control. Using flowline techniques, it is easy to see how trades flow through the locations at their actual productivity rate and compare that to the plan. Alerts show where crews are having difficulty and projections show Superintendents what the ripple effects – or cascading delays – will be. Now the team can work together to solve the scheduling issue well in advance.
Here's a quick tutorial...
Q: Did I hear that flowline calculates durations? I thought it was the scheduler's job to know how long something will take to complete?
A: The Vico Office 4D BIM scheduling solutions automatically calculate durations based on real quantities per location, real productivity data from Subs, and real labor resources for that activity. With this data, GCs can derive a scientific construction schedule with continuous work flow for all trades. Flowline IS very different than CPM.
Q: What we would call waste could also be viewed as a schedule contingency and a 100% continuous effort would not allow for surprises. How does Schedule Planner and Production Controller allow for us to factor those surprises into the system?
A: We have a fantastic concept of buffer. And what it allows us to do is be realistic about the durations instead of the traditional practice of adding time risk at the end of all tasks or accounting for it somewhere. The way that it’s handled is by adding a buffer behind a task which is a compressible period and it’s only when that period of time is used… so slightly like float… but it’s planned rather than just falling wherever it lies. So that’s another concept that’s worth going into detail and showing an example. We have delays as well so the mandatory period of time (like a curing period after a task) we also have that concept of buffers which is incredibly powerful for protecting workflow.
Q: Could you build top down and how does that affect the structure?
A: Yes, absolutely. If you have the optimum condition for finishes after the building it would be top down. But as we’re always constrained by owners requirements to get the building open sooner sometimes that’s not allowed. But you would be able to represent for example excavation going down by a line showing instead of it going bottom left to top right it’s going from top left to bottom right and that would indicate moving down through those locations. So it’s another way of really visualizing again where you’re moving and which direction up or down.
Q: Does this work with only structures or could we also use this scheduling on civil or site work?
A: Yes. The first thing that you think about when you look at “what does this suit best” Well, if you had a fifty story then it would make it really easy to do it. My background is civil engineering with a lot of experience in Europe and I would use this on every single one of those projects so maybe that’s the easy way to answer that… So the location structure can be incredibly flexible, it can be sections along a road, it can be phases of a civil engineering project whatever type that is… The one thing there is what model types you’re using. So that’s just one thing we should have a discussion about.
Q: Does Schedule Planner and Production Controller recognize or even utilize start to start and finish to finish?
A: Yes, it has it all start to start, finish to finish, finish to start. It also has finish to start and finish to finish as one logic link so you don’t have to put both of them in if they are your requirements. But the one thing I would say is that the location… that dimension adds the opportunity to always implement the most logical type of link which is the finish to start link. To say that “when this task in this location is finished this next task will start” we are trying to insure that people have their own work areas. So it’s much more valuable to a subcontractor if they know that they are not going to be disturbed and they can have areas to lay down their materials and their workers aren’t going to be disrupted by others they can work more productively. So that’s a very powerful part of adding the right level of granularity in the location hierarchy and then having finish to start links between the tasks a majority of the time.
Q: Does Vico also have a logic diagram and are we able to show critical path?
A: Yes, we have a network view and that will show the box and arrow. It sometimes the best way to add the first layer of logic and if we had been focusing more on the scheduling side of things would have definitely shown the logic in more detail. The ability to add logic in a network view represent that in the Gantt Chart… show the critical path in the Gantt Chart, show critical path in the flowline diagram.
Q: What is the effect of a gang or crew learning after they’ve done repeated locations? Do they speed up, slow down and how do we account for that learning?
A: Many different ways that we can do it. The best one is to factor in each of the locations that they work. So we would say that in the first location we should put a factor of 70.7% and we know that we are going to have slower that expected productivity rate throughout all the locations. And then the last location we could make a gang have a slower output. We have the ability to do that and that can also be something like a factor applied to a task in a certain location.
Q: It appears that in flowline when you’re moving the lines manually you get the dialogue box that tells you have many crews you would need to achieve that flow… what about projects in union situations where production rates are fixed by agreement or predetermined by trade…Could we work backwards to demonstrate how the project delivery is affected?
A: Yes, absolutely. We would like to only make those changes to the schedule based on the commitments made in the workshops that we have with the subcontractors and people that are actually installing the work. So we are not going to mandate anything that can’t be done, but if there is already defined production data that we can put into the system it’s almost the same as taking a Gantt Chart that’s been planned and just using the Gantt Chart method and analyzing it using the location based method to see potentially where we could optimize if we could change some of those rules. So the concept is great and that might show really where in industry we could hopefully change some of those numbers by understanding how they affect each other. The concept of putting a task through locations and identifying that production rate and then comparing it with neighboring trades is very powerful.
Q: How deep and detailed can we get? Can we even create a schedule that would represent shop drawings approval?
A: Yes. A task is a task is a task, but we would just have that in a separate path of the schedule. I always like to see real installation tasks and things that are construction-related, rather than it being based on the paperwork tasks. But it would all be integrated.
Q: What does Vico offer in terms of a corresponding set of best practices and procedures that GC’s can use that marry up with Schedule Planner, Location Breakdown Structure, and Production Controller?
A: We offer workshops that help you establish what your strategy would be with each different piece of Vico Office or each different work process or departmental job. And we will share with you the thoughts of how they are used best today and also listen to things that might be unique at your company and help you figure out the best way to move forward.
And those workshops help from establishing modeling protocols all the way through to using and managing production on site so production control. It covers all bases and I believe that there are nine separate workshops.
Q: Is the Vico solution set up with NCS standards in mind?
A: I think the broad answer is that you can set it up with any standards. They can be estimating, scheduling, or modeling standards. We have significant input on that and it’s something that is very dear to our hearts, so that we create everything in a way that can be used in the system. But any standards can be incorporated as far as a classification structure and naming, numbering, and all of those conventions can be incorporated.
Q: What happens to the flowline productivity curve if the complexity or degree of difficulty is much tougher on one particular floor?
A: As you saw they are not straight lines from the start to the end. The slope of the line will increase, as in be more vertical, if there is less work or it is easier and you are using the same crew. Or it will reduce… the slope will be longer or more inclined and that would represent either more work or potentially less resource. The way that we can battle that is actually per location we can add or remove resources to that task. So if there was a very concentrated area of MEP that was going to take a lot of resource and we wanted to try and keep that line as consistent as possible, then we would add more resource to those areas that required it in order to keep that line straighter.
Q: What productivity database does the software use?
A: Yes, there’s always a question about productivity data… How do we get this data, where does it start and where does it go after we’ve gone through a few projects?
Hopefully, your company has a historical set of data. If that’s not the case then we can certainly provide one - we call it the Vico Standard 5D Library - that will give you all of the productivity data. It’s a great starting point for 80% of the data that you’ll require.
Caption: The Vico Standard 5D Library is organized by the set of activities required to construct each building element and the sequence in which these activities are performed. Included in the Library are average productivity rates by trade and standard formulas for deriving labor and material resource requirements.
But we would hope that you would also validate that with subcontractors as you go through that process. There are a number of answers to the question but we start with whatever you have… We can also compliment that with the Vico knowledgebase… But we would hope to refine that as we go through a project and as we collect more and more data from subcontractors.
Q: So it’s not only collecting that data when you are putting these projects out to bid and asking the subs for their productivity rates but it is also mining data from these production charts?
A: Yes, so what Jake showed at the end was “This is what we targeted as our output and this is what we actually achieved.” And it would be productivity data based on the amounts of resource that you actually used. So it’s not based on production but based right back down to the number of hours consumed per unit of work which can then be put back into the knowledgebase for future projects as well. So that sort of chart is a way of gathering that information and mining and reusing on future projects. This is all proprietary knowledge that really does form a fundamental part of the company process.
Caption: This table shows the results of the completions (start and end dates per location) and the actual resources used. The green rows show where progress has been entered. The table allows Superintendents to compare production data (the hours consumed per unit of work and also the production rate achieved): target to current to actual. It can be used to review how close to target production rates the team came and then be used to mine data to refine the cost and time elements in the Vico 5D Standard Library.
Q: So far the assumption is one crew for each activity. What if we wanted to have two crews for steel erection? How would this look in the time chart?
A: Each of the task lines in the flow line view represents a single crew moving through the space.
There is a utility in the software (a scissors tool) where you can cut those activities into multiple task parts which would represent multiple groups.
Caption: Schedule Planner allows for splitting Tasks to enable parallel work of two or more Crews on the same Task at the same time. Tasks are split by Location, this way, additional Crews can be assigned to different Locations without disturbing each other's work.
For example if we needed to complete that schedule by a December 16th deadline which we could achieve with a single crew scenario… if that was up in September and it was simply impossible to achieve with the resources and we had to add another crane for steel… We could simply cut that activity by locations. And so let’s say we would separate the tower from the podium area… We could cut it in half and the logic between the steel erection activities and the slab on deck would be preserved. It would simply move to the front of the schedule based on where you cut it by location and you could then double up your crews that way and have two active crews at the same time or have more than two active crews at the same time. It would simply look like two flow lines instead of the one.
Q: I’ve noticed that the input production rates are linear throughout the project. Is there a way to account for faster production rates at the higher levels of the building due to the initial learning phases on the lower levels?
A: Absolutely. The learning curve is something that we have the flexibility to implement in Schedule Planner. Each Location within the system can be applied a unique production factor. So on top of the production rate that we define in the database… if you wanted to apply 80% factor or 115% factor to the work in any particular location (let’s say lower level) for repetitive tasks… you can input that in the scheduling interface. This would also be useful for areas of higher complexity where you may not be able to achieve the same productivity rate. But yes it is absolutely possible within the schedule interface.
Q: Is it possible to customize the reports we were seeing from the system?
A: Yes, with the views that we were showing in the system you can customize what is included in that and certainly those tables can be cut and pasted into excel in order to use the excel wizardry for however you want to use the data. But we also have the absurdly powerful reporting engine within Vico Office and all of the data in the database will be available to you so you can create any company standard reporting templates and pull information from that database. So it is completely customizable.
Q: Optimization is one thing, but how do we account for random and unexpected disruptions?
A: We can weight the probabilities of weather delays, work stoppages, material shortages, etc. with a Monte Carlo risk analysis. Let's take a look at how that works in the program...
Caption: How can a construction project planner factor in circumstances on the jobsite which may or may not impact the ability to deliver the project on time? That’s why we’ve built in a Monte Carlo risk analysis as the final check for your schedule in Vico Office Schedule Planner. Use as many variables and constraints as possible to uncover risk in the schedule and then apply fixes and see their impact. Construction science just got a lot cooler.
Q: How do we communicate to Subs that we are putting together a schedule that is in their best interest?
A: That's a good question. We think it starts in the planning workshop with the sticky notes when we ask them for their productivity data.
Another thing we can do is be sure to reiterate that Flowline scheduling centers around creating continuous workflow for the Subs. One easy check to ensure that there are no superfluous mobilizations and demobilizations is to compare the flowline schedule by trade and its resource histogram. Here you can quickly see any unintentional gaps which may add risk to your schedule. A quick fix in the flowline schedule resource center can solve the problem.
Q: What if I just want to check that my sequencing logic makes sense or that cranes aren't blocking entrances. How do I set up 4D Manager and Schedule Planner to do that?
A: A powerful use of the integration between Schedule Planner and 4D Manager is to identify flaws in scheduling assumptions. By quickly visualizing your schedule changes in a 4D movie, you can see where additional changes need to be made. Sometimes it’s a location issues, sometimes it’s a sequencing logic issue, but catching it in preconstruction is key. Here's a quick demonstration of how you can do this...
Q: How do you set up the relationships and dependencies between tasks in a schedule? You know - that painting comes after taping that comes after drywall?
A: It’s easy to establish the sequencing logic between construction tasks in Vico Office Schedule Planner. Using the visual Network View, it’s simply a matter of dragging and dropping tasks to create dependencies and logic for pull scheduling. This example shows that it is as easy as dragging and dropping tasks...
Q: How do you connect the work the Estimator is doing/has done with what the Planner is working on?
A: The Task Manager, part of the Vico Office Schedule Planner, is used to establish the link between cost and schedule information by mapping cost Assemblies and Components to defined Tasks. Cost Assemblies and Components contain quantities for labor, material and equipment. Task Manager uses this information to calculate the amount of work that is associated with a Task by applying a Production Rate to one or more of the mapped Assemblies or Components using the equation: component quantity per location divided by production rate equals duration. Here's a quick example of how you do that - it's just a matter of dragging and dropping...
Q: Why does the workflow bounce around from clash detection, to quantity takeoff, to estimating, to scheduling?
A: We all learned to count 3-4-5, but at Vico we count 3-5-4 to highlight that several 5D BIM estimating tasks feed the 4D BIM schedule. The quantities that define our schedule come from the coordinated 3D BIM model. Vico Office Cost Planner takes these quantities and associates them with construction means and methods. We can then assign productivity rates from past projects or work with our Subs for commitments. Feeding estimating data into the schedule data is one of the core building blocks that makes the Vico Office unique. And it is this tight integration that allows us to produce a live BIM model that can answer the question: what impact will this change have on my estimate and schedule?