Cloud for Construction

Posted by Phillip Schell May 28, 2018 11:21:00 AM

Cloud for Construction is here, anchored by SAP's Digital Core - S4 Public Cloud and Corecon for Construction Field Operations is a true end to end integrated ERP solution for Construction companies.

cloudforconstruction

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Topics: cloud, Cloud Computing, construction, Engineering and Construction, sap public cloud, corecon, S/4Hana, B4 Consulting

DBOM

Posted by Phillip Schell May 24, 2018 11:47:00 AM

We have solutions for Design Build Operate Maintain operations. DBOM is the next wave for construction, we extend SAP's Digital Core with leading cloud point solutions to deliver end to end solutions with SaaS pricing and deep functionality.

dbom

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Topics: DBOM, SAP, construction, Engineering and Construction

InEight's Model Manager

Posted by Phillip Schell May 21, 2018 11:23:00 AM

Any construction companies involved in underground utilities work should take a look at InEight's Model Manager as a way of increasing their value proposition with municipal clients. Imagine the value you can create by using Model Manager as the system of record of the utilities location and condition by adding the dimensions to Model Manager. Here we have color coded the SUE classification of certain underground assets.

ineithinfrastructure

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Topics: ineight, utilities, infrastructure, construction, Engineering and Construction

OutsideIn Approach

Posted by William Marson May 14, 2018 11:30:00 AM

This is one of B4 Consulting's foundational POV for technology in the construction industry. It starts in the field, buy getting technology out in the field where projects are won or lost. Making sure that construction specific applications are tightly integrated with one another and ERP. Utilizing ERP as a processing engine not the monolithic solution.

 outsidein
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Topics: construction, Engineering and Construction, SAP ERP

Pillars of Construction

Posted by Phillip Schell May 10, 2018 11:26:00 AM

These are the ancient pillars of construction, from Pyramids to the Pont du Gard to now this has been the process with the technology at hand. When new technology was developed it was implemented down these silos. Construction companies who integrate these technologies that allow business processes to flow them will enable their organizations to function better. This is the tipping point for the construction industry and what B4 does for its clients.

pillarsofconstruction

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Topics: construction, Engineering and Construction

Analytics in the cloud

Posted by Phillip Schell May 7, 2018 1:17:26 PM
I would like to submit this idea for true discussion. Joint ventures are a growing concept to manage risk on large projects, but when companies come together bring disparate applications to manage their portion of the work it becomes difficult to have a screenshotsingle source of the truth on the health of the project. Our Analytics Cloud for Construction which is totally agnostic to any application can provide that single source of the truth and allow JV members to use their own systems. Comments? 
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Topics: cloud, Self-Service Analytics, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, construction, productivity

Is it a Serpent or an Elephant? The Construction Industry Needs Better Business Intelligence Tools.

Posted by Phillip Schell Apr 20, 2015 8:30:00 AM

Six_Blind_Men

 

Is it a serpent or an elephant? The parable of the six blind men and the elephant is one of the world’s most widely-known parables. It illustrates that we should not mistake a part for the whole and importance of keeping an open mind to different points of view. It also conveys the importance of perspective and the value of closely examining complex ideas and issues.

And, while it may seem as though I’m going out on a limb -- this parable also makes for a teaching moment in the construction industry.

More than ever before, the construction industry is learning to use Business Intelligence tools to extract data from construction projects for real-time decision making. The challenge: the construction industry needs to draw accurate conclusions from the huge datasets that are being generated and avoid the conclusions of the blind man feeling the elephant’s trunk and declaring it a serpent.

To help construction companies extract and leverage accurate data from all its data sources, B4 Consulting is building Integrated Frameworks for Construction. We call it -- IF4C – and it allows applications to become interoperable (see http://blog.b4-consulting.com/blog/how-to-achieve-interoperability-in-construction). We believe that this interoperability has a positive effect as well on Business Intelligence. Consider this real-life case: I want a report on the health of one of my self-perform projects, and I want a report on the trend line of the labor productivity of one of the major work packages being performed.

In our experience, this is a typical scenario and here are just a few of the questions and issues that prevent the quick, efficeint and accurate generation of such reports in a lot of construction companies:

  • Do I need my estimating data to make this comparison?
  • If my CBS structures have little or no relationship to my WBS structures what does it mean?
  • How timely are the actual installed data being imputed into a system for trend analytics?
  • How accurate are the data being entered and are they entered into the correct WBS structure?
  • Do I need equipment run time data to interpret the data correctly?
  • Do I need ECM data such as pictures, daily logs, weather reports, etc. to make the correct decisions?

B4 Consulting believes that Business Intelligence is architected correctly when it goes beyond the esthetically pleasing or even intellectually stimulating. Business Intelligence must be actionable and create the opportunity for increasing productivity. See http://blog.b4-consulting.com/blog/outsidein-and-the-ooda-loop-–-transforming-construction

The architecture’s defining characteristics include:

  • Front-end mobility component to initiate real-time possibilities.
  • Ability to draw datasets large enough (remember the elephant!) and across pertinent applications to drive value.
  • Presentation to the correct decision makers in a timely and intuitive manner to advance better field decisions.

The well-architected Business Intelligence framework gives the construction industry the proper information to make the OODA loop work and inform them for competitive advantage.

 

 

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Topics: Mobility, Engineering and Construction, Real-time Data, Reporting, construction, productivity, OutsideIn, Interoperability

How to Achieve Interoperability in Construction

Posted by Phillip Schell Mar 20, 2015 8:33:37 AM
Interoperability_Wheels

 

Interoperability is kind of a strange word. It does not roll off the tongue and does not intuitively communicate value to the construction industry. B4 Consulting has, however, figured out how interoperability can be achieved in the construction industry and this blog post outlines the value it brings in something we call the Integrated Framework 4 Construction or IF4C.

Back to Interoperability. In its simplest definition, it is - the ability of making systems, processes and organizations work together. And, it’s easy to recognize the value of interoperability in many facets of our lives. Take for example the transportation industry: Major modern railroads have interoperability as they are required to conform to standards around gauges, couplings, brakes, signaling, communications, and operating rules, to mention a few parameters. We have also seen our armed forces achieve historic levels of interoperability between the branches of the military and integrated command and control of land, sea and air operations. And, the medical industry is trying to achieve interoperability between emergency response, providers, hospital operations, medical care, drug companies, and insurance providers.

B4 Consulting believes the construction industry is standing on the brink of achieving interoperability as they respond to the market forces of design build (DB) and design build operate (DBO). In these new delivery models, holistic design is required to survive. As construction companies rise to meet the challenges of design-build and design-build-operate, their success will rely on interoperability and related enabling technologies.

 

 

 IF4C

The Integrated Framework 4 Construction (IF4C)

The diagram above illustrates the concepts of an Integrated Framework 4 Construction (IF4C) and how it enables the interoperability required to succeed in today’s modern construction industry.

  1. It begins with integrations of materials to the Visual Design (VD) and Construction tools of BIM or CAD. We believe that the system should be application-agnostic so that multiple design tools can feed materials from my ERP system where transactions will eventual take place. B4 Consulting suggests federating these models in the SAP® Visual Enterprise product. This final federated model will not only allow for a clean bilateral integration of materials and quantities for estimating systems, but will remain as the GUI used to visualize our eventual progression data.
  2. Bilateral interfaces bring materials and quantities to Estimating systems, again application-agnostic. B4 Consulting believes that the data elements are the most important factors and we use the SAP ETL tool Data Services to provide that integration to any estimating package.
  3. Estimating Bilateral interfaces create a Project Control Budget. Using management consulting methodologies -- not technology – B4 Consulting harmonizes the CBS structures with the WBS structures. This gives each group the detail and levels they need to do their job, but having a structure that maintains the relationship to enable roll up and comparison of estimated cost to actual cost. The impact on the integrity of past cost is amazing. We can now seamlessly create a fully-loaded control budget with materials, labor and equipment usage from our estimate. Again, application-agnostic, utilizing the powerful SAP Data Services application.
  4. We have created an ETL layer of the most critical data elements that progression tools need to deliver to the control budget. While these are, for the most part, mobile applications, they can also be specially designed HTML5 applications on any device capturing time, installed quantities and equipment hours. Our thinking here: the platform these tools are using change frequently (i.e. iOS, HTML5, Android, etc.) – but -- the data elements don’t change. So settle on the landscape and just give them the data element targets.

B4 Consulting believes that the Data Services layer of these critical data elements become the most efficient place for Business Analytic tools, either Business Objects or HANA Sidecar for dashboarding. This frees-up the design from integrating to each individual application or one monolithic one.

Finally, all of this runs on the SAP HANA database for easy retrieval of past cost while enabling quick and efficient incremental conceptual design and estimating modeling.

IF4C effectively enables interoperability in construction where all the applications within the framework work together and are more efficient as a whole than the sum of their parts. This level of interoperability has been proven to reduce risk, drive more efficient field operations, improve productivity, increase profitability, and generate successful projects that are highly repeatable. If you’re ready to see how IF4C can work for your company – email me at pschell@b4-consulting.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Engineering and Construction, construction, Interoperability, Design Build

Wi-Fi on the Jobsite -- Anytime - Anywhere

Posted by Phillip Schell Nov 4, 2014 11:31:00 AM

OpenRoute OnSite Wi-Fi Sample DeploymentOpenRoute_Worker_w_Tablet

I will never forget the look on my son Tyler’s face as we backed out of his grandparent’s home late one Christmas day. At nine-years-old, he had received his first computer for Christmas, a small netbook -- the perfect starter. He said in an ever-so sad voice, “Dad, my computer is not working.” I looked over and replied, “Son, we are not connected to the Internet anymore. You can still use your computer, you just can’t connect it to the Internet while we are driving.” In a tone of voice increasingly glum-sounding, he said “If it can’t connect to the Internet what good is it?” Then came the obligatory speech about the old days and how the Internet came after computers. All of this was met, of course, with the usual eye-rolling and the deepening of my dinosaur-experience hole.

Every time I think about the construction industry and Cloud applications, I think of my son. His connectivity issues are not unlike those experienced by the construction industry when it comes to Cloud applications: If you can’t get to them – what good are they? And, the issue is actually bigger than that. A lot of important business takes place at a construction site and sharing and using field information in real time can pose a business-critical challenge. The construction site is where risk is heightened and where quick, fact-based decisions need to be made in the battle for margins. For a long time, it’s also been the place that’s been disconnected from all the tools that can improve productivity, manage risk, and enable effective decision making.  But – that was then. Today, portable Internet access is available from B4 Consulting's valued partner OpenRoute.

OpenRoute was born out of CoCo Communications, which was established post-911 to build software-defined, tactical communications solutions that enable people in mobile- and zero-infrastructure environments to share information securely and reliably. OpenRoute was formed to commercialize aspects of CoCo technology in support of the construction industry. The result:  OpenRoute™ OnSite Wi-Fi - a truly state-of-the-art, construction-rugged device, which extends Internet connectivity past the trailer and out into the field. OpenRoute OnSite Wi-Fi is easy to set up. It starts with connecting a small, self-contained yellow box to your existing Internet and power sources. That's it. When you need even more coverage as the job site expands and structures are built, add another yellow box or two, or more. The yellow boxes connect wirelessly and automatically, forming their own mesh network.

openroute_yellow_box

 OpenRoute On-Site Wi-Fi - A briefcase-sized yellow box that's easy to deploy and use.

To assist in deploying additional yellow boxes, you get a free OpenRoute™ NetMeter mobile application, which quickly identifies where to place units for optimal coverage across the site. You can even pick up a yellow box and move it for the day. No professional site survey or calling the wireless carrier. No need to add expensive controllers or computer-based software programs to manage the network.

OpenRoute Wi-Fi is a fully enclosed “simple-to-deploy” piece of communications hardware that’s built to withstand the harshest weather elements. A single weatherproof connection point substantially reduces installation time, moves and re-configurations.

I’ll let the facts speak for themselves:

 

Component Selection

  • Top-of-the-line radio cards generate maximum FCC allowable transmit power with extreme receiver sensitivity. Supports HT20 and HT40 backhaul speeds (130/300 Mbps) with very low latency. MIMO technology optimizes packet delivery.
  • The “best” antennae available – 2 omni-directional 5.8 Ghz and 2 cardioid patch 2.4 Ghz antennas installed in opposing positions provide a host of orientation/positioning options without changing antennas. Patch antennas optimize user experience in high noise environments.
  • Near-perfect antenna/card match (VSWR) for optimum coverage and throughput.

 Software

  • Operates in Layer 2, each unit capable of multiple roles
  • Self-forming network - does not require hardware or Cloud-based controller
  • Both 2.4 and 5.8 Ghz networks secured
  • Remote connectivity secure terminal via SSH
  • Multiple SSID and Radius support
  • Basic industry standard 802.11g/n/s protocols, compatible with standard networks
  • Enhanced patented software developed to “fix” 29 serious routing deficiencies in standard 802.11s improving packet delivery, throughput speeds, and user experience
  • Radius support

Deployment

  • Downloadable OpenRoute NetMeter app. supports set-up, configuration, and management without a laptop
  • Rover capability for instant network extension/fill-in
  • A myriad of mounting options for virtually any environment or application

 OpenRoute_Sample_Deployment

Sample Deployment of OpenRoute On-Site Wi-Fi

 

OpenRoute's rock-solid technology has been extensively field testing with several contractors and in different construction environments: vertical and horizontal construction; high-rise commercial construction; industrial construction; and in multiple infrastructure sites. Contractors such as Bayley Construction and Lease Cruther Lewis are among contractors who have deployed their yellow boxes. And, here are just a few of the benefits they are realizing:

  • Immediate access to information reduces rework
  • Reduced RFIs ($1500/RFI)
  • Near elimination of  “Trailer Walks” ($20-$40/walk
  • Field Data Management Tools save an average of 9.1 hours per user, per week
  • Improved “single entry” collaboration eliminates multiple emails on multiple enterprise networks, and multiple phone calls
  • Reduced/eliminated significant printing costs (paper, ink, printers, time, etc.) by going “paperless” onsite
  • Reduced/eliminated mobile carrier data fees ($25/GB)
  • Improved accuracy of project bids as a result of real-time data collection/tracking closer on the job site
  • Data connectivity to sub-contractors (monthly charge or free) to improve productivity

At B4 Consulting, we design solutions that give our customers end-to-end functionality utilizing the best technologies available. Many of the emerging solutions are Cloud based, which gives customers quick and easy implementations, rapid time to value, and the lowest total cost of ownership. Our Cloud solutions enabled by partners such as Ariba, Corecon and MobileLogix provide rich functionality. With OpenRoute we solve the connectivity problems of the past and provide reliable access to applications and data that are needed at your jobsite. We have partnered with OpenRoute to help solve construction site connectivity issues regardless of the applications you are using.

And to my son, Tyler, you are spot-on – applications aren’t worth much if you can’t connect to the Internet.

Let’s talk if you are ready to see how OpenRoute’s innovative technology can improve your field operations. Contact me at pschell@b4-consulting.com.

 

Phillip Schell is vice president of Industry Solutions at B4 Consulting.

 

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Topics: Mobility, Engineering and Construction, construction, productivity, Cloud Computing, Jobsite Internet Access

Lower Staff-to-Craft Ratio with Enterprise Content Management

Posted by Phillip Schell Aug 28, 2014 12:55:50 PM
Blog_ECM_construction_worker_with_laptop

As the construction industry emerges from the dark days of the recession into the light of new project work across the country, it is confronted with two thorny issues that can impede growth:  an unusually high staff-to-craft ratio due to under-investment in technology; and retention of skilled workers.  A common theme runs through these seemingly disparate issues – and that is one of document management.  Consider this: The construction industry hires skilled, college-educated construction professionals with degrees in engineering or construction management and tasks them to manage mind-numbing, time-intensive paperwork.

Imagine investing in a college education in which you have acquired a skill set in Visual Design, BIM, or leading-edge scheduling system and having to sit in front of a desk full of material receipts to input into a materials book. Adding insult to injury, at month’s end you have to run around to gather all those receipts and compare them to the paid invoice amounts to accrue for unpaid commitments in a green-screen accounting system. Is it any wonder why the construction industry is challenged to attract and retain skilled workers who are versed in modern technologies that provide a competitive edge?

But this issue of document management extends beyond the back-office and thwarts efficiency on the job site as well – particularly on self-perform civil construction job sites. For example, a continual flow of incoming trucks have materials that must be weighed, received, or laid down into yards. Every receipt of materials affects job cost, which requires the involvement of project engineers. Approval and reconciliation of these receipts is typically handled in an old-school, manual manner that can take anywhere from hours to days, is highly error-prone and does provide real-time visibility or data.

 

Enterprise Content Management with ELOB4_ECM_No_Paper

B4 Consulting is addressing these construction-centric document management issues with a solution that easily integrates into any IT landscape and at a fraction of the price of some Redmond-based document management systems. Through our partnership with ELO Digital Office, a world leader in Enterprise Content Management (ECM), we bring easy-to-use and affordable ECM solutions to SAP and non-SAP users.

Construction companies such as SNC Construction and Bilfinger have gone digital with ELO. Companies such as these integrate email, estimates, drawings, delivery tickets, purchase orders, and invoices – all on one seamlessly integrated platform.  In one system with rights-assigned access -- employees can from any type of device streamline and standardize processes such as:

  • Project Site Setup: Create an archiving structure for all project-related digital content
  • Delivery Ticket/Goods Receipt Process: Delivery receipt at project site; receipt confirmation; automated G/R posting
  • Accounts Payable: Capture supplier invoice, validate data, remote project-site workflow approval,  release/posting into AR, process invoice with and without PO#

With our ECM solution, the job site scenario described earlier is quickly transformed into a few-click process done in seconds vs. hours or days in which:

  • goods receipts are automatically assigned to a clerk who scans them into OCR-based technology
  • OCR technology is integrated with the ERP solution
  • ERP solution allows the user to check the accuracy of the scan
  • workflow is triggered alerting the appropriate Project Engineer to check for any exceptions before approving the goods receipt
  • system automatically captures delivery tickets and matches them to appropriate invoices to create an Accounts Payable event, accompanied by an approval processes

This functionality can be applied to several construction scenarios from goods receipt to change order management processing. The B4 Consulting ECM solution for intelligent document processing can be applied to any number of business processes in the construction industry, which integrate ERP systems and enable workflows for downstream processing.

Moreover, our solutions use technology for increased efficiencies that optimize resources while ensuring and simplifying compliance with both internal and external requirements. Your skilled construction personnel can now focus on field activities and managing projects instead of paper. Staff-to-craft ratios can be optimized for improved profitability, increased productivity, and higher worker retention rates.

Regardless of your IT landscape, B4 Consulting can help you implement an ECM solution that capitalizes on the latest scanning technologies to increase your productivity and improve profitability. Let’s talk about how we can put ECM to work for you – email me at pschell@b4-consulting.com.

 

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Topics: SAP, B4 Consulting, construction, ELO Digital Office, Enterprise Content Management