3 Collaborative Tools for Construction

It’s been suggested by McKinsey and others that the contractual structure of the industry is holding back productivity.  Design-bid-build projects still prevail, creating a hostile environment where each party must find a way to squeeze profit out of its low bid price. Workers on the jobsite are frequently more interested in meeting the short-term individual goals of their employer, rather than the project’s long-term goal. Contracts have a narrow focus and don’t emphasize how various teams will need to work together. Coordination of schedules often causes conflict.

If the industry is going to improve productivity, the interests of all the parties need to aligned and focused on meeting budgets and schedules. This requires increased collaboration and problem solving. Fortunately, digital technology is helping to foster collaboration, by making documents more accessible and facilitating communication between stakeholders.  Here are three unique tools that will help get your construction team on the same page.    

3 Tools to Foster Collaboration

stack proSTACK

STACK is a cloud-based tool for take-off and estimating, designed primarily for ground-up construction. Project managers and multiple estimators can share the same plans, making it easier for errors to be caught earlier in the process.  According to STACK CEO Phillip Ogilby, the standardized process that the software brings to estimating allows users to do more estimates in less time, so it can drive business growth. 

“One of the really unique aspects of STACK is that we allow the project estimate that was completed in the office to be used by project managers in the field on the same platform without having to download it or save it as a PDF or email documents,” says Ogilby. A new version of STACK that will be introduced in Spring 2018 will further collaboration by allowing both subcontractors and general contractors to work on the same set of plans. “This will be a significant improvement for the industry,” says Ogilby.  Questions over what is included or not included in the bid, a key source of conflict between subcontractors and general contractors, should be more easily resolved with STACK.

autodesk 360Autodesk BIM 360

BIM (Building Information Modeling) allows architecture, engineering and construction professionals to collaborate on the planning, design, and construction of a building or other structures within one 3D model.  By constructing virtually before actual construction begins, inefficiencies and problems can be avoided. BIM 360 from Autodesk, is designed for project teams to collaborate together on 2D or 3D designs to improve project planning and coordination, as well as connect and manage real-time data during construction to improve quality and safety, and reduce rework.

 “Among other things, BIM 360 replaces a very disjointed and slow process of going back and forth between contractors and designers with paper plans and emails,” says Tristam Wallace, product marketing manager for Autodesk BIM 360.  With information stored in the cloud, contractors are able to start working earlier on in the process and get visibility into the models as they are being built.

 “It’s widely known that if conflicts or problems with design can be identified early, they will be less costly to address,” says Wallace. “Collaboration between designers, contractors and owners is something that virtually everyone is trying to get to, regardless of contract structure.”

During construction, contractors and subcontractors can also use BIM 360 to track progress, manage quality and log issues. The program also allows contractors to select either a 2D or 3D view, according to their preference.

aliceAlice

ALICE is the first artificial intelligence (AI) software for construction, designed to be the first end-to-end planning tool for construction that can help you simulate a build hundreds of times to find an optimal plan. According to Brandon Young, vice president of marketing, ALICE allows contractors to enter the information necessary to build elements within a structure. This includes the labor, materials, costs and information about the physical space in the form of a BIM model. “We allow you to capture key information that doesn’t exist in any system. It's all in the minds of the crew members,” says Young.

Young believes ALICE facilitates a new, more collaborative and explorative process. Teams meet to gather the initial information that they put into ALICE, and then they can ask ALICE questions to explore different building scenarios. Does it make sense to work nights and overtime to meet a deadline? Is it more efficient to use one mobile crane or two tower cranes on a project? Instead of waiting months for an answer, teams can find a solution to optimize time and budget in just minutes.

It’s not just a matter of compressing the schedule. According to Young, ALICE finds sequences that are significantly more efficient than you would think of on your own because it examines so many options. To date, more than 80 projects utilizing ALICE have been optimized with 16.2% faster schedules and with a 14.7% reduction to labor costs.

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