Just back from the Construction CPM Conference in Orlando (January 22-24), a few products and innovations deserve mention.
Topping my list of useful tools being exhibited at the Conference was NetPoint from PMA Consultants, an interactive scheduling tool that seamlessly integrates with Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project.
PMA Consultants introduced the concept of “drift”. “Drift” is the difference between “Earliest Start Date” and “Planned Start Date” for an activity. Drift allows for the scheduling of non-critical activities without affecting the total float calculation. Using NetPoint, a scheduler can model an unlimited number of scenarios in real time without being constrained by the Primavera P6 data date. (In Primavera P6, schedules are only updated forward of the data date – if a near critical path of activities becomes critical, the P6 schedule will not update the real critical path before the data date. This subtle but significant fact can have a great impact in forensic schedule analyses and claims management.)
Netpoint also supports a robust import/export tool that interacts seamlessly with Microsoft Excel. Schedulers will appreciate the ease with which activities can be updated using Netpoint’s Excel interface then exported into P6 or Project.
In my opinion, Net Point is a breakthrough scheduling tool that has the potential to move scheduling from the domain of dedicated schedulers back into the hands of the project managers and superintendents it was originally intended to serve.
The Construction Industry is rapidly adopting 5D scheduling and virtual construction. A 5D model combines a 3D spatial model with time and cost parameters. In order to produce a 5D model, one needs to start with an object-oriented BIM model, typically produced from 2D or 3D CAD files using BIM tools such as Autodesk’s Navis Works and Revit or Trimble’s Tekla product. Schedule information is typically generated from a CPM tool such as Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project. Cost information can be generated from various estimating tools such as HardDollar, Trimble’s WinEst or an Excel spreadsheet. The trick to effective 5D modelling lies in how the spatial data, schedule and costs are linked to enable the project to be virtually constructed.
Synchro is emerging as the leader in 5D modelling that integrates conventional scheduling. Using Synchro, a project manager can visually compare the intended construction sequence to the actual construction sequence.
Also of note at the conference was Trimble’s Vico Scheduler. Vico is a direct competitor to Synchro in the 5D modelling world. Rather than adopt the industry-standard activity-based schedule nomenclature, Vico’s scheduling tool uses tasks and locations in lieu of activities to define items of work. This innovation eliminates the need to create repetitive activities for identical tasks carried out in multiple locations. Think, for example, of the installation of plumbing fixtures in a high rise apartment building, hotel or hospital – same task completed many times over.
Vico scheduler also works extensively with flow lines instead of the ubiquitous GANNT charts that have become the industry standard. Vico claims that flow lines provide a representation of productivity and progress that is more visually intuitive and therefore easier to manage than traditional methods. Vico scheduler looks like a good tool to engage senior managers in the scheduling process – it is interactive, visual and robust.
Stay tuned for more! The leading products are evolving quickly and will only get better as market penetration increases.