Plangrid BIM launched

The first major Autodesk integration since the company’s acquisition of PlanGrid adds BIM functionality to the mobile platform.

PlanGrid-full-color-logoPlanGrid, the mobile construction technology business acquired by Autodesk in November 2018, has launched PlanGrid BIM, a product integration with Autodesk Revit that enables users to immediately access Building Information Modelling (BIM) data, in either 2D or 3D, directly within PlanGrid on their mobile devices.

Autodesk says construction teams and facilities managers now can drill down into rich data in an easy-to-use 2D interface or 3D environment, empowering the field to build with greater accuracy, avoid rework and make decisions faster and with more confidence. Jim Lynch, vice president and general manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions, says:

Plangrid website screengrab“BIM has transformed the way architects and engineers design, and Revit is the industry standard during pre-construction. PlanGrid’s integration of Revit empowers its users to take full advantage of BIM beyond pre-construction with a wealth of data immediately at their fingertips. This joint initiative, the first of many following our acquisition of PlanGrid, will help Autodesk fulfill our mission to deliver a comprehensive, integrated platform that seamlessly connects the office, the trailer and the field.”

Plangrid BIM

Architects and engineers who design construction projects using BIM create 3D models to act as a virtual representation of how complicated work should be installed and building assets should interact. Models are embedded with rich property data such as the height of a counter, material type of a wall or manufacturer details of a lighting fixture. But when these models are sent out to the field, they’re “flattened down” into PDFs, and the data is lost to the teams doing the physical work of building or maintaining facilities. This loss of data, coupled with a lack of 3D visualisation in the field, can lead to critical errors, lost time and rework.

PlanGrid BIM empowers construction and facilities teams to make better decisions in real-time, using the most comprehensive data available and a seamless transition between 2D and 3D. With PlanGrid BIM, Autodesk says users can see BIM data properties within familiar 2D drawings, or tap into 3D to better visualize assets within the surrounding environment — all from within PlanGrid’s software. Encompassing three core elements, PlanGrid’s new BIM functionality includes:

  • BIM-enabled Sheets: Users can tap objects to access BIM data properties, such as an object’s dimensions, material type or manufacturer details, all within the familiar 2D environment.
  • 3D BIM Viewer: With a simple tap, users can instantly transition into a 3D view of a specific object, even if offline. Includes features such as zoom and snap tools for taking measurements between model objects. Currently in open beta.
  • Revit Integration: Sheets are published directly from Revit into PlanGrid, guaranteeing 100% accuracy of BIM data, as well as sheet titles and numbers; drawings continue to include PlanGrid features such as automatic callout detection and hyperlinking.

Mobile-first BIM

Tracy YoungTracy Young, head of PlanGrid at Autodesk, says:

“We know field workers and facilities teams need mobile solutions that can be used on the job site, which is why we built PlanGrid’s software with a mobile-first approach right from the start. We saw immediate adoption, and now more than 1.5 million projects around the world are using our technology. We’re now bringing our mobile-first approach to BIM, empowering teams to build right the first time. With PlanGrid BIM, we are not only helping contractors work more efficiently, we’re also enabling architects to maintain their design intent and owners to reduce lifecycle costs. We’re delivering on our commitment to building powerful and easy-to-use software for the field, and developing an integrated workflow with Autodesk products. We’re changing the industry, again.”

Autodesk says PlanGrid BIM is available to all PlanGrid users on iOS and web, with functionality in Android and Windows to follow in the future. Features to be added in the future include integration with other design and project review software such as Autodesk Navisworks, two-way synch to update the master BIM model with data from the field, and the ability to generate tasks, RFIs and punchlists from model data.

Permanent link to this article:

Holobuilder releases JobWalk Planner

HoloBuilder releases JobWalk Planner for 360° construction documentation planning to improve office-to-site communication

HoloBuilder LogoHoloBuilder, the California, US-based provider of 360° reality capture solutions for construction sites, has added a “JobWalk Planner” feature to its reality capture solution for improved office-to-site communication. JobWalk Planner enables off-site stakeholders to pre-plan construction documentation sequences for their teams. By placing markers onto floor plans in the HoloBuilder Web Editor and sending notifications to their teams, managers can easily plan and communicate locations that have to be captured in 360°.

The improved office-to-field communication workflow accelerates and improves the required briefing of on-site teams about documentation requirements before they start documenting the construction site’s progress with HoloBuilder’s mobile JobWalk App and their 360° camera. The planning feature was built based on customer feedback to facilitate team management and planning of job walks to ensure a perfectly executed site documentation that leaves no room for error or forgotten site images. Matthew R. Calzon, principal designer at Hazen and Sawyer, says:

“The new JobWalk Planner is a pivotal feature. It allows our project managers across the country to efficiently identify the capture points prior to a site visit. As a result, our design engineers can quickly understand the intent for a seamless and complete workflow.”

Efficient reality capture

HoloBuilder JobWalk PlannerTraditionally, the communication of documentation locations across different team members has been performed via onsite instruction meetings or by using different software for marking up capture locations on the floor plan before uploading it to the HoloBuilder platform. By eliminating these efforts, construction teams can further increase their efficiency and reduce time spent on the planning of construction documentation.

Key beneficiaries of this feature will be the headquarters and managers who work across multiple projects. These stakeholders will see a tremendous improvement in data quality, standardisation, and scalability when rolling out best practices around progress documentation to many sites at the same time. Mostafa Akbari, CEO and founder of HoloBuilder says:

“Ensuring high data quality for our customers is of key importance to everything we do at HoloBuilder. After pre-planning hundreds of JobWalks with our customers, we decided to build an easy and efficient tool that helps the planning of reality captures before the team heads on site to enable higher data quality for our customers. Especially when the person who wants to consume the data will not be the person who captures it, the communication between the two turned out to be tricky in the past. With the JobWalk Planner, the office-to-field communication between superintendents, engineers, designers and all other managers with their teams in the field becomes much easier. Managers can easily ensure that their teams will never miss an important image again. Thus, everybody is on the same page, knows what matters and can capture smart, not hard!”

Holobuilder began to expand into Europe in early 2018 (post), and has been developing artificial intelligence capabilities in its platform (post).

Permanent link to this article:

PlanGrid tech targets Brexit delays

Brexit uncertainty continues to plague UK construction, and PlanGrid believes its mobile technologies can help site-based teams manage Brexit-related supply chain delays. 

Plangrid logoUS-based construction productivity software provider PlanGrid was acquired by Autodesk in November 2018, having spent a year establishing its UK operation (in October 2018, Extranet Evolution interviewed Plangrid president of mobile field operations Bill Smith in London).

The company says firms in the UK are currently facing the second longest delays for deliveries since March 2015. Construction industry professionals cite the availability of resources as their biggest concern for the next 12 months. While political uncertainty continues to impact the availability of materials, Plangrid says digital tools are supporting firms through improved workflow management, supplier relationships and productivity on-site.

Using Plangrid to manage materials

Construction firms face delivery times that in February 2019 grew by the greatest margin since the previous August. Many construction businesses are stockpiling materials ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU, with sales in the construction products manufacturing sector rising in Q4 2018 by 27% for heavy-side materials and 50% for light side materials. Meanwhile, businesses are facing the impact of stockpiling in other sectors, as manufacturers buy materials in advance.

Rob Elvidge, PlanGrid’s managing director – EMEA, says:

“Construction firms have faced supply chain uncertainty for many months now, and unfortunately this is already impacting jobs in progress. Currently, as well as shortages in materials we’re seeing challenges for firms in securing transportation and warehouse storage, hindering efforts to buy supplies in advance. It’s unclear when these supply chain issues will be resolved.”

Plangrid laptop-taskPlanGrid believes digital construction tools can help. As well as enabling businesses to plan when materials will be needed, on-site digital tools can collect information about progress on jobs in real-time and deliver site-labour and materials reports to support timely purchases. In the event of delays to a project, digital platforms can also enable contractors to provide ongoing updates to both clients and subcontractors (echoing points made by Envision’s Adrian Smith – see previous post).

Construction firms can draw on digital tools to create more collaborative relationships with suppliers. By linking supplier portals and purchase order systems to individual jobs, construction businesses can authorise payments more quickly, as well as ensuring prompt payment for supplies. Businesses can also help to make deliveries as quick and hassle-free as possible by highlighting delivery locations on digital site-maps, along with any instructions for the supplier.
cost of errors = 21%

Avoid costly errors

To ease the impact of shortages, it’s vital for firms to make the best use of the materials that they have. Mistakes remain a critical issue for UK construction firms, with 68% of industry professionals citing rework as the biggest source of unnecessary time for their business. (On 9 April 2019, the London Constructing Excellence Club heard from Tom Barton, chief executive of the Get It Right Initiative, that errors add around 21% to construction costs – costing the UK industry around £22 billion a year. Read more about GIRI’s Strategy for Change here.)*

Rework can also result in wasted materials, which can cause extensive delays and losses. Digital collaboration tools can help to ensure that the whole team is working from the latest plans, with responsibilities clearly assigned. Elvidge says:

“Although supply chain uncertainty may continue, firms can help to place themselves in the strongest position possible by using digital construction tools. Access to real-time information on jobs can support workflow management and planning in the procurement team. Fostering close relationships with suppliers, through prompt payments and easy collaboration, can help to secure materials when they are in short supply. And critically, using digital mobile technology on-site can reduce the amount of rework on a project. With materials already scarce and increasing in price, ensuring projects are built right the first time is becoming even more essential for protecting profit margins.”

[* Disclosure: I have provided copywriting services to GIRI.]

Permanent link to this article:

Envision: building construction transparency

Envision is winning new infrastructure customers, and its data-centric approach fits with data-driven visions of the future of the industry currently known as construction.

Envision logoEnvision is expanding its reach into civil engineering projects, and even reaching outside its Australasian heartland. The Brisbane, Australia-based field construction data platform is now being used extensively on road, rail and tunnel projects, says co-founder and head of engineering Adrian Smith, while Australian customers have taken the technology to their projects in places including Papua New Guinea and even Mongolia.

Launched in 2010 (see May 2011 post), Envision set out to simplify construction management, adopting a mobile-first Software-as-a-Service approach, integrating mobile devices with 3D, scheduling and time management tools, and applying lean thinking. The Australian engineering and infrastructure contractor Downer Group was an early adopter, and the former Leighton group, CIMIC, soon followed (see January 2016 post), using Envision on major liquid natural gas facilities and other natural resources projects.

However, the business has also won enterprise customers involved in a string of major road and rail infrastructure projects, particularly in eastern Australia, Smith said, and has been marketing itself as a field-based construction delivery platform, connecting project leaders with real-time insights and providing “unparalleled visibility of project performance”:

“Envision was used by CPB Contractors to help deliver Stage 2 of the Gold Coast light rail project, a vital part of the infrastructure for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and helped reassure the client on progress and cost projections. It is being used on a four-year, Au$400m project to add a second runway at Brisbane Airport, and on the Sydney and Melbourne Metro projects. And in Papua New Guinea, Clough is deploying Envision on a power station at Port Moresby – field data can be quickly gathered on site, and relayed back to Clough’s experts in earned value management (EVM), saving costly manpower resources.”

In an Envision case study about Port Moresby power station, Clough operations manager Geoff Scott says: “The technology allows us to run with leaner project teams. We now have improved quality and frequency of communications.”

Envision: data not document management

Envision marketing chief Kirk Kulbe, formerly at design giants Bentley, Intergraph and Autodesk (on left in photo below, with Adrian Smith) underlined that the platform is not about document management:

Envision's Kirk Kulbe and Adrian Smith

“The core strength of platforms such as Aconex is document management, or latterly building information modelling, BIM, and related communications. We don’t compete with systems like Aconex and ProCore – we complement them. We are all about the data, giving a clear line of sight on what is happening in the field, so that teams have real-time or next day reports on whether the project is on course in terms of progress and cost. Envision captures data close to the user, in place, in time, and about the people doing the work. This kind of operational data is distinct from that captured in building information models.”

However, Envision can also be used to track design progress. The Melbourne Metro project had been using Envision to track the progress of design, and the associated earned value of design deliverables, Smith said.

Having  recently written an Envision blog post – “The ‘good oil’ on construction data” – Smith expanded on the theme, saying Envision is more about project controls.

“Design information is great when you are visualising what will be constructed, but once you are working on a live project, you also need a dashboard showing live information about how construction is progressing. Too often, tools like [Hexagon’s] Ecosys or [ARES’s] Prism are used to collate end-of-month data. We provide data immediately or, at the latest, next day – showing exactly what was achieved yesterday. We record both physical progress and labour, plant and material resource quantities and costs; so we can calculate daily progress and daily cost, and use EVM to show the daily value achieved.”

Envision construction dataBy capturing and centralising data in a consistent way, Envision “de-risks” projects, avoiding common problems arising from over-reliance on spreadsheets, with different professionals compiling different data in different ways. In his blog post, Smith highlights research showing that over 90% of spreadsheets contained errors and 23% contained serious errors. Being data-driven avoids reliance on anecdotes or gut feel; objectively gathered data provides a sounder basis for decision-making, he says.

Productivity and transparency

Compared to other industries, productivity in construction across most developed economies has effectively flat-lined for the past 25 years, hampered by an often-adversarial culture, disjointed procurement processes, fragmented project team and industry structures, low levels of investment in technology and R&D, and other issues. Mark Farmer’s 2016 report on the UK construction sector, “Modernise or Die”, highlights these and other symptoms of a broken industry model, and the Australian market shares many of the same challenges.

Smith feels data-driven decision-making can be used to help alleviate some of these issues: “The name Envision suggests transparency,” he says, “and by providing a consistent dashboard to all stakeholders, you can help to create a more collaborative culture.”

The Farmer Report provided additional momentum to ongoing efforts to improve UK construction, as I wrote in August 2018 (Don’t just digitise. Rethink construction). Short-term adversarial business models are being rejected in favour of longer-term business relationships founded on collaborative processes and behaviours; government is shifting from lowest price tendering to demanding best whole life value; and, rather than seeking bespoke project solutions, industry clients are looking at greater standardisation and increased use of offsite manufacturing techniques.

Digital Built Britain diagramIn July 2018, the Construction Leadership Council published its “Procuring for Value” report, advocating procurement based on delivery of best whole-life value and performance, with a strong focus on measuring and rewarding good asset and supplier performance. Related initiatives such as Digital Built Britain and the ICE’s Project 13 also urge digital transformation of the industry currently known as construction, and some of the UK industry’s largest customers are increasingly looking for suppliers who can work digitally. The industry has to move beyond document and file-based thinking and make data the new normal, but it will not just be about digital thinking – it will be about rethinking construction as a whole.

Data-centric project delivery practices, such as those encouraged by Envision, have to form part of the future of the sector. Smith has set out some guiding principles for improving data maturity, including:

  • Capture [data] electronically close in person, place and time
  • Align how the project performance is to be measured with the financial system
  • Use reference codes/identifiers/geolocation for resources (people, equipment, materials, companies) to allow easy cross-referencing
  • Express data in self-describing formats where possible
  • Exchange data in neutral file formats – avoid proprietary file formats
  • Agree a “source of truth” for core data like budgets, people, equipment, …
  • Convert data into information and drive decision making.

Permanent link to this article:

AEC Delta Mobility: open source ‘differencing’

AEC Delta Mobility consortium backed by UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to tackle AEC data exchange using open source approach.

The UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has backed an industry-wide consortium aiming to improve manufacture involvement and flows of data between architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) project partners. The group includes BuroHappold, 3D Repo, Speckle Works, UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management and Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group, with external support from HOK, Atkins and Arup.

The £1m Innovate UK-funded project (one of an £18m tranche of projects announced in February 2019; another funded project looks at use of AI – 21 February 2019 post) aims to increase construction productivity, performance and quality. The consortium is aiming to address two industrial issues in project entitled “AEC Delta Mobility”. First, it wants engage better with manufacturers in the early design stages and increase pre-manufactured value of built assets; second, it aims to increase construction project productivity by over 15%.

AEC Delta Mobility aims for open ‘differencing’ standard

The team will be focused on the inefficient processes whereby software users exchange large files and 3D models to communicate design changes – called ‘deltas’ – between designers, integrators and fabricators.

The notion of exchanging just the differences between files is not new. I blogged about the idea in February 2007 (it had been something that BIW Technologies experimented with c. 2003-04); in October 2009 (post), Graphisoft’s Archicad 13 incorporated ‘differencing’ technologies into its BIM server component; and I returned to the topic in April 2014 in connection with an ECM solution called M-Files (post). However, making such an approach ‘open’ is a significant step forward.

AEC Delta

Dr Al Fisher, technical director and head of computational development at BuroHappold, said:

“As a result of this new standard, users will be able to live-stream individual changes with collaborators, instead of sharing large files over and over again, using their own choice of any application conformant with the newly proposed AEC Delta Mobility specification.”

Commenting on the project, 3D Repo founder and CEO, Dr Jozef Dobos, said:

“While open standards such as IFC and BCF paved the way for collaboration, they are neither suitable for infrastructure and manufacturing, nor scalable to large construction projects. IFC [a popular open file format in building information modelling, BIM] can take several hours and enormous amounts of memory to process, making the current workflows extremely inefficient.”

The project will take 18 months and will see the newly proposed AEC Delta specification tested on live construction projects in the UK with project partners BuroHappold, Rhomberg, HOK and Atkins.

Tony Kearns, COO at Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group (UK & Ireland), said:

“The ongoing development and utilisation of BIM on major projects has seen a significant step forward in recent years, however, the design and management of data from multiple sources is cumbersome and inefficient. By streamlining the transfer of data to one open source will provide efficiencies in the design and construction phases whilst increasing confidence that the design is the most relevant and shared by all stakeholders.”

AEC Delta Mobility (Github site) will aim to iron out the data exchange processes at the earliest possible stages of the design phase by streamlining the data workflow so that everyone involved, from consultants to manufacturers, can access the same common data and with consistent versions of the truth.

The UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is committing £170 million – matched by £250 million from industry – to modernise construction processes and techniques (more information on the UKRI “Transforming Construction” website).

Permanent link to this article:

HammerTech raises Au$10m (US$7.1m)

HammerTech raises Au$10m (US$7.11m) to fund expansion into the US, and accelerate its product development and sales and marketing.

Hammertech logoHammerTech, the Melbourne, Australia-based mobile provider of health, safety and quality software for the construction industry, has announced completion of a Au$10 million (US$7.11m – £5.4m or €6.33m) Series A financing. The funding was led by Santa Monica-based Arrowroot Capital, a leading growth equity firm specialising in B2B software.

The investment will allow HammerTech to accelerate its product roadmap, grow the sales and marketing teams and support continued expansion into the United States. As part of the transaction, Chuck Haling and Matt Klein, from Arrowroot Capital, will be joining the board.

Milton Walters, CEO of HammerTech, said:

Milton Walters“It’s an exciting time for HammerTech and we are thrilled to have gained support and investment from Arrowroot. Within five years of being founded, we’ve worked tirelessly to introduce an advanced software platform to construction that empowers operational excellence. With Arrowroot’s experience and partnership we’re looking forward to enhancing our product capabilities, growing our global footprint, and increasing collaboration on job sites.”

Matthew Safaii, Arrowroot Capital’s Founder and Managing Partner said:

“HammerTech has positioned itself to be the go-to health, safety and quality software for the construction industry. Their mobile-first platform drives operation efficiencies, keeps workers safer and improves quality across all aspects of the construction process. We are excited to partner with the HammerTech team to help scale their platform around the globe.”

HammerTech: the company

HammerTech homepageBased in the Melbourne district of Richmond, Australia’s SaaS technology provider HammerTech has been attracting interest from several major international contractors, and – in its first major foray outside Australia – has opened US offices in Los Angeles and Seattle. Extranet Evolution talked to CEO Milton Walters about the company, its platform philosophy and its growth plans.

HammerTech’s subscription-based platform is available on all devices and is designed to meet the demands of companies seeking to better manage their operations and HSEQ obligations. HammerTech customers typically see results in valuable time saved and increased safety and quality measures.

Milton Walters

Milton Walters is an Australian construction software industry veteran. After entering the sector in 2006 at Aconex, he has worked with other leading ConTech players including Textura and Procore during the last 12 years.

These experiences have left Walters with an abiding respect for some of the people he has dealt with – he talks with affection about Aconex’s Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot, Textura Europe’s Colin Smith (now chairman of Newcastle, UK-based NBS), and Procore’s  Bassem Hamdy, for example. “Thanks to these fabulous people, I have had a ten-plus-year preparation in construction technology for the role I am in now. They really helped shape my thinking.”

HammerTech history

HammerTech was established in about 2013 by a close-knit group of five friends: Ben Leach, Lucas McDonald, Bradley Tabone, James Harris and Andrew Hogben. Two had Australian construction industry experience (Leach was at Baulderstone and APP, working on facilities for the Australian Grand Prix; McDonald was also at APP and at Westpac). Two came from the tech sector as product developers (Tabone was at National Australia Bank; he and now CTO Harris also both worked at ExpressIV online), while Hogben, having just sold a recruitment business, was the “fifth Beatle” providing some finance and sales experience.

Hammertech screengrabAs with some other construction technology founders, frustration with over-reliance on Excel spreadsheets to manage safety and quality inspired the development of the SaaS-based HammerTech platform. “It’s been developed for safety by people within safety,” said Walters, “it’s not been developed as a spin-off of document management, for example. We don’t start with forms – our starting point is how do we increase operational efficiency and reduce risk, which ensures the correct focus.”

With APP’s Australian GP as the first client project, the business was initially funded by its founders, family and friends, and by one ‘angel’ investor. To date it has required no significant additional investment, says Walters, though it did secure a AU$700,000 Australian federal government accelerator grant in late 2017. Partly as a consequence of this grant, Walters joined the company in April 2018 (“so far it’s been the most enjoyable 12 months I’ve had in my career”). He says HammerTech now employs around 30 people, but, with the new funding, was planning to grow to around 60 people by the end of 2019. Growth to date had largely been sustained by generated revenues, not by investments or funding rounds.

HammerTech started 2018 with around 35 key accounts, but has since grown to around 100 commercial customers (“and we may double again this year”). As well as APP, early successes included adoption by Australia’s LendLease, Mirvac, and one of the country’s oldest Tier One contracting firms, Hutchinson, contracted with the company in late 2018, Walters said. He also related how the company’s focus on delivering its promised functionality has helped build customer trust.

US expansion

“HammerTech expanded into the US in 2017 after receiving some enquiries in response to a LinkedIn post. Brad Tabone and Andy Hogben went over to the US, and we soon had some trial accounts. Then a Top 10 – and innovative – general contractor, DPR, signed a national agreement with us in America in December 2018, and that’s been a massive shot in the arm for us. We will be on 700 DPR projects in about 12 months, now have half a dozen people based in the US,  and are recruiting aggressively in the first half of 2019 as the business expands.”

Walters also highlighted a billion dollar project for LendLease in Los Angeles, Oceanwide Plaza, as another major endorsement: “At LendLease’s safety summit in New Jersey we had safety supervisors rapt at what we were doing”. And adoption by major international contracting corporations could also see HammerTech expand into the UK and into southeast Asia, he says.

In the past year, HammerTech has increased its foothold in the Australia and North America markets and has doubled its client base. It now has tens of thousands of users on the platform and is being used on billions of dollars worth of construction projects globally.

Former Procore director of demand generation Chere Lucett joined HammerTech in 2018 and says:

Chere Lucett“We are responding to growing regulatory requirements. Operational safety is going to be the next frontier in the US construction technology market. The industry lags behind manufacturing, but you can’t improve project management efficiency without also improving safety and quality, and we are well placed to manage that data.”

Echoing Walters’ earlier point about focusing on operations rather than paperwork, she says the HammerTech platform has been designed to track personnel, equipment and issues, providing a centralised safety and quality dashboard, helping with online orientations, developing safety plans and then supporting proactive risk management. The solution provides 16 integrated modules that make it possible to have everything in one place, allowing customers to replace paper, Excel, and individual apps.

Permanent link to this article:

33% SaaS growth boosts RIB results

Germany’s RIB Group grew 26% in 2018, boosted by its SaaS operations, with its Microsoft partnership expected to grow its SaaS user base ten-fold in 2019.

RIB software logoStuttgart, Germany-based software provider RIB Group has published its results for the year to 31 December 2018 showing revenue up over 26% on 2017, with the company planning to strengthen its investments in its Software-as-a-Service solutions. Its 2018 SaaS revenues were a highlight of the results: up 33% to €17.3m, and now comprise 13% of group revenues.

Geographically, the group still derives most of its revenues from Germany: €67.7m from total group revenues of €136.9m (almost twice as much as the rest of the EMEA region put together – though it is looking to expand elsewhere in Europe, including in the UK, plus southeast Asia), and it is forecasting 31-46% revenue growth to somewhere in the range of €180-€200m in 2019. Profit (EBITDA) was a healthy €38m for the year – a margin of nearly 28%.

Like other vendors (including  UK-based Idox – see 1 April 2019 post), RIB Group is aiming to become a more global player by reducing its reliance on localised, on-premise software installations, and “re-platforming its software stack towards a true cloud“. In 2018, annual recurring revenues (SaaS/cloud and maintenance) grew 21% to €57.4m. million.

Mads BordingRIB Group’s 2018 annual report highlights its commitment to growing its partnership with Microsoft (explained to Extranet Evolution by MD of sales and operations Mads Bording, right, in late 2018: post).  It aims to expand adoption of its iTWO and MTWO platform adoption ten-fold, from 3,000 to 30,000 end users in 2019.

The RIB/Microsoft partnership is also committed to supporting digital transformation: “RIB and Microsoft have teamed up … to jointly develop cutting-edge technologies. The topics covered include artificial intelligence, voice recognition, smart analytics.”

AI and mobility are key areas for RIB R&D investment – RIB showcased its first AI solution, McTWO at a 2018 user conference: “the first artificial intelligence assistant for the construction and real estate industries” with live features including a “chatbot, voice assistance, deep learning and machine learning”.

Update (9 April 2019) – RIB has announced the formation of a joint venture, SGTWO, with Saint-Gobain Germany, combines Saint-Gobain’s skills in innovative building solutions with RIB’s 5D BIM and AI technologies. TheJV aims to improve modular building and planning in an enhanced 5D BIM solution. The new company will be headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Update (23 April 2019) – RIB has expanded its stake in DATENGUT, a Leipzig, Germany-based provider of mobile solutions for the construction industry, from 51% to 75%, citing the “extremely positive reactions of our customers to the extended product portfolio in the Mobility segment.”

Permanent link to this article:

Huw Roberts takes helm at Graphisoft

Graphisoft appoints former US architect and Bentley executive Huw Roberts as its next CEO.

Graphisoft logoHungary-based BIM software giant Graphisoft has appointed one-time Bentley executive Huw Roberts as its new chief executive officer. He succeeds Viktor Várkonyi, who will be heading the parent Nemetschek group’s new planning division.

During 27 years at Graphisoft, Várkonyi contributed to several technology innovations that bolstered the widespread growth of BIM in the industry. In 10 years as CEO, he tripled the company’s revenues and helped consolidate its position as a global leader in BIM for architects and designers.

Huw RobertsAn architect by early training, Roberts has three decades of leadership experience in the software industry and architectural profession. He spent 17 years at US-based Bentley Systems (where I met him several times at Bentley Year In Infrastructure events in London, usually to discuss ProjectWise and related collaboration technology developments). He was then chief marketing officer at BlueCielo, a Netherlands-based asset lifecycle information management provider acquired by US corporate real estate software vendor Accruent in late 2017 (in January 2018 Accruent also acquired Newcastle, UK-based Kykloud – post).

Roberts, a native of Philadelphia in the US, will relocate to Budapest to take up his new role.

Roberts’s past experience with construction collaboration technologies will clearly help him at Graphisoft, where, in 2009, its design authoring flagship ArchiCAD 13 was breaking new ground in BIM collaboration. In November 2013 parent Nemetschek launched its BIM+ cloud platform and in February 2014, Graphisoft launched its BIMx Docs mobile app. Graphisoft and Nemetschek remain strong supporters of the Open BIM initiative.

Permanent link to this article:

Opidis: Idox rebrands McLaren

A year ago, Idox group rebranded its McLaren business to Opidis. The firm’s FusionLive solution is being used to support BIM working on a French railway project.

Opidis logoFollowing a series of personnel changes and reorganisations in 2014, the Idox Group subsidiary McLaren Software largely disappeared from my radar – I was only briefly reminded of its existence when Idox launched its Onsite building control mobile application in August 2017. Around eight months later, though, in March 2018, Idox rebranded McLaren Software as Opidis.

The McLaren back story

McLaren Software provided a range of on-premise and cloud-based asset operations, project management and collaboration solutions for engineering document management and control.

Readers with a long memory may recall BuildOnline, one of the UK pioneers of web-based consturction collaboration. It merged with the US provider Citadon in December 2006 to become CTSpace, and a year later was acquired by France’s Sword Group (post). It was then merged with an existing Sword company, Cimage (a provider of on-premise information management) in 2009, and the former BuildOnline and Citadon platforms were superceded by a new SaaS application, FusionLive, in 2010.

idox logoIn November 2011, Sword Group sold CTSpace to Idox group for £11.6m, and it was quickly merged with Idox’s McLaren Software (acquired by Idox a year earlier), a provider of engineering document management and control applications to customers in the  oil and gas, mining, utilities, pharmaceuticals and transportation sectors. This meant the company effectively had a hybrid offering, providing both on-premise and SaaS EDMS solutions, depending upon customer requirements (December 2012 post).

There were further acquisitions. FMx Ltd, developer of the computer-aided facilities management application CAFM Explorer, was bought in October 2012, and France-based Artesys – developer of the on-premise oil and gas engineering document control solution Opidis – joined McLaren in April 2013. And McLaren continued to invest in its FusionLive product, adding some BIM capabilities in October 2013 and a business intelligence portal in April 2014. However, a series of marketing and other personnel changes meant I started to lose track of the company’s news from 2015.

Financial update

Judging from the group’s annual reports, this was partly due to financial challenges at Idox’s engineering information management (EIM) division (essentially the McLaren business). In 2015, Idox reported post-recession “headwinds” affecting the oil and gas sector leading to a “considerable down shift in activity”;  EIM revenues fell 21%, and Idox acted to “reduce the cost base”.  There was modest growth in 2016 with EIM revenues up 3% to £14.1m, but engineering revenue declined again, by 8%, in 2017. However, the business had started a transition to a SaaS-based model, and Idox talked up the prospects of its FusionLive SaaS application in 2018. EIM accounted for 14% of Group revenues, with revenue of £10.0m, with recurring revenues from maintenance and SaaS comprising 73% of that figure.

2018 Opidis rebranding

According to Idox, the rebranding was undertaken to align the identity of its products and services more closely, with the Opidis name selected for its existing roots in engineering information and clearly aligns with our mission to deliver the best portfolio in the market to our customers. Construction is just one segment targeted by Opidis – ranking behind Energy and utilities, Oil and Gas, and Renewables on the division’s website.

Opidis BIM for SNCF

Paris SNCF stationSNCF, France’s national railway (a long-time customer of Opidis), has chosen to extend its use of FusionLive to support a BIM strategy on the country’s largest construction project, EOLE (East-West Express), a project to extend the RER E west of Paris (news release). As the commitment to digitise the French construction industry gains momentum, SNCF is making BIM mandatory on its projects and chose to implement FusionLive BIM functionality, an integration between the cloud-based document management solution and the collaboration platform Bimsync by Catenda (see June 2017 post) on EOLE.

Xavier Gruz, EOLE-Nexteo Project Director at SNCF said:

“After evaluating the market, we extended the use of FusionLive to support our expanding BIM strategy. It was the only solution on the market that met our needs, allowing us to benefit from the combined experience of a strong cloud document management solution in FusionLive, and a specific BIM solution with Bimsync by Catenda. As a result, we’ll be able to receive BIM 3D models from all our vendors, saving significant time and money.”

Philip Woodrow, CEO of Opidis said:

“We’re delighted the SNCF team have extended their relationship with us, maximizing the new capabilities available through the FusionLive and Bimsync by Catenda integration. As BIM models uploaded to FusionLive are automatically available in the Bimsync portal, users can visualize, review, merge and resolve issues – simplifying access and collaboration, and removing the need to manually upload the model to multiple information silos.”

Håvard Brekke Bell, CEO of Catenda said:

“We are excited about SNCF’s position on open BIM and believe they will have a great impact and change the European construction industry for the better. At the same time, it is inspiring to be able to work together with SNCF and Opidis on such a large project, something that will benefit all users of Bimsync.”

Permanent link to this article:

Ehab pioneering AEC blockchain

It might be something of an over-hyped industry buzzword, but blockchain is exciting academic and investor interest, with London-based Ehab an early beneficiary.

CBC homepageWhen I wrote recently about blockchain for construction contracts, I was also reading a little more widely about blockchain in preparation for a technology lecture I gave to students at Middlesex University. This included some discussion of  ‘smart contracts’ versus ‘Ricardian contracts’, and underlined that blockchain has far wider potential than cryptocurrency systems.

Researchers at University College London are looking at how blockchain can be applied in the construction sector. UCL is also home to the Construction Blockchain Consortium (CBC), a joint industry/academic initiative looking to support knowledge transfer, drive research and development and support education and training on blockchain-related technologies. The CBC’s themes show considerable diversity in how blockchain might be applied – under culture and change, for example, it talks about collaborative behaviours:

“The construction industry has become notoriously litigious as projects have larger sums at stake, and as a consequence of being a buyers’ market where contractors and sub-contractors are forced to price their services more competitively.  Blockchain has the potential to reverse the current trends by creating a ‘Panoptican effect’, where all parties’ behaviour is moderated as they known that there is the possibility that their conduct will be properly observed at a later date.”

… enter Ehab

ehab logoBlockchain R&D is also being funded by investors. In London, for example, the world’s first dedicated blockchain accelerator, StateZero Labs, announced its first, seven-strong, cohort of potential disruptors in February 2019. One of the applicants (receiving £50,000 in the form of an equity-free grant, cost-free office space in Kings Cross, mentoring and one-to-one technical support) is Ehab.

According to StateZero Labs, Ehab: “aims to disrupt the construction sector by building a data and process management tool that ensures sustainable and efficient operation of projects; from inception, to completion and post-lifecycle.” The startup was recently profiled on StateZero Labs’ website, where its founders (Josh Graham, Filipe Moura and Matheus Salvia) explained why distributed ledger technology, DLT, is applicable to construction industry processes:

“DLT is used to enable a variety of organisations to more fluidly and transparently work with each other. It is the much greater flexibility in permissions, data access and transferability which makes DLT useful for what we are trying to do. It is also very relevant to construction in general as having exact traceability of when tasks happened or products delivered is crucial for optimising the completion of projects.

Clearly, the construction industry is a vast sector, so – as the company’s name suggests (Ehab is short for Ehabitation) – its initial focus is on housing. It aims to “empower people to come together to collaboratively create affordable, sustainable and customisable housing projects, and share in the profits from these developments.”

Update (28 March 2019) – Also in housing, another blockchain pilot is set to be trialled in relation to affordable shared home ownership in either Berlin or Kiev this summer – reports BIMplus.

Permanent link to this article:

Load more