Aconex O&M manuals offering nothing new

Melbourne, Australia-based Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration technology provider Aconex has announced and blogged about a partnership with Adelaide-based Grazer to accelerate the production and handover of post-construction operation and maintenance manuals to clients in Australasia.

Steven Brant, Aconex’s general manager for Australia and New Zealand says:

“O&M manuals are a key deliverable for contractors and one of the last areas of construction where paper, ring binders, email and CDs are still prevalent. In the final rush to project completion, this outdated method of compiling manuals often results in incomplete data that is delivered late, adding unnecessary costs to the contractor and risk exposure to the asset owner.”

The Aconex O&M Manuals solution links the Aconex collaboration platform, used during construction projects, with Grazer’s C-Manuals solution, which provides a fully digital set of O&M manuals with visual navigation capability.

Deja vu

Reading the news releases and online descriptions of this new service brought some memories flooding back. Back in 2002, when I was working for BIW Technologies, retailer client Sainsbury’s wanted to use the BIW platform to automate production of the Health & Safety File (read the case study).

Required by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1997, these files were a substantial, comprehensive and expensive-to-produce library of documents, often filling numerous A4 ring binders, and rarely complete until weeks after project handover. Once compiled, Sainsbury’s had to store, maintain, and make the files available to anyone needing information about the facility, including for routine O&M or for longer-term use, eg: major alteration works, or due diligence during a property transaction.

Taking Sainsbury’s ‘Health and Safety File brief’, which stipulated the structure and content of a conventional paper File, BIW create a set of health and safety ‘attributes’ that were used to electronically ‘tag’ drawings or other documents published to the BIW platform. The planning supervisor, responsible for producing the file, could continually monitor published documents and their health and safety attributes (and, if necessary, amend them), and start building and safeguarding the integrity the File from the outset. Instead of ring-binders or a read-only CD upon handover, the store manager or FM help-desk received a login and password, and could access, search and, if necessary, update the File online using a File Explorer tool.

By 2003, use of this electronic system was standardised across all Sainsbury’s projects, and the BIW Health & Safety functionality has been available to all its customers ever since. At the time, BIW was the first collaboration provider to deliver electronic data compliant with the UK Health & Safety Executive’s requirements, and among the earliest to anticipate its clients’ facilities managers and other professionals’ post-construction information needs.

So Aconex’s tie-up with Grazer helps the collaboration vendor deliver something that has long been available from a competitor (updated to help UK-based customers comply with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007). And, following last December’s acquisition, I expect BIW’s whole-life asset information capabilities will be extended as it incorporates infrastructure life-cycle management (ILM) functionalities delivered by its sister company conject AG.

Currently, the Aconex/Grazer combined offering is only available in Australia and New Zealand but apparently Aconex have “got bigger plans”!

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  1. Paul, thanks for taking the time to look at our new solution and with the Sainsbury’s example you highlighted a number of the problems around O&M Manuals that generate significant cost and risk. In working with our clients on this we’ve certainly heard no shortage of challenges that are still continually faced today. Make no mistake, this is still a space that is in desperate need for a better way.

    And that’s where I think your point about other UK providers already having solutions for this falls short of the mark. After all, the importance of “being new” is a relative one. If you take a customer view, you’d have to say that for many if not most markets, there is no elegant solution to this and the vast majority of projects still struggle with the end-of-project handover process. So to them, this is new.

    And to end, innovation is not just about being first. Without knowing all the ins and outs of other products, the ability to visually navigate the manuals via the as built drawings is something of a significant step up. Our focus remains on what delivers value to our customers, and from the feedback we’re getting from the market, the O&M Manuals solution will do just that.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, David. I did try to make it clear that BIW and Aconex were addressing particular challenges in their respective marketplaces. After all, the regulatory challenges will be different in each country, and no single solution is going to be easily applicable to the needs of lots of different legal regimes (and there are Grazer-type electronic O&M manual products in the UK too)

      My point about ‘nothing new’ was more an inference that the concept has been around for almost a decade, and I am sure BIW’s H&S solution will have moved forward since I last looked at it following the introduction of the 2007 CDM Regulations. The Aconex ability to navigate manuals for the as-built drawings certainly sounds useful, and a major help to building owners and facilities managers who will often not have a design or construction background.

      I have been looking at other products (not collaboration tools, admittedly) that offer internal GIS capabilities and help businesses manage furniture, fixtures and equipment, but there is often a disconnect between these types of space-planning and space-management applications and the tools used to design and construct the spaces in the first place. BIM should, in theory, help the industry flow information from the briefing stage, right through conceptualisation, detailed design, construction, commissioning, handover and then on to operation and maintenance (and to feedback information from project A to projects B, C and beyond), but we are still some way from delivering tools that allow data to flow seamlessly from inception to post-occupation.

      Kind regards, Paul

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