Almost a year since soft-launching its SaaS and mobile Planner application, London-based Aphex has continued to develop the platform, winning new customers on major infrastructure projects.
Nine months after launching its collaborative short-term planning application Planner (see May 2018 post), London, UK-based Aphex has taken its Software-as-a-Service and mobile platform to a new level. With some new funding in the pipeline, it is also set to expand its marketing and take the solution beyond the UK and Europe.
CEO and co-founder Carlos Adams said 2018 had been good for Aphex (“we are on a ton of projects, including some in Europe, and major schemes such as Tideway, CrossRail, HS2 and Hinkley Point”). The application’s development has also continued:
“We’ve been working closely with our users to introduce a load of new features: Baseline Snapshots, Milestones, Resource Management, Quants, Smart Status and Corporate Dashboards to name a few. We’ve also made improvements to reporting outputs and how Planner communicates with Master schedules.”
Lean, short-term planning through the collaborative production and real-time sharing of look-ahead programmes remains Aphex’s focus, and there are also new features which make the application more attractive to corporate users.
One of the new elements is a ‘snapshots’ feature which allows users to compare latest iterations of programmes and project progress against previous baselines. Project milestones have been enhanced, as has support for ‘resources’ – whether these are construction plant and equipment or personnel. The interface, reporting outputs and updated site plans can also be ‘white-labelled’ with the logo of the company concerned.
The key Gantt chart depiction of project programmes has also been enriched. Activities, resources and materials can be associated with a bar, and their current status (including percentage complete or ahead/on/behind schedule) can be displayed in the browser view or via the mobile application. Productivity indicators also extend to metrics for use of associated raw materials (bricks, concrete, etc).
The application makes extensive user of red-amber-green reporting to make it easy for users to focus on areas of concern – useful when typical project schedules may incorporate over 500 separate activities. And the application updates data in real-time (watching a live project with multiple uses, I saw bars move and colours change as activity or resource statuses were updated). This eliminates waiting for revised programmes to be uploaded or synchronised (though Aphex, of course, retains the ability to import from and/or export to master scheduling tools such as Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project).
Aphex interface upgrade
Adams has always placed a high priority on the user interface and user experience. Planner’s overall ‘look and feel’ is cleaner and faster – the dashboard view still provides an at-a-glance bar-chart view of the user’s core project, incorporating weather feeds for the immediate near-term future. Key information can also be filtered to provide different views. For example, users can drill into the performance of particular subcontractors, review particular tasks, or focus on certain locations within a site. (“Being able to quickly review unresolved clashes is a huge time-saver.”) This is often an areas where clashes (between different trades, for example) might be identified, so Planner enables the team to agree which site activities take priority and then automatically produce a logical revised programme sequence, complete with activity dependencies, so that the subcontractor resources can be reallocated accordingly.
Adams draws on his own past experience of working on infrastructure projects. “Every week we would review concurrent activities on site, and spend 2-3 hours producing Powerpoint presentations showing how we proposed to move people and plant around the site.” By providing interactive site plans, Planner lets teams quickly review and update forthcoming programmes, complete with detailed call-outs and an automatically generated legend.
Sometimes these are developed at meetings using interactive whiteboards, Adams said, with the outputs produced and shared in 2-3 minutes – rather than hours – and updated frequently. Subcontractors can immediately see the latest programme in Aphex Planner, or by sharing a PDF (still widely demanded across project teams). “This also means big health and safety benefits,” Adams says. “The right plant, materials and personnel are allocated to the right place at the right time.”
Where Aphex Planner is used across multiple projects, corporate users can also aggregate data to produce summary dashboards – useful for providing an overview of project statuses. Data can also be exported into business intelligence solutions such as Microsoft’s PowerBI.
While still focused on lean processes, the Aphex business itself also remains lean, marketing has been low-key to date with referrals being the main driver or the company’s success (though Adams did present at Phil Shatz’s Project Controls event – see 28 November 2018 live blog).* However, new funding is in the pipeline and Adams is planning to expand Aphex’s reach into new geographies and begin work on their procurement and commercial focussed tools.
[* Shatz will be running a ‘Glimpse of the Future’ event focused on BIM in London on 5 March 2019: details.]