Integration between Synchro Software and GenieBelt will improve the connection of site-based processes to building information modelling (BIM) – and vice versa.
Anglo-US construction software provider Synchro Software and Copenhagen, Denmark-based GenieBelt have agreed to enter into a Proof of Concept (PoC) integrating Synchro’s 4D Virtual Planning and Construction software platform with GenieBelt’s real-time project management and mobile site reporting tool. Both companies want construction to become a modern, technology-driven, efficient industry, eliminating unnecessary waste and cost.
The PoC aims to connect the 4D construction model in the Synchro platform and project plan data with GenieBelt – automatically via APIs – to allow instant onsite registration of progress, reporting, questions, marks, tagging and pictures to flow via GenieBelt back to the 4D platform.
Such integration between the visual model, real-time project management and onsite communication will provide real-time updates to the project’s schedule and BIM model, ensuring continuous overview and insights into actual project progress. It will also help enrich the model and project information with data.
Tom Dengenis, CEO of Synchro, and Ulrik Branner, CEO of GenieBelt (right), both regard this PoC as the next trajectory in delivering transparency and accountability to the industry, paving the road for data continuity all the way from the design phase over construction to facility management and maintenance.
“Partnering with industry experts in forward thinking organisations who have a passion to lead the way to change will provide the digital backbone required to significantly change the way we manage construction projects today and in the future,” says Branner.
“We are excited to be collaborating with GenieBelt, who are as passionate about driving change in the construction industry as we are. The combination of our 4D digital construction platform and the real-time updates provided by GenieBelt will enable significant process and business improvements,” says Tom Dengenis.
Germany’s think project! has added construction contract change management to its product portfolio, acquiring the UK’s leading exponent, CEMAR.
Munich, Germany-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider think project! has made its first UK acquisition, buying Gloucester-based construction contract change management specialist CEMAR (for an undisclosed amount).
CEMAR’s cloud-based solution helps teams manage contract-driven workflows and supports NEC (New Engineering Contracts) and FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Engineers) contracts, among others. CEMAR customers include Highways England, Nuclear New Build, ITER, BAE Systems, Heathrow Airport, Network Rail and Sellafield.
The CEMAR back story
CEMAR was founded in 2005 and initially developed traditional on-premise software, switching to a Software-as-a-Service model a few years later as it competed against SaaS collaboration vendors including 4Projects (now Viewpoint), Conject and Aconex (now merged and part of Oracle) and Asite, plus some UK-based NEC3 specialists including Sypro and MPS. For a time, contract workflow management became a fiercely contested battleground among the ‘extranet’ vendors, but their interest gradually cooled as building information modelling (BIM) took centre stage from 2011 onwards.
However, as they stepped back, CEMAR stepped up. The company has grown rapidly, enjoying year-on-year double-digit revenue growth. It generated around £3m in the year to 30 April 2017, and last September (CEMAR sticks to its NEC expertise) director and COO Nick Woodrow told me it expected revenues to grow 50% to around £4.5m. The business also more than tripled its employee headcount in two years. CEMAR’s leadership comprises civil engineers and contract consultants, one a member of the NEC4 drafting team.
The business’s strength in supporting the NEC contract suite saw it make significant inroads in UK water and infrastructure, and in higher education. The company targeted UK prospects in the so-called 6 H’s (HS2, Hinkley, Heathrow, Highways, Housing and Heritage), and was excited about new NEC4 workflows, and about accelerating international interest in the NEC suite. Importantly, though, the CEMAR solution is “contract-agnostic” – it can and does also support FIDIC and other contract forms.
CEMAR also had a working relationship with UK-based common data environment vendor GroupBC. At the latter’s September 2017 user conference Woodrow described how the two solutions complemented each other. A BC-CEMAR Connector had been developed as an optional module for the GroupBC platform.
When I talked exclusively to think project! CEO Thomas Bachmaier (above left, with CEMAR CEO Ben Walker) about the deal earlier this week in London, he highlighted FIDIC as one of the contracts most widely used by its customers in continental Europe. While the think project! platform did support some contract processes, he said, it was not as sophisticated in its capabilities as CEMAR. Its capabilities complemented Think Project! and this is what attracted them to the deal.
The acquisition is the latest of a recent series that has seen think project! expand beyond its central European heartland. It acquired 60% of France’s Lascom AEC in September 2015 (rebranded in June 2017), established a joint venture with Madrid-based ProjectCenter in September 2016, while also acquiring domestic competitor Conetics in October 2016.
The company has also expanded its technologies to support customers demanding BIM capabilities (July 2015) – a market that is now growing quickly in Germany and other mainland Europe markets, Bachmaier said – and expanded its board, adding a UK-based non-executive director, Laing O’Rourke CIO Gareth Burton, and a new MD and FD, Ralf Grüßhaber. The company has been backed by TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm, since January 2017.
Think project! says CEMAR will retain its own brand (annotated to show it as part of the think project! group); its contract management solution will complement its parent group’s product offerings. CEMAR’s contract management solution will be offered to think project! customers and markets, while CEMAR customers will benefit from think project! technologies, such as BIM and mobile solutions.
“Entering the UK market with CEMAR is a major cornerstone in our international growth strategy. This acquisition provides think project! with the opportunity to acquire major UK and international customers, while adding a leading contract management solution to our product portfolio. We are very pleased to welcome CEMAR to think project! and are confident they will contribute significantly to the Group’s continued growth.”
Ben Walker, CEO of CEMAR says:
“We are delighted to become part of the think project! Group. CEMAR will benefit from the experience and structures of think project’s international project business, as well as from synergies in our complementary technologies. Our joining forces has created a strong partnership for digital transformation that will further support our customers in the UK and internationally.”
Australia-based construction project management software developer Total Synergy has recruited ProjectCentre founder Paul Hemmings to lead its product development.
North Sydney, Australia-based AEC project management software developer Total Synergy has recruited Paul Hemmings to lead its product development.
Hemmings founded ProjectCentre (acquired by Germany’s RIB in 2012, and rebranded as iTWOcx in 2013) in 1997, and stayed with RIB as a global director in its global R&D team for some years. RIB’s iTWOcx combined RIB’s iTWO 5D enterprise platform and a new iteration of ProjectCentre to offer tools covering pre-contract and design through to construction cost control (ie: enterprise resource planning – ERP – capabilities) and progress reporting.
When I met Total Synergy founder and CEO Scott Osborne in November 2017, he described the transition of a one-time on-premise toolset into a SaaS-based platform offering practice management tools for architects and engineers. The then 27-strong business had accumulated some 10,000 users in Australasia, but was expanding internationally, establishing a London office, and planning a US office in 2018. The company says it has acquired new 95 customers in the past seven months.
“Total Synergy has been a leader in the practice management and project accounting space since 1999. The new cloud product — Synergy — launched last year to the global market, has the best potential I’ve seen for SME built environment design businesses to collaborate securely on projects with shared, multi-party access.
“The advantages of this kind of project collaboration software are that it’s affordable for small businesses, it’s not limited to the life of a project, and it is symbiotic with project accounting, essential for successful project delivery and business profitability.”
Hemmings is designing the final stages of the Synergy Enterprise product, the third and most feature-rich level of the Synergy cloud application. He continues:
“We’re currently engaged in developing advanced forecasting and resource planning and we’ve just released the document register and transmittals features. Our project portals module is now available where project teams can use in-app chats and document sharing, as well as being able to invite third parties — external consultants, contractors, JV partners, clients — to join the project conversation and shared documents.
“The future product roadmap is designed to enable SME [one to 500 staff] architecture, engineering and construction design related businesses to manage complete project delivery, increase effectiveness and efficiency, and to collaborate wherever and whenever they need to. It’s a big vision.”
From common data environments to satellites, the next ThinkBIM conference in Leeds is a great opportunity to learn about BIM and other data initiatives.
I have been a long-time supporter of the ThinkBIM initiative run by Leeds Beckett University and other partners.* Almost since the start of the UK BIM programme in 2011, Leeds has hosted a series of regular evening and half-day events offering construction industry people an opportunity to learn about building information modelling and related processes and technologies outside “the London bubble”. And to make things even better, the events are very reasonably priced, and are currently hosted in excellent facilities (at lawyers Squire Patton Boggs) in Leeds City Centre – about five minutes walk from Leeds railway station.
The next half-day conference is on the afternoon of 13 June 2018 and will cover BIM and Open Data from Land, Sea and Space, connecting BIM to wider data initiatives from open data to satellite surveys. As well as the usual workshops to explore subjects in more detail, there will be three speakers:
Karen Alford , BIM/GSL Programme Executive at the Environment Agency. As an asset owner, the agency has spent time documenting and structuring standards, data and document requirements. Karen will be returning to give delegates an insight into the their digital journey and next steps.
Trevor Mossop, Technical Services Manager, JT Mackley & Co. Ltd. Trevor will be presenting on their businesses experience in Connecting Data and looking at how BIM on coastal and flood defence projects can be linked to Geographical Information Systems via their GroupBC ‘common data environment’ to provide easily accessible asset information (almost exactly a year ago, GroupBC hosted a seminar at the GeoBusiness event describing Thames Water’s of its GeoConnect+ platform – I’ve added a video link at the bottom of this post).
Sakthy Selvakumaran , PhD Researcher at University of Cambridge and Engineer at CBS Eng Consultants . Sakthy is a Chartered Engineer who was listed in Forbes 2016 Top 30 under 30 in Europe list and has worked across different roles, continents and cultures as an engineer. Sakthy will be presenting her research on “Can satellites really detect millimetre-scale movements from space?”
For more details and to register for the event (£80 per delegate or FREE for Yorkshire & Humber Constructing Excellence Club members), click here.
(*Disclosure: I provided some paid communications support to the university in the early years; I am on the ThinkBIM steering group)
London-based startup Aphex has launched a cloud-based production planning application that will appeal to anyone frustrated by continued reliance on paper, sticky notes and spreadsheets for detailed weekly planning.
Some two years in development, newly launched (see news release)* Aphex Planner aims to help the often multi-disciplinary, multi-company groupings involved in trying to expedite detailed on-site construction activities.
In an industry notorious for its low productivity and high levels of waste, it is no surprise that ‘lean’ approaches to construction have been repeatedly advocated. And to support lean construction approaches, various decision-making processes and supporting technologies have been devised – notably the Last Planner System (LPS) developed by the founders of the Lean Construction Institute, Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell in the 1990s.
While project management scheduling tools like Primavera P6 and MS Project are widely used for creating overall master programmes and showing the different phases of activities, the LPS focuses within those phases. Rather than being done by planners, such detailed production planning is therefore undertaken by the construction professionals who will directly manage work execution; these ‘last planners’ are the frontline supervisors who are dependent on one another for release of work. LPS-style working involves them working collaboratively to develop weekly schedules of tasks required to hit milestones, while identifying dependencies and constraints that might affect those schedules. And any breakdowns in the process are used as opportunities to learn and to prevent reoccurrence.
US-based Strategic Project Solutions (SPS), DPR Construction and Ghafari were among the first firms to develop software to support LPS (ProjectFlow, OurPlan and vPlanner, respectively), but most production planning still tends to be undertaken using paper-based processes and Microsoft Excel. In a related field, in the early 2000s, researchers at Loughborough University developed the Analytical Design Planning Technique (ADePT; read November 2009 post) which BIW Technologies [my then employer] attempted to turn into a web-based software product (PlanWeaver) before eventually shelving development. I recently wrote about another LPS-inspired product, Visilean (March 2018 post: Visualising lean BIM: VisiLean), and almost simultaneously was contacted by the London-based developer of a new cloud-based planner product, Aphex Planner.
Aphex was established in 2015 by a pair of recent graduates, Carlos Adams (right) and Carlos Carvalho. Adams told me the two had first met at college in Farnborough aged 16, and both went on to study in the built environment faculty at the University of the West of England, whilst also nursing entrepreneurial ambitions. Upon leaving UWE in 2013 both joined the graduate schemes of large companies (UK Power Networks and Costain, respectively), but were disappointed at the lack of sophistication in the software tools deployed in delivering major projects – particularly when they compared technologies with friends working in other industry sectors (“our tools could have come from anytime in the last 40 years – whereas they had the latest tools, intuitive to use, more engaging, with great user interfaces”).
The duo looked at their spreadsheet tools and the industry’s preoccupation with cost and time, and then teamed up in late 2016 with civil engineer Damian Bucke who wanted to develop a better short-term planning tool. They formed Aphex, recruited an ex-Goldman Sachs VP and developer, Elliott Williams, in early 2017, raised some initial seed funding and, with a prototype of the Aphex Planner product to demonstrate, found some further investors in Australia. They also found a consultant who shared their love of well-designed software – Adams said:
“we wanted to develop a B2B product that users would find slicker than they were used to – to be really user-centric, not just for efficiency, but to make users feel empowered by the tool. Being empowered by good design is one of the core principles of Aphex.”
Along the way, the Aphex team has also established some potentially powerful technology partnerships, with IBM (for weather data, now integrated into Aphex Planner) and with Oracle (clarifying that Aphex Planner is a different proposition to the US giant’s Primavera toolset).
Bucke demonstrated Aphex Planner to me at Aphex’s Shoreditch base. After logging in to the browser-based software, the user is presented with a dashboard view. “Anyone regularly involved with short-term planning, will be used to looking one week back, one week forward, and then to weeks beyond that.” The application can provide different timespan views, and, by colour-coding activities for different users, allows users to quickly identify their responsibilities. For managers responsible for multiple sites, aggregated dashboards are offered from which the user can drill down to specific projects.
“Aphex Planner has been designed to be as collaborative, open and transparent as possible,” explained Bucke. The site level dashboard provides data on activities, their start and finish dates, and their locations, and then, if any other activities are scheduled in the same date ranges and in the same locations (the same buildings, zones, floors, etc – displayed in PDFs of drawings), these are identified as clashes.
Like the shared wallchart and stickynotes in a traditional LPS process, Aphex Planner can then be used to agree sequences of work to resolve the clashes, and these sequences can be printed out to guide daily tasks. Inbuilt notifications help keep users abreast of any changes relating to their company’s activities; users can also annotate activities with photographs and comments.
As tasks are recorded as complete, the dashboard provides graphs showing activity and project progress; where tasks are delayed, the reasons behind the delays can also be recorded, helping teams identify common root causes and trends. Bucke said the incorporation of weather data would allow for automatic warnings relating to activities that might be compromised by adverse weather.
Bucke has been working on detailed planning within the Crossrail Project in London. He described how teams had been sharing plans each separately logging in to a single installation of the standard Microsoft Project platform. Plans were time-consuming to produce, with some issues only shared once a plan has been saved. “With Aphex Planner, multiple users can log-in simultaneously and identify issues as they are flagged almost in real time.”
Aphex Planner has just been soft-launched and is being trialled on Crossrail and on a High Speed 2 project. The company offers free month-long trials, after which users can switch to paid plans starting from £35 per user per month.
[* Disclosure: pwcom.co.uk Ltd has provided PR consultancy services to Aphex.]
NBS’s latest UK BIM survey suggests Viewpoint’s CDE is the widely used, but is the picture distorted by reliance on architects’ responses and under-representation of civil engineering?
Almost since the beginning of the UK’s BIM implementation programme in 2011, NBS‘s annual BIM Survey has shed some light on attitudes to and adoption of building information modelling processes and technologies. Now in its eighth edition, the National BIM Report 2018 (downloadable here) has, for the first time, asked respondents about their adoption of ‘common data environment’, CDE, platforms.
In line with data presented in the rest of the document, it is clear that BIM is not yet business-as-usual for the majority of respondents. A core part of PAS 1192-2, the report says, is about sharing data within a CDE, and asking about CDE usage helps us to see how many, and how often, organisations practice collaborative BIM (as opposed to non-collaborative or ‘lonely’ BIM).
Among the survey’s 808 respondents, CDE usage varies from around a fifth (21%) who share information in0s a CDE “for all projects”, 23% who use a CDE “for most projects”, and, at the other end of the spectrum, 28% who never share information in a CDE.
An NBS follow-up question asked respondents to list the CDEs they use. This invited free text responses, and some people cited more than one platform, so the percentages do not sum to 100; the survey suggests Viewpoint For Projects is the most widely used CDE ahead of Aconex/Conject (these businesses merged in March 2016) and Asite. Generic file-sharing applications, including Dropbox (neck-and-neck with Autodesk’s BIM360 range), Microsoft’s Sharepoint and Google Drive also featured in the most commonly cited answers – although NBS noted many respondents said they used these general tools for “projects of a less complex nature”. I understand from NBS that some other solutions (eg: GroupBC’s CDE) did not feature in the report’s final list as they got less than five mentions.
How representative is this survey?
In one part of the report (p.19), NBS usefully shows how awareness and adoption of BIM has changed since 2011. This is valuable trend data as NBS has largely deployed the same methodology to collect its data each year, so the composition of its (self-selecting) sample will be broadly the same each time. BIM advocates will be encouraged that adoption apparently continues to increase.
However, the 2018 report (collated from data gathered in the first quarter of 2018) cannot be viewed as a representative snapshot of the whole of the UK construction industry. For a start, the sample is not representative of all parts of the sector. According to the report (p.36), the largest group among the 808 respondents was architects (31%), while other professions represented included architectural technologists, clients, contractors, civil, structural and service engineers, surveyors, and landscape architects.
The dominance of architects in the NBS’s sample is not surprising. As “the knowledge management business of the RIBA”, the NBS provides knowledge, specialist software and services to a customer base with a high proportion of designers. This customer base will also tend to be employed in the design and construction of conventional buildings rather than in infrastructure (highways, rail, utilities, etc) – a factor which, I strongly suspect, contributed to the few mentions of Bentley ProjectWise as a CDE (last week, Bentley highlighted ProjectWise’s use by 43 of the ENR top 50 design forms, mostly for infrastructure related work), while GroupBC’s customer base also features some major civil engineering contractors and utility clients. And despite NBS also providing a range of services for manufacturers, there was no mention of this important industry segment among the BIM survey’s respondents – though manufacturers’ importance as a source of BIM objects is highlighted.
“Viewpoint has found its final home as part of one of the largest providers of construction software in the world. There is no better home for us, our products and our customer base,” says Viewpoint’s Matt Harris.
Viewpoint Construction Software‘s chief product officer Matt Harris talked to me on Tuesday (8 May 2018) about what Trimble’s US$1.2bn acquisition of the business might mean for Viewpoint’s people, applications and customers, and about the relationships to be developed with other parts of Trimble’s technologies portfolio.
What will be the impact of the acquisition on Viewpoint? – “The deal has still to be completed, of course, but in general, when Trimble acquire a business, they usually let them run very autonomously. That said, they have some solutions that are highly complementary to Viewpoint. e-Builder [acquired by Trimble in February 2018] , for example, is widely used by many US capital project owners, particularly in the education and healthcare sectors. So we have an opportunity to integrate data from the Viewpoint systems that are heavily used by US contractors with the e-Builder tools used by owners, with the potential to provide end-to-end project transparency between contractor and owner.
“Viewpoint’s ERP platform is the ‘system of record’ on many projects, capturing data about equipment and resource utilisation and helping accurately control and forecast job costs, so there is potential to integrate with some of Trimble’s telematics solutions in that space too.”
How will be the acquisition affect Viewpoint’s collaboration applications? – “So far as Viewpoint’s collaboration platforms are concerned, we are also excited about Trimble Connect – an information bus that connects things together; documents or data in Viewpoint For Projects (VFP) could potentially be made available in other Trimble products (and we will be making announcements in the UK shortly about our new Viewpoint Team solution).*
“Given the breadth of Trimble’s construction software portfolio, there will surely be other
interesting integration points between estimating products, field mobility products, and
Trimble’s BIM solutions, and we look forward to engaging fully with the Trimble
organisation to explore these game-changing opportunities.”
Will Viewpoint be rebranded? – “As I said, Trimble tends to let its acquisitions continue to work quite autonomously. It generally maintains its software application products under the names that made them successful in the first place, but with the addition of the Trimble name. e-Builder, for instance, is already badged as ‘A Trimble Company’. I expect it will be the same for Viewpoint
Will the acquisition be disruptive to Viewpoint’s staff and its customers and end-users? – “Trimble’s acquisition means that Viewpoint has found its final home – and this has to be a major benefit to our people and our customers. We are now part of an industry-leading company – one of, if not the, the largest providers of construction software in the world. There is no better home for us, our products and our customer base.
“I am super-excited about the opportunities to integrate with other Trimble products like Tekla. I see a significant amount of opportunity in working with the Tekla people in steelwork and precast concrete structures, and we have some strong ideas for integration with their Vertical Building division.
“But this doesn’t mean we are isolated from other major software vendors. Trimble has been a strong supporter of Open BIM, and, as the industry digitises still further, it will be important that we address interoperability with the products of some of the other major providers.”
(* Viewpoint’s UK user conference is at the RIBA in London on 23-24 May 2018. I will be chairing a panel discussion about digitisation of construction on the first day.)
Bentley’s ProjectWise collaboration platform is proving a catalyst for strong growth in emerging markets such as China and Africa, the company claimed today (9 May 2018).
In a corporate update call with journalists, Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley gave an overview of the company’s recent performance, supported by CFO David Hollister and chief product officer Bhupinder Singh. Such calls have been reinstituted following a hiatus after the company announced in July 2015 that it was considering an IPO. For the avoidance of doubt, Greg Bentley said the company was “not currently working on or waiting for an IPO”. In the meantime, around a third of the company staff had the option of dealing in the company’s shares on NASDAQ’s Private Market, and, partly as a result of such dealings, ‘co-venture’ partner Siemens has accumulated a 9% share in the company’s voting stock, Bentley said.
The US-based but increasingly international provider of software for infrastructure project delivery and operation said it was on track to surpass an annual revenue runrate of US$700 million during 2018. A growing proportion of its revenues continues to derive from subscription income, and the company successfully limits ‘churn’, retaining around 98% of its subscribers, Greg Bentley said.
Product performance highlights included annual revenue runrate growth of approximately 20% or more for brands including ProjectWise. As outlined in October 2017, this ‘workhorse for work sharing’ is past the tipping point in its transition from on-premise to being cloud-based (today Greg Bentley said it was now “increasingly a hybrid cloud service”), and the update call highlighted ProjectWise’s use by 43 of the ENR top 50 design forms (and 325 of the top 640). And there remains a substantial scope for adoption of Bentley’s AssetWise among the world’s leading infrastructure owners, the company said.
Geographical highlights included 20% annual revenue runrate growth in China (repeatedly stressed as a key Bentley market, evidenced by both software adoption – “it’s industrialising BIM” – and by entrants to, and winners of, the company’s annual Year In Infrastructure Awards) and in Africa. In questions, CFO David Hollister attributed the company’s success in these two regions to ProjectWise, describing it as a “door-opener” and a “catalyst” for growth.
With the company consistently profitable, it was able to fund acquisitions from cashflow, Greg Bentley said, highlighting recent deals (news release) to acquire Delft, Netherlands-based geotechnical software provider, Plaxis, and SoilVision, a soil engineering software provider based in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure conference will be in London again in October 2018,* returning to Singapore in 2019 as it continues to cultivate China and the rest of the Asian market.
(Disclosure: I have received travel, accommodation and meals from Bentley Systems to attend successive YII conferences, and have been invited to the October 2018 edition.)
I have been known to moan about the high cost of some construction conferences (usually the so-called construction summits or leadership events). However, later this month (May 2018) in London, there are two great (and free!) opportunities to learn more about themes explored recently on this blog, including BIM, lean construction and mobile.
Digitising construction management
On Wednesday 23 May, at Siemens’ Crystal Building in London’s Docklands area, the software development startup VisiLean (read my March 2018 post Visualising lean BIM: VisiLean) is hosting a half-day conference focused on digitising construction management. Salford University alumnus now Visilean CEO Bhargav Dave will open the afternoon’s proceedings, which are intended to share the experiences of industry practitioners and experts leading major digitisation projects in the construction industry. Other speakers include:
Tiina Talvitie, digital director at Lehto Group, Finland – “Developing a digitalisation strategy for a construction organisation”
Derek Drysdale, chairman of the UK’s Lean Construction Institute – “Developing a successful lean implementation strategy across a major organisation”
Professor Rafael Sacks, of Technion University, Israel – “Construction management at the nexus of Lean and BIM”
Over the two following days, 24-25 May, the Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT (COMIT) annual conference, entitled Digital Construction: Lighting the way, is being held at the Hallam Conference Centre in central London.
As usual, COMIT has assembled a good range of speakers from all walks of the construction and technology sectors; it aims to create an event that is relevant and instructive but also enjoyable and even inspirational. Subjects range from space construction at NASA to the work of a cyborg ethnographer, and, thanks to an anonymous benefactor, it is now free to attend! With places in short supply, registration is vital: more details here.
ShapeDo’s visual comparison technology is proving particularly popular in dispute resolution, says CEO Ari Isaacs.
In June 2017, I wrote about Israeli-based startup ShapeDo and its software that helps identify and manage design changes. ShapeDo’s software detects differences between drawings. It can be used constructively to help manage associated workflows (change orders, etc) and track the cost implications of changes in contracts and budgets (ShapeDo is now positioning itself as a project controls tool – it exhibited at the November 2017 Project Controls Expo in London), but founder Ari Isaacs tells me their fastest growing market is in the area of dispute resolution.
Construction remains notoriously litigious. For example, a UK construction survey undertaken by NBS in 2013 showed that, from a sample of over 1,000 clients, contractors and consultants, 30% had been involved in one or more contract entering into dispute in the previous 12 months. Half of the disputes had a value over £250,000; 13% had a value in excess of £5 million; 70% of disputes occurred during the construction process, the remainder happening after practical completion, with 17% of disputes resulting in work being stopped or suspended. Disputes most commonly arose between the client and main contractor (81%) with the assessment of delay and extension of time and contract variations cited as the primary causes of contention. And such disputes can be time-consuming to conclude, with 2016 data showing disputes in north America taking almost 50% longer to resolve than cases in the UK.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Coincidentally, the same day that I met ShapeDo’s Isaacs in London (10 April), the UK’s Serious Fraud Office announced it had achieved a significant upgrade in its document analysis capabilities using artificial intelligence. The SFO’s technology (from Open Text) can process more than half a million documents a day, scanning documents 2,000 times faster than a human lawyer. According to the SFO’s news release, its AI document review system can recognise patterns, group information by subject, organise timelines, and remove duplicates, helping the SFO to work smarter, faster and more effectively.
Similarly, ShapeDo’s change detection system can also dramatically accelerate the work of those involved in construction disputes: “A dispute is a change not effectively communicated,” Isaacs said. He continued:
“Typically, a dispute comes down to the question: what went wrong with the project? Resolving this question often involves expert witnesses reviewing all the drawing changes, which is incredibly manual, labour intensive and expensive. ShapeDo’s ‘track changes’capability can reduce the time spent on each drawing up to tenfold, enabling far faster and better analysis. In addition, Shapedo helps index and schedule drawings to eliminate duplicates (which immediately saves a lot of time and associated costs) and provides a speedier alternative to the manual review of 1000’s of paper drawings.
“Our software is essentially used in three phases. First, it is used in the discovery phase, building a narrative of what happened. Second, we can then analyse the changes to see what was amended and how that affected the programme and budget. And, third, we are used in evidence-building, assembling a timeline of how changes have impacted project scope, schedule and budget.”
ShapeDo marketing collateral includes three brief case studies:
In a delayed maritime project with major changes, the contractor’s legal team connected drawing instructions to program delays with ShapeDo. A six months, £17M delay was proven and resolved in weeks.
In an oil & gas dispute revolving technical isometric changes, ShapeDo eliminated 96% of drawings disclosed as duplicates, and was estimated to increase expert review efficiency fourfold on the remaining drawings.
Approaching final accounts on a medical build with significant quantum change, a contractor’s team reviewed 1,500 drawing updates in 2 days and submitted £480k.
We discussed alternatives to claims, disputes and court cases – new models of construction procurement, pain/gain sharing, collaborative contracts, etc, as well as the use of collaboration software platforms – but Isaacs notes many projects still adopt more traditional contracts, and often do not consistently use centralised platforms. And with ShapeDo’s technology helping expert witnesses review drawings faster, the business’s work in dispute resolution could grow yet further.