RIB buys CCS to build African base

RIB Software has announced the US$31.5m acquisition of a 70% shareholding in South Africa’s CCS, a cost estimation and project control software provider.

RIB software logoThe international expansion of Stuttgart, Germany-based RIB Software continues. The construction cloud technology provider has today (2 July 2019) has announced its acquisition of a 70% shareholding in South Africa’s CCS, a provider of cost estimation and project control software. The deal value is given as US$31.5m, based on an 8.5 EBIT/DA multiple.

Less than a month ago (7 June 2019), RIB invested US$42m to acquire 60% of USA-based BSD (Building Systems Design), to strengthen its estimating and product data technologies, and get a bridgehead in north America. This deal has a similar rationale on a different continent.

CCS and its products

With group headquarters in Johannesburg and Cape Town, CCS was founded in 1982 and is generating US$13.6m in annual recurring revenues (2019 revenues are forecast to be over US$18m), with an EBIT/DA margin of around 30% in a high potential and fast-growing market. Fifty per cent of the 160-strong company’s revenue comes out of the African market, and around 30% out of the Middle East. Other important markets include the UK, Portugal, India, Australia and New Zealand; in total it has around 40,000 users in 50 countries.

CCS BuildSmartCCS’s cost estimation and project control software, Candy, is Africa’s leading application of its kind. CCS’s BuildSmart is a complete construction cost management and enterprise accounting/ERP solution (similar to RIB’s iTWO 4.0 concept) for the African, Middle East and other select markets. RIB believes that the 40,000+ CCS user community can readily be converted onto the MTWO Cloud, and also plans to develop its managed service provider business in Africa. RIB has also entered into a partnership with CCS’s African parent, the EOH Group, and has an option to buy the remaining 30% stake in December 2022.

RIB Group CEO Tom Wolf says:

“The investment in CCS can be seen as one of the most important milestones in the globalization process of RIB Software SE and to defend the global market leadership for our iTWO 4.0 and MTWO platform technology. RIB’s target is to be the international market leader for BIM digital transformation in the building and infrastructure (AEC) vertical in America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia.”

CEO of CCS Andrew Scudder says:

“We are very proud to be partnering with an industry leader like RIB, which will bring a wealth of opportunity to CCS, our clients and our team. We are particularly excited by RIB’s ambitious growth strategy and leadership in building the first construction industry cloud platform, that we believe will provide significant value to our clients. The investment by RIB in CCS affirms our leading market position as a provider of cost and enterprise management solutions to the construction & engineering industry. We look forward to the exciting journey of “Running Together” with RIB, as we continue to develop and scale CCS.”

Update (8 August 2019) – Growing its UK footprint still further, RIB has announced the 100% acquisition of CCS UK. The acquisition was carried out by CCS South Africa (CCS SA), RIB’s 70%-owned subsidiary. CCS UK distributes CCS’s Candy and plans to introduce BuildSmart to the UK market. In April 2019, RIB acquired a 20% shareholding in UK construction software reseller Cadline.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/07/rib-buys-ccs-to-build-african-base/

LetsBuild BIM app targets on-site BIM adoption

The LetsBuild BIM app aims to seamlessly link on-site activities and checks to a project’s BIM model, and is focusing on ensuring easy BiM adoption by site teams.

LetsBuild logoLetsBuild, the European construction cloud technology business formed by the January 2019 merger of Belgium’s AproPlan and Denmark’s GenieBelt, is planning a BIM product launch. LetsBuild aims to seamlessly link on-site activities and checks to a project’s BIM model, and is focusing on ensuring easy adoption by site teams.

Extending BIM into construction

Many companies in the construction industry are focusing on implementing building information modelling (BIM), though adoption levels vary widely. As mentioned in a previous post, the May 2019 NBS National BIM Report pointed to the emergence of a ‘two speed industry’ in the UK, with 22% of those yet to use BIM saying they would rather not adopt it at all. And while BIM-enabled collaborative working may be increasingly the norm during planning and design stages, there is often less use of BIM by construction teams.

Plangrid website screengrabThis has led some players, notably Autodesk and Bentley Systems, to invest in technologies that extend their portfolio capabilities to support BIM onsite. Bentley took a major step forward with its June 2018 acquisition of Synchro (see also October 2019 post: Synchro buy a key step in building Bentley’s construction capabilities). Autodesk’s November 2018 US$875m acquisition of Plangrid (see also: Construction-savvy Plangrid adds to Autodesk toolset) also boosted its construction-oriented functionality, with Plangrid BIM being rolled out in April 2019 (post) and AU London talk in June 2019 of a convergence of Plangrid and BIM 360 (post).

Closing the BIM-construction gap

Based on feedback from multiple construction companies in different countries, LetsBuild says it has concluded that there is a big gap between the office-based BIM model and the construction workers that need to enrich the model with data from site. “Workers are struggling to use BIM tools in their daily activities and that causes frustration, lack of focus and even errors.”

LetsBuild says its solution will put BIM in the hands of construction workers to allow them to seamlessly provide real-time data from site without having to struggle with unfamiliar tools. The app will connect the BIM objects in the model to site activities, checks and forms to allow a transparent digital built environment. In that way, the BIM model will be enriched with field data and the underlying BIM object data will be made available to people in the field.

LetsBuild BIM

As the BIM solution will be fully integrated with LetsBuild’s Aproplan app (post), on-site quality and safety processes will be directly linked to the underlying BIM model. Based on the company’s quality protocol, set by the QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety & Environment) manager, BIM object classes can be linked to specific forms and checklists so that on-site checks are standardised across projects for the same class of objects. Linking BIM object classes to the physical construction work allows for seamless and transparent on-site workflows.

As an example, imagine that a fire-proof door needs to be installed. Using classification, the BIM object representing the door will be linked to certain forms in the Aproplan app. This ensures that the correct door is installed correctly and also documents that it has been signed off on site.  The forms triggered will depend on the type of project and object classifications, as different projects comply to different standards at different phases of the construction process.

Thomas GoubauLetsBuild aims to make BIM easy to use on site and across multiple projects while providing comprehensive data to enhance as-built documentation and learning. Thomas Goubau (right), CRO of LetsBuild, says:

“The goal of our BIM integration is to easily gather all data in one place, standardise processes at company level, and allow project teams to map BIM objects to their specific projects and streamline their work processes. This enables on-site workers and teams to focus on project execution without having to work with a complicated BIM model.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/07/letsbuild-targets-site-bim-adoption/

Designing Buildings’ BIM Wiki: industry needs a better, wider, digital knowledge base

A new BIM Wiki, launched by Designing Buildings, aims to create a comprehensive and up-to-date BIM information source, but industry needs a wider, digital knowledge base.

DesigningBuildings logoDesigning Buildings, the UK-based Wiki launched in 2012 (see my 2013 EE post DesigningBuildings: a wiki in progress) and backed by several UK industry institutions, recently (19 June 2019) announced a dedicated building information modelling, BIM Wiki, produced in collaboration with PCSG, the UK construction consultancy chaired by Mark Bew, former chair of the UK BIM Task Group.

Unfortunately, many of the current articles are out-of-date and don’t reflect new and wider digital thinking emerging from organisations including the Centre for Digital Built Britain, the UK BIM Alliance, the National Infrastructure Commission, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, the CITB, and numerous industry businesses, both established names and new digital ventures.

Designing Buildings’ BIM Wiki

BIM Wiki homeAccording to the news release, the BIM Wiki launches with more than 150 articles already written, “covering everything from employer’s information requirements to parametric modelling,” and including a detailed step-by-step guide to BIM Level 2 (Designing Buildings worked with PCSG  to launch this in May 2016 – see: BIM meets Wiki at DesigningBuildings). The BIM Wiki’s creators want industry help in developing the site into a comprehensive source of BIM best practice by contributing new articles and engaging with the existing content.

BIM Wiki has been launched in response to research published by Designing Buildings in 2017 (see: Big data exposes a widening construction knowledge gap) that showed BIM remains an isolated subject, the domain of expert practitioners and not well integrated into the rest of the industry. This was confirmed by the May 2019 NBS National BIM Report, which pointed to the emergence of a ‘two speed industry’, with 22% of those yet to use BIM saying they would rather not adopt it at all.

The producers’ perspectives

PCSG chairman Mark Bew, right, said:

Mark Bew, October 2017“From our work around the globe it is clear that the UK’s progress to becoming a true digital economy for the built environment has made a fantastic start. The legacy of the 2011 Construction Strategy created a firm understanding of the scope and opportunity for change in the industry. Level 2 BIM has now been adopted around the world, and many nations are accelerating their uptake with the release of ISO 19650.

“However, there is still much to be learnt, shared, and adopted before we can truly say we are ready for the next stage of this journey. A vital part of this process is connecting the people and organisations who are embracing a digital, data-centred, collaborative approach to practical, clear, and accessible information. This is why Designing Buildings Wiki and the free resource it represents is so valuable. I believe that the BIM Wiki will, going forwards, play a hugely important role in our continued digital journey.”

A development of Designing Buildings Wiki, BIM Wiki is linked to its 8,500 articles. Integration with an established industry knowledge base will,  according to Designing Buildings, help take BIM processes beyond the realm of specialists. Director Gregor Harvie said:

“The discipline that BIM processes impose on the industry needs to become a normal part of every project, not an optional extra. Having a common understanding and a common language is crucial to achieving this. What we are launching today is just the start, we are calling on the BIM community to engage with BIM Wiki, to add to and improve it, to debunk BIM myths and create a truly-comprehensive knowledge base that is fully integrated into the wider industry.”

The Extranet Evolution view

As a long-time Wikipedia volunteer editor (disclosure: I am also a Wikimedia UK member and an accredited trainer), I have followed the Designing Buildings project with interest (and provided some consultancy support to the project in its early years) and have subjected it to occasional critical review. Let’s dissect it in detail.

From modest beginnings (and despite a design and building-oriented brand that might not attract users working in construction or FM, or professionals in civil engineering, landscape architecture, etc, ), it has continued to grow as a source of information, some of it crowd-sourced from industry. At the time of its BIM research project (2017), it was claiming 900,000 page views a month (though I suspect most page views come from outside the UK), from 3.5 million annual visitors, and 6,500 registered users. Today (2019), it is claiming 6.5 million annual visitors, a figure that reflects the strong performance of many of the site’s articles in search engine rankings. I understand it now has about 11,000 registered users – but only a tiny few are active contributors.

However, while Designing Buildings uses the same underlying MediaWiki technology as Wikipedia, its content has a different style and tone. Some articles are magazine-like, rather than authoritative and encyclopaedic, in their presentation and content; some are copied from other publications or websites (often from its backing institutions: the ICE, BRE, CIOB, BSRIA, IHBC, CIAT and ECA), or from press releases. This may help expand the reach of contributed content, but such articles will rarely, if ever, be updated, and – unless critically edited – may reflect a partial view of the subject matter rather than the impartial, neutral point of view (NPOV) required in Wikipedia. A large number of these contributions are also ‘protected’ meaning that they can never be edited (perhaps understandably, as they repeat article content published elsewhere).

Designing Buildings is also broadly UK-centric (obviously reflecting its backers and location), whereas articles in the English edition of Wikipedia will tend to provide more global coverage of their subjects. As I have noted previously, the Designing Buildings article on BIM is skewed towards UK policy and practice, while the Wikipedia article on BIM is longer and more international in its perspective, building an international consensus view of the subject from English-speaking editors across the globe. This has taken on new importance now that UK BIM practices have since evolved to form the basis of international standard BS EN ISO 19650 – the first parts of which were published in early 2019. BIM expertise is also supporting UK businesses in winning work internationally, so a more global perspective on the subject is needed.

Most contributions come from just two official editors, rather than reflecting the “wisdom of a crowd”. Designing Buildings has not achieved a critical mass of regularly active volunteer contributors.

Unlike Wikipedia, Designing Buildings does not insist upon inclusion of references from reliable sources, which reduces the value of some articles in signposting readers to useful sources of further information. And many DB articles are rarely edited or updated by a wide community of its users (100s of articles have less than three revisions). And browsing the edit history of several BIM articles, most contributions come from just two official editors: ‘Editor’ and ‘Designing Buildings’, rather than reflecting the “wisdom of a crowd”. Designing Buildings has not achieved a critical mass of regularly active volunteer contributors, so its growth and improvement has remained slow. As an example, if we regard the BIM Wiki as essentially an expansion of the May 2016 BIM guide, in three years the number of BIM articles has grown from “more than 100” to 152, some not updated in over a year.

The focus on BIM is too narrow. Today’s industry discussion is increasingly about “digital”.

But perhaps most critically of all: the focus on BIM is too narrow. Today’s industry discussion is increasingly about “digital” – the UK industry’s ‘digital transformation’ involves the Centre for Digital Built Britain; people attend the Digital Construction Week show in October; the government’s July 2018 Construction Sector Deal talks about deploying digital techniques, etc, etc. A broader ‘Digital built environment’ wiki could incorporate articles about cloud computing, reality capture, mobile applications, photogrammetry, VR, AR, holography, digital twins, data analytics, open data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, wearables, robotics, blockchain and the like. And built environment organisations also need to be thinking about digitalisation: “the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities: the process of moving to a digital business” (Gartner).

wikipedia-logoAs a ‘Wikipedia purist’, I am, of course, biased, and we should acknowledge the two ventures are very different.

Wikipedia and its sister projects are non-commercial, supported by donations and huge communities of active volunteer users, while Designing Buildings has sponsors, displays advertising and works more like a web publication (is this one of the challenges: Wikipedia appeals to users’ altruistic motivations, while DB seems too commercial?). One is global and sprawling in its subject matter; the other is more country-specific and focused on a single sector. Wikipedia is widely known and understood around the world; Designing Buildings is comparatively unknown even within the UK construction sector. Wikipedia is not without its faults, but the English edition (the largest) has developed a strong community of 1000s of active volunteer editors committed to maintaining and improving the quality and currency of its information. Designing Buildings, on the other hand, appears heavily reliant upon two paid editors to create, monitor and amend articles.

So, the launch of the BIM Wiki is yet another plea for more industry support to help Designing Buildings expand and update its content (as well as the BIM Wiki, Designing Buildings also has a Conservation Wiki and a BREEAM Wiki), some of which is out-of-date and being superseded by new and wider digital developments. Through volunteer-led bodies such as the UK BIM Alliance,* UK digital activists are currently striving to maintain adoption momentum in the “two-speed industry”, but can they be motivated to contribute to a niche BIM Wiki that – for some of them – promotes the commercial interests of a rival firm? And given that the Wiki also has the logos of several prominent industry institutions* across the top of its webpage, should these member bodies – many with wider digital initiatives of their own – also be concerned about the quality, currency and breadth of the information being promoted on their behalf?

[* Disclosure: I am a UK BIM Alliance ambassador, and deputy chair of the ICE’s digital transformation community of practice, formerly the information systems panel.]

Update (10 July 2019: 11:15am) – Following publication of my blog post, I had an email exchange and then a meeting with Designing Buildings Wiki founder Gregor Harvie in London’s Building Centre last week.

The Harvie perspective

Harvie started by clarifying that Designing Buildings Wiki is to some extent a knowledge management project: “The industry is not particularly good at sharing knowledge, or even understanding what ‘knowledge’ is. Its knowledge is fragmented and siloed and much of it is behind firewalls or sign-up barriers. Our objective is to make industry knowledge fully integrated and freely available. A wiki seemed to be the most collaborative way of doing this.”

As a result, some of the knowledge on the site is sourced from existing material, but 65% is original. Experienced editor George Demetri and Harvie himself add a significant proportion of the content, but Harvie says this is partly because they add content created by other organisations who don’t have the time to do it themselves. Around a quarter of the content has been created in this way. They also spend time managing user additions to the site, editing them and combining them with existing content, and removing anything inappropriate.

Some articles are protected from user edits when they are ‘featured’ to prevent malicious vandalism, but overall he says just 6% of the site’s content is protected.

Harvie has also been looking at what information needs to be on the site. Working with the Open University he has developed artificial intelligence (AI) software that identifies commonly occurring unexplained terms, and the team then writes those explanations. This is a more “demand-led” approach than traditional publication, which tends to be supply driven.

Construction industry knowledge gapThe BIM Wiki project grew out of the 2017 research which showed BIM was out on a limb (see above). PCSG chair Mark Bew didn’t want BIM guidance just to appear on BIM-specific websites, but also wanted it made accessible on a more general industry platform. Much of the content on BIM Wiki was inherited by PCSG – previously written by users and the site editors, not newly created for BIM Wiki. Harvie said PCSG is now reviewing a lot of that material to update it as necessary.

Harvie says the continued use of the term “BIM” in the site name and text reflects the fact that this is what much of the industry calls the subject right now, as well as the high number of people searching for “BIM” on Google, even if the current/future industry picture is wider. We discussed the extent to which the site could look forwards when many industry practitioners still continue to look at older buzzwords.

Becoming more international is also something that Designing Buildings Wiki is aiming to do – Harvie said he was surprised at the amount of traffic the site achieved from the US and India, for example.

An Extranet Evolution view

It is clear that the BIM wiki is far from perfect. It requires substantial updating and expansion (if people don’t have the time or expertise to do it themselves, then perhaps they should contact Demetri or Harvie to get them to make the edits), and it will therefore take time before it more accurately reflects the current state of digital design, construction and asset operation.

Harvie is aware that the Designing Buildings branding doesn’t reflect the site’s remit (it’s not just about design and not just about buildings) and that few users engage with the site as editors. There have been suggestions that members of the UK BIM Alliance pile in and make changes to the BIM Wiki, but some are understandably reluctant to contribute to something that promotes a rival commercial business (PCSG). This seems to expand Harvie’s point that “the industry is not particularly good at sharing knowledge” – its knowledge is not just fragmented, siloed and held behind firewalls, it is also, in this case, being used to promote a private business. Perhaps reactions might have been different if a BIM – or ‘Digital wiki’ – was backed by a not-for-profit body such as the Alliance or the Centre for Digital Built Britain, for example.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/06/bim-wiki-labours-build-industry-knowledge-base/

GoReport annual revenues top £1m

Having recently secured £0.5m in VC funding, Belfast-based mobile surveying application developer GoReport says annualised revenue has topped £1m, and its looking to expand in 2019.

GoReport logo 2018Belfast, Northern Ireland-based mobile surveying application developer GoReport says annualised revenue has topped £1m. Turnover grew 60% in the year to 31 March 2019, and are up 128% since 2017.

Led by CEO Anthony Walker, a RICS PropTech leader who joined the firm in November 2018 (post), GoReport has grown to 22 staff and is aiming for 100% growth in revenues in 2019 as traction in the growing market accelerates. Currently recruiting, the firm aims to add more staff in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. To fund its expansion, the company secured a £500,000 investment from Belfast-based venture capital fund manager Crescent Capital earlier this month (June 2019), with Crescent investment director Bob McGowan-Smyth joining the GoReport board as a non-executive director.

The firm’s software is used by building surveyors and engineers, project managers, fire safety consultants, insurance loss adjusters and many other professions who have a need to capture data easily, flexibly and generate consistent outputs quickly. Walker, right, says: “We’re enjoying a combination of growing market awareness, an increasing adoption of technology across the property sector, interest from related sectors and industries, and a drive by clients to capture more data to inform their business operations.”

GoReport digitises data capture and reporting processes to help property professionals reduce the time taken to generate survey outputs. The resulting uplift in customer experience has helped the firm increase their customer base by 100% from the previous 12-month period.

GoReport digitising survey data capture

Founded by Conor Moran, the business launched its iPad-based application in November 2012 (post). Its software was originally developed to help commercial and residential property surveyors and other professionals capture building surveying and project management data rapidly and more easily than the traditional method of manual note taking, dictation and photography. Walker continues:

“As a profession, surveyors’ day-to-day work for clients involves a significant amount of report writing which, done in the traditional way, can take up an inordinate amount of valuable time. With productivity proving a persistent issue, technology and how data is captured has an even greater part to play.”

Users of the software include all types of specialist surveyors ranging in scale from national property consultancies with multiple offices to independent surveyors. Recent interest in the platform from the social housing, insurance loss adjusting and fire safety sectors has broadened the firm’s potential market opportunities, with specific solutions tailored to a growing range of sectors that have field engineers and operatives recording data on-site.

GoReport chairman David Bell says:

“We’re aiming to positively disrupt the sector with tools that bring the profession in line with other data-enabled business functions, as well as delivering efficiencies to property consultancies, and the growth in new users this year demonstrates the growing demand. The recent move into supporting related property management and facilities sectors, including fire prevention, social housing and insurance, is also exciting and I look forward to the next level on our growth journey.”

Update (26 July 2019) – In July 2019, GoReport announced Anthony Walker had been appointed a Fellow of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/06/surveying-app-goreport-annual-revenues-1m/

Xinaps presents Verifi3D at AU London

Dutch company Xinaps demonstrated its new Software-as-a-Service BIM data validation product, Verifi3D, for the first time at Autodesk University London.

Dutch company Xinaps presented its new Software-as-a-Service BIM data validation product, Verifi3D, at the Autodesk University event in London (18-19 June 2019). While Verifi3D is set to be officially launched at Autodesk University in Las Vegas in November 2019, founder and CEO Frank Schuyer has been warming up the market for several months.* As well as Verifi3D, Delft-based Xinaps, founded in 2015, also develops building product configurators.

Verifi3D’s rule editor allows design checks to be defined and customized by the user to align the model with local regulations and client requirements. Schuyer’s initial focus was on showing if, and how, buildings met regulatory and project-specific requirements regarding accessibility and life safety compliance. The latter is particularly topical in the UK following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, the ensuing Hackitt report, and ongoing discussions about mandating the “golden thread of information” into future building regulations.

Verifi3D logoThe latest development for Verifi3D allows users to upload Autodesk Revit and IFC (industry foundation class) files directly into Xinaps’ cloud environment. Users can then classify their building model data, visualise it in 3D and 2D and validate it using data and geometric checks. As such, it offers a SaaS alternative to other model-checking solutions such as Solibri (acquired by Nemetschek in 2015), and competes with Invicara’s BIM Assure (2016 post, 2018 interview with founder Anand Mecheri), albeit being more focused on fire safety and accessibility.

Verify3D integration

Verifi3D is now also seamlessly integrated with Autodesk BIM 360 construction management platform and the optimised digital workflow was demonstrated by Xinaps for the first time at AU London. According to the Xinaps team:

“The collaboration with Autodesk will allow us to create a comprehensive experience for our users and to further facilitate the digitalization of the AEC industry. Our mission is to automate, simplify and optimize the design and build process through the power of technology. Verifi3D will allow VDC professionals to enhance their workflow and to automate many of the pre-construction stage
processes. Autodesk is one of the biggest innovators in the industry and collaborating with them was a logical next step in accomplishing our goal.”

Ilai Rotbaein, senior director of Autodesk’s BIM 360 product team said:

“Construction is a high risk, low margin industry in which things can go wrong at any time. Xinaps Verifi3D helps design and construction teams reduce costly errors and delays during preconstruction and throughout the project by offering a real-time, cloud-based solution for teams to review models, check for clashes, and ensure building rules and regulations are addressed in the model. We are pleased to have Xinaps as an integration partner and we believe this will be a welcome solution for our shared customers.”

[* Disclosure: pwcom.co.uk Ltd provided consultancy services to Xinaps in late 2018.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/06/xinaps-presents-verifi3d-au-london/

Autodesk announces Plangrid upgrades

During this week’s Autodesk University in London (see also previous post), Autodesk announced additions to the Plangrid platform: ‘PlanGrid Advanced RFIs‘ and ‘Project Hub‘. These are said to give construction teams greater visibility regarding a project’s progress and unforeseen challenges. Advanced RFIs automates and so accelerates request for information workflows while Project Hub provides an actionable picture of key project activity in one central location within PlanGrid’s software. Together, they help construction teams to identify and resolve issues faster and keep projects on track.

Head of products, site construction, Autodesk Construction Solutions, Sameer Merchant says:

“Construction is a massive logistical challenge involving hundreds of people, and the flow of information on a jobsite can sometimes be like a game of telephone. Crucial data can get lost as it travels, whether it’s between the field and the office or between team members, and decisions then get bottlenecked. [These] innovations …, Advanced RFIs and Project Hub, provide greater visibility across a project, boost collaboration and help teams move forward faster. By automating and streamlining the flow of data, Autodesk Construction Solutions is empowering the construction industry to make decisions more effectively and keep projects on track.”

One of Plangrid’s US clients, Rob Winklepleck, general manager of West Brothers Construction says:

“On a typical project, we’re managing vast quantities of information, and we need a way to make this information manageable and easily accessible. If my team doesn’t have the insights we need, work stalls out and it can cause a domino effect on interrelated resources across the project. The new features in PlanGrid not only help speed up the building process but also show me exactly what needs to happen to move the project forward. My team is able to get a quick response to pressing issues, and I spend less time calling or walking back and forth from the trailer to the field to verify work.”

Advanced RFIs

Advanced RFIsRFI processes resolve questions arising from drawings, specifications, contracts and other construction documents that aren’t fully coordinated. According to Plangrid, ideally, an RFI moves from one person to the next: from the field to the office and then on to a design team reviewer, who provides insight and sends it back. While the flow of information should be straightforward, when the RFI process is not streamlined, it often involves multiple conversations and can take several weeks to get resolved. Information also can get lost along the way and schedules may be delayed.

PlanGrid’s Advanced RFIs automate the process and gives construction teams a visual and structured workflow to manage and distribute questions and answers efficiently and intuitively. Project members can quickly draft a question from a log or sheet and attach photos, and then track RFI progress – all within PlanGrid. Reviewers are notified and can respond by email, and answers are immediately distributed to all critical team members. Responses are also automatically added to the RFI history within PlanGrid’s platform to decrease miscommunication.

PlanGrid will continue making the flow of data on a construction project seamless. Future features will allow change orders to be efficiently managed from start to finish.

Project Hub

With 1000s of documents to track and large teams to coordinate, project managers and engineers can struggle to have a clear understanding of what is happening across a project.

Project Hub is a centralised place within PlanGrid’s platform where project engineers and managers can get a pulse of their project in real-time and take action on the most critical field operations. Via an uncluttered interface that is easy-to-use and simple to navigate, Project Hub delivers a holistic picture of all project activity, providing instant answers to questions such as: ‘What has changed on the project? Does everyone have the most up-to-date information? What tasks need to be assigned or are still incomplete?’ Features include:

  • Team update status: displays what percentage of the team is working from the latest plans and documents, to ensure all team members are on the most current set by tracking status in real time
  • Recent activity: shows a steady feed of major activities happening on the project
  • Project work: a list of tasks that helps guide users towards work that needs attention on the project

With Project Hub, managers can immediately understand risk factors in the field, such as what is at risk of complications or of not being built correctly, and act quickly to address the highest priorities.

Plangrid webinars are planned to update users about the updates (to register, visit here):

  • North America: 2 July 2019, at 11:00am PDT/ 2:00 pm EDT
  • EMEA: 9 July 2019, at 12:00 pm BST / 1pm CEST / 3:00pm GST

[Apologies to readers affected by a site accessibility issue since Tuesday 18 June – a file got corrupted and I was only able to resolve this with my hosting provider today.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/06/autodesk-announces-plangrid-upgrades/

Autodesk’s Plangrid and BIM360 technologies to merge

Autodesk is aiming to merge and so strengthen the technologies currently contained in two separate solutions: Plangrid and BIM 360. The current focus, however, is more on construction than long-term asset management.

autodesk logo(17 June 2019, 10.45am BST) – Autodesk’s Connect and Construct Summit in London today started with a media breakfast hosted by Jim Lynch, general manager of Autodesk Construction Services. He highlighted CEO Andrew Anagnost’s strategic drive – “since August 2018 it’s been our number one priority” – to grow Autodesk’s construction solutions portfolio, evidenced by its US$1bn+ acquisitions of BIM solution Assemble (July 2018 news release), Plangrid (November 2018 post), BuildingConnected (January 2019 post), and continued investment in Autodesk BIM 360. The pace of population growth, particularly in cities, was part of the reason for this push, Lynch said. “The technology we’ve used to date won’t help us tomorrow – now is the time to be talking about the contributions that digital fabrication and manufacturing can make.”

Plangrid logoThere was some discussion regarding the focus of the two apparently overlapping solutions: Plangrid and BIM 360. Lynch said we need to separate BIM and digitisation of construction: “we needed a better way to collaborate on the jobsite, hence the deal to acquire Plangrid, a wildly successful business. But use of BIM in construction, on the jobsite, is in its early days, though this will change as rich data models are mandated.” Plangrid gives Autodesk a strong construction technology platform, Lynch said, along with a large installed user base and an established construction brand. Work is now under way to merge the offering: “they will start to merge and will become one sometime in the future“.

Will the two brands continue? “Branding is a different question,” Lynch said. Both products have strengths, so Autodesk needs to build up the combined offering and promote them to the market. Plangrid (with its association with traditional ‘plans’) resonates with construction users he admitted, but some people have shunned BIM 360 as it was seen as “only valuable if I am using BIM” suggesting the name has caused some confusion despite its value to people not using BIM in construction.

Autodesk’s Steve Manning, one of the company’s executives tasked with merging the offering, said efforts were under way to devise a single interface to access the BIM360 and Plangrid functionalities. Lynch added it was important to show existing customers that their past investments are sound for the future.

Digital twin thinking

The UK has pushed forward with its “digital twin” thinking since the National Infrastructure Commission published its Data for the Public Good report in December 2017, with the Cambridge Centre for Digital Built Britain publishing its Gemini Principles in November 2018. In the built environment context, a digital twin is defined as “a realistic digital representation of assets, processes or systems in the built or natural environment” which, importantly, is connected to and shares data bi-directionally with the physical twin.

Asked about Autodesk’s digital twin thinking, Lynch focused on how tools like Revit helped project teams to collate both the design and the data and understand their investment in the digital model, with tools like Assemble and BuildingConnected potentially allowing the addition of more rich data. However, he admitted that, while BIM 360 has some asset management capability, it is still in its early days, with partner technologies likely to add value during the life of the building.

Digitise, integrate, predict

(17 June 2019, 15.20pm BST) – Jim Lynch reprised some of his earlier remarks in the main Connect & Construct conference keynotes, highlighting that Autodesk wasn’t the only technology business expanding its construction portfolio, mentioning Oracle and Trimble. Autodesk’s vision he said: “is to deliver a comprehensive, integrated platform that seamlessly connects the office, the trailer, and the field.” The construction solutions group strategy was founded on three pillars, Lynch explained: first, digitisation (not just removing use of paper but enhancing how information is shared, leveraging connected devices, speeding decision making…); second, workflow integration (breaking down data silos, creating a single source of information to drive better outcomes) and, third, prediction (using machine learning to look at previous project data and use that information to drive better outcomes on future projects – Autodesk’s Construction IQ was cited as an example of what might be achieved).

Richard Parker, speaking at Autodesk's Connect and Construct eventRichard Parker (once a colleague of mine at BIW Technologies, but now Autodesk’s product line manager in the Construction Solutions team) and colleague Sameer Merchant (head of site construction – and Manning’s colleague in managing the Plangrid/BIM 360 convergence) did a product update. Conscious of the importance of ISO 19650 and the IFC data model in the EMEA region, Parker said Autodesk’s accredited IFC capability was now being incorporated across the construction solutions portfolio: “Autodesk will continue to invest in open formats, and is committed to free and open flows of data across projects.

Expanding Plangrid

The past year’s acquisitions were said to have strengthened the construction solutions portfolio, which is also supported by connections with around 60 other solutions through the Forge platform. In the EMEA region, Assemble and Plangrid already have a presence and this will be expanded; BuildingConnected will be launched in EMEA in 2020.

Merchant highlighted how Autodesk had already invested in expanding Plangrid functionality to support BIM, citing integration with Revit so that models could be published to Plangrid with 100% accuracy on all metadata (Plangrid BIM was launched in April 2019 – post). Plangrid now has “BIM-enabled sheets” – 2D plans that leverage BIM capability, showing BIM data associated with objects in the 2D drawings – and a 3D BIM viewer that allows onsite viewing of models and spaces, plus fast and accurate measuring tools. Plangrid BIM data synchronisation also ensures information can be used without network connectivity. Merchant also highlighted the late 2018 launch of the BIM 360 cost management module (see my November 2018 post: Autodesk BIM 360 embracing 5D).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/06/autodesks-plangrid-bim360-technologies-merge/

RIB buys into US building spec vendor BSD

RIB Software invests US$42m to acquire 60% of USA-based BSD (Building Systems Design), strengthens its estimating and product data technologies, and gets a bridgehead in north America.

RIB software logoRIB Software, the Stuttgart, Germany-based provider of cloud-based technologies for the construction and real estate industries has invested US$42m to acquire 60% of the Atlanta, USA-based BSD (Building Systems Design) – a cloud software platform for building specifications together with data and analytics solutions for North American building product manufacturers. The deal strengthens RIB’s kernel of estimating and product data technologies, while also giving the company a strong bridgehead for expansion in the north American market.


The remaining 40% of the company is held by the BSD executive management team consisting of CEO Christopher Anderson (below centre), executive chairman Iain Melville (left), and chief innovation officer Arol Wolford (right), together with the Construction Specification Institute (CSI), whose mission it is to advance building information management. Prior to joining BSD, Anderson served in executive roles in the Gordian Group and RS Means; Melville was CEO for Construction Market Data (CMD) and RS Means. Wolford is the founder of CMD and a board member of Revit Technology Corporation.

Melville, Anderson, WolfordThe company was founded in 1983 to develop commercial software for the US federal government (some of its construction cost estimating software is still used by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Defense). The CSI had a majority stake in BSD from 2010 to 2017, at which point the current management team, and an investment from Caltius Structured Capital, set the company on a new course.

BSD provides thousands of American architects, engineers, project developers, investors, and building materials suppliers with a cloud data platform for the development of technical building specifications and the definition of products and construction services. Manufacturers can add their products to the building catalogue in the cloud. Approximately 4,000 new American construction projects are listed on the platform each month. Manufacturers can thus position their products directly at the point of sale. Currently more than 10,000 tendering engineers work within the platform and the cancellation rate of the annual users is far below 10%.

RIB-BSD integration

The two flagship products SpecLink and SpecLive will be integrated on the MTWO cloud platform and expanded via Managed Services (MSP) for enterprise customers. The BSD products will be supplemented with the virtual assistant McTWO, the artificial intelligence (AI), with smart Analytics. The 100 RIB Software iTWO 4.0 modules such as CX (Collaboration Platform), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Predictive Pricing, Modular Construction, Cost Estimation, and Value Engineering will be optimally connected with SpecLink and SpecLive. In the medium term, new business models based on xTWO technology are also planned.

According to RIB, BSD’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) is forecasted to exceed US$14m in 2019 with organic growth of approximately 25%. The addressable market for BSD products in the USA and Canada is over US$3 billion. Through BSD, up to 500,000 users for the MTWO cloud platform, driven by BIM and digital transformation, can be converted in the medium term from 8,000 construction suppliers, 80,000 architecture and engineering firms with over 10 employees, 150,000 construction companies, and 270,000 owners.

The addressable market in the 26 countries covered by the RIB Group is over US$10 billion (ARR) and over 1 million MTWO platform users. The RIB total investment, including expansion funds, is US$42m (€37.6 million) and represents the largest single investment in the RIB Group’s 50+ year history. This latest deal also comes just over a month after a strategic investment in the UK’s CADline.

Tom Wolf, CEO of RIB Group says:

“The investment in BSD demonstrates RIB Group’s strong commitment to the U.S. market. McTWO welcomes with Arol, Iain and Chris some of the strongest Executives and investors in the global AEC industry. The integration of 100 software modules connected to millions of BSD content data in the MTWO cloud platform super charged with McTWO our virtual AI assistant and managed data services has the potential now to digital transform the building and infrastructure industry to one of the most advanced industries. Re-platforming concepts like MTWO, combined with BSD data services, will enable developers and owners to build modern cities and infrastructure tailored for Gen Z and following generations.”

Chris Anderson, BSD president and CEO, says:

“At BSD, our goal is to create advanced technology designed to make collaboration easier, including seamless BIM integration and revolutionary cloud technology. RIB’s focus on MTWO and McTWO, cloud and AI based platforms for the construction industry perfectly aligns with BSD’s strategy. We are looking forward to working with RIB in this expanding area to push the digitization and transformation of a whole industry.”

Mads BordingThis deal fulfils predictions made in 2018 by RIB COO Mads Bording, right, about RIB’s continued cloud expansion (post). He told Extranet Evolution the technology market was evolving towards support for more collaborative and value-adding work which demands “a more democratised end-to-end process leveraging data in the model, helping companies make money from the data in BIM”. Overcoming the inertia or resistance of 55-year-old cost estimators or engineers was vital, he said.

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 (post).

Update (28 August 2019) – In another US-related expansion, RIB has invested US$26.4m for a 60% share in California-based U.S. CAD, an AEC technology reseller and integrator (announcement). Also an Autodesk Platinum partner, U.S. CAD services over 50.000 active subscribers across the US through ten office locations. In April 2019, RIB invested in UK reseller Cadline.


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/06/rib-buys-into-us-building-spec-vendor-bsd/

Script&Go’s Site Diary revamped

Script&Go logo 2018A mobile application acquired from Appear Networks by France’s Script&Go in 2016, Site Diary has been revamped and given a new brand identity as it seeks to expand UK adoption of the solution. The French company announced its plans to grow a UK presence in early 2018, and 10 months later had offices in London and Birmingham and was planning a major upgrade to Site Diary, adding new features, a new user interface, support for UK currency, and hosting by Microsoft Azure.

The revamped Site Diary solution (available in both Android and Apple iOS versions, plus a web-browser accessed edition) incorporates:

  • a weather feed which automatically captures weather information for the mobile device’s location and associates it with the day’s reporting
  • task management enabling site managers to create and allocate tasks to team members, while retaining a record in the Site Diary, and
  • progress reporting including approvals management, with export to PDF, CSV or Excel.

The developers claim an average daily saving of 45 minutes compared to maintaining a traditional paper-based diary, with further savings in the event of disputes through more systematic and detailed time- and date-stamped data capture. One customer had switched to Site Diary having lost a previous dispute because their record-keeping had been inadequate.

Site DiaryUK customers include Alun Griffiths, Grosvenor Construction and Torsion Group, along with customers in Australia and the US. In total, Site Diary has over 8,000 users, and has  over 140 paying customers in 34 countries, currently creating an average 14,000 diary entries a month. The company does not reveal revenues, but the product’s standard price is £10 per month per user when paying monthly or £96/year/user with annual billing (by negotiation, deals can done for project-wide or enterprise use).

The company says Site Diary is currently a point solution, but the development roadmap envisages integration with other solutions.  This is vital, given that is competing with site diary capabilities incorporated into wider toolsets on some existing platforms in all its current English-speaking customer markets. For example, Trimble’s Viewpoint recently added a site diary to its Viewpoint Team solution (post); Australia’s Wiseworking  (post), Tenderfield (post) and HammerTech (post) all offer site diary options; and in the US, Note Vault is an established competitor in the daily reporting field with strong integration with other solutions (post). US-based, but now growing its Australian and UK presences, Procore also offers a Site Diary feature as part of its Quality and Safety module.

Update (1 October 2019) – A new version of Site Diary was released in September 2019 (details), while the solution is now available in three different price plans: Shovel (basic, free), Forklift (£10 per user per month) and Bulldozer (for 25+ users).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/05/scriptgos-site-diary-revamped/

TonicDM competes in PIM space

AECbytes‘ Lachmi Khemlani has written an interesting and detailed review of a US-developed Software-as-a-Service project information management solution (PIM) called TonicDM. (She distinguishes between PIM and project management solutions, such as Oracle Aconex, Procore, etc: “The basic difference is that PIM manages the large volumes of information associated with a project, whereas PM manages the actual project—its design and construction—itself.”)

Based in Los Angeles, California, TonicDM was founded TonicDM logoin 2016 by a former Gehry and Gensler executive Reg Prentice (now CEO) and a technologist, now CTO, Chris Pinckney (whose recent history includes spells at Riverbed and RedSky – the latter is now part of Presidio, and not to be confused with UK-based construction software vendor RedSky IT). The TonicDM solution – the DM comes from ‘document management’ – was born out of Prentice’s experiences with Newforma’s PIM product Project Center while at Gensler (the Newforma application started as an on-premise solution, and only later added cloud connectivity to its capabilities – post).

TonicDM aims to be “simple and easy”, and is tightly integrated with Microsoft’s Outlook email application (and the rest of the Office 365 ecosystem). It manages and tracks transmittals of large files, and has an RFI and submittal management system customised to the needs of design teams (with Procore and email integrations to manage contractor communications). Prices start from US$15 per user per month; the RFI and submittal management comes in a contract administration (Standard + CA) package costing US$30 per user per month. According to Khemlani, TonicDM is also beta-testing a NLP (natural language processing) capability to undertake sentiment analysis on emails and gain deeper insights into projects (the second time in a week I’ve heard NLP mentioned; it is also something being explored by Viewpoint – post).

How simple and easy TonicDM remains is open to question. Once solutions start to become embedded in users’ organisations, demands for new features start to grow, as do calls for wider integrations with other platforms used either by the users or by other organisations their firms are working with. And, as with other solutions that are document-centric, I also wonder about their long-term applicability when projects involve building information modelling and wider digital collaboration.

Update (2 June 2019) – The team at TonicDM has responded to this blog post with a post of their own.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2019/05/tonicdm-competes-pim-space/

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