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Sat 20 Mar 2010 04:00 AM

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Taking a chance on change

CW discovers the major advantages construction software can bring to a business and its projects.

Taking a chance on change
Taking a chance on change
Peter Cheney, managing director of BuildSmart.
Taking a chance on change
Paul Madeira, CEO of Causeway Middle East.

CW discovers the major advantages construction software can bring to a business and its projects.

Change isn’t easy and it isn’t always welcome. Moving from site to site and adapting to a new team or environment takes some getting used to. But, after a week or so of adjustment, the benefits of change can often make initial worries and concerns seem unnecessary.

The same can be said for taking on new technologies, such as construction software. Staff must be trained to use the new system, which can take time, and letting go of traditional models can feel like a real hassle.

However, the returns gained from amending how you manage your project through construction software are said to outweigh these challenges.

“Construction companies are generally lagging behind other verticals in the adoption of technology to solve their business problems,” says Causeway Middle East CEO Paul Madeira.

“We believe that in order to overcome the challenges of change companies should select and implement software that is logical, easy to use and makes people’s lives easier so they become a keen adopter and promoter for this much required change.”

Causeway’s cost and financial management solutions aim to help organisations minimise risk, control cost and increase profits.

Abdel Muneer, marketing management for Tekla, a supplier and manufacturer of building information modeling software (BIM) also believes that using construction software isn’t as difficult as it sounds and that construction companies just need to have a little patience.

“Sometimes our offering is too broad for people to handle – we have 11 applications so these need to be introduced slowly so that the contractor can maximise the software’s use and get the most benefits out of it,” he says.

“We work closely with the customer and advice them on what applications are vital and then they can choose to add further applications if they wish.”

Sounds convincing, but what’s wrong with using conventional systems to manage a development? And, how can construction software improve business?

Out with the old

According to experts, programmes like Excel are just not a good enough tool to track project progress.

“Developers can’t really know what they are spending with a normal accounting system,” said Buildsmart managing director Peter Cheney. “With construction software we can get an accurate view of what people are spending and what they have left to spend.”Construction Computer Software (CCS) provides solutions to the construction industry through two software product offerings; Candy and Buildsmart.

Candy consists of modules for estimating, planning forecasting, cash flow, on site valuations and earned value management, while Buildsmart is a web-based construction orientated accounting and costing business solution, comprising procurement, accounting and wages modules.

“Developers and contractors can track changes in the project and make sure that their budget takes into account these variables. If you beat what you are allowed to spend then you can maximise profits,” adds Cheney.

Muneer adds to this argument by saying that using traditional systems can leave a project wide open for errors, which, in turn, wastes times and money.

“It’s out of date. You are going to make mistakes with Excel because you cannot visualise what you’re doing like you can with BIM. You’ll get the job done, but you won’t see the benefits like you can with our software,” he says.

“We illuminate a lot of the rework because you can track what is happening on site.”

Visualising progress

Tekla Structures enables the creation and management of detailed 3D structural models regardless of material or structural complexity. Its models can be used to cover the entire building process from conceptual design to fabrication, erection and construction management.

One application that you get with Tekla Structures is ‘steel detailing’. This allows users to create detailed 3D models of any steel material and then generate corresponding fabrication and erection information, which can be easily shared by all of the project participants.

A contractor or structural engineer can create and modify grids with this function, create detailed steel connections and erection sequences.

Money matters

So construction software can cut out risk, it allows all workers involved in a development to monitor changes and track progress and, as the number of errors is reduced, using software can lead to increased efficiency.

Madeira seconds this argument and goes one step further by suggesting that using spreadsheets may be “sabotaging contractors’ and developers’ profits.”

“The continued use of spreadsheets to manage mission critical business functions is an unacceptable risk for the new world we live in,” he says. “Tailored and packaged based software holds out the promise of a better controlled and trusted environment. The use of spreadsheets to perform complex business functions exposes a business to a number of risks and although excel is the biggest competitor to construction software the advantages of moving away from them are well proven.”Causeway’s design, cost, financial supply chain and enterprise content management solutions allow users to save money throughout the tendering process – from the beginning stages of planning to bid leading and the final accounts being produced.

“Savings in time and money can be gained in automating the entire estimating process to provide a faster and more accurate bid delivery,” adds Madeira.

“The majority of Causeway employees are people with a construction background and therefore we can offer customers not only software solutions but consultants with actual practical domain expertise.”

Cost is often something that deters businesses from investing in new technologies, especially during a financial downturn, like the one we are experiencing now. But, it seems that construction companies are actually turning to software systems in times of crisis.

“During boom times margins are important but, they are not that important. If a project is to turn bad it would be immediately financed by another one. In bad times it is a different situation because now [developers] are not pulling in projects one after the other so the projects they do have are becoming critical and in turn margins become critical,” says Cheney.

Muneer agrees: “People actually turned to construction software during the crisis because it helps them save on construction costs and saves them time. It helps improve efficiency and reduce waste.” Waste not want not

Of course, construction waste is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, but building a project also involves paper work, and a lot of it. And, with new environmental regulations coming into the Middle East is also leading construction companies to think of new ways to save energy, through any means necessary.

Fortunately, construction software can help to reduce the need for the endless print outs.

“Causeway is committed to find ways to reduce carbon footprint and develop technology that can assist organisations become more efficient whilst also having environmental benefits,” says Madeira.

“Recently awarded ‘E-Commerce Product of the Year’ in the UK, Causeway Tradex combines data exchange and process controls that allow companies to exchange trading documents, such as invoices and orders, without the need for paper.”

So now that we know the be the benefits construction software can bring to businesses and their projects, is there really any excuse to keep using old school spreadsheets?

“Adding in collaborative capabilities will give those supply chains that take advantage of technology a competitive advantage. We all appreciate the old methods are broken, so shame on us if we do not correct them,” Madeira responds.

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