Posts Tagged ‘construction’

Boosting Profitability for General Contractors

January 19, 2012

As profit margins drop past the 2% mark, general contractors are compelled to look for more innovative ways to drive profitability. Recently, I learned of a GC that hired a third party services firm to photo-document its work on a large school project and passed the cost onto the owner with a slight markup. While I see the rationale behind adding value-added services as a way to improve revenue, I find this particular choice questionable.

Construction Photo-documentation firms offer a valuable combination of construction knowledge and photography services to owner/developers who lack the experience and resources to scrutinize the construction of their buildings. Most also offer a deliverable that includes construction photos delivered via the web.

However, does this make sense for a GC? Can these firms offer expertise that the GC doesn’t already have on staff? Do they hold the secrets to construction photography that a GC can’t match with a $500 camera purchase and a basic photography course at a local community college (or even online)? The answers are obviously no and no.

So, therefore, the missing piece of the puzzle must be the ability to deliver construction photos with a web interface offers more than a link to a Sharepoint folder. If a GC could deliver a comprehensive package of photos to an owner that offered a complete record of as-built construction and critical installation details, now that would be valuable.

And now, the GC can offer just such a deliverable. In my next post I will describe how Geedra enables GC’s to self perform the photo documentation of their projects, and in doing so transforms an overhead cost, into a value-add service that boosts profitability.

Poll for Construction Estimators

January 16, 2012

Our friends over at Software Advice are conducting a poll about current practices in construction estimation.

You can take the 5-minute poll here.

Top 10 Reasons Sharepoint Sucks for Photos

January 2, 2012

I talk to a lot of GC’s and Architects that use Sharepoint(tm) to store their photos. When I ask them why, their answers usually include something about security (a questionable claim in my mind; Are your needles secure, just because you know which haystack they’re in?) and company policy. Then the grumbling begins.

Here’s a breakdown of Sharepoint’s shortcoming’s as a photo management solution:

#10 Too much typing & clicking required – To file photos in way that provides any meaningful information later on (you know, when your really need them), Sharepoint requires you to spend time creating unique folders or typing LOTS of unique filenames. (e.g. ProgressLevel4DeckPrepour11032011.jpg, oh my)

#9 One-dimensional searching – If I need to verify the window flashing installation on ten different levels, it would be nice if I didn’t need to scroll through hundreds (thousands? millions?) of photos of rebar and framing on each and every one of those same ten levels.

#8 Picture Library doesn’t support sorting – Wouldn’t it be nice to have Excel-style sorting capabilities, while being able to simultaneously view the photos too?

#7 Can’t define a range of search values – How much quicker would it be if you could define a range of search values? E.g. Verifying the curtain wall anchors on the northeast corner of the top four floors.

#6 No comment – In the age of social media, is it too much to expect to be able to add comments to construction  photos?

#5 No sharing – Isn’t a tad bit ironic that there’s no built-in photo sharing in a solution that has “Share” in it’s name?

#4 Upside down? – Does your neck hurt from viewing upside down photos with no way to fix them without opening them in another application and then re-saving them?

#3 No rules – Usually, a 7-person team will adopt 7 different photo naming and filing conventions.

#2 Patient searching required  – “No Files Found” , is a painful phrase. How many times have you gotten this result repeatedly after struggling to come up with the right search criteria? An interactive search panel that allows for “tweaking” searches would be a real time saver.

#1 Starting from scratch – A new project means a blank slate and recreating your file names, folders and organization all – over – again.

Is there a better way? Most definitely the answer is yes.

Geedra vs Sharepoint

January 2, 2012
Photos on Geedra™ Photos on SharePoint™

Automated photo filing on Upload

Yes. Photos filed according to user profile, project profile, time, date and other data assigned by camera. No. User manually files photos by file and folder names.
Menu-driven, point-and-click photo tags Yes. No.
Construction-specific tags Yes. Tag types include: gridline, level, room number, camera orientation, multi-building designations, CSI division codes + text-based tags No – text based tags only.
Searching by single tag values Yes. No.[1]
Searching by multiple tag values Yes. No.[1]
Searching by a range of tag values Yes. No.
“Excel-style” photo sorting by tag value. Yes. No.[2]
Instant Search Experience (Search results appear as search criteria are entered) Yes. No.
Integrated Photo Sharing Yes. No. Share by email.
Integrated Report Builder Yes. No.
Photo-detail view Yes. Yes.
Individual photo comments journal. Yes. No.
Pre-defined comments menu Yes. No.
Hiding redundant photos Yes. No.
Automatic filtering of duplicate photos Yes. Even works when filename is changed. No.
Built-in photo rotation Yes. No.
Remote web access. Yes. Yes.
Cloud-based storage Yes. Office 365 only.
Seamless user experience from any Browser or Operating System Yes. No.[3]
iPad compatible Yes. Yes. (Separate app required)

[1] Requires extensive additional configuration and customization by administrator.

[2] SharePoint Picture Library views do not support column-based sorting.

[3] Certain features require Microsoft Windows and Office.

No Matter Your Exposure to Construction, Geedra Makes Sense

November 30, 2011

I got a touching note from someone the other day. I had never met this person before and they had no reason whatsoever to reach out to me, but did anyway. Thanks, Shirine.

A few years ago I handled Business Development for Waste Management in new accounts for their CDL collection. It was for the new home construction divisions setting up garbage collection to unestablished accounts. …I was often in the garages of the new home developments forming solid relationships with on site Super’s and staff.  (Geedra) will be a great resource/ tool for them.

I can appreciate that service and benefit your business will offer the construction community.

Continued success for your business.

 

Shirine Park

Extreme Photoshopping

November 29, 2011

Interesting coverage in today’s NY Times about legislation in Europe and proposed in the US about labeling photos that have been highly re-touched to the point where the appearance of the subject has been substantially altered.

In the case of a single photo, it’s next to impossible for the naked eye to detect a professional retouch. However, in our world of construction photography, we rarely deal with a single make-or-break photo. In cases where photographic evidence exists, there are often many photos from many different cameras that show the same subject. Anyone who is inclined to modify a photo in their favor, better plan on hunting down all of the other photos as well if they hope to succeed.

 

The Construction Project: A Startup That’s Built to Close

November 29, 2011

It is extremely difficult for someone who has not participated in a construction project to comprehend the complexity involved. As I have said before, a construction project is akin to starting a factory that makes buildings. Only after you do all of the personnel and partner recruiting, product design, process planning, procurement, infrastructure building, quality system design, customer service and warranty planning, you shut down the factory after the first completed unit rolls off the line.

Construction Needs Troublemakers

April 6, 2011

I had lunch with Josh (not his real name) the other day.  Josh joined a large General Contractor last year as its first BIM director because the company’s owner came to the realization that his company was falling behind in technology innovation and need to get involved “in that BIM stuff” (my words, not his).  So, he hired Josh.

Josh is a guy that’s always looking to tinker. He finds out about new technologies, new processes, new services, and he’s the first one to start thinking about ways to adapt them to his organization. He won’t let a title like “BIM Director” limit his scope to just BIM. So, he’s made himself the inhouse expert in IPD projects, cloud computing applications and smart phone apps. The IT department thinks Josh is a real troublemaker, because he’s pushing them constantly to change their “old tech”/ “we can host anything”/ “MS Exchange Server Rules” mentality.

Guys like Josh weren’t hired by construction companies 10 years ago. But in these days of thin profit margins and hyper competitive bidding, contractors are chanting the “innovate or die” mantra a lot more often than they used to. However, they have a lot to learn about truly embracing innovation within their organizations.

Josh has his hands full for sure. Why? Well, he’s trying to turn his oil tanker with a canoe paddle. while the captain is in the wheelhouse trying to hold the line. Rather than give Josh the authority that he needs to boldly innovate, his company has tied his hands by forcing him to work with (i.e. around) his IT organization, which, in a nod to the “Greatest Hits” of 70’s management structure, still reports to the CFO. While Josh is committed to finding new, better ways of doing things, IT is focused on maintaining the status quo.

The owners at Josh’s company haven’t yet realized that they are in an innovation dip. It’s up to Josh to stir up enough trouble to make them wake up to the fact that innovation requires abandoning old practices in addition to introducing new ones.

Turning BIM Models Into Buildings

December 13, 2010

I have written in the past about the various aspects of as-built construction and the construction process that can’t (and shouldn’t) be represented in a BIM model. While there are countless articles, blog posts and Tweets covering the wonders of BIM in the weeks and months leading up to construction, you never hear any stories about the experiences of the construction managers, consultants and project managers who interact with the model once construction begins.

I am curious to hear about the experiences of others who have ground-level knowledge from BIM projects.

  • How has BIM affected the number of RFI’s that you would normally expect for this type of project if it had been designed using traditional methodology?
  • Are there certain types of RFI’s that prevail despite the use of BIM?
  • What types of issues do you experience when updates to the BIM model become necessary?
  • Where do you see gaps when comparing the BIM model to As-Built conditions on your project?
  • What has surprised you (good and bad) about building to the BIM model?
  • Has BIM had an impact on your coordination or sequencing efforts?
  • How have you utilized the BIM model for regulatory compliance?
  • What will you differently on your next BIM project?

Flat Fee Construction: An Opportunity for Innovation

March 3, 2010

When you hear construction and The Great Recession in the same sentence, you wouldn’t expect it to be good news. But I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal that has me brimming with excitement over what the future holds for our industry.

Given a choice between going out of business or keeping their construction businesses alive, contractors are striking flat fee deals with banks to build/finish the houses of failed development projects.  Sure, the contractors quoted in the article mention that such contracts “help stop the bleeding” but how long would you expect any business to continue to work just for the sake of keeping the lights on? The strongest contractors will innovate in order to improve (create) their profits.

Where will the innovation come from? Well, I hope jobsite technology gets a good, hard look (OK, I’m biased). But you can’t predict these things. Maybe it’s more efficient use of materials or labor, new contract structures or creative insurance policies. Who knows? Every penny gained through innovation goes directly to the bottom line. Now’s the time to try things!

Given the large inventory of unfinished work in the now infamous markets of Florida, Arizona, California and Nevada, flat fee contracts with banks offer contractors a solid alternative to the bare-knuckled bidding wars that are taking place for government projects. Contractors in these markets can work in familiar territory to improve themselves.

What about you? What are your recession-inspired innovations?