We are being bombarded by BIM, Machine guidance, Business Intelligence, Laser tracking, Virtual reality and many other tools to add to our work processes. The complexity of Infraconstruction projects grows increasingly fast while efficiency and cost savings lacks greatly behind… what should we do to get our cost-efficiency improved?

 

 

 

 

What went wrong on digitalization of Infraconstruction.

Here we are, in the middle of the maelstrom of digitalization. We are being promoted and sold on how product X will utilize BIM and make infraconstruction projects save gigantic amounts of money.

We should have the best 3D design software, best bidding process tools, best project estimator tools, best this, best that, but has anyone really gained the full benefit out of each product they have purchased? Enough benefit to compensate the costs?

Our problems in the Infrastructure industry doesn’t stop there.

Rumors go around on how designers try to bill as many hours as possible and endlessly find more to polish in the designs. Or how purchasers only care to save money in projects and set terms of construction so high that it endangers construction companies to the bankruptcy. Also how builders try to hide their lack of quality and make budget cuts on landfills to save up in costs. Even if it makes damage to purchasers property.

Infrastructure industry’s long distrust to other cooperative groups has driven all of us into our own corners. The lack of interest to support other groups in Infraconstruction projects has pushed working conditions and work approaches into very group-specific and collectively ineffective methods.

How this Infraconstruction project’s new age that has promised greatly enhance cooperation with all parties and best possible outcomes on quality, speed, and costs hasn’t delivered those promises? Why are projects still have so huge costs and risks involved?

Future is already here. Everyone talks about it. Yet we are still unable to get the full benefit out of it.

Jero, maybe today’s tools just don’t bring the benefit that we have assumed?

No, many of them could bring even more value than promised. It was the main reason for me to write this guide, and I will run you through the Jero’s SASI solution so you too can get the best possible benefit.

It comes down to two things:

  1. Information that helps each group to make their work most efficiently as possible.
  2. The value-focused system to improve working processes

 


Future is already here. Everyone talks about it. Yet we are still unable to get the full benefit out of it.

Jero’s SASI Solution, at it’s core.

I have been advising many different organizations in the Infrastructure industry, from municipalities and government organizations to design, consulting, construction and surveying companies.

I have seen different organizations trying to be frontrunners of the new technology and often burning their hands badly. Even now, where frontrunners have been utilizing BIM 10, 15, 20 years and some are having great success with it, general mass is only starting to adapt into it and it’s supported tools. Often, they are failing horribly.

Successful companies promote 20%, 30% or more of savings per project. That has inspired many of us to start adopting BIM and different tools to make our own work as effective and as successful as theirs.

Someone claiming to save up to 20% of project costs by a single tools sounds unbelievable. But I have been there to verify that “20%” is just a start and we can go much further.

When you see how some tools can cut over 50% of the turnaround time in design or construction, you start to see dots getting connected and the missing link between successful BIM usage and failed BIM usage.

Key here is in information management.

Jero, are you saying that if we manage the information better we can save 20% on our projects?

No. In the end, tools will bring that, but you are not able to utilize tools into maximum efficiency if you don’t manage the information. Your usage of tools doesn’t benefit everything that it ideally could.

Let me explain it further in detail in the next section.

To keep this guide as simple and easy to implement, I have broken it down into five parts.

1. The Why
Going through the fundamentals of why the information management is important and how it can help you to improve.

2. The Breakdown
Going through the breakdown meeting and ways to gather the information needs.

3. The Comparison
Giving value estimations for the information needs so we get priority system on what to improve.

4. The Correction
Getting best insights on how much each need really provides vs takes.

5. The Iteration
How to operate this solution smoothly and in the most efficient way.

The Jero’s SASI solution itself has only 3 steps, Breakdown, Comparison and Correction and only requires single meeting for two hours to put it all together.

When you are done with the solution, your work starts to improve.

The Why

So, let me summarize the thinking so far:

Cooperation in Infraconstruction projects is very minimal (deliver only those that has been ordered). Also, BIM and BIM supported products don’t deliver the results that they should have.

Successful organizations claim to get huge benefits from different tools and there are no clearly defined steps to adopt BIM and achieve strong cooperation.

Sounds familiar?
Good.

Let’s run through The Why

Here is the executive why:“Get work done as cost-efficiently as possible.” (I know, an astounding revelation for all of us)

Let’s break this down:
In Infrastructure industry, we have well-defined end result we should achieve. To achieve defined quality, we need to be able to provide enough resources for tasks to achieve the scope in a schedule and in the offered budget.

 

 

Each task can be measured in these measurements: quality, speed, and cost.

Now, when this is clarified, we can move to operational why:
“How to make work tasks faster and cheaper while still achieving defined quality.”

Now, this often leads to ideas of buying new products. Softwares, services, tools, and machines that will help you to make it faster, but includes a heavy up-front investment amount to do so.

To get defined quality with lowered costs and to finish it faster, you need to be able to harmonize and streamline the process and flow of information.

How information makes tools use faster or cheaper?

Well, let me ask this: How does low-quality information or missing information make it slower?

Good! You got my point. So more we know, better we can excel. Until information amount gets too overwhelming to stay streamlined and actionable, what it often happens.

The Breakdown

Now that we know why we should put a bigger focus on information management, we can start looking at how we start approaching it.

The result of The Breakdown is to have a list of knowledge needs of everyone under your organization.

Firstly,
Set up a meeting. Invite everyone who is in the leadership position of each responsibility in your infrastructure (not only infraconstruction) organization. Key here is to have a rich experience of organization’s infrastructure work as possible around you.

We need that so we can really get a best possible outcome of insights what are the information needs of each responsibility.

If your organization is big enough that it has office leaders and work-site leaders, I recommend inviting one from both.

If your organization is gigantic and worldwide. Have a meeting first on management level, then take this Jero’s SASI solution to country-level.

Got the meeting?
Great, let’s start it.

Now before we jump into gathering everyone’s needs, it is important to clarify for everyone why we are doing this (stating the why) and how we should think about this breakdown process

How do we think about this breakdown process?

Glad you asked.

Key here is to go from end to start. Start from the work/responsibility at the end of your organization’s work processes.

 

 

Jero, how about the information that needs other parties to provide it?

Simple. You ask them to provide.

That’s impossible Jero! They would never accept it!

What was our goal? How to make work tasks faster, cheaper while still achieving a defined quality.

If we have a list of suggested information for other organizations and give them good enough incentive (get work done as cost-efficiently as possible), they will happily deliver. You might not get designers to overdeliver, but making the request for the municipality, it just might.

Now we know where to start, but how to do this breakdown meeting?

Let’s say for example we start with maintenance.

Ask your maintenance teams leader the following:
“If you would have a button in your hand that would give you any information you would want to have immediately, what would it be during your work?”

After that, ask:
“What information would you want to know from infrastructure property management period? From construction? From design? Analysis? Reports? Images? Other? Any impossible to get information?”

List all of them, even impossible ones. For now, we are only looking for the information on the ideal level. What knowledge maintenance would need to have to make their work as clear and efficient as possible.

Got maintenance mapped out?
Great, then move one step forward in a cycle of responsibilities and ask the same questions.

 

In the end, you should have a list of ideal needs for each responsibility in your organization.

But Jero, I am in a municipality and we just order, not design, build or maintain. We don’t have that kind of responsibilities.

Well, I have good news for you. Do this in your projects with the service providers in design, construction, surveying, maintenance and so on.

When we have the list of needs ready, we can move into The Comparison

Things to do in The Breakdown:

  1. Arrange a meeting with everyone in the leadership position of each responsibility in your infrastructure organization.
  2. Clarify for everyone that, we are trying to find needs for the ideal information that everyone would want to have, it can be impossible to even have. It is still good to have it on a list.
  3. Start from the responsibilities at the end of the work process and ask “If you would have a button that will give you the information you would want to have in an instant, what would that be?” and list the responses.
  4. Start again from the responsibilities at the end of the work process and ask “What information you get, that is not needed, but you still get it, does anyone other need it?” and list the responses

I want you to share the value I just gave you, share the following phrase.


You want to increase the size of pie? Break down your organization’s hidden needs

The Comparison

So…We have ideal needs mapped out now, some we are able to arrange, many of them requires other organizations to provide for us and there were a couple that could not be solved anyway.

Good, you already started comparing them.

Key here is to go through the whole list and ask following things:
“How much extra time goes if this information is not provided?”

In all of the questions, don’t just think about their work. Think also about synergies with other parts of the lifecycle. Does it help them too?

For those needs that can be arranged:
“How much extra would it cost to provide this information?”

For those needs that need other organization to provide:
“What would be the list of suggested demands for these organizations to provide?”
“How much extra would it cost to provide this information?”

Then reach out to these organizations and find out if this information would be possible to be provided. Remember to give incentive for them to take action on this. (hint: cost-efficiency)

For those that cannot be provided:
“Is there already existing solution to solve that need?”
“Could we set up something that would solve that need?
“How much extra it costs to provide this information?”

Again, there are tons of good solutions out there. Do some digging and see if there would be something that fits your needs.

And for all listed needs:
“How do we provide this information so it is easy to find and to take action?”

There is a reason why I am working for Infrakit. A thick stack of papers, emails and project bank full of files and folders makes things cluttered. A only small portion of that information is used efficiently. You need to think how this information is distributed to everyone who needs it can find it with ease.

Don’t worry if you can’t get clear estimations to fill in your list when comparing. Even if you can’t give estimations for each comparison, keep it in the list still. Now we are still assuming the value vs cost. Next step will help you with that, The Correction.

Things to do in The Comparison:

  1. Sort needs into three categories: Can provide, Need outsider to provide, Cannot provide
  2. Can provide, compare cost vs benefit
  3. Need outsider to provide, reach out, give the incentive to provide, compare cost vs benefit
  4. Cannot provide, do some digging, see if it can be solved anyway possible, compare cost vs benefit.

 


We have ideal needs, some are able to arrange, many of them require other organizations to provide and some we think we cannot solve anyway. Think again

The Correction

So we have figured out each and everyone’s ideal needs in our organization’s work. We have compared the benefits and costs, send messages to outside providers, dug and researched and got solved many of our needs. Some were clear needs with a big benefit. Some were vague, and for some, we couldn’t even give an estimation.

Now is the time to put real numbers overestimations.

How are we going to do that?

In-action, in real work and in real projects.

What I suggest is the following:

Those that had a clear benefit, you can implement it immediately on all projects. For those that had vague cost vs benefit or some that we couldn’t give a proper estimation, I recommend more caution.

Firstly, profitable needs.
Even if we all think we will get benefit out of it, it is still worthy of a correction. A good example is machine guidance systems. The common opinion goes something like this “It is effective and good ONLY FOR big projects.”

Some companies use it only for big virgin ground projects while others use it even in old urban renewal projects or to build foundations for the single house. Why?

Well, if we measure the benefit of machine guidance more accurately and support their work with better information, we may find out that we get more out of it than we expected and it could be beneficial to build house foundations as well.

How do we measure it?

Simple. Set a fixed time period, let’s say a month (160h). How many hours did it save for all the people who handled the new information?

Now I am confused. You have been talking about information management, but you gave example on how to measure tools?

No. I want you to compare the new information and how much it saves money vs costs money.

But, while we talk about the tools, I want to remind you of what I said earlier:
“Tools will bring the value, but you are not able to utilize tools into maximum efficiency. If you don’t manage the information, your usage of tools doesn’t benefit everything that it ideally could.”

This comparison method works well on tools as well, but most crucial part is information and how we can support tools with this information or is that information even enough value to provide?

There often is information that we need to fill or deliver, even if it doesn’t really provide any value to anyone. You should question this and ask what for from them who are requesting it. Again incentive is important to use. How much does it save in time/cost?

After the saved hours are written down, put a price tag on each hour and compare the cost vs benefit.

Got my point?
Excellent!

Now to the needs with vague & no idea cost vs benefit estimations.

There is no reason to go full on and provide all needs. All needs are not equal. After all the bottom line only matters.

As I described for the clear ones, use the same method of comparing total work hours to saved hours to get the correct value for each need.

WAIT!

But test and measure these only on single projects to keep risks low. Take some needs that don’t have very reliable cost vs benefit estimations for a single project, test it out, measure and after that, you will know better.

Still not done.

It is also important to take a note on project scope and type for the estimation. There is no universal formula for that, you need to test that out yourself. Some tools are more effective at virgin grounds and others at urban renewal projects.

If the results look very bad in cost vs benefit comparison, there are couple things you need to ask before dropping those needs from the list:
“Was there other reasons that affected to the bad performance?”
“Was the information easy to take to the work site and was it used well? If not, why?”

If needs with vague estimations come positively affecting the bottom line, then you can implement it for all that type of projects. You can also test it in more demanding types if it has potential in there also.

We have thousands of moving variables in the projects and getting “true” value is impossible. We cannot only look at the numbers, we need to also understand the meaning behind the value.

Things to do in The Correction:

  1. Take needs into the real projects.
  2. Provide needs with clear cost vs benefit in all projects, measure still to see the full potential of them.
  3. Provide needs with vague cost vs benefit in a few projects, measure them.

 


We have thousands of moving variables in the infrastructure projects and to get the “true” value of a tool is impossible. We cannot only look at the numbers, we need to also understand the meaning behind the value.

Last step! The Iteration

This may be the most important part of all because it is connected to all previous parts.

As we humans don’t have a memory of an elephant, not all needs, ideas and improvements get discovered in a single meeting and a couple of projects.

Also, infra construction industry keeps developing and evolving. The demands and competition in our industry keep evolving as well.

To stay sharp, you always need to keep moving forward.

Let’s say you have done your homework, made a meeting, collected the needs, the value compared them, tested the estimations and fixed the needs. How about in the future?

Well, we do this again when needed to.

That’s a good start, but let me suggest something better.

This type of processes is in my opinion too heavy and wasteful if repeated only once a year. Also, it would not give the full benefit. I would recommend the more on-going process.

Too heavy to do once a year and you suggest more often?

What I am suggesting is that you run this full process through once and include parts of this at the post-project evaluation meetings.

At the post-project evaluation meetings I want you to:

  1. Ask new needs that have come up during the project
  2. Time savings on each need that was tested

This way, you can keep your processes most effective at all times as each project is another iteration and improvement.

This on-going model has one lacking side. Office & management. For them, I recommend to add needs to the list when they arise and once a year run the Jero’s SASI solution through fully.

Makes sense?
Great!

Wait for a second Jero…Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible solution. I really like it, but how am I going to get everyone to read the 4000-word long document to get them invested in this type of approach?

How it would look now:

The Breakdown:

  1. Arrange a meeting with everyone in the leadership position of each responsibility in your infrastructure organization.
  2. Clarify for everyone that, we are trying to find needs for the ideal information that everyone would want to have, it can be impossible to even have. It is still good to have it on a list.
  3. Start from the responsibilities at the end of the work process and ask “If you would have a button that will give you the information you would want to have in an instant, what would that be?” and list the responses.

The Comparison:

  1. Sort needs into three categories: Can provide, Need outsider to provide, Cannot provide
  2. Can provide, compare cost vs benefit
  3. Need outsider to provide, reach out, give the incentive to provide, compare cost vs benefit
  4. Cannot provide, do some digging, see if it can be solved anyway possible, compare cost vs benefit.

The Correction:

  1. Provide needs with clear cost vs benefit in all projects, measure still to see the full potential of them.
  2. Provide needs with vague cost vs benefit in a few projects, measure them.

9 simple steps.
One 2 hours long meeting for breakdown & estimations
At the end of projects, 15min for new needs and corrections.

Does that sound too bad for you to get the most out of your work? Only development leader needs to internalize above, others just follow his lead and suggestions.

 


As we humans don’t have a memory of an elephant, not all needs, ideas and improvements get discovered in a single meeting and couple projects.

Often I get asked: Jero, shouldn’t we first clarify one corner and then move to next?

No. If you move one-by-one, you move so slow that when all “corners” you have solved, there has come 10x more of them.

It is much easier to develop things on need-basis and always ask “Can this be done any smarter?”

So here it is, my precious solution for all solutions in Infraconstruction.

Now after reading the Jero’s SASI solution, I want you to give back to the Infrastructure industry.

  1. Share this article at social media
  2. Leave a comment below and let me know at what company you want to implement this
  3. Join the Infra Pioneer Group so I can help you further!

 

 

See you in Infra Pioneer Group!

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Next articleBIM is THE Future Myth
Infraconstruction industry has been long overdue in lack of R&D. Making construction better, leaner and cheaper is only way forward. Also compared to other industries it is low hanging fruit for innovative personnel, let’s make the change happen!

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