Tag Archives: BIM

Imagine Integration

Speed to Market

How to Achieve the Results You Want, The Way You Want.

Picture This. The smell of coffee fills the air, you grab a seat in a room full of energized people talking excitedly among themselves


  • To the left is your team — your departments of:
  • Architecture
  • Purchasing
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Who are sitting down & communicating with your:
  • Architectural Designers
  • Structural Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Framing
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Energy Experts

Their main objective? Your Success. All these people are assembled here to help you complete your project faster than ever before, while at the same time lowering costs and improving accuracy.

This is Integration, at its finest. But is this even an option? YES. Not only is it possible, the Home Building Industry is finally catching on to this prosperous way of doing business and completing projects. It is called Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD. Coined in 2007 by the AIA California Council http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_project_delivery

IPD, is a results-driven collaboration between all people, processes, and technology. It increases velocity, reduces waste, and maximizes efficiency — the goal is achieving overall project SUCCESS. The people in this meeting make up your IPD dream-team.

They will take you through all of the phases of design, documentation, and final construction.

The results you can expect:

  1. INCREASED VELOCITY: Working collaboratively over the next several months, they will shave weeks/months off of your time-to-market schedule (refer to image).
  2. LOWER COSTS: Your IPD team will substantially reduce costs and improve efficacy by evaluating and perfecting the product development and delivery.
  3. IMPROVED QUALITY: Working together during all stages will ensure an end-product that is higher in quality & accuracy — a product with hardly any error.

So why is IPD important, and what are we currently doing wrong? For the past 50 years, most builders have adopted an ‘a la carte’ method to their home building process —choosing several different companies to complete the different processes, creating a hodge-podge team of different vendors instead of one team (IPD) that works on everything together. What results is a plethora of errors — multiple points of contact and a continuous back-and-forth of communication. Think of the game “telephone” — somehow the message always seems to get messed up. The costs increase, the deadlines change, and a good flow of overall efficiency is lost. Quality and accuracy is on the way out the door, too. And ultimately, the worst potential outcome is a poorly executed product and an unsatisfied home buyer.

Here is an example of an agenda for an IPD-managed project:

  1. Develop Project Agenda
  2. Set Main Project Goals
  3. Set Desired Project Targets
  4. Outline Project Milestones
  5. Create Project Checklists

Just imagine this integration taking place in your company, with your team, right now. This is the quiet revolution that is taking place in the Home Building Industry today, and yes, we at The Contrado Group are at the forefront. 20 years of industry experience has taught us how to embrace the process of integration to achieve the results that our builders want, when they want them.

Declare Independence from Tradition!

Embracing 21st Century Technology in our 20th Century Industry
(Or, why we do things differently at Contrado)

Thomas Jefferson once said that he liked “the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He knew what they needed: independence from traditional political, economic, and religious oppression. By writing the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, he was expressing the convictions that were in the hearts of the American people – the need for change.

1.  Understand that People Are Afraid of Change. When was the last time you changed the course that you were on? “Change” is a broad word that we can apply to many different things
 a birth, a loss, a move, a new opinion, a new job. But ultimately it is a departure from tradition – which leads to a new way of doing things. For example, the change our nation went through during the 1700’s, despite being fought by many, led to a whole new world of possibilities and fresh starts. Regardless, change usually freaks us out. Whether it’s Good Change or Bad Change, we as humans are naturally afraid of the unknown. We fear failure. We feel doubtful about the possible outcomes. But we have to remember we always have options, and we can always CHANGE the outcomes. You don’t have to settle. “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama

2.  Understand the Technology. If we think of change as a software upgrade, what software are you in need of, right now? Do you need better online engagement with prospects, for example? Do you need to build more homes with limited resources? Do you need better software to help you meet your customer’s exact needs? If you don’t know, evaluate what isn’t working. Then inform yourself!  You can start by asking the question, what are the best tools out there for what I need right now? If you go beyond word-of-mouth and previous methods into the world of uncovering the new, you will find services, systems, software, companies, and tools that you have never even heard of (like Contrado’s new HTML5 Interactive Floor Plan system!). What are today’s game-changers? Incorporating iPad technology into their homes? Making it easier for you to do your job? Building homes in half the time? You will be surprised at how much newness is flooding the industry.

3.  Understand that nothing will change unless you Try Something New. Times they are a-changin’! We are living in an exciting time where technology seems to be accelerating at the speed of light, and we will be left in the dark if we don’t try to keep up. In other words: have you ever heard someone say that the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results’? Trying new things can be scary folks, but how can you improve without even a little bit of change? Traditional tactics in the Revolutionary War ultimately failed the British; the revolutionaries were outnumbered, so they developed guerilla warfare to outmaneuver their red-coated opponents. They were forced to innovate the way they battled – thinking differently, operating more efficiently, using what they had and just going with it – which led them to victory.

You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  So if after all of this you don’t do it for you, do it for our Founding Fathers!

The Independence Equilibrium

How to Find the Right Balance in the Home-Building Industry

With our most celebrated national holiday upon us, we at The Contrado Group have been thinking about Independence quite a bit lately. Yes, we’ve also been looking forward to breaking out the BBQ, floating around on that unused raft, and maybe even playing with some fireworks. We will be celebrating our country’s Day of Independence – the day our Founding Fathers came together and drafted a revolutionary document declaring our freedom and our independence from our British ancestors. So we asked: what does that have to do with us in the home-building industry? How can we apply such a monumental moment in history to us? And most importantly, how do we find the right balance that will enhance efficiency for all?

First, we must acknowledge that Independence Inevitably Leads to Innovation. In embracing your individuality as a company (or as a person, for that matter), you will be surprised at how many new ideas you have and how much new material you can actually create. Take our Founding Fathers for example. Not only did they fight in an actual decade-long war for their freedoms, but after their triumphant victory they created the “Declaration of Independence,” they established the US Constitution (“We the People”), and in general had a pretty successful American Revolution. They were pioneers. In declaring Independence like they did, you are virtually breaking through the old dysfunctional way of doing things, and embracing change and newness as your Modus Operandi. And the final objective? Self-sufficiency
 on your terms. This is the bread and butter of the American Dream and of what being successful means in our society today, applicable to both to the individual and the organization.

Second, we must recognize that Independence ≠ Isolation. Think of our industry as an ecosystem. Each member contributes to the overall operational efficiency of the system, which as it turns out, is paramount for saving time and money and for producing the best results. Who does your architectural planning, drawings, & renderings? Who does your marketing, and your selling?  You may need to re-evaluate your game plan. Being over-independent often results in the dreaded Silo-Effect (dun dun dunnnnnnn!): operating in isolation. This leads to little/no communication and an almost guaranteed increased inefficiency. In most of these all-too-similar cases, being over-independent indirectly cuts you off from valuable resources and other members of our “ecosystem,” who are there to give feedback, bounce new ideas off of, and in essence help you grow.

So, how do we find the Independence Equilibrium?

  1. INNOVATE: We must create space for the innovation that independence breeds. Within your company’s means, ask yourself what you can do differently to maximize operational efficiency.
  2. COLLABORATE: We must find the Pioneers, the Innovators, and the Front-Runners and we must collaborate with them. Outsourcing key parts of our processes, people, and technologies to these guys will yield better results than trying to figure it out on our own – one-stop-shops and multi-taskers welcome!
  3. NETWORK: We must keep in constant contact with the members of our ecosystem, the other home-building industry professionals. There is a big chance they might have the solution you are looking for.
  4. EMBRACE CHANGE: We must declare our Independence from the old dysfunction! The plus side for home-building professionals? We don’t need to fight a 10-year war and risk death for our revolution.

Bounty Towels & Building Homes

What can we learn from the retail industry and apply to building homes?

What’s in a bar code?

We may not wonder any more why bar codes are on packaging as we shop at a store, but in reality this way of information tracking is relatively new.  In June of 1974, the first U.P.C. scanner was installed at a Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The first product to have a bar code included was a packet of Wrigley’s gum.

The process is relatively simple, in that an optical reader device scans an item and the associative data is then pass onto the logistical parties in order to keep the store shelves filled. However, having proper formatting of data and agreed upon industry standards took some 20+ years. What retailers soon discovered, is that the more integrated their supply chains were with information, the less errors were experienced, quicker fulfillment times of orders occurred, and less man-hours incurred per dollar of revenue was achieved. In other words, they developed a very highly efficient supply chain model with a single pull-through triggering mechanism, that being the bar code.

 

Single Trigger Event Pull-Through Model for Retailers

Consolidation of Retailers In The 1980′s

As we entered the second decade of bar code scanning and single trigger envent tracking, Walmart had revenues of 1 billion, and 276 outlets in 11 states. Today, Walmart has sales of $421 billion and 8,970 locations worldwide. This type of unprecidented growth came from geographical expansion, and at the expense of smaller retailers that were not able to track their sales as efficiently. Mass retailers such as Walgreens and Target, realized the power of information tracking and automating their processes with Electronic Data Exchanges (EDI) in order to conduct more transactions with less resources.  In fact, the reality is that we are able to sustain a standard of living much higher than pre-1980′s due to a highly mechanized means of delivering products to market.

Measuring Productivity of the Construction Industry*

The productivity of the construction industry, as measured by constant contract dollars of new construction work per hourly work hour, has gradually declined (with some modest exceptions) over the past 40 years at an average compound rate of -0.59%/year (see Figure 1). This is particularly alarming when compared to the increasing labor productivity in all non-farm industries, which have experienced an increasing productivity of 1.77%/year over the same time period. Over the past decade, this trend has slightly improved but the decline in construction labor productivity relative to the rest of the industry has continued.

This is a serious problem which indicates that over the past 40 years, construction projects have required significantly more field work hours per dollar of contract. In other words, the construction industry seriously lags other industries in developing and applying labor saving ideas and in finding ways to substitute equipment for labor. While there are a number of construction tasks that have been made more productive through the use of labor saving equipment, it is clear that, looking at the whole industry, there is a significant productivity problem. Why is this the case and what can be done about it? First, let’s review the productivity data shown in Figure 1.   (read more)

Figure 1. Labor productivity index for US construction industry and all non-farm industries from 1964 through 2003.

*From: Labor Productivity Declines in the Construction Industry: Causes and Remedies, Paul Teicholz, Ph.D. Professor (Research) Emeritus, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Where is The Single Trigger Event (Bar Codes) for Home Building?

Now, the next question is where is my bar code for building the home? If that’s your question, then we’re beginning to make great strides into the next evolution of building homes. This would not have been possible if it were not for the advent of just a few key ingrediants:

  • Internet
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM)
  • Application Programming Interface (API)
  • Web Based Store Front

The model is relatively simple, in that all information for building the home must be linked to any and all retail areas for a home builder. This means that data that is incurred in the design process must be associated with the builder’s marketing materials on the web (ie store front). Think of it if you will, the home builder’s web site is their retail store and that any purchasing activities will need to be done in their store. Once a customer buys the product, then the needed data is then exported through API’s into the appropriate areas to fulfill the transaction.

This model does not mean that builders are  going to do away with sales agents, models, and other traditional areas of home building. What is does mean, is that the information that is developed from Building Information Modeling (BIM), can now be linked to web-based interfaces such as floor plan options, Sales CRM, builders suppliers, and others. The single trigger event pull-through strategy (ie bar code), allows for all transactions to be interconnected with each other only if the event occurs. So in doing so, information flows according to Figure 2.

ï»żFigure 2 – Purchase of a home and affiliated options triggered by customer, allows for pulling through of labor and materials with information created up stream in the design stage with BIM through the supply chain network.

In summary, we are in the midst of the most exciting times for home building in the  history of the United States. We are being confronted with razor thin profit margins in a time that productivity is at rock bottom. In order to deal with single digit profit margins and high Sales General and Administration (S G & A) costs, we must automate our processes. This can be done with coordination of both design and material specifications through BIM. Once the data is formatted, it can then be passed to a builder’s admin system for both material and labor pricing and scheduling to construct a home. Of course, this transaction gets triggered by the online selection process by a home owner either with a designer and/or sales agent. Once we begin to emulate other industry’s ways to improve productivity, then we’ll see better profit margins in the future of home building. The future is bright!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfection vs. Excellence

Learning About The Process Of Integration – Witnessing Perfection

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing” – Harriet Beryl Braiker

jordan final shot

Jordan's Final Shot

Do you remember Michael Jordan’s last shot against the Utah Jazz in 1998 that clinched the championship? Certainly, this was a brief moment of perfection in the making.

As we are continuing our efforts to integrate a very fragmented construction process with our task force, we are reminded about our end goal. That is to achieve a process that aligns all party’s interests, that will enable the dissemination of information to trades, builders, manufacturers, distributors, and the market in such a manner that has these three key areas realized:

  • Velocity – speed to market in such a fashion that unit pricing coincides with energy rating and market demand
  • Accuracy – that the market research through online analytics supports justification of new floor plans to go to market and to have accurate construction documents that reduces material waste and field errors
  • Results – that key performance metrics are met.

This reminds me of what it takes for the likes of a Michael Jordan to achieve such greatness as an athlete. For he certainly needed to be fast, accurate, and score points for his team to be victorious. However, I don’t believe there was a day in his career that he felt he had reached perfection. As should we all be constantly willing to pay the price of practice, work, research, risk, or any other element to push the envelop of constant improvement in our lives.

For me, I believe we can witness and/or attain perfection but for a moment. This is what I believe the difference is between excellence and perfection. It is the love of our trade, craft, profession, sport, relationships, and any other areas in our lives that allows us to endure the pain associated with the attainment of goals. These goals are often associated with excellence as defined by constant improvement and the disdain for mediocrity.

On that note, here’s a great clip that shows Brad Pit catching a fish in a near impossible situation. His (character’s) love and dedication of the sport allowed him to be in that very brief moment of perfection:

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