In February 2018, Midlands-based but UK-wide NM Group selected Opentree’s Cabinet engineering document platform. In this guest blog post, head of digital transformation Gary Ross explains why NM Group chose Cabinet.
I have long been frustrated by the time and costs associated with the administration of design files in AutoCAD and Revit. I look at simple tasks and see colleagues expending effort but not creating value. Rarely quantified, commonly unseen losses include:
- Time wasted searching for information
- Time wasted working on out of date information
- Time spent recreating lost information
- Time spent re-entering information already entered
- Costs due to errors or poor quality
- Costs due to lack of quality checks
Reducing ‘unknown losses’
In most businesses, these “unknown losses” are accepted as an almost inevitable part of operating overheads. However, I believe that, if we can create information right first time and then manage it efficiently, we can dramatically reduce these losses.
When I moved to NM Group in late 2016, the business had already started to invest in BIM. NM Group was ambitious about achieving PAS 1192-2 (BIM Level 2) compliance in 2018 and then pushing on ahead of its competitors, but to do so we needed to invest in a properly implemented and compliant ‘common data environment’ (CDE). We did a detailed evaluation of the leading CDE systems and identified Viewpoint for Projects (VFP) as the cloud-based platform most aligned with our aspiration to be data-centric rather than document-centric. However, we recognised that efficient sharing of data across a project team needed to be preceded by efficient internal review, check and approve processes.
While great for design, authoring tools such as Revit still pose considerable challenges when it comes to internal data management and version control. In 2016 I had experienced “a lightbulb moment” when I saw Opentree’s Cabinet. I immediately saw it as the missing link: a platform which could help internally with file-naming, revision management, and checking and approval processes before design information was shared. And it was a real bonus to learn that Cabinet could also be integrated with VFP.
The business case for Cabinet
It has to be said that NM Group have one of the best track records that I’ve known, but I’ve found across my years looking at other companies, big and small, that bad practice is common, simply due to the admin involved in doing it right. My experience from other companies led me to interrogate the “unknown losses” at NM Group, which typically include:
- use of non-standard or incorrect templates for file creation
- poor internal point (P01.1 etc) version control when checking and re-working files
- no cross-company standards for file naming, leading to increased cost of searching for, or losing and having to recreate files
- no single point of truth (it’s not uncommon in our industry to find documents duplicated in up to ten separate locations, with the most current set probably locked in a laptop no-one else can access)
- poor management of drawing title blocks and other file status information
I compiled a business case for Cabinet that showed the total savings in time, reduced errors, reduced risk, and improved accuracy would deliver a return on investment of 10% over the first two years of operation. As part of my documentation, I created a spreadsheet comparing the costs of our current methods with what Cabinet could achieve. Based on managing an average of 520 drawings per calendar month, I calculated an average potential saving of over £14,000 per month. In fact, this was a conservative estimate. Once we factored in similar efficiencies in managing correspondence, reports, specifications and as-builts, the total savings were a real eye opener!
It has to be said that in an average business, with not-so-stringent traditional methods, these numbers would be considerably higher. In a typical company, the savings shift from cutting administration time (I have seen companies where no admin is carried out!) to reducing the risk of having poorly managed documents. How many times have you heard about somebody building to the wrong drawing – how much does that cost?
Cabinet is most effective where our staff create documentation from source. In Nomenca, for instance, our designers will be using Cabinet to ensure:
- files are created using the correct and approved templates
- each checking and re-work iteration is properly and efficiently managed and recorded with an audit trail
- document titles, file names and most importantly metadata are appropriately and automatically updated at each iteration (using point revisions) and that these are recorded visibly should the file be printed.
- at the point of approval and consequent issue, each file is properly quality checked, named and structured to make best use of VFP as it is shared with the wider project teams.
Address your ‘unknown losses’
In a business such as NM Group, Cabinet can and will save precious admin time, and will deliver documents to the supply chain, project peers and customer in a more efficient, qualitative and risk-averse way. This has to be the goal of every construction business. No matter how good your current processes are, Cabinet will make them better and quicker.
If you, like 90% if the industry are in an average company, I promise you that, once you start understanding the unseen or “unknown losses” in your business, then any investment in tools that brings that loss down is a wise one. These losses are never found on timesheets, financial reports, etc, so it does take some soul-searching to discover them, but they will be there.
If nothing else, then Cabinet brings about a culture change – one of the hardest things to implement. It does this in a ‘stick and carrot’ manner that leads people down a path of being better, which rewards each person with trust in their new systems. Confidence in your documents is something you can’t just buy, but Cabinet will help your business to achieve it.