Construction Takes Center Stage

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Industry News
Construction Takes Center Stage
By Susan Smith

Construction is at the heart of two recent product announcements: Intergraph’s SmartPlant Construction for process, power and marine firms to more efficiently plan and manage plant, ship and offshore construction, and the latest version of Autodesk’s Constructware 2010 project management software, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application, designed to provide an on-demand environment for construction project management and collaboration.

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While these products are not alike in their focus or strategy, they share a concern for reducing risk and increasing efficiency and productivity at the construction phase of infrastructure projects. SmartPlant Construction is aimed at plant and process, while Constructware 2010 is geared toward infrastructure of all types.

SmartPlant 3D

At Intergraph 2009 in May, executive vice president, Global Development Development, Process, Power & Marine, Patrick Holcomb talked about how the SmartPlant 3D products have become mature and Intergraph has seen good industry uptakes of the technology. The company has over 250 clients and over 7,000 licenses of SmartPlant 3D.

Features addressed in the version 2009 release included laser scan integration, integration with analysis, and integration with detailing through the CIS 2 standard.

Customers have reported anywhere from 15 to 35% productivity gains, according to Holcomb. “Obviously we had a setback with the global economy turning on us, and what that did is stalled a bunch of new projects,” said Holcomb. “Typically what most of the engineers do is wait for a new project to launch, in fact they wait for new projects even to upgrade. Most of them have internal rules they simply won’t do anything but critical hot fixes during a project.”

Some shifts have occurred since the product was originally built between the years of 2004 and 2008. At that time, Holcomb said there was so much money around, “it really wasn’t about being efficient it was about moving faster. And the market was frothing. One of the benefits of this downturn (we wouldn’t have wished for it), now people are getting much more focused on productivity and competitiveness, so we’re talking to people about cost competitiveness. The importance of that is in order of magnitude higher than it was just a few years ago.”

Holcomb said he believes Intergraph will assume a growth rate that’s more “organic” in nature, “so instead of growing at 20 or 30% maybe we’ll see something that’s more like 10%. That’s a big success for us and in many ways. It’s timed extremely well in that just as our 3D technology is really coming through the early adoption phase, clearing out a lot of the early problems and getting to the very beginning of our maturity just as the world cares about costs and productivity.”

SmartPlant Construction

SmartPlant Construction, a new SmartPlant Enterprise software module created specifically for process, power and marine firms to more efficiently plan and manage plant, ship and offshore construction, is said to foster increased productivity, accelerated project completion, and reduced risk.

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Holcomb described the product as an integration of engineering and construction into a capital facilities delivery group. The product brings together all the engineering, procurement information and scheduling information and letting a construction planner create a real fact based plan.

“Engineers like it because they can make sure they have the right information being planned and the plan is being done precisely right.” Well known is the disconnect between engineers and constructors, “They have all sorts of communication and handover problems which are a function of both the culture and the people issues and physical location, because frequently engineering is not at the site, there are time zone and other problems.”

For AEC professionals, SmartPlant Construction sounds much like building information modeling, and Holcomb agrees that it is a “very similar concept.” “We’ve got interfaces and applications, users screens and reports for constructors and we’ve got product support and interfaces in engineering which are designed to serve the construction process. We spent 2/3 of our total time on integration 1/3 on features and applications for the construction planners themselves,” Holcomb noted. “That’s the level – that’s where the user screens are going to show up in the hands of those who are construction experts.

In terms of implementing a new technology such as SmartPlant Construction during this economic downturn, Holcomb said that one of the challenges is going to be finding a project – “it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a brand new project, but it would need to be something that is not already deep into construction for them to consider using it,” he pointed out. “It’s also a function of just finding the right people, people who are interested in trying something innovative within a company. There’s a lot that goes into piloting it. I think most clients are telling us they’re burning off a lot of backlog there are not a lot of new projects starting. There are a lot of projects, ones that are ongoing and other projects that have just been delayed.”

Because a project is not over after the building is built, SmartPlant Construction will provide a database that can be handed over at the project’s end to Owner Operators to use for its maintenance planning capabilities as it will contain all the technical data with all materials.

Areas where Holcomb sees the economy doing fairly well are in the power industry and nuclear.

Firms that were instrumental in sharing industry best practice work processes to help in the development of SmartPlant Construction include premier partners such as Fluor, Technip, CTCI, Kiewit, Nexen, and URS Washington Division.

Autodesk Constructware 2010

For those who may have broader project management requirements in construction, Autodesk has come released Autodesk Constructware 2010 project management software, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application.

Senior Product Manager, AEC Industry Group, Matt Wheelis, said that Constructware 2010 is geared for building and infrastructure professionals such as contractors, construction managers, program managers, and owners. Some of their plant and process customers, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, use Constructware.

“Because our customers in Constructware typically are not designers, it’s important they are able to review, markup and redline process inputs from a variety of design platforms,” noted Wheelis, “so with upgraded viewing and upload components we can make sure we stay abreast of design technology.”

Constructware 2010 continues to be able to import Navisworks clashes to manage the resolution of the resultant issues. Additionally, Vela Systems Field BIM Software Suite, which integrates with Autodesk Navisworks, has capitalized on Constructware’s data exchange capabilities to track resolution of field issues.

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