Earned Value Tracking has become the standard method in the construction industry to measure a project’s progress at any given point in time, forecast its completion date and final cost, and analyze the schedule and budget variances as the project proceeds. On the Seattle Life Science Building - a 13-story project comprising 345,000+ sq. Ft of office and lab space - McKinstry was tracking earned value through a 2D-based drawing solution, which was time-consuming and inaccurate. One lab floor had 47 tons of ductwork and 5.5 miles of piping, so tracking the installed progress was a cumbersome task.
On the Life Science Building, the project team at McKinstry wanted to track sheet metal using pounds, using linear feet to track plumbing and piping. The team would manually highlight and mark up a drawing in the field, and then manually take-off the drawing in the office. The results were inaccurate for multiple reasons. For vertical distance, the team was pretty much guessing when using the 2D drawings. They had to plug in a number whenever there was a drop, which was not a precise way to measure installation since not all drops were the same depth. There was also a lot of up and down movement throughout the floor, with layers of overlapping ductwork.
Because of the complexity of the project, there were 12 drawings per floor. Trying to figure out and trace the installation of pieces was difficult because of the drawings’ overlapping systems. Another major problem was the inability of the team to compare the numbers to budget, since the budget numbers from the estimating team came in pounds, and the 2D take-off only provided linear feet. There was no way for the project team to determine if the budget was in line with the actual numbers.
Assemble was implemented halfway through the project, allowing the team to compare the original method to the new and more efficient way of tracking progress with Assemble. To apply the improved method of tracking Earned Value, the McKinstry team started by publishing the CAD model to Assemble Systems’ cloud-based solution.
After quickly grouping and sorting model objects, including the associated metadata, by systems, the team was able to get a clear picture of the project. Assemble allowed McKinstry to create unique views based on each stakeholder’s specific needs, and then further enrich the model by adding information in highly-customizable Assemble properties tying it model objects. Everyone from the office to the field was working off the same data set, which helped eliminate confusion and human error. The field team also found the Assemble mobile app very easy-to-use and highly customizable. Since the iPad was very similar to the core Assemble Insight solution, it was easier for everyone to get up-to-speed quickly.
“I can sort and filter the data from Assemble by installation status and activity IDs in seconds to see quantities installed. With the manual take-off methods, it would take hours, and when we would go back and double-check, the numbers would come out different every time. With Assemble, we have extreme confidence in the number we are reporting,” says Spencer Hobson, Senior Project Engineer at McKinstry.
By using weight in the Assemble model, the team was able to compare the ductwork sizes more accurately. In the old linear feet method, a 6-inch round piece of duct would carry the same value as a 120-by-60 rectangular ductwork, even though it should be measured differently. Once going by weight, each piece of duct shows up as an exact percentage of the floor, resulting in a more accurate progress snapshot.
Earned Value Tracking became a lot easier and more accurate thanks to Assemble. For the first time, the McKinstry project team was able to track the installation in pounds and get an instant comparison to the estimate. Assemble allowed the team to pull directly from CAD, giving every single piece of ductwork an associated weight. Finally, the team had insight into whether the budget was spot on, heavy, or had some breathing room.
“Instead of spending eight hours a week on Earned Value Tracking, we’ve lowered that to four hours,” says Hobson. In addition to 50% time-savings, it has increased data quality by eliminating redundancies in tracking. “We used to say the Earned Value was within 10%, but now it is within 3%.”
“Assemble is a multi-faceted tool that can be used in so many different ways. If you are familiar with pivot tables in Excel, try to visualize Assemble as a pivot table in the 3D environment, it allows you to slice and dice the information however you want, and there is so much flexibility, and countless use cases,” says CJ Best, Director of Manufacturing at McKinstry.
With the improved reporting with Assemble for Earned Value Tracking, McKinstry has increased visibility into project tracking and has deployed it on at least 50% of large-scale projects.