In the review process, Products A and B were reviewed for their scope and functionality. This provided an insight into the background, scope, functionality and other details of each application and helped to capture key company (ASP) and product-specific information. The next section gives a brief overview of Products A and B and illustrates with an example, the impact of these on traditional construction processes.
Product A overview
Product A is an online project collaboration tool with the help of which construction industry professionals can collaborate with other project partners using Web technologies during construction projects. It enables online exchange of information and documents between construction project partners, including concept drawings, specifications, feasibility studies, detailed design drawings, fabrication drawings, structural design drawings, Operations and Maintenance (O & M) documents and Health and Safety (H & S) records, among others. Product A generates a permanent database of all project information and documents including drawings, revisions, comments made to prompt such revisions, documents, meeting minutes, progress on site, site photographs and all other project related data.
Using Product A, members of the construction supply chain can communicate and archive information (records of what was done, when, by whom, etc.) throughout the lifecycle of a construction project.
Impact of Product A on the traditional process
This section examines the impact of Product A on traditional construction processes. It does so through an example of the typical processes between an architect’s office and the structural design office (see Figure 3.5). For a given construction project, typically the architect prepares sketch design drawings using client’s brief, project specifications and other relevant documents. Paper copies of these documents are filed in the architect’s project file and also posted to the structural design office.
On receipt of the design information (e.g. design drawings and related documents) from the architects office, the structural engineer prepares structural design drawings, prints copies of these, files a completed drawing
set for record and posts the revised/new set io the architect’s office for comments/approval. These structural design drawings are stamped on receipt and then viewed. If the structural drawings are satisfactory ihey are accepted and the process can move to the next level (i.e. the preparation of detail drawings). If, however, comments are added and
changes suggested, then copies of the redlined documents are maintained for record purposes and also sent to the structural design office for corrections or modifications. This process is iterative and is repeated till the design is finalized. Similar iterations are involved in the processes between the structural design office and steelwork fabricator. The resulting process is, thus, complex and time-consuming. Also, reliance on third party services (such as postal, courier services, etc.) results in delays and affects the overall project cost, timescale and budget.
This kind of one-to-one correspondence between different project stakeholders makes the project communication network very complex and protracted.
Using Product a the traditional process can be cut down considerably. Project drawings and documents can be uploaded onto the main server, where a permanent/secure database of project information is maintained.
Relevant construction disciplines can then be automatically (and instantly) notified and invited to online discussions, commenting online or responding to comments made by others. The resulting process (as demonstrated in Figure 3.6), while being much more efficient, can provide financial and time benefits to its end-users. A study carried out by
an international construction management and consulting firm indicated that using Product A their firm had achieved approximately 2% savings in printing and postage costs for a €5 million construction project.
Product B overview
Product B is an Internet-based supply chain solution for trading and material procurement. Trading processes such as sourcing, procurement and administration of plants and materials are automated. Using Product B, documents such as purchase orders, invoices and dispatch notes, can be exchanged online between different supply chain partner applications within a secure environment. It provides back office integration with bespoke applications used by different members of the construction supply chain. Also, different applications using different document formats
use the central database to send and receive trading documents to/from other end-user disciplines. The central database converts the data into the data formats of the sender or receiver, to enable seamless document
exchange across end-user disciplines.
Impact of Product B on the traditional process
A typical materials ordering cycle using traditional methods, involves the main contractor sending out a paper-based Purchase Order to the materials supplier. On receipt of the Purchase Order, the materials supplier acknowledges the order, creates an invoice manually and posts a printed copy of the paper invoice to the main contractor. On receipt of the invoice, the main contractor would stamp a date of receipt. The invoice would be then checked against the Purchase Order details and goods received. If the contractor is satisfied with the goods received a payment
is made and the invoice filed away. This traditional trading cycle involves several intermediary processes or layers. Figure 3.7 illustrates the various processes involved at the sender and receiver-end of the trading cycle.
Using Product B, the traditional trading process can be considerably simplified either by removal, modification or substitution of intermediary processes with new processes. Using this application the sender can create an electronic invoice and transfer it via the Internet to the receiver.
Given the electronic nature of the invoice, no time is wasted in re-keying data or filing the invoice. This simplified trading process also cuts out the need to print and post paper copies of the trading documents. The resulting process, as illustrated in Figure 3.8, has benefits in terms of time, money and efficiency. A survey carried out by a leading finance corporation to measure the cost benefits of using Product B showed savings of over 60% on invoice processing. This same survey also showed that while the traditional construction trading cycle takes eight days (from creating invoices to making final payments and filing), using Product B it takes four days for the same trading cycle. Thus a reduction in the cycle time by half and an overall cost reduction of more than half that of the traditional
cost can be achieved.