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Construction Design Management: Raising the Technology Bar

The methods and tools used in construction design have evolved considerably over the last 40 years, from the early days of computer-aided design (CAD) to today’s multi-dimensional building information modeling (BIM). In that time, capital projects have matured as well, becoming more technically sophisticated, being subject to stricter standards and involving a wider array of materials.

Interestingly, these developments have highlighted some of the challenges design has typically encountered. And those challenges involve how the design process itself has been managed.

 

Construction design management challenges impacting project outcomes

  • Inability to accurately track design status and progress. The most common method used today to manage design activity is computer spreadsheets — which can be problematic because they’re typically inefficient at managing large amounts of information or multiple versions of documents simultaneously. They’re also not scalable enough for massive projects and lack real-time updates on relevant project information — including budget changes and schedule delays.
  • Limited stakeholder visibility, if any, into that status. Despite the demand for transparency, stakeholders often don’t know when work began or finished on their aspect of the project – let alone what stage of completion they’re at compared to others’ efforts. In addition, because each team works independently there’s no way for them to synchronize their efforts into one cohesive whole toward successful execution of the project.
  • Incomplete design documentation. A thorough and complete set of drawings and specification sheets should be prepared for every project — but too often it isn’t or doesn’t meet required or expected standards. This can lead to problems later in construction when important details are missing or misunderstood by contractors or subcontractors.
  • Siloed work that ultimately misaligns with construction’s work and progress. It’s not uncommon for these teams to be working on separate tracks without communicating as much as they should be. This can lead to misalignment among teams who don’t understand how their work affects others or how other team members can help them complete their tasks more efficiently. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough communication and collaboration between them when it comes to sharing information about their respective tasks or priorities. Add to that there are no established methods for managing this relationship effectively.
  • Poor communication with construction and the project owner. They are all challenged by one key issue: poor communication between parties involved in the process. This can result in documentation issues at handover, confusion over material specs, or delays in decision-making, which can cause problems down the road when changes are required during construction.

 

What is needed to solve for these design management challenges

  • Being able to monitor, forecast, schedule and budget with precision and certainty. It’s essential to monitor progress throughout the life cycle of your project’s design phase and even after construction has begun. There are always new factors to consider that affect material quantities ordered by procurement, resource reallocation by project managers, work performed by construction and the design data used for future projects.
  • Organizing the design process into more manageable and trackable task groups. Similar to the concept of advanced work packaging (AWP), this would ensure each group knows exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it — the steps involved in producing specific drawings and models — in order to complete their part of the project successfully.
  • Incorporating real-time data from performance metrics to track and verify design progress. Design seems to have been the last holdout when it comes to measuring performance within project functions. Integrating earned value management (EVM) metrics into the design process would provide transparency not only into design progress but the impact of design changes on cost and schedule performance.
  • Opening up visibility into that design progress through proactive and accessible reporting. Using the performance metrics above would keep project teams and stakeholders up to date, helping foster communication and collaboration as business functions become even more interconnected with larger, more complex projects.
  • Ability to forecast impact of developments within design. Forecasting would provide insight into what effect design modifications would have on costs, schedules and even quality control. Without guessing at what might happen, it would be possible to make informed decisions before they become problems later on down the line.

 

How advanced technology is responding to this need

Technology like InEight design management is emerging to ensure design can achieve the same levels of efficiency within today’s capital projects as other key construction functions such as estimating, scheduling and commissioning. The software is designed to raise the bar on construction design management, bringing it in alignment with how those other processes are administered. And it’s helping take some of the burden off the shoulders of design managers. What follows are some of the key capabilities.

  • Delivering real-time updates on design status
  • Providing access and transparency into not only design progress, but how changing design quantities impact construction delivery
  • Mapping design quantity forecasting to construction timelines and budgets
  • Enabling better control over design scope and the ability to allocate resources, giving more predictability over design deliverable completion
  • Ultimately reducing the unexpected negative effects on the overall project and scope
  • Promoting alignment with construction team so project outcomes can be achieved within budget and schedule
  • Driving communication and collaboration between design and construction that today’s capital projects depend on

Ready to change the way you plan and manage the design process? We’re happy to take you through a demo of this new solution.

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