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The Changing Face of
Design Management

I have been reminiscing about the last 25-30 years of my career in design now that I am in a solution engineering role. It is interesting to see how much has changed over time and how much has stayed the same. I remember starting in the late eighties working on a drawing board in an office full of other designers with their set squares and compasses. There was a certain style and individuality about technical drawing in those days — I always knew when my drafting lead had drawn something; his writing had the perfect slant, and I could never match it.

Then in the nineties, we moved into the electronic age, and I had to work out this “CAD thing” — Computer Aided Design it was called. Creating 2D drawings, without having to use an eraser when something did not quite work was fantastic. My drawings never looked better. Then came the fun of 3D modeling and being able to draw something once and letting the computer work out what the 2D views would look like. I thought that would be the end of major changes, but then came building information modeling (BIM), digital engineering, Digital Twins and now we even talk about the Digital Thread. Everything now revolves around data and drawings have almost become a by-product.

Design management

One thing that has never seemed to change is the way we plan, estimate and track our designs. Aside from moving from paper to an electronic spreadsheet version of planning, the process is still the same and the challenges are still the same. The design manager and discipline leads work out what drawings, documentation and reports are needed. They then allocate hours to them as deliverables and then add in the design phases for issue with some planned dates. These vary from project to project but are essentially based on 30%/60%/90% then sent for construction at 100%. So, even though design tools have evolved over the years to help deliver designs with more accuracy, speed, and with more external collaboration than ever before, the way we plan has all the same challenges that we had 30 years ago.

 

Major Historical Challenges in Design Management

Some of the key challenges that we have always had when planning the design phase of projects include:

  • How much time to allocate to deliverables
  • Resource planning
  • Tracking of design progress
  • Sharing of information around design progress
  • Progress payments for design completion

How many hours to be allocated for a drawing should be a simple exercise. However, consider the engineering, design, drafting and checking hours — and all the collaboration required. We tend to go for a blanket set of hours across all drawings due to the difficulty in working out what is really needed and not having an easy way to see historical results.

Although a resource person such as a designer is added to a deliverable, the actual resource usually lives in a different scheduling system for the planner to allocate. This makes resource planning difficult for the design manager as nothing is linked or connected.

The tracking of design progress has always been a bit of a “black art,” with only the people closest to it really knowing what the true progress is. Throw into the mix 3D modeling, and this becomes an absolute art form that is nigh-on impossible to follow. I remember when I was managing a drawing office 10 or so years ago and my engineering manager posing me this question: “How can we possibly track where design is up to when all the work is done in a 3D model, and drawings are produced at the end?” This is a really good question and one that actually brought on the concept of model reviews.

The sharing of design progress with others outside of the design team, especially within construction, has always been sparse. The deliverables spreadsheet run by the design manager was always kept within close quarters to prevent others from accidentally making a potential mess of it. If dates for design completion moved out, the construction team tended to be the last to find out, meaning that the compressed time of project delivery hit construction the hardest. This caused delays, cost blow-outs, scheduling issues and more.

And when it comes to getting paid, well, that was always an issue. Design teams used to get paid at the end of the project, meaning that cashflow could be a major problem along the way. Imagine working on a large infrastructure project and not getting paid until the end? Due to this situation, design consultants now try to get paid as they hit the various design phases. But to be able to be paid on time, these phases need to be tracked, audited and provable.

 

The Solution to Design Management Challenges

So, after all these years, has anything really changed? Has anyone worked out how to resolve the design management conundrum? I am happy to say “yes!” Enter InEight with their new offering, InEight Design.

Following their success with project controls for construction, InEight has utilized this same methodology in the InEight Design solution. This bridges the design management gap within the project life cycle, solving many of the challenges we have faced for so many years. The results?

Excel deliverables spreadsheets — gone.

Resource allocations — connected.

Progress tracking and payment claims — solved.

An integrated deliverables scope list now allows a design manager to plan the project and allocate resources to tasks. Each scope item can be considered as a drawing set that has step values associated with it. The beauty of the step concept is that the steps are the tasks required to complete the deliverable. These can be 3D model or drawing creation, plus checking and everything in between. The steps can even be allocated to the different resources.

Suddenly, now I can track the progress of that pesky 3D model that was problematic for so many years. We can also link the design phase milestones into the claiming scheme so that the design team can claim payment at the right time and do so quickly with auditability — meaning that any cashflow risk is being mitigated.

 

Looking Toward the Future

Because InEight has a comprehensive permission structure within its connected environment, the design manager can now share the deliverables list freely with all stakeholders, including the status of the entire design package. This can be through InEight Design or its native connections to the dashboarding and reporting functionality tools. Yes, the project manager can finally report on design progress in the same way as the rest of the project. And earned value management has finally become a reality as hours, cost and completion are monitored.

Even with the extensive design management functionality, there is still more. It’s something I had never really thought about too much before; design quantity forecasting. This forecasting revolves around the concept of material quantities and takeoffs changing as design progresses through its different phases.

As an example: If we originally plan for 200m of pipework at the start of design, this is what the construction team plans to procure and schedules for being laid. But what happens if the design changes, meaning the route of piping moves, and maybe the quantity increases to 300m? Normally, the construction team is still only aware of the original plan or the need to spot the changes as they review drawings. This can have a profound effect on schedule and cost in construction.

With InEight Design, however, these changes can be captured and mapped to the relevant phases, enabling everyone on the project team — including construction — to see the updates and manage any risk much easier. The final piece of the puzzle is that field information can also be fed back into the solution automatically, showing what the “actual” quantities were after construction. This can be  very valuable data for use on future projects and estimates.

True project controls for the design phase — who would have imagined that 30 years ago? This advancement brings design and construction management together in a connected environment like never before. Design teams will no longer be hiding things from construction. Instead, they will be collaborating and working together as one, true team.

Ready to take a deeper dive? InEight can help get your projects where they need to go and help you create a solution that matches your needs while leveraging your teams’ existing strengths. Let us show you how.

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