In this webinar, you’ll learn how technology solutions are reimagining the way construction teams look at achieving more predictable outcomes while mitigating risk. InEight’s vice president of industry solutions, A.J Waters discusses how easily and accurately data points can be captured on-site and shared with project teams
John Klobucar: Hello, I’m John Klobucar with InEight. I’d like to welcome you to our latest webinar. Today’s presentation is titled, Field Execution with an Eye Towards Risk. If you have any questions as you watch today’s webinar, please enter them in the box marked questions on your screen and we’ll answer them toward the end of our program today. And maybe if we have some that apply to the presentation as we go along, we’ll break in and ask our presenter midflight.
This presentation’s being recorded, and we’ll be sending you a link to the video in about a week’s time. Our presenter today is A.J. Waters, who is Vice President of Industry Solutions at InEight. With more than a decade of construction experience, Waters leads a team of engineers who engage with InEight customers to help them find innovative ways technology can be used to achieve predictable outcomes, improve project performance and minimize risks. Prior to this role, Waters used his construction industry and business knowledge to guide the development of field execution management solutions. Let’s get things started now and turn things over to the biggest Nebraska Cornhusker fan, A.J. Waters.
A.J. Waters: Thanks John. As you can see, I’ve got my husker red on today, so we’re ready to go. So field execution with an eye toward risk. One of the reasons that we chose this tittle, it’s funny. Whether it be in construction or just in general, I’m sure many of us can recall a time where we struggled or had situation where we jumped in and we executed without maybe thinking through all the risks or looking at what could go wrong. John, I’m sure you some examples as well. I know, I have many examples-
John K: I will talk about an experience that I have and it has to do with being a home owner. Often time, I will just say that I am a terrible picture hanger. Sometimes I don’t look at the risks involved before I start trying to hammer nails into my drywall. So, I’m looking at an office right now where I have at home here, a couple of nail holes in the drywall where I didn’t really weigh the risks ahead of time. Analyze the fact I didn’t have the proper drywall nails or those things that go on the wall that will accept the screw and claw into the wall. So because I didn’t look at the risks ahead of time, I ended up with a bad situation with just some nail holes in the drywall. It’s a simple example.
A.J Waters: Bunch of holes. Yep. that’s perfect. Even construction related, which works. Mine’s a little bit different. We’ll go back a little bit further than even this particular house. An instance where what could go wrong maybe wasn’t quite accounted for and we executed or I personally executed on a plan without looking through all the risks. My example goes all the way back to high school. So I played football in high school and I was a wide receiver. And in doing so, we had warm ups before the game, you had to go and catch a pass and bring it back to the quarter back and then the next guy went. It was my turn and for some reason, the quarterback threw, it wasn’t the best ball he’d ever thrown, and it went quite a ways out of bounds. And here I am planning, okay, here’s my problem, I’ve got to go get this ball. I could run after it and pick it up of the ground and walk back or to save time, I might as well catch it.
I’m running for it. I can still catch it, I can get there, so I might as well just catch it. The problem is, in my thought to save time, I didn’t look at the risks and just outside the field was a long jump pit. It was inside the track at our field, not outside. And so looking over my shoulder for that ball, I stepped in the long jump pit and I didn’t see that risk. What that entailed was a broken bone in my foot. You can see the gap there in the far left bone. It was bad enough that it was senior night and I missed the final football game of my senior season, but what’s worse is, typically when you jump in and you try to save time and you want to go execute on something but maybe not looking at all the risks, you have longer term effects. We had a championship basketball season that year and I was on the bench the entire season with a broken foot, so I missed out on that experience.
What we’re going to do today is, we’re going to take some time to look at what InEight is doing and some of the things our software is doing to try to save construction projects from similar fates. From maybe getting out in front with their execution and not getting a look at all the risks. And while the example is more tongue in cheek about what could go wrong in life versus a construction project, we’ll relate construction examples through as we go along.
Our agenda today is to take a look at how InEight products are aligning schedule all the way through to execution, again with that eye toward mitigating risk, to get to a more achievable project delivery date. And we’re going to do that by looking first at driving certainty through execution by looking at your past history. Many of you have experience in this industry that far outweighs even mine and that experience can help you moving forward with your next project. That experience can help you. Maybe you’ve run into these risks before. Maybe you’ve built up projects similar. So why not start with your past in mind instead of starting from scratch. Then from there though, there’s probably others that you can pull expertise from. And so it’s not just about your personal experience and or your history and looking at your past work, but maybe it’s pulling in other key stakeholders that are involved in the project, and how can you solicit their feedback.
And once that plan is fully assembled and those risk are in place and the schedule has been adjusted, how do we take that and use it to leverage on our execution plan? And this is probably going to be the biggest turning point through the presentation, is the integration point between the planning and scheduling and then the planning and execution. That integration is a key win that InEight set out to do. And then finally taking that execution plan and handing it to the crew out in the field or the teams out in the field. How can we get that to them in a consumable way that they can go and execute on the plan against what they need to do.
So without further ado, we’ll go ahead and we’ll drive right in and we’ll talk about starting with the past in mind. So first and foremost, when it comes to planning for projects, typically the planning phase begins as soon as any other phase. In pre-construction, you may have a schedule even before you have an estimate, or you may have a high-level set of milestones before you have a fully defined set of scope. But historically has happened is in that pre construction phase and in that planning phase, traditionally, you’ve had to start from scratch. The traditional CPM schedule starts out looking like this. Somewhat of a blank screen. Maybe you’ve got a template to pull from or a past project that’s somewhat similar but there’s a lot of manual effort that goes through making the adjustments and creating your high level activities or tasks. And so you’ve got to manually get those all punched in to the system. You build out a little bit of sequencing, and then you have a critical path that looks something like this. Obviously it’s not always all red. I’ve zoomed in on just the critical path for this particular schedule.
You work through all the creation of the activities, the creation of the sequencing and you build out some milestones and some critical junctures that you’re going to try to shoot for along the project time line. And once you’re at that point, maybe the next step is to go through and adjust the time scale. Okay, based on the shifts that we plan to work and that the estimating team is using to build out their costs, we might be working six tens or maybe we’re working five tens or maybe we’re skipping holidays, whatever it might be, and you make those adjustments and your schedule starts to shrink or expand a bit. Maybe you have a couple of those different calendars that you’re playing with and trying to understand where the dates are going to be.
Lastly, one of the more robust steps that you might have to do when it comes to the pre-construction phase is maybe resource load that schedule in some sort so that you can see where costs are happening. Where certain resources need to be allocated. What that histogram or that labor curve looks like on the project. And a lot of this was done in a very manual sense with little thought to what you had done in the past or little opportunity to pull from what you have done in the past. So the first thing that InEight schedule set out to do is, instead of building from scratch like this, why not build from experience. And what if the schedule could utilize artificial intelligence based on all of your past history to give you some sort of starting point?
So instead of starting with a blank sheet, maybe you start with a high level set of tasks that look like this, based on the project structure. In this example, I’m going out and I’m going to build a building. And in that building, I know this is going to be three stories. It’s going to take so much time or we have so much allotted time by the client, that’s what they’re shooting for. With the answer of a couple of those questions, do some data mining of our past history and spit out, okay, based on that, here’s a suggested structure for your schedule. Here’s some suggested durations and even some suggested costs on each one of these different items. And so that’s kind of the first step that we set out to solve is, instead of opening up a software and seeing a blank screen, why not open it up, answer a few questions and have the screen be populated.
But it’s not just giving you a starting point, it’s, let’s click on a spot in that schedule and continue to provide more details. So if were to hover over a certain section, not only would I suggest the overall structure, but I could start looking at, okay, what are additional items that we have that are relevant to this? What other subnets could I pull in? What other activities do I have in my history? What have I done before that is somewhat like this? So, instead of just building from nothing, from scratch, you’ve got these suggestions based on that history.
But it goes even one step further. If we’re going to be looking at additional subnets and we’re going to be looking at additional sequencing, well let’s pull those in and take a step from something that looks like this, to something that looks like this. Again with the click of a button we’re jumping from a higher level schedule to, now we’ve got activities with durations, with sequencing. And it’s all based on the history and what you’ve done in the past, that you have utilized all that knowledge to build out your first rough draft of the schedule.
The title of today’s webinar is field execution with an eye toward risk. Up until this point, we’ve just gotten the base line plan. Where does the risk come into play? The same thing that can be said for these different structures and these different work break downs, can be said for the risk. If I come into that same exact schedule and I click on a certain location in the schedule, the data library is going to tell me, based on this particular type of work and this particular section of the schedule in this region or location, here are some risks that you have seen in the past. Here’s the probability of that risk happening. Here is the duration that you would expect that risk to account for. Here is the cost if that data’s available. If the risk isn’t in your table and it’s not something that’s already been alluded to, you might as well add it in there at the bottom and type in your own risks.
One of the projects I was on, our biggest risk was it was in an area where the soil was contaminated. It was an old rail yard. And so some of the risks that we had to account for is, what were we going to find as we dug that hole? It was a stadium. And so there was a ball for the field and we had to dig that down and we couldn’t exactly get rid of the soil. We had to find places to put it on site. So we put it under the stands mostly in this particular stadium.
But if we were to come across something like an old rail car in the soil, that particular item we couldn’t just move that under the stands, it had to be dealt with. And so one of the key risks that we were alluding to was, okay, if we were to hit something like that, what would it entail? How much time would we need to get that rail car out of the ground? What kind of back fill would we need to put back into the hole? What kind of cost would it be for us to get rid of that rail car? Where are going to take it? What are the disposable fees? And then lastly, what’s that do to our duration? If we hit something like that, how does it change our schedule based on trying to fill back in what we were going to hit? And so that was one of the risks we had to add into that schedule.
It’s not just about looking at the risks and having them called out. You want to be able to do something with the risks. And so having the ability to, not data mine the history for your past schedules, but data mine for your past risks, and then create a truly risk adjusted schedule is something that we wanted to do. So you can see here what happens when you run all those risks through the calculations, they give you some ideas of when you’re going to finish this schedule. Many of you are familiar with this right?
You have your 100% certainty at the top, which means you’re probably coming in a year late but you’re 100% certain you’re going to get done then. And then you have your schedule date where it is now without any other risks way down at the bottom. And you’re zero to 10% certain maybe that you can hit that date.
So what may projects will do is, they’ll find a place somewhere in the middle, usually around the 50, 60, 70% range where the feel comfortable utilizing that date as their starting point. And the durations of the schedule get fully adjusted for the risk based on that selection. But it’s not just about showing you where your end date should be but let’s also take a look at the tornado analysis and see, which ones are the big ones? Which risks should we be the most worried about and what can we do with those?
You can see here in this particular example, pour and carry is one of the bigger risks on this particular project. It is the biggest risk and it’s allowing for 20 days into this schedule based on the selection that we make. However, there’s another color on this graph that’s important to note, and that’s the green color. And if you look really closely at the key, you’ll notice that that green color has to do with feedback or mark up. That’s the second thing that InEight set out to solve. Once we’ve got a schedule that’s not necessarily starting from scratch but it does some work for us and gives us a starting point and some risks and some activities and sequencing to begin with, well let’s go out and let’s get the feedback of the team and or let’s get our expert analysis into the schedule and not just rely on the computer.
Because historically speaking just starting with the blank screen on the schedule, there have historically been difficulties in collaborating around what our plan’s going be. And a lot of times it had to do with the fact that people were just in different locations. Many times when you’re in the pre-construction phase of your next project, the team that’s going to build that project is still wrapping up their last job. They’ve got a lot of work to do to get that one done. They’re not going to be coming into the office and sitting down with the scheduler or pre construction team and trying to understand what’s next or how they’re going to sequence the next job. They’re really engaged and focused on building that one. If you think about it, being able to collaborate is one of the key contributors to success. Henry Ford said it best, coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress but working together is success. Being together the whole time is success. And in an industry where project collaboration and project teams need to be constantly working together, the whole paper methodology of hamming around a print out of a plan and trying to get buy in from people all over different locations becomes a pinch point for a lot of teams.
So what InEight set out to do is, okay, let’s utilize advancements in technology and let’s find a way to create and integrated approach regardless of location, regardless of your purpose on the project or whether even you’re part of the same company. Let’s take that artificial intelligence and let’s augment it and let’s build in what we call review cycles to allow the humans to interact with that intelligence and start to build off of what we already know. So instead of relying solely on some algorithm on the back end that’s doing the data mining, you bring in that expertise and you’re supporting your project teams, you’re not replacing them. You’re getting their feedback, you’re getting their buy in. No longer is it siloed planning, but it’s collaborative consensus based planning where everyone is providing a status on the schedule. And each one of us, myself included in this example, I had so many actions that I need to go out and accomplish.
And so whether it’s just a section of the schedule that I’ve been given because I’m the concrete super intendant or whether it’s the schedule as a whole because I am the project manager of that next job and I just got an email, hey, take a look at the sequencing, do your mark up. Whichever way it is, it supports an interactive planning that is consensus based and allows you to come to the table with your feedback before you even sit down on that first pre construction meeting. And again, this is assessment from key stakeholders, not just the computer. You’re leveraging everyone’s experience to get robust critiques and buy in on the plan. Like I mentioned before, if it’s just a section or the entire thing, every person has the opportunity to go write down the list of their scope, what the they’re responsible for and make those adjustments. And then you as the planner or the lead pre construction engineer have the ability to see who is saying what. Who’s telling me that we need to go faster? Who’s telling me we need to go slower? Who’s behind the Eight ball, like myself again in this example, and not done yet? Where are we getting our feedback? Who do I need to reach out to?
But again, it goes back to what’s the purpose of this webinar, is to do all that planning with an eye toward risk. And when you get to this point and you have this interactive planning session, no longer are you relying on solely one person or just a small group of people to look at risk on a risk. You now get risk mitigation by committee. You’re leveraging your history but also the experience of an entire team of people and you’re doing that comparison. So you get to look at line by line analysis of not just the human interaction but also that artificial intelligence. So how do we compare it. What is our history saying? What are our experts saying? How is that lining up? What are our changes or adjustments that we need to make based on those items? And by doing that, that integration point creates a true risk adjusted schedule. That before you even get to the execution point, you are fully locked in on, this is the plan, these are the risks and everything has been accounted for, both from our history’s perspective but also from our experts perspective.
But here’s the key turning point. Just getting to a plan is one thing. Taking that plan and going to execute on it, that’s a whole other topic. And what traditionally has happened in the industry is there’s been some disconnections along the way. You get a schedule that looks something like this and that schedule gets handed to the project team. They print it out, they hang in on the wall. And right next to it, you typically see something that looks like this, some sort of interval planning that a whiteboard that’s the next three weeks and we’re going to be moving crews around and we’re going to be moving equipment around and here are the tasks that were getting done. It’s that schedule that’s printed out on the wall but it’s blown up to greater detail. And then at the end of the day as you prepare for tomorrow, you hand some sort of task list or time card or daily work ticket to the crew and you say, okay, here’s what you’re going to go execute on based on these things that are on our whiteboard. The problem with this particular methodology or this process is what the title side says, it’s disconnected. Those arrows actually don’t exist. They’re sitting next to each other in siloed systems.
What InEight set out to do was, let’s not just schedule for scheduling sake, but let’s schedule with execution in mind. And while resource loading the schedule is nothing new having costs and resources and productivities in the schedule is nothing new. If you’re going to go to that level of detail for all of your tasks and you’re going to build in this resource loaded schedule, why not leverage that in execution? Why not find a way to drive toward those different goals in execution? So that way, you’re taking what is your plan and your schedule and you’re utilizing that in execution for your execution intelligence. It’s telling you exactly what the crew composition should be. What the cost per day should be. What the quality per day should be. That’s all already built into that schedule. It’s something you’ve been doing for your clients for years, so let’s use it.
Because if we do that, the plan that we’re going to go and execute on is already adjusted for risk. If you remember, the schedule has risks built in. The schedule’s been risk adjusted, The risks are called out on the particular activities. It’s all right there. So when you got to develop the package of work or the scope of work that the crew is going to execute on, those dates inherently contain the risks. It’s all built in. The dates have already been adjusted for. And so you have the ability to go and execute on the work constraint free.
So everything that we’ve talked about to this point, planning with your past in mind, leveraging those risks, leveraging expert feedback, drives all the way through to execution. So that artificial intelligence that we talked about right off the bat, plus the human intelligence of those experts in the project team, plus the risk adjusted forecasting of the schedule, plus what was already resource loaded into the schedule as far as who the crew is, what the composition is, what’s the quantities per day. All of that information is what drives that execution plan. All of those constraints are already called out. All those risks are already called out. All of the crews, the equipment, everything is been allocated for up to this point. Why not use it to go out and execute with the crew? And so that was the main wall that InEight looked to break down when it came to those disparate systems. So now you’ve got this fully executable plan that you can get all the way out to that crew level, and it’s a connected solution.
Instead of this chart that we just looked at, you take InEight schedule plus InEight plan for that short interval planning and you remove wall one and then you push that to InEight progress for the crew tickets and remove wall two. And so then it’s a fully risk adjusted execution plan, all the way from pre-construction to, let’s do the activity out in the field. Not just something that you do up front then you hand things over to the project team and say, okay, go execute it, it’s all up to you. It’s something that you can utilize all the way through. And that means that ticket, that daily goal, that card that you give to the team in the field is also risk adjusted. Everything that you’ve built out in that schedule, that gets handed over to the project team and has daily, these are the planned things that you have to get done, each and every day. It’s fully risk adjusted. It’s fully integrated with the original plan and that crew knows exactly what they need to do to go win and have success for that particular day. And not just do they know what they need to do, but by integrating together, both the cost and the quantity, they get immediate feedback on the results.
So any progress pulls together the time aspect of things along with the quantity, put that up against the plan at the end of the day and you get immediate feedback on that operation. Before things array, you know whether or not you’re making money or losing money, or you’re ahead of schedule or you’re behind schedule, or whatever metric it is that you’re trying to track on that particular operation. You have a deep dive into that and are able to see each and every day on each and every operation what needs to happen. That allows for you to pull those adjustments backward. So the integrators solution doesn’t just flow downhill, but it flows back up. And a daily review of this progress will allow you to decipher crew productivity against the plan and augment the operation or making those adjustments as needed so that things don’t get out of hand.
And instead of waiting for a report to aggregate and maybe looking at your productivity next week after play rolls run or after multiple tickets have come in or whatever it might be, that cost report is now daily and gives you immediate feedback into the operation. And not only that, it’s a closed loop to your next project. Because if you remember how we started everything off today, it was by looking at your history and knowing where you’ve been and what you’ve done to get here. And now you’ve just made that knowledge library a little bit smarter based on what you did today.and so it feeds itself into that complete loop.
That was a lot of information, really, really fast. So let’s go through a quick recap and then I’ll see if any questions have come in. I’ve been trying to monitor the chat, it doesn’t look like we have any yet. Please be sure to submit those. Again, today the goal was to take a look at InEight software has been doing to align scheduling all the way through to execution for more achievable results. And first and foremost it was about leveraging your history and not just having to start from scratch, leaning on information that you have in your own data libraries already, schedules that you’ve done in the past, things that you have experienced and being able to use that with a click of a button and allowing artificial intelligence to start you somewhere instead or starting from scratch. But then also not just relying on some algorithm to give you an answer, but also allowing you to fully integrate in feedback from other experts. Augmenting that artificial intelligence with human intelligence so that we can truly get an idea of where this plan needs to be based on those who are actually going to go out and build the work.
And once we have that plan and those risks all accounted for, then it’s about driving that through to execution. So not just planning and looking at risks for the sake of coming up with an end date, but using that plan to actually go out and achieve those results, and at the end of the day, hand it over to the crew to execute on the work that they’ve been tasked with on that particular project. So with that, we’ll go ahead and we’ll open things up for questions.
John K: Great presentation AJ. Really informative and in depth look at execution with having risk in mind. How many data points does the software need to start suggesting based on your experience?
A.J. Waters: That’s a great question John. The way that we built it out, it takes three data points before the scheduling software begins to give you suggestions on activities and or sequencing. So upload three past schedules into your knowledge library of any kind and it will start trying to find those data points and making those suggestions. Obviously, it’s better if there’re three similar types. And of course, the more schedules you upload the better. But it starts with three and that’s where it can start making those association.
John K: AJ, do you have an experience, maybe earlier in your career where you didn’t have this type of software but you had to deal with risk on a job site?
A.J. Waters: Yeah. So there’s been a couple of times. For a long time, I worked in the vertical building industry and I mentioned earlier the stadium that we were building, where we had the risk of coming across something in the soil. What’s interesting is we built an indoor arena, essentially across the street from this stadium. So we knew the soil, we knew the area, we had an understanding of what we were in for, and so we could leverage the experience, if you will, of that particular area but we had to still start from scratch came to, well, what happens if we hit one of those things? We didn’t incur any major obstacles when we built the indoor arena. We were still kind of guessing as to what those risks meant and we had to go back and… I remember digging through old boxes because at the time, a lot of it was still paper. We had to go the storage shed out behind the office to and dig through boxes to try to find how did we account for that risk that last time. What duration did we give it? What cost did we give it? Again, we weren’t starting from scratch, but we’re sitting here digging through these boxes trying to find how we did that the last time.
Questions about Mitigating Risk
John K: Here’s a question from Eren Saltzman. He says thanks for the presentation AJ. When does a potential risk become standard work? In your example, saying the past seven out of 10 digs, you came across a rail car in the soil. Would you just add X lead time and Y cost by default in to your plan?
A.J. Waters: That’s a really good question. That goes back to the closed loop. Every time you build a new plan and a new schedule and you go out, you execute on that work, you get the feedback back into your knowledge library. After three times of having that risk become an activity in the schedule, it starts to become a suggested activity and just becomes standard work. So when you build out the next plan in that region with that soil type, you’re going to get a suggested activity instead of just a suggested risk. They’ll stay say they risk will pop up as well but they’ll plug in that activity because it’s been in the last three data points as well.
John K: Very good. Just monitoring the question box, it looks like that is all we have at this particular moment. So anything else you’d like to add, AJ, to give the attendees a little bit more time to get a question in a question in before we wrap up?
A.J. Waters: Not much else I have to add on this particular webinar. Just as always, be on the lookout for more webinars from InEight. Specifically, we have a couple opportunities coming up with other products. I’m really excited about next week’s our connected analytics webinar. And so if you’re interested in seeing other data points surfaced in a way that is beneficial up front versus waiting for it on the back end, I think you’ll be very interested in our connected analytics webinar next week where we talk about how to utilize dashboards and big data to give you more of that picture of what could happen or what’s to come before it arrives.
Questions about Mitigating Risk
John K: We have another question AJ. We have some time to answer it. If we had prizes to give out, I’d give one to Eren because he’s asked two questions. Thank you Eren. There are many unknown risks in a project, how much additional work time is typically involved in this front loading activity? For example, the group discussions about risk mitigation.
A.J. Waters: Good question. What we have seen, at least with the customers that we have that have implemented this process, what we have seen is typically, their having these discussions already but the way these discussions happen is, you all gather in a room and you start the topic then. You show up in a room and somebody’s at the whiteboard and they’re like okay, risk number one, go. Risk number two, go. And you go down the list and you start to develop it there. What InEight schedule has allowed them to do is, when they get into that room, that scheduled time to, let’s talk about these things, all of the up front work is done. The risks are on the list because they all provided their feedback first, they do that session first and then you walk into the room and instead of trying to determine what the risks are, now you’re just as a group trying to decide which ones are we truly worried bout and which ones are we going to adjust the schedule for?
So list is pre-populated and now it’s about the probability of this one. The probability of this one. Are we going to worry about it, are we not? Essentially, it cuts that interactive session where you’re all in person down by taking the first half of it and doing it on your own time based on when your schedule allows because you’ve been given that opportunity to hit it from anywhere, to collaborate on the schedule from anywhere. So that’s what we typically see. So it’s not necessarily added time, it’s more we’ve spread it and shrunk the review time down because of the spread on the collaboration.
John K: Okay AJ, thank you for that eloquent answer, very well done. We will wrap up this webinar and we want to thank our viewers so much for tuning in today. To learn more about InEight as AJ has talked about with connected analytics coming up in our next webinar. If you want to learn more about In Eight as well as our broad portfolio of construction projects and management software, we remind you to visit ineight.com and click on the request a demo button. And if you’d like to see a scheduled upcoming webinar is visit InEight webinars.
Thanks for watching everyone. This concludes our presentation.
A.J. Waters: Thank you all, have a great day.