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Ten-Year Anniversary

A story about a journey led by incredibly down-to-earth but powerful software which continues to attract new followers everyday into a growing community of professional constructors

Ten-Year Anniversary

February, 2011

Ten-Year Anniversary! It is February 2011 and the company has come a long way. We have experienced a few economic cycles and took the ups with the downs but we have never changed our focus for the industry. My first encounter with Synchro was in February 2003 in my office in London. The founder approached me to propose a business and technology development idea that combined Synchro with the project collaboration, project administration and transaction processing software at the company I was running at that time. The result was that we kept in touch but the two software systems never connected. Synchro really needed help in connecting with the construction market -- not a complication in our respective software development efforts. There was nothing wrong with that: he was running a business as an industry outsider and trying to break into a very difficult environment. Few in the history of software technology have ever been able to make market sweeping impacts in construction. However, he felt he had something different and knew that it had value. In early 2003 after a few attempts at developing Synchro into its potential and coaxing me to help the company, I finally took the steps necessary to help. Exactly four years after our first meeting I joined Synchro to help sharpen our focus, bring an insider‟s perspective and invest in product development to start winning global acceptance as “The New Dimension in Construction Project Management.” As Synchro celebrates our 10th year anniversary this year, we invite you to take a little time to discover our story, how we work to understand the market and the companies that we serve. Observe with us where our innovation started and where we believe the industry is headed.

Tom Dengenis CEO Synchro Limited


Ten-Year Anniversary

Executive Summary

This white paper considers how the development of software in 4D project simulation by Synchro Ltd is having a transformational impact upon the construction industry. In the beginning Synchro sought to transfer and apply processes gained from LEAN manufacturing practices, deployed to bring significantly higher efficiency to auto manufacturing, into a new vision of technology for the construction industry. Despite a most promising initial concept for this technology the challenge to win acceptance was initially impeded and achieved limited progress in the market. Inspired by Sir John Egan‟s landmark paper Rethinking Construction on reshaping the construction industry inside the UK, Synchro‟s founder sought to gain mainstream acceptance of supply chain integration through web-based software. However, new corporate leadership would emerge by a construction industry insider to orchestrate acceptance within the construction industry with the many benefits of a 4D scheduling solution – Synchro Professional. This visionary software enabled entire construction delivery teams to share a single view of their epic projects worldwide as they evolved from the ground day by day according to schedule. The software enabled animated 3D views-tied resource by resource and task by task -- to plan, manage and simulate the 4th dimension of time represented in a detailed project schedule. The concept became known as “synchronisation” within the construction industry and Synchro as a company innovated dynamically to perfect the product‟s functionality and sold it widely among the construction industry‟s global leaders. Synchro Professional was designed and continuously improved to meet the unique demands of every type of project and to empower the distributed project delivery team to work together with one common view. Synchro shared the visual power of the 4D model, encouraged interoperability between software products, and added value to the delivery processes by providing instant team collaboration, and ensuring design and production synchronization.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Synchro drove its development team, strategic alliance partners, marketing and sales team to pursue its growth aspirations true to its core value to meet the industry‟s high expectations for service delivery and process management capabilities. By solving everyday issues in the delivery process, project delivery teams worldwide gained a new power tool to explore options and manage solutions to:         

Predict proper project cost, quality, safety, and production to meet objectives Optimise the project delivery approach and provide the shortest delivery time Provide innovation and value engineering Control quality and safety by resource planning, logistics and field conditions Facilitate ownership in daily task management process by an entire workforce Provide effective coordinated construction operations, site safety and security Avoid conflicts in sequencing and work space allocation Limit claims for added time and cost Limit construction delivery stress and excess demands on owner resources.

The challenges, overcome by copious, sheer invention, to enable the young company‟s growth and development of Synchro Professional over ten years now offer a new business model. This business model features a rugged, entrepreneurial spirit by which a relentless work ethic, pure creativity, agile strategy, and adept resourcefulness prevail over the many truly daunting obstacles to gain Synchro‟s prolific acceptance throughout the global construction community. Evidence of the aptness of the company‟s strategic fortitude, vision and sheer force of will to succeed within the construction industry can be found by Synchro software‟s global proliferation among 200 major construction companies at thousands of epic construction jobsites in many nations on six continents.


Ten-Year Anniversary


“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision." Ayn Rand

The challenge of winning acceptance for change from construction companies preoccupies many people. At Synchro we know that our software, a construction tool, can be ranked among the greats like the hammer, square, compass and the trowel. Like all the greats, Synchro has the capability to be an essential part of the everyday work of construction. As a tool, however, software is challenged: it is not used to fasten, dig, and create correspondence, nor aid in design and drafting, but rather goes beyond visualising the 3D design or mere planning documentation. Synchro opens the window which allows its users to plan and see into the future. Synchro is a virtual time machine. The software enables project planning on innovative technology, known as 4D scheduling, and ensures the synchronisation of effort to occur among the many practitioners to deliver construction. It is certainly not your legacy project management technology. The legacy project planning heroes are designed to capture, organise and document information from the project planner‟s mind‟s eye, envisioned from their technical know-how and experience. The legacy planning software runs the calculations, defines the project delivery path, and utilises techniques such as tables, Gantt charts and diagrams to report the results. These techniques help see data and belong in the domain of scheduling specialists inaccessible to the typical project participant. The industry has been left blind by this process with its Braille-like charts and graphs for the highly trained planner, specialty consultant, solicitor and lawyer. It is not a useful domain for the project participant and it relies on an enormous amount of trust when dates are generated as directives for construction delivery. For all practical purposes the construction project has a delivery framework and a strategy to pursue on time completion. It contains data about the project -- not a view in photo-realistic renderings until the works are right before your eyes. The view is obscure on the job until it‟s ready to happen and the required foresight is clear even to the most inexperienced in the field. Is there ever enough time to discover and solve potential problems? With just a few weeks‟ look-ahead to discover and solve


Ten-Year Anniversary

problems, time is your worst nightmare coming at you like a herd of elephants. Time becomes your enemy when too little remains. The good news is that Synchro allows everyone to plan, control, and visualise the project in virtual reality in photo-realistic renderings removing the industry‟s blindness, once and for all, placing time on your side as a friend to the process and certainly not your enemy. We aren‟t the first computer technology to aspire to be an industry leading tool. A great many pioneers have come before us but few have succeeded. However, the setting exists in the 21st century where software tools can be used every day in construction. It is obvious to most that it is a difficult journey for any new technology to enter, survive and become a standard for broad use in the industry. The journey is fraught with costly and thankless efforts to encourage change. It‟s frustrated by an industry which does not feel the normal stimulus for change in the primary way that other industries sense from competitive pressures. Construction does not exist in exactly the same way as the manufacturing industry. The differences are too many to list and too obvious for those of us who have spent our entire working lives toiling in construction to belabour the point. However, change does happen in construction and modern methods are being used among the masters who provide inspiration for us at Synchro. In broad terms there is such creature as an industrial process, but -- in terms of using it to manage the delivery of every construction project -- it is not yet a live phenomenon. The essence of such a process is the linking of related activities and, unless supply chains are integrated and synchronised, the process chain cannot be formed. With this background, there is little basis for a construction company to decide rationally and it is impossible to quantify the benefits that the software solution will obtain. When the solution requires a defined process to exist, the investment software and new systems remain, therefore, unsubstantiated and either will not be made or as a “toe in the water” approach will be challenged to succeed. One critical success factor in process improvement is the ability to implement the improvement everywhere the process occurs in the business routine. The problem is exacerbated by the split role-playing in the industry. It means that the cost of any project is the collection of the costs of dozens of individual packages formed uniquely in project after project. Assuming ownership of the industrial process is not the obvious responsibility of any single party and, therefore, it inherently struggles to happen.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Delivering the vision is not easily achieved. Its challenge to support a well formed process, however, is irresistible. The companyâ€&#x;s founder -- process thinker convinced that the construction industry was on a quest for change -found himself at a crossroads with his career and started Synchro ten years ago. This white paper is an account, a personal narrative, of Synchroâ€&#x;s beginning. The focus remains clear -- even after ten years of economic ups and downs, and a major leadership change along the journey.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Circa 1998

“We know that it is not easy to sustain radical improvements in an industry as diverse as construction. But, we must do so to secure our future.” Rethinking Construction Forward by Sir John Egan, Chairman of the Construction Task Force The Report of the Construction Taskforce to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, on the scope for improving the quality and efficiency of UK construction

There was something questionable about the founder‟s first day in construction. What was he doing, partnering with an American NASA engineer and discussing the transfer of knowledge from the motor industry into construction? The assignment was a real challenge. Would Sir John Egan‟s conclusions and challenges, enshrined in the newest industry publication Rethinking Construction, work? The project was based in central London in a place that demanded logistics methods which were unfamiliar to the most experienced professionals working in construction who created the opportunity. This assignment was unlikely to go down easy, especially for a cultural outsider. All the obvious differences between the two industries were at the front of his mind. How could any move across them even be possible? If anyone should know, then it was the founder. He had been absorbed in process issues for the previous decade. He had found a new approach in the motor industry early in his lengthy career and since then had made process improvements applicable wherever he went. He was now in the thick end of his career in the British motor industry and had been in manufacturing, finance, marketing, and general management. He had not always worked on the domestic front until, one day, he was asked to manage a major corporate review by his employer at the time. The company was among the traditional component manufacturing divisions of a major automobile manufacturer, which was essentially a world-class logistics company. The company was born out of the global logistics demands and process improvement efforts of its parent company, a British luxury car manufacturer, headquartered in Coventry, England.


Ten-Year Anniversary

The founder held leadership positions for most of his career. He was an essential participant in the modernisation that had been achieved between 1984 and 1989 when, eventually, the company was sold to one of Detroitâ€&#x;s Big Three automakers. Beside the founder a large international consulting company was involved in the effort and they came staffed with a top team. The mission was to review corporate processes and reorganise the company along process lines. During those years the founder inhaled their methods and became as knowledgeable as they were. When the consulting firm eventually left, the founder carried on without them and implementation of the review was left to him to complete. The founder was a fairly relaxed person more into reading and sport than work. But his work ethic was really high and by the time he took this construction sector assignment, he was a master of his craft as a process engineer and unashamedly tried to convert anyone who would listen. By the end of his first day in construction, he had resolved the doubts. Not only was the assignment relevant to construction, it was an essential mission. The observation was made that so few of the concepts, used every day in the motor industry, had ever been applied to construction: there must be enormous scope to help people learn and benefit. This epiphany resembled the apple falling on Newton. The first day ignited a powerful compulsion. The seed of his idea was planted and the feeling of accomplishment through real change would persist. The potential for improvement was so great that it was everywhere as far as the eye could see: all these companies simply needed to grasp and apply the new thinking about process that had proved to be so imperative throughout the manufacturing sector. A strong impulse evolved into an irresistible compulsion in the challenge of modernising construction. In the nearly nine years which passed between 1998 and 2007 -- the active years that the founder had suffered from his compulsion to modernise construction -- he reported that, looking back, he could see that the industry had hardly changed. The compulsion continued to the point of his realisation of how little good it had created. The real truth is that this desire could not easily be realized: in fact, at the time he was perpetually restless. He was fascinated by a big idea too rich with potential and its original promise held him in its grip throughout all the frustrations and setbacks he encountered through the years.


Ten-Year Anniversary

The next new industry person, whether it was the average project engineer or captain of industry who became the next outlet, would become the next good meeting for him. A dramatic rush of conversation ensued about the size and scope of just how much change can be made in his efforts to truly modernise construction. Without regard to whom he previously had spoken, his compulsion drove him to find that next person to meet. He hoped that next new person would respond differently and might even become involved or hire him as their consultant. The endearing hope was that this new person would provide the permanent satisfaction that he sought. But like all of the souls who came before, the reaction wasnâ€&#x;t different and the result was yet another good meeting that led to an obtuse disregard for action that should have been clearly obvious. Without a doubt he was rapt in an endless cycle of highs and lows by every effort to gain recognition and a following. Construction modernisation enthusiasts were more abundant than most people would admit. Outwardly, many seemed casual and appeared to have their excitement under better control. Inwardly, they earnestly looked for meaningful solutions -- not only for the amazing breakthrough that would expose their true passions, but also for the small signs of something just a little better. They hoped to discover that solution right round the corner. But if they were not careful, they risked ending up like so many construction followers who became frustrated, cynical, and resigned masochists bowed by the brick wall right in front of them. The experience, however, provides real stimulation such that it becomes a cause or vocation as omnipresent as Everest. Like Everest, eventually a Hilary and Tensing arrive so that the solution, once beyond the grasp, is taken. All at once every eye in the industry is opened to recognize the achievable summit and what follows is nothing short of amazing. As the founder stuck to his work, he knew that he was quickly hooked. His experience from other industries -- where advanced solutions were part of everyday working life and are considered normal or expected – informed him that advanced solutions could be adapted and applied in some rudimentary form to benefit construction. He knew this conviction in his core without doubt and the certainty was too compelling to ignore. In this moment of pure clarity he became oblivious to the ill effects of playing in the modernising construction game as an outsider. Looking backward, it must have been heartbreaking to envision that in those early moments only a few weeks of research and analysis would be necessary before the transfer would begin to drive the modernisation movement. Little did he know how deep was the pit that he had dug for himself over such a short time.


Ten-Year Anniversary

As days and months turned into years, each of his attempts to introduce modernisation methods would not meet outright rejection. Cold stares from the „old handsâ€&#x;, who knew better, ultimately frustrated any hold on the rankand-file acceptance to move a solution forward. In the face of total disregard, he took the burden of proof upon his own shoulders and redoubled his efforts to find the argument that nobody could resist. He went further and invested to metamorphose from employee to entrepreneur. He decided that the solution could not be delivered by consulting and word of mouth alone. Neither approach would deliver his ability to scale up and their impact would be too temporary. As people moved from project to project and formed new teams, the entire process started again from scratch. The answer had to be captured in a software application. The engine of change needed solid, permanent, immovable rails upon which to run. It had to be rock solid so every project could be depended on to reflect best practices. The founder was now determined more than ever that modernisation would happen. If that meant rigid immoveable tracks down which to roll the wheels of construction, so be it. He was a determined seer and no mere software solution would deter him. With software the new focus of his journey, the jet bridge to board was too irresistible for a little known soul in the vast population of great ideas to resist. The imagined construction software solution of Synchro was born. The founder promised that the journey into greatness was at hand. Indeed, it would be straightforward and focused by the destination to join the ranks of great tools used everyday in construction worldwide. Synchro would soon learn the dangers of travelling with the fervent outsider. But, for now and some time to come, it was all but assured and the journey had begun.


Ten-Year Anniversary

February 2001

Chicken Noodle Soup 4 chicken leg portions 2 carrots, sliced 1 onion, quartered 2 celery stick, chopped 2 bay leaves 1.5l chicken stock 50g vermicelli 1tbsp chopped parsley “Cooking the chicken in stock will give the stock extra flavour and the chicken will be succulent and flavoursome, too. For a winter soup, add 1tsp of chopped fresh ginger to the stock while cooking the chicken.”

The founder‟s years now became even fuller. On the one side, he talked to the industry actors to explain and question the arcane methods making no friend along the way. On the other, he spent hours each day briefing a software development team to build the solution with iron rails in the hopes that one day he would carry Synchro to its destiny. The focus was now consuming much more than time: it was chewing up real money at the rate of tens of thousands of pounds Sterling every month. His existence was egged on by the polite reactions of the industry insiders all of whom seemed to want the modernisation solution. Good meetings followed good meetings. The insiders used all the right phrases and claimed to believe in and adopt the best practice. In reality, they were sending refined marketing messages and nothing more. Feelings of loneliness and isolation could not kill his desire to achieve real change. These sentiments compelled him to look back and question everything that he had said, presented or heard from the beginning. Not only was the industry rejecting his ideas, but also the way that he packaged them. If only he could find the right language, the industry wavelength and the key that unlocked their refusal to go along with him, then he would do better.


Ten-Year Anniversary

How could it be their fault? He had heard them all preach the concepts of collaboration, partnering, lean construction, and supply chain integration? It couldn‟t be their fault that the benefits they experienced from these concepts seemed temporary. They all knew someone who tried these concepts and were left under-whelmed by the results. They had all been told how the idea was much more substantial than the reality. Nothing was what it was all cracked up to be. One day, an in-depth and challenging conversation took place with an industry insider. “It‟s not that the industry questions the potential for improvement,” he said. “It‟s simply that we don’t believe enough in the solutions. We also feel we have tried most of the solutions, but they have never made the sort of difference advertised. We are fed up with trying out new ideas that distract staff, cost money and make no appreciable difference in our results. We are reeling from initiatives and feel better off with the status quo. We know it works.” The reality then was that the industry was not immune to the ill effects of amazingly expensive failures when results are measured against the hype. Take the millions that had been invested in new accounting systems to lower the cost of every accounting function. From accounts payable to inventory control in the name of enterprise resource management the new accounting systems achieved nothing more than higher costs per function, enriching software vendors and, even more, management consultants. Shall we allude to the millennium bug, or the e-business solutions that universally cost every early adopter an enormous expense with less than optimal results? Or an internet based solution that was often not much better than a process defined by using an email and a file attachment? Could it be true that we have an industry where new initiatives start every day and none of them produce really beneficial results? How can this happen? The ideas all had merit. They were based on solid philosophy and logical thinking, which should have proved worthwhile. Even if these initiatives were only half-successful, surely the good bits should be leveraged and built upon. This did not happen. Any new approach, which was perceived as a failure, was never extended to the next project. Failure came too often in the absence of complete success. All too clearly, innovation would get a bad name in the construction industry and only certain, rock-solid investments like a new digging machine would be pursued.


Ten-Year Anniversary

“If I could put this into an analogy,” continued the insider, “let‟s agree that gold is valued highly. Everyone agrees, that if there is gold to be found, then work to get it out the ground would be worthwhile. On the other hand, mining is always a very expensive process and getting it to the market is just as complex. Until the ore hits the market all you have are the mining expenses regardless of what you think the ore is worth. So there is a strong need to feel certain of success before spending a lot of money to mine the ore. And then spend more to get it to the market where the payoff will occur. It‟s the same with the construction industry mindset. “There is no disagreement about the state of industrial efficiency. But people feel less convinced about -- and need to be convinced of -- the merit of the investment required within the context of the precise solution and its implementation: not some theory or idea of the solution and certainly not what someone else did in some other company. “Conversations in good meetings and consulting efforts are not convincing solutions. Consulting is not scalable and it will not take the industry by storm. If we knew with a level of certainty and quickness -- through a representative test case of our own and an internal demonstration that the solution was able to deliver against the promises -- then we would go for it. The solution needs to be ready-to-hand and not just talk or consulting. In other words, we need to have sure gold.” This analogy made him think much more about his own limitations. He felt confident that his ideas were gold or, even better, sure gold. However, he was not building a solid, credible case for the industry to adopt his web-based, supply chain, integration solution and make the modernisation investment. After all this time, he had to believe that neither the solution nor his explanation of the solution was good enough. This might mean going back to square one, but probably not. Not everything that had been done to create the first version of the software was wasted. The bulk of it had to be part of the business proposition going forward. The concept of gold intrigued and for some time, the analogy and the advice did not leave his mind. He thought of all the other initiatives -- such as supply chain integration, partnering or lean construction -- and saw them as half dug or empty, unproductive mineshafts. People had spent time and money on these mineshafts convinced they would unearth gold down at the bottom. They found little or simply could not get it to work, or in other words, to the market. Maybe, there had been gold there in abundance, but the prospecting and mining had extracted no return. The miners, nevertheless, for whatever


Ten-Year Anniversary

reasons, had become convinced that this failure was not their fault and that the work was a waste of time. To make matters worse, the next person would hardly be heard if it meant repeating the past mistakes. His job was now incredibly difficult and his case had to be more than good: it had to be irrefutable. The value proposition had to make the prospector totally convinced or it was not worth even the talking, let alone the digging. The challenge was obviously enormous. Then another insider came along who was also compelled by the challenge and was so frustrated that he could not rest. He wanted to play golf and travel as part of the reward that he deserved from his working life. He was, however, totally hooked and also scoured the building sites and site offices looking for clues about the solution. “You know what I think is more important than anything else?” he proposed. “Integration and collaboration are all very well. But what strikes me as really crucial is the synchronisation of all the activities. If that can be achieved through time, across all the different project suppliers, then you are bound to deliver projects better. By better, I mean that delivery is reliable in terms of quality, safety, cost, and time. And if it begins to work, then real progress can be made to go even further. The solution must increase quality and safety, and reduce time and cost of projects.” He was right: it was all captured in one word -- synchronization. If the concept was followed through, then it applied to everything in life that worked well. What was really frightening about the word, however, was the fact that the lack of synchronisation was clearly the fundamental issue in undermining efficiency in the construction industry. Could this be the solution to his problem of communicating with industry leaders? Could the solution be built that achieved real synchronisation? The concept needed to be analysed and, perhaps, the craving he had felt for years could be satisfied. How does the dictionary define synchronisation? 1. 2. 3.

A relation involving time The regulation of diverse elements into an integrated and harmonious operation An adjustment that causes something to occur or recur in unison

That‟s a good start, but what has synchronisation achieved?


Ten-Year Anniversary

The gearbox was the most obvious example that came to mind. The synchromesh gear box is now taken for granted. But what preceded it provided a totally different concept of driving that required a skill level and application which tested every motorist‟s patience. The need to double declutch and catch the spinning cogs at just the right point to effect the gear change and the loud, discordant sound, which usually resulted, cannot be compared with the silky effortless single finger, single touch manoeuvre required today. The case for synchronisation in construction delivery meant obvious progress. The other actual common usage of the concept derives from the computer industry where information is “synced” from computer to computer so that it is saved, shared and updated to reflect the latest position or action. Can we imagine then, the ability of road planners to create bedlam by failing to synchronise traffic signals? It could result in no cars queuing in one direction and long traffic jams in the other like Livingstone‟s London. Imagine in other forms of transport the outcome of planes landing and taking off at London‟s Heathrow Airport unsynchronised to work at short regular intervals. Too short a gap and crash risk would multiply; too long, the airport throughput of passengers would cost millions in lost revenues by having so few travellers on any given day. In trains everyone would become wholly frustrated by the connecting train that left one minute before the incoming train arrived. Any time there is an event, watches must be synchronised. The world accepts that if their watch is wrong, or someone on whom they depend is wrong, then the entire outing is at risk. No doubt, synchronisation is a powerful concept and an absolute requirement to make things happen with far fewer problems. The world depends on this concept and accordingly turns it into something which is almost unconsciously sought for its value in work as a solution to process. Sporting teams are good or bad according to how well they synchronise their movements. A boxer, who can synchronise his punches, will hold a huge skill advantage. The Formula One pit stop, which is perfectly synchronised, will be seconds faster than a poor competitor and will often win races because of it. The list is endless and covers almost everything that is done in life -- including construction.


Ten-Year Anniversary

The common theme running through synchronisation is the pulling together of the movement of at least two independent items. The better the two are married together to work without conflict, the more successful the end result will be. This is exactly the objective needed in construction where, continually, different parties have to relate their independent work with that of others. The reality is that construction is open to accusations of inefficiency because the industry has never found the means to work in a way so that one activity is continually compatible with all others. The opportunity to achieve synchronisation of all activities necessary to complete a project is worthwhile. In practice, project managers worldwide do their best to stand at the head of the vast array of participants and wave their management influence like an orchestra leader wielding the baton at the London Philharmonic. It is a seasoned and well proven method but not a management science. Neither is it reliable enough nor scalable beyond the personal capabilities of the fine individual commonly referred to as the project executive or manager aided by their planners and schedulers. Certain value would be gained by linking different activities together in a way which was perfectly in everyoneâ€&#x;s interests. The heart of the industrial problem was to avoid losing productivity or output because two related activities had not been linked and their inter-dependency went unrecognised. To fail at this fundamental act is grounds for removal in most industries. In construction these acts of failure are commonplace and inherent to results. Let us be clear here that this failure is not typically an occurrence for single streams of related project activities. The ability to show commonly related activities, their natural dependencies and sequences found in a typical CPM Gantt chart or PERT chart is not the problem or even a weakness for the industry. In fact, the industry is good at scheduling and its results in claims management is well documented. However, claims management or knocking back a claim is not the solution. The solution cannot be to create better weapons for the fighter but is rather to avoid the fight in the first instance and throughout the process from start to finish. Construction planning is weakest where it creates the issues that disrupt production most often. The weakness stems from the unnatural, concurrent, parallel flows of work which are defined and redefined everyday in the project delivery process. This weakness is always left for field management to discover and sort out as the project progresses through managing time and space. These unnatural, concurrent activities, unanticipated in the planning process, bring two activities progressing at different speeds, demanding the


Ten-Year Anniversary

same space and location to work together: at that moment all momentum is halted. The main thrust of the problem stems from the absence of meaningful foresight and the lack of understandable composition which is well considered and practiced. In very real terms this weakness in foresight dumps these grinding gears onto the shoulders of the field staff in hopes that everything gets sorted out in the weekly job meeting. Improvisation, above orchestration, leads to last minute decision making and a never-ending cycle of the strain for access, working and staging areas, and productive work flows. By observation, very often the two unnaturally related activities were so far apart in terms of function that the logical link that is necessary on any given day in the field, based on the complexities of the project and the nuances of the delivery approach of choice, was impossible to see and anticipate in the imagination of the project planner and scheduler. At other times, however, the link was easy to see and human error or some change in the pace of production caused an unanticipated situation and disrupted production. Regardless of the taskâ€&#x;s delivery early or late, the activity that depended on its completion was affected and progress tracking in the project schedule is often too lax or not done timely enough. Above all, the reports, which handle this type of project scheduling communications, require specialised skills. Quality assurance over the stated project approach found in these reports is, at best, difficult to accomplish. Few of the most conscientious project participants put the time into thoroughly comprehending these reports. Whatever the nature of the underlying problem, the result damaged the project results. Projects that had lots of problems of this nature were woefully unsynchronised. Projects that avoided these problems were synchronised. Logically, if all the streams of activities on a project were fully synchronised, monitored and kept organised in full relation to each other, the outcome should be excellent or even perfect. To achieve synchronisation, every practical activity has to be related to its dependencies, not only in simple planning terms, but also in tracking and management terms. What would be the point having a fully synchronised plan if the actual day-to-day activity failed to ensure that the plan was being followed, resourced, tracked, adjusted, communicated, managed, and delivered?


Ten-Year Anniversary

Synchronisation, therefore, must be dynamic and reflect all the vagaries of everyday project life. It must be sensitive to situations which de-sync the project and allow corrections to be made. It must be a visual simulation of the project and easy to see to explore and most of all support the free flow of competing ideas to the approach and foster a healthy exchange of ideas. Synchronisation must sustain the management science that supports logical planning both of activities and resources. Synchronisation must anticipate activities that generate unsynchronised situations such as risks and the effects of actual versus planned production. If an estimate of work times is excessive or understated, it is automatically a potential de-sync situation. If too much or too little resource is allocated to a task, again, it will lead inevitably to effect planned production and lose synchronisation. If risks are not recognised and buffers not anticipated and tracked, the project will undoubtedly fall out of sync. Resource allocation, risk management, what-if analysis, and tracking, thus, are essential during the delivery process. Letâ€&#x;s ask the all-important question: if resource allocation, risk management, what-if analysis, and tracking are an essential process in construction project management today, then why is synchronisation not being achieved already? The most obvious and well known, inherent defect in the current project planning, scheduling and project management process today stems from the natural limitations of the individual plannerâ€&#x;s ability to see the project and all of its complexities. A limited ability to use personal imagination to envision the dynamic project and all of its complexities leaves the planner in a state of blindness. As for everyone else in the process, they are responsible to translate the reports, Gantt charts and tables of planning data into understandable images for themselves. In the best of situations they are blind, too. When the project plan is not thoroughly synchronised, the project is left with the weekly jobsite meeting and the three-week look ahead to anticipate and adjust between problems discovered and when a solution needs to be implemented. To be fair, three weeks is on the generous side of common practice. The weekly job meeting is in effect the only place where the participants join together to discuss existing and immediately important activities, and resource management issues during construction. In practice, when the time required to solve a problem is longer than the time available before disrupting the flow of the project, synchronisation fails to occur and results are compromised. To create a synchronised project, its participants are required to achieve a constructive degree of transparency and


Ten-Year Anniversary

must be thorough in considering anything that makes the project successful. Failure in these regards puts the project in jeopardy. Synchronisation is a powerful concept. We have a process solution which is positive whenever it is applied -- irrespective of the application. If synchronisation can be achieved on a construction project, it has the power to transform the industrial results.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Wait a Minute: Construction Is Different.

“A high school is not considered successful by how many people it sends to the construction industry.” Kelly Knott

“Wait a minute: construction is different.” This statement is expressed by every industry professional. It is sometimes used to dismiss any concept of change or of borrowing new ideas from other industries. In a milder form it excuses those practices which fail to deliver projects in the way which, otherwise, might have been more successful. The next most common statement is: “Every construction project is different.” This old saw means that there is no place for standard approaches to a particular project as they are seldom repeated. It all depends on the experience and professionalism of the project manager. Both statements are true and the industry does depend on the skill of its managers who stand at the coal face and attempt to orchestrate a string of complex issues that constantly threaten to throw the project off-course. This is called crisis management in any other field or triage in hospital emergency rooms. It‟s an essential art form when it is impossible to say what will happen next. The better the construction manager is at handling unexpected crises through improvisation -- where banging heads together is deemed the first and best solution -- the higher is the reputation and power base there. So if, in the minds of the industry, construction and projects are both ad hoc, then it‟s no big surprise if the management process is also ad hoc. Why build a management approach reflecting standard processes when they bear no relevance to the way the industry accepts how they work? These background factors cannot be dismissed because they shape the way the industry thinks. They actually control the culture, which becomes part of the enjoyment of work in the industry. There is a much to be said for spontaneity, improvisation, and being able to create without awkward restrictions or restraints. Ditto for coming up with solutions to nasty problems, riding on the edge of the dividing lines among stress, over-stress and collapse.


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Would anyone think the industry could or should ever be different? This is the way it is and other ways of thinking are distractions to be avoided or paid lip service. In particular, if the manager is good, s/he will know it is expertise that makes the difference. S/he does not need alienated thinking that will erode a power-based position. In many cases the highest positions in construction have been reached by the best crisis handlers. Nothing in this thesis is necessarily wrong and may well be absolutely correct. The problem is, however, that the industrial results are in question. The productivity measurements made from time to time indicate 50% efficiency levels. 83% of projects are finished late. Contractors make poor financial returns and too many workers‟ lives are senselessly lost on jobsites which are steeped in crisis management in collapse. The view from many governments -- as concluded in the UK by either Alfred Bossom in 1934 or Sir John Egan in 1998 -- is that enormous improvement is available, if only industry managers would pick up the issues and introduce serious improvement programmes. In the USA, studying the year 2002, it was concluded that more than $16bn was wasted in that year alone from the lack of interoperability. This term may sound technical and complex but all it really means is the cost to the industry from a fundamental inability to share information effectively. In the mid-2000s, the buoyancy of the sector meant work was available abundantly. The industry was not in pain at the time but the wake-up call has come. The industry has begun to enter a time of amazing challenge and opportunities to improve are required. By June 2005 we agreed that three attributes will define the future of Synchro: 1. 2. 3.

Synchronisation Interoperability Visualisation

Engaging ideas, good meetings and conversations are fine at one level. But our company could not take it for granted that people would listen to one word like synchronisation and suddenly say: “Eureka! I‟ve got it! I‟ll do it straight away.” They‟ll want to know not only what synchronisation does but also how Synchro delivers it.


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Synchro software like all construction planning and scheduling systems has the three main considerations: activities or tasks, dependencies between activities, and the duration of the task. Synchronisation, however, needs three elements of its own: the tasks, the resources to do the task, and the delivery/completion of the task. All three elements must be fully considered equally or synchronisation is unachievable. The key difference between planning and synchronisation is tracking the completion of the task. Planning entails forward projections. Synchronisation is a dynamic process done in real time considering all events of the future – where all options are explored – to track progress, daily completions, and record history in as real-time as practical. The solution had to be conceived in a comprehensive package ready-to-hand. At the same time the solution could not be dependent on rigid practice to achieve rapid impacts and success in its use. The approach must leverage existing practice and introduce a catalyst for improvement -- not a catalyst for software replacement. Current industry practice was a big issue. The status quo is deep seated, well invested, and not necessarily the problem when viewed in a planning and scheduling context. It would be protected by many who had developed their personal abilities within the existing planning and scheduling methodologies to a fine art with personally rewarding ends. In many ways the existing approach passed on two of the three elements. Therefore, legacy planning methods and systems could easily fit into the elements required to synchronise the process and its participants. Tasks were defined and resources could be allocated. The weakness has long been the reliable and predictable smooth delivery of the tasks instead of the mashing of gears that we regularly witness on construction sites all over the world. We rarely see the synchronised, well orchestrated, delivery of the project. Without exception this optimally synced orchestration in practical terms is the whole raison d’être for the contractor regardless of where you are in the world. The existing process -- where tasks are defined and resources are allocated -has many weaknesses. Above all, the greatest weakness of the existing planning process is that the project plan is typically the work of one individual aided by personal experience and sometimes the experience of others. They rely on their ability to imagine the delivery approach as clearly as their mind will allow. Their ideas are typed into their legacy planning system to document and capture the raw elements of the delivery plan. Then they rely upon the software to run the calculations, plot, and report the results.


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Current methods only go so far as to help organise the raw data and fit the approach into the project time constraints found in the contract, and then plot the graphics and print the reports. The planning process at this stage never goes as far as necessary to share the planner‟s mind‟s eye for all to see, visually understand, comment, optimise, explore the what-ifs, and agree as to how the project will be delivered from start to finish. In practice the project blindly progresses by following the original planning framework. The field operations ramp-up and the improvisation efforts succeed at moving the project forward. When these efforts fail at the field level of the process, rework begins and field orders are negotiated, threatening safety, quality, cost and time. It is rare when the current practice is not blind before the job site meetings. At the start the project plan is wrapped-up in the mind‟s eye and the imagination of the project planner. This myopia helps to explain all the reasons why construction projects worldwide under-achieve with low productivity and unreliable delivery. Let‟s look more deeply at the current process: Firstly, one person, the planner with experience and after proper consultation with colleagues formulates a construction delivery approach or project plan, a procurement plan and a design plan. The planner “owns” the schedule. The schedule is eventually quite detailed, but must be design led. The schedule considers all the implications of a specific design from concept to production detail and all the changes that enter the process along the way. The project schedule is a very convincing and prestigious document as it may fill a whole wall when printed and hung like wallpaper. It is often the only definition of the delivery plan to be performed and is relied upon right up to the point when the job site weekly meetings take over. This planning and scheduling framework serves an important stage in the process but is difficult to validate for completeness and accuracy. Because it‟s the vision of the original planner or scheduler, it‟s not easily understood or deciphered by any of the project participants or any management overseer. The next stage takes place when the contract to deliver the project is won or is promised. The approach now will differ enormously from company to company, but essentially the supply chain starts to become active and appointed. Subcontracted companies become involved – all with different approaches, systems, and skill levels. The new participants – will enter the


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process with differing levels of detail and begin to redefine the tasks. These changes and nuances to the approach may involve supporting documents. However, in most cases these documents may not be submitted to the project director and may or may not be supported by obviously well considered resource statements. This stage of the process meant that the project was already out of control. Sometimes, there are good plans, schedules or delivery approaches. Sometimes, no plans exist. Sometimes, plans omit important considerations and other times are not consistent with the resources available or provided. Most of all, however, they would be discrete plans shared by the subcontractor or supplier with the main project manager. Seldom are these schedules or subcontract plans shared and integrated with the overall project as defined by other suppliers. Even if these plans were coordinated in task definition, duration and logic, who among us as mere mortals could accurately see them for what they mean when it comes to the dynamics and complexities of the construction project in action? Planning in construction is the process of managing resources. Yet, when discussing resources, the construction planner is hard-pressed to list the resources managed last minute everyday in construction without the benefit of the plannerâ€&#x;s help or consideration of their project schedules. Resource management is vital to the delivery of all projects, including human, material, temporary equipment, and location (or working/staging spaces). We see in todayâ€&#x;s construction delivery processes the rapid growth of production design coordination and clash detection for what is the final state, detailed design to reduce physical conflicts in the construction of many trades. These design coordination efforts are monumental in overhead costs. Theyâ€&#x;re also vital to reducing conflicts and field orders where two or more material resources are designed to rest in the same location. This is all good relative to the static design of what is necessary to deliver a quality result. The design coordination effort focuses on static elements to avoid field conflicts of the material resource. This process has not coordinated the dynamic design of the construction delivery. It has not designed a plan or an approach to the delivery sequence, staging areas and orchestration of the resources, again, including human, material, temporary equipment, and location (working or staging spaces).


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Every day in construction examples of conflicts arise among work crews, their equipment needed to perform at a planned rate of production, the sequence of the installation required, and the spaces needed to work properly and safely. Such costly everyday examples justify investing in a process that synchronises the dynamic delivery of the project and eliminate avoidable conflicts in the field. If eliminating field work orders for the static design through clash detection and spatial coordination is paying back a return, then eliminating dynamic conflicts through project synchronisation will more than double the return. Synchronisation will also improve jobsite safety with less potential for accidents and lower the environmental impact with less waste. We start with the beautiful original project plan pinned to the wall in the corridor looking absolutely perfect to the eye of the casual observer. However, these plans will always be superseded, swept away, and ignored in the events that follow when work starts. What hasnâ€&#x;t been seen in the planning process begins to take visual shape more clearly in the field. Itâ€&#x;s in this late stage when problems are discovered, fixes are determined, and the job meeting agendas take hold. Updating the plan is always a costly time-consuming job. Any hope of project orchestration is rapidly replaced by improvisation and the daily documentation and control mechanisms of the project management effort. In practical terms the initial schedule is filled with holes and planning weaknesses which diminish sharply the prospect of project synchronisation. The typical project plan and schedule are more narrowly conceived than necessary to avoid improvisation and invariably become unsynchronised at the very beginning of the construction field operations. There was no effective mechanism for sharing the schedule in terms that could be clearly understood and visualised. No process solution delivered the ability to amalgamate and effectively coordinate the work plans and programmes from different suppliers. Hence, there was no hope for a shared approach or synchronising the projectâ€&#x;s activities in the field. These are big issues for the industry, and not just because of vested interests. Well-understood practices in which millions of people have been trained and have become comfortable in their role as project planner or scheduler will not all of a sudden disappear without proper reflection or an enhancement to their current hard earned practice. The main argument from the beginning and one that exists within the status quo is the impossibility of obtaining, effectively organising, and managing all this information.


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The main causes and the problems with unsynchronised activities are possible to demonstrate in a million ways the damaging effect they had on the project. One of the main causes arises in the best of worlds and would occur if someone didnâ€&#x;t turn up to work. What happens when a crane was planned to make a lift at the same time deliveries were planned to be staged right where the crane was set up to work (or vice versa)? How many conflicts arise when two trades have planned to work in the same space on the same day but cannot work at the same time? In other words, the solution must focus on managing activities that needed to be orchestrated properly, far in advance of the field discovery and the last minute discussions which take place in the weekly site meetings. Imagine having the best project plan ever created and it was only available to the project participants with three weeksâ€&#x; look-ahead? Imagine another scenario where plans were created and available but the majority of the planned activities were changed in the field with three weeksâ€&#x; advanced notice? We have an enormous opportunity to improve results by creating a synchronised construction delivery plan provided that the process is supported by as much focus and commitment as is performed already for design coordination and clash detection. It is practical and possible to perform proper planning and track the results in the first place. Planning could consider a comprehensive set of resources such as human, material, temporary equipment, and space. Further, all the plans and failures could be understood quickly to allow the resynchronisation in real time. In summary, we can begin to agree to these basic elements of the approach: 1. 2. 3.

4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Synchronisation in project delivery is a desirable way to work. Synchronisation has transformed and become the basis for most ongoing regular relationships. Construction projects are not usually looked at in terms of synchronisation but they are eventually pressed into reaction through the jobsite meeting process and the three week look ahead. Unsynchronised projects deliver poor results. Current management tools and approaches do not enable clear planning and synchronisation. Synchronisation has to occur in task planning, resource allocation, and project delivery Suppliers need to adopt approaches which support scheduling inputs of their work proposals. Space and temporary equipment need to be treated as resources. Risks need to be identified, discussed, and mitigated communally.


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10. Buffers within tasks create the ability to form workflow based on normal uninterrupted work processes. 11. Certain spaces and equipment need to be treated as communal resources and work using both of them synchronised among all contractors. 12. All suppliers work in a collaborative environment and dependencies between different contractors and designers should be openly identified, linked, and published. All project participants need to clearly understand and we do mean to see beyond the data and reporting techniques of our legacy planning systems and truly visualise the project delivery approach. The participants need to coordinate the dynamic delivery approach to synchronise delivery. If we may be so bold, the need for a visualized and shared project delivery approach must be fulfilled right from the beginning to create single-minded projects. All participants should be able clearly to see, explore competing ideas, and effectively share a project delivery approach that has considered all options and interdependencies among the resources of all project participants from design efforts to the commissioning of the project. The big advance that Synchro brings to the process is a clear commitment to the essential ingredients that synchronise the delivery approach. 1. Communication This is so simple: communication is an old practice adopted in many walks of life. It might not appear on many peopleâ€&#x;s list. Certainly, industry leaders would not put it at the top of the pile. They might omit communication in the belief that it happens anyway. Surely, we have project schedules and the jobsite meetings every week with 30 or more contractors in a room waiting their turn is communication. Right? However, communication for construction project delivery is quite different. It is about constantly informing project participants of what is planned and what has been completed. Itâ€&#x;s about allowing every participant to collaborate with each other what they propose as their approach. They can openly agree on the best way forward, how the approach is progressing and what problems exist. They may display these elements in easy to see, easy to understand ways so there is less risk of impatience and misunderstanding. A Gantt chart uses words, a picture is worth a 1000 words, and Synchroâ€&#x;s 4D, dynamic display is worth a million words.


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It is such a simple thing, but every work area foreman, subcontractor, or supplier who is part of a project has first and foremost his own position and approach. They are all professional and experienced in their trades, and they will set out to do the job to a high standard. However, they are not used to seeing beyond their own trade and thinking of the general overall project. They will assert their rights, fight for position, give way as little as possible, squeeze co-operation when needed, but first and foremost, they must deliver the agreed package against any odds, including weak project management. The gears of the project inevitably will mesh without synchronisation. However, synchronisation should be done as soon as possible. It certainly canâ€&#x;t wait for the jobsite meeting with a three-week look-ahead to discover any issues and grind the gears into submission. So communication, or even the ability to communicate and receive valuable communication, is not a traditional given. The approach insists on 4D where innovative approaches thrive from careful planning, testing or analysis among all and broad agreement among the participants of the process. 4D adds value through a fluency and openness which exceed previous experience. These qualities simply donâ€&#x;t exist without the power of 4D software. Synchronising offsite activities and preconstruction processes need to be supported, especially if logistics have an impact on the project delivery. 2. Foresight Itâ€&#x;s important that Synchro makes the project come to life and become virtually real to everyone. Equally important, Synchro must back the visualisation with management science techniques of CPM in our own scheduling engine. The solution needs to allow the 3D output of designers and construction modellers alike to be used as the basis for maximising the build ability of the design and the visualisation of the dynamic project under construction. It must enable both the strategy and detailed tactics to be worked out for delivering the project. The earlier the site can be envisioned and the quicker the project progress can be tracked in simulating the build sequence where conflicts and idle work areas can be seen, the better. Under these conditions the subcontractor and supplier will have the longest time possible to be involved and prepare for their activities. Much of the


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detailed synchronised plan can be developed and agreed before the construction phase begins. 3. Collaboration It may appear obvious, or worse as an overused, undervalued practice, but the approach followed on most jobs does not bring all the participants into all aspects of the job -- certainly not with common understanding or clear agreement. Collaboration means that a project approach is well thought out among all participants, coordinated, transparent, and widely agreed at the earliest possible stage and kept up-to-date for all to evaluate and use throughout the project. The actions of all project participants need to be included. Whatever is unplanned or untracked will likely cause the most problems with the shortest time to become resolved and implemented. 4. Process The concept of a process is omnipresent in the construction industry. Yet, it is quite hard to identify what it is and what benefit it delivers when it comes to project planning and management. To implement synchronisation, itâ€&#x;s essential to create a process awareness and mind-set. The good news is that where design coordination exists and the team has generated success at delivering spatially coordinated production design and field orders are reduced, an example of an emerging process has been defined and followed. Weâ€&#x;re highly confident that the benefits of synchronising the dynamic elements of the project far exceed the benefits currently derived from coordinating the static elements through spatial coordination. 5. Information Technology Here it is necessary for a project to ensure that the information used is easy to understand, reusable, transparent, and consistent for every participant. It needs to be real time, accurate and updated to reflect the actual project plan and most up-to-date position. In projects where events conspire permanently to knock the project delivery off course and create a de-sync situation, it is important that correction is


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quick, effective, and can be shared by everyone as soon as it is decided. Somehow, the information system must disseminate to everyone. It does not mean throwing out existing systems, but it might well suggest that, where possible, information is shared with other company systems. We recall Sir John Egan argued that, regardless of the differences between manufacturing and construction, certain practices could be transferred successfully. Historically, most construction industry participants doubted the relevance of the manufacturing model and felt that construction was generally a one-off process and cars, for example, were produced as a production process. In light of everything that Synchro represents let us look past the apparent and obvious differences between these two industries to find useful common ground among these next four topic areas and open our eyes to the opportunities that brought huge enterprise value to the best of manufacturing companies all over the world: 1. The Pre-Production Cycle The need to renew the product range in the auto sector is driven by competitive pressures. The resources placed behind creating new models are substantial and the timing of new product launches is fixed years in advance. Its actual date is often associated with a major motor show where maximum publicity can be expected. The end date is, therefore, fixed and the need to have everything in place for the introduction is a serious consideration. The activity of the supply chain, which includes all the component suppliers as well as the production team, is concentrated on Job 1. This is the first time that the car is put together in a production setting and is, therefore, similar to construction. The point worth retaining is the focus on a specific moment that is known and shared by all the different suppliers. This focus will be an effort over a few years during which there will be a number of progress points all aimed at meeting critical timings that, if missed, have serious consequences. The key event for the new model, like the contract deadline for the contractor, is fixed in time and acts like a pull mechanism for the supply chain. The new model deadline does not work from today and go forward at its own pace. The supply chain must look backward and apply the resources that it needs to fulfill roles by the new modelâ€&#x;s final end date. A focus is required on every individual task on the path to the final end date.


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The entire supply chain must become involved and deliver. Itâ€&#x;s not a question of negotiating like poker players without showing the hand. Rather, new model pre-production is all about early selection to form the complete supply chain with openness and broad team commitment. This situation is transferable to construction and in some cases has already begun to happen. Pull scheduling is finding its way into the construction delivery process in the USA and we already have case studies being written highlighting how Synchro is supporting the process. It is helping to define a different and improved pattern of behaviour among both subcontractors and suppliers. One note of practical application is that, until the critical mass of the supply chain is organised and under contract to deliver, the planning process is bound to plan from a forward looking process. It isnâ€&#x;t until the supply chain is organised that the broad team can flip the perspective and begin the process of managing demand from a deadline driven process. Itâ€&#x;s advisable to reach critical mass and organise the supply chain early in the process and, preferably, before work begins in the field. 2. The Just in Time (JIT) Delivery Process JIT became a term of common usage as component and finished stocks were reduced to virtually nothing in the manufacturing sector. The financial benefits were staggering, but in order to achieve them, it was vital that the JIT pull process worked well or the production lines would stall. This meant having responsive suppliers who could resource to meet the schedules of requirements sent to them. They might only have hours to respond. The lead time varies, but the assembly of a finished product depends on a reliable forward statement of needs. This concept is quite transferable into construction. Construction companies the world over could consider themselves to be JIT specialists whose control over the forward programme was complete enough to call in materials, just as needed. By making the process more sophisticated, just like in the automotive industry, higher assembly levels could be made as modules to leverage prefabrication outside the main site and deliver it for installation. The parallel work and the shorter installation time would bring many benefits to cut the time necessary to complete the final structure.


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3. Continuous Improvement Automotive is obviously based on serial production process -- most obviously at the final assembly stage. Despite setting up a process to deliver to the maximum potential, the industry will never cease from the challenge of becoming even more efficient. The continuous improvement ethic is in strong contrast to construction where the continuity from one project to another is low and this good practice often is lost when the project ends. Construction companies at all levels thrive on innovation and decline on routine. Everyday, the construction company at all ends of the supply chain exists in a competitive market that rewards innovators. Construction relies too heavily upon the individual and what happens in the moment. Instead, it should rely upon information and thorough analysis where opportunities to improve are discovered and thoughtfully approached. This new process creates a culture of forward thinkers, who drive the industry results to initially earn greater profit and, eventually, greater market share. Clearly, innovation thrives in construction while a culture of continuous improvement needs more attention. Planning, tracking, and recording project performance are the raw elements necessary to manage continuous improvement efforts: they serve to create the elements of the baseline, which is used to measure improvements. 4. Logistics in the Construction Industry Logistics is a word that could be described as flavour of the month to construction companies. The main problem to address at an early stage is: “What are construction logistics?” Construction Co. set up a separate division called Logistics Co. and as an independent profit centre, set about to procure a number of regularly used items for its different projects. “We made more money from logistics than from the main business,” they said. Other users of the term “construction logistics” have historically understood its meaning to involve activities such as organising security, workforce canteens, site roads, crane locations, the clocking in of trucks onto site, and the unloading process.


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Construction Competitor Co. took a totalitarian view of the term and simply said: “If it moves, then that‟s logistics.” That spread in meaning for logistics needs to be reconciled if the term is to have a real definition. The term cannot be used with any productive affect if it does not have a standard meaning. In some ways every time there is a movement, then there is a logistics connotation. Logistics can be studied to determine whether it could be done better, but the driver of this activity must reside elsewhere. Logistics starts with a call, known to manufacturing insiders as the pull mechanism. This term in effect means that a material will be installed in a certain place at a certain time in the future. The essence of logistics is to feed that need efficiently by avoiding excess transport, inventory, waiting, movement, defects, processing or excess amounts. The straight line of an order from a customer, met by the equally straight-line delivery to the point of installation, is the pinnacle of the logistics profession. Invariably, the lack of clarity in the demand, or pull signal, causes extra cost to be built into the logistics chain. If this clarity can be developed to a point of high reliability, then there‟s little reason in construction why deliveries can‟t efficiently be made directly. Synchronisation is the enabler of efficient logistics by adding reliability which means that forward schedules can be issued and logistics can consider the optimised delivery solution. The focus then can be placed on ways to improve the process: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

How can one select materials at the earliest possible moment, preferably from engineering concept designs then validated by production design? How should a company communicate that order and notify any changes? How can one pinpoint the exact pack sizes or location where the materials should be placed for the installers? Confirmation methods of availability and delivery from the supplier. Consideration of off-loading methods. Use of bar coding and/or RFI tags. Electronic triangulation among deliveries, invoices, and delivery notes. Method of movement on site.


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These considerations lead to useful control methods to improve material handling. The main enabler of good logistics is, however, the synchronisation of site activities as a result of which logistics under expert management will flow.


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February 2007

“Synchro provides the graphic simulation needed to deliver and improve construction solutions for our clients, along with a real time based 4D model for idea generation and problem solving within the project team.” Rob Owen, Director Mace Group Ltd

By late 2006 Synchro was still stalled: the company had know-how and software, but the software wasn‟t a market-ready product. Synchro was only usable by its in-house staff consultants who deployed the software to fulfill engagements and provide the deliverables required for their 4D services. Synchro as a product and construction tool had yet to develop beyond the contributions it made to the company‟s consulting assignments. Synchro was into its third generation and had experienced limited success by any independent industry users. No doubt, Synchro was clever software. However, it needed critical development work to prepare it for the market where the construction planner could begin using it easily and effectively. In early 2007 Synchro‟s consulting practice gave way to a focus on software engineering and development driven by independent industry users and extensive feedback through comprehensive beta testing. Between March and October of 2007 we produced three major releases in response to critical issues found in testing. Our first market-ready version of 3.5 was produced, certified, and shipped in late October. The new software team was the real breakthrough. The process of building a product development team can follow several different strategies and our new team had several important advantages over all potential strategic directions. The priority, once the finance was in place, was to travel to Moscow and interview for selection: Synchro actually was interviewed for acceptance by our then potential software development partners. The interview process involved several meetings to discuss the software, our goals, and the time frame for the product‟s future. Our long-term partnering


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agreement with the Institute for Systems Programming (ISP) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) was drafted and signed by the end of the week. This partnership secured Synchroâ€&#x;s future and the health of the company for many years ahead. ISP RAS was founded on January 25, 1994, on the base of the departments of System Programming and Numerical Software of the Institute for Cybernetics Problems of the RAS. ISP RAS belongs to the Division of Mathematical Sciences of the RAS and has three main components: 1. 2. 3.

Fundamental Research Software Development and Applied Research for the Benefits of the Industry and Education.

The Institute employs more than 200 highly qualified researchers and software engineers, including 12 doctors of science and 45 philosophy doctors. Many employees of the Institute also work as professors in leading Russian universities. Our team has been with us everyday since our agreements were signed and is comprised of a handful of engineers led by our Chief Software System Development & Integration Director. At this point we were confident and justified in asking five project teams from the US and the UK to work with Synchro as beta software. We had a steep climb and an immoveable deadline to reach version 3.5. We had gained the opportunity to exhibit and present Synchro at the 24th Annual Primavera User Conference at Disney World in Orlando Florida and we capitalised upon it. The team immediately gave us engineering depth and the agility to respond to usersâ€&#x; issues as the beta testing progressed over the next several months. We broke the development into four main streams, including the user interface & functional richness, systems integration & interoperability, visualisation, and the fourth stream of scale and speed. We assembled five project teams to act alongside our product management and development team to provide beta testing on real construction projects. The feedback was constructive and encouraging. The teams ranged from a construction team working in London on a high-end residential complex with tight site conditions and several tower blocks utilising a top-down bottom-up approach to the super- and sub-structure of the complex. Another team produced tens of thousands of 3D animations and


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movie presentations over the years dating back to the late 1980s for design, project visualisation and 4D construction. The feedback returned fast and furious but in all cases value was measured by using Synchro. Although Synchro was at its earliest stage of maturity, the beta teams solved really challenging project delivery problems. In one case a team won new business as a result of using Synchro during the selection interview. The benefits were clear to all who participated. However, the product had several weaknesses across the spectrum that had to be strengthened or Synchro would not ship. One weakness was our interoperability with other systems. At the time we only supported workflows and the exchange of data between CAD systems that produced 3D files using the .DWF format. Another problem was our limited ability to exchange data with planning systems, which at the time was limited to Microsoft Project. This mere toe-hold on our interoperability capabilities had to improve, especially when 100% our target market used Primavera or Asta products. More than 50% of the CAD systems in the market did not support the .DWF file format. These two weaknesses quickly became a priority. Our technology partnership with Primavera was signed in early May and gave us the privilege to integrate with P5. We achieved Primavera Certification in early October 2007 -- only days before we travelled to launch Synchro onto the world stage at the Primavera Conference. That show gave us access to more than 2,000 users of which 400 came to speak with us directly and our sales pipeline began to flow. Our first user from the UK joined us in a presentation to a standing room only audience of Primavera Users. Most of the audience had seen 4D visualisation before but no one had seen 4D scheduling or our round-trip data exchange with P5. Our ability to import from Oracle-Primavera (R) to make changes in the programme, see the results in real time and then send the data back to update the Primavera programme was then, and still is now, revolutionary and unique to 4D scheduling systems. At the conference we released Synchro Professional v3.5 and over the next three years our development team produced 10 major releases. We sunset our third generation product with our “Pi� release, named for its version number: 3.1415.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Our development team‟s agility and quality production rate are unprecedented. Although we had an ambitious release schedule, it was merited due to the opportunity and demand that we experienced from our customers and the market at large. Today, we have more than 200 market leading companies and thousands of users as our customers. One company had more than 125 new users by the end of 2010 and just started to grow its user base and proved its project delivery processes by using Synchro. When asked recently to what extent Synchro was playing a role in their power and energy solutions group, the feedback was “extensive.” Synchro‟s third generation product progression was focused on ready-to-hand feature richness and interoperability without the need for enterprise configuration and lengthy setup. The fourth generation is data abstraction, internationalisation, multi-language, scale, and speed. In a few years our fifth generation will introduce new predictive and probability analysis capabilities to provide users and management with real time feedback on planning approaches and project delivery performance. The fifth generation value proposition depends on a rich store of project history leveraged by advanced, machine learning techniques to deliver its capabilities uniquely to each customer organisation. Our vision for business software is the ability to provide the user with a real time virtual reality environment backed by real business data and analysis. For today‟s generation of youth, who matured on video games, they will expect software at work to feature as rich a visual environment as they experience at home at play. We understand that construction is complex and will not become simpler in the future. Construction is driven to evolve by new and exciting designs, ever larger public works projects, and taller buildings. However, the project delivery innovators deliver these designs. Synchro has recently shipped a version of our software that we categorise as our fourth generation product. Over the next several months we shall concentrate the application‟s ability to handle the super-size models, data abstraction and storage to create the intellectual fuels for what is planned for our fifth generation product.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Synchroâ€&#x;s fourth generation platform is a prerequisite for fifth generation value within which the more you use Synchro 4.x, the more value you will receive when we release v5.x using advanced machine learning capabilities. The process of generating higher value returns from our fifth generation product starts now where projects are planned and tracked, approaches are created and records are kept for actual project performance. Using Synchroâ€&#x;s system today benefits not only the projects planned and managed presently but becomes an essential asset for future generations of Synchro.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Tom Dengenis, Chief Executive Officer Synchro Ltd. With a background in the global construction market Chief Executive Officer, Tom Dengenis, brings construction engineering, software development and management experience to U.K.-based Synchro, Ltd. Prior to joining Synchro, Dengenis was a Director in the IT Strategy and Architecture Practice for BearingPoint Inc., a New York-based global consulting company (formerly KPMG Consulting, Inc), from 2005 to 2007, and also from 1996 to 2000. Prior to that, he served as chief executive officer for two software companies focused on the construction industry in London, first with Bidcom Ltd. from 2000 to 2002, and then Asite PLC from 2002 until 2005. Dengenis was Associate Commissioner responsible for the construction program at the Massachusetts Highway Department from 1993 to 1996. He also served as Commissioner of Labor and Industries for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Prior to that, he was founder and president of a small projects construction company serving the greater Boston, MA market. Dengenis is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, founded in 1754 in London whose first American member was Benjamin Franklin. He is also a Certified Professional Constructor, as designated by the American Institute of Constructors. Dengenis earned a construction engineering degree from Montana State University, Bozeman, MT and an associate degree in applied science in building construction from the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA. + + +


Ten-Year Anniversary

About Synchro Ltd Synchro Ltd, headquartered in Birmingham, England, began software product development in 2001 on its construction simulation and task management solution, and has been recognized for its achievements in producing award-winning, innovation technology. Synchro's mission is to deliver software that serves the construction delivery team and survives the dynamics of everyday life in the construction industry. Synchro currently delivers construction simulation modelling software and Synchro related services to 4D BIM and LEED consultancies, architects, colleges and universities, and among nearly 200 major construction companies in 65 countries on six continents.


Ten-Year Anniversary

Synchro Ltd Birmingham Science Park Aston Faraday Wharf Holt Street Birmingham B7 4BB United Kingdom +44 (0) 2476 940250 +1 (203) 856-4223 Registered in England: 04154580 VAT Number: 776 0786 86


Synchro 10-Year White Paper  
Synchro 10-Year White Paper  

Synchro 10-year anniversary white paper