Last years, more than ever, many AEC companies got involved in temporary joint-ventures with multiple partners for collaborative construction projects. This trend has been amplified with today’s strong focus on, and acceptance of, BIM implementation.
This BIM-adoption in the AEC industry has forced many companies to cope with this new collaboration challenge and to face the barriers and constraints related to this trend. One of these, the technical barriers, can be tackled using cloud computing.
Today however, I’ll guide you through another aspect of cloud computing’s added value in a collaborative construction project: how can costs be reduced using virtual workstations?
1. Instant deployment
Setting up joint venture IT infrastructure, for traditional construction collaboration projects, can result in very complex deployments and set-ups to enable and deliver cross-platform, cross-party accessibility. Think of the set-up of VPNs, accelerators, specific user settings, licensing, dataset loads, alignment on applications etc. Furthermore, extra capital investments may be needed to purchase expensive project-dedicated servers or workstations. While most of today’s traditional client/server architectures lack in performance to deliver a cross-platform collaborative environment, costs are not transparent and IT has a hard time supporting these complex deployments across all companies involved. These difficulties result in time-consuming and difficult negotiations before the project can even start.
A solution to easily reduce lead times and costs, related to these complex IT deployments and avoiding complex and lasting negotiations, is the use of cloud computing. Cloud computing can deploy any IT workstation or infrastructure needed to set up a cooperative environment without any upfront capital expenditure. To find out how easy it is to instantly deploy powerful workstations, have a look at this how-to tutorial.
2. Privacy & security
Another concern that may rise when starting a project in collaboration with different partners, companies and subcontractors, is the protection of intellectual property of every concerned party, and the overall security of a project’s data. Every party wants to protect its intellectual property and the joint-venture wants to protect the project’s overall data against the risk of stolen or lost devices and /or damaged hard drives. This may result in high costs and again complex negotiations that do not help to reduce a project’s lead times.
Cloud computing can challenge this status quo. By storing all the data in a heavily secured datacenter, while collaborators are only video streaming pixels towards their local devices (cfr. Netflix), the project’s files never leave the secured datacenter during a project’s lifetime. This avoids any risk of data and information being lost, due to stolen or lost devices or hardware failures, hereby reducing security costs to zero.
3. Flexibility in terms of mobility
Another challenge faced by construction companies engaged in a joint-project is related to the mobility of their employees. Their heavy duty workstations are often difficult to bring along on-site resulting in a huge loss of time, lacking the ability to modify designs in real-time.
Working on collaborative projects anytime, anywhere and on any device is no longer fantasy. With today’s virtual workstations, this mobility issue is easily tackled, as all the processing power is done in the cloud. This means you could use a simple laptop or tablet to edit or navigate through your design in real-time while being on site.
4. Scalability & Pay per Use
Another challenge that AEC companies are facing today is the economical fluctuation and varying number of employees. The same is true during a project’s lifetime, where the number of collaborators and needed workstations may vary. Today, every collaborator needs his own high end, expensive workstation to add his input to the project’s model, and this results in high upfront capital expenditures to cover these maximum capacity needs.
Another issue, related to scalability, is the lead time it takes to have a new workstation connected, connected to the project’s collaborative environment, to have new collaborators or subcontractors up and running into the project. The latter one can be tackled via the Instant Deployment features of cloud computing.
Extreme flexibility to scale up or down the number of workstations (or its performances) to cover variable needs of a project without any CAPEX investment in just a matter of seconds is another solution that comes with cloud-computing. With the pay-per-use model, you only pay for what you need, what you use and for the time it is being used, and avoid paying for idle capacity, reducing a project’s overall cost.
5. Ease of Use
Setting up a collaboration environment today is quite a challenge, even for highly technical and experienced IT managers. Therefore, Cloudalize developed a game changing platform. The Cloudalize self-provisioning management portal is built from bottom-up, starting from the industry’s needs, to develop a product that is extremely intuitive and easy to use. Using the Cloudalize portal, anyone can instantly set up a collaborative end-to-end environment, without highly IT skills needed to manage the whole platform and thus avoiding to overload the existing IT support department, resulting in reduced lead times while positively affecting the project’s overall cost.
Adopting BIM can certainly reduce cost by controlling deadlines, expenses and pro-active detection of design failures. Some studies have shown that these benefits can reduce a project’s costs up to 20% (IBB, 2007). BIM adoption also gives construction companies a competitive advantage increasing chances to win projects via RFT as better forecasting costs results in more accurate bids. One of the technological barriers to BIM can be easily handled via the Cloudalize cloud computing platform. Using Cloudalize can result into very quick project cost reduction wins and shorter lead times by adding solutions for instant deployment & scalability, privacy & security, flexibility in mobility via a very user friendly Cloudalize management portal.