Developing a Lean Construction Management Solution
Our clients came to a conclusion that the traditional approaches to Project Management that existed in the construction industry could no longer efficiently support the large-scale projects they engaged inimplementing. The diverse plethora of often-interrelated business processes (that for some of their projects numbered in excess of 20,000), could no longer be planned and tracked by simply movingvariously colored tags around a board. Quite often, these projects involved thousands of construction contractor teams. The massive number of actors and artifacts involved made it impossible to plan and track project progress and changes made and respond to those changes in an efficient manner. It was problematic to track the impact of these changes and consistently update the project schedule accordingly.
Tracking relations between the various processes and defining and adjusting the sequences in which they were to take place was tricky and difficult. It was also challenging to manage the vast number of inspections and certifications associated with the different types of activities. All this resulted in a numberof planning errors, frequent delays, unwanted process overlaps, and significantly increased costs.
In order to streamline their Project Management approaches and align them with their growing business needs, our clients opted for the Lean Project Management (LCM) delivery model that originates from the Automotive Industry and had been adopted by the Construction industry.
The Lean Construction Management (LCM) delivery model focuses on splitting a construction site into several areas and defining the sequence in which the various teams perform construction tasks in each of those areas. It analyzes all the processes and related workflows during the early planning stage, and helpsone stay in control of those workflows and the entire inflow of materials throughout the project’s duration. With LCM, it becomes easy to track the project progress and the numerous related changes made and respond to those changes in an efficient manner.
Having adopted the LCM delivery model, our client concluded that it was best to digitalize their LCM processes by developing a comprehensive software application that would automatically model them. More specifically, our clients expected such an application to solve the following tasks:
- Digitalize all of their LCM processes.
- Ensure complete transparency of all the LCM processes by making them stable and intuitive.
- Optimize the LCM processes and make them visible to all those involved with the project.
- Dramatically reduce construction delays and the number of planning errors.
- Expedite the construction process overall.
- Help save project budget and resources.
As the Construction Consortium started their search for a suitable IT partner to implement the project, they realized that the massive amount of diverse functionality they required rendered the system’s development extremely costly. Because of this, our clients came to regard the Serverless development option as the most optimal way to implement the project. Having become acquainted with our Backendless Pro solution and the significantly reduced project timeframe it enables, the JV engaged Backendless to implement the project.
To implement the project, Backendless created a project team that consisted of 1 Project Manager, 6 software engineers, and 1QA engineer. The project has been managd jointly by the Project Managers on both the client and Backendless sides.
The client provided us with a detailed Technical Specification for the project. However, due to the massive size and high degree of complexity of the functionality to be delivered, we frequently needed to further clarify various requirements and discuss them with our clients. This necessitated frequent visits to the client sites in the Middle East and Western Europe. Our project team also elicited various requirements from the client’s Project Manager on a regular basis. Additionally, we introduced a working practice, whereby any of our software engineers could communicate directly with our clients’ Business Analysts. To better familiarize our client’s in-house IT team with the Backendless Pro solution, we conducted in-person workshops with the client’s technical team.
Throughout the project, our development team was working in direct and close collaboration with one of the client companies’ in-house QA & Testing team, engaged in the Acceptance Testing of the functionality we delivered.
We needed to have any functionality to be developed approved by the technical and business stakeholders of two client companies simultaneously. The latter posed an additional difficulty during the project’s implementation.
The delivered solution fully complies with the clients’ requirements, and allows easy modeling of an LCM process by performing the following steps:
- Splitting a construction site (for example, a building), or a part thereof, into several separate areas.
- Selecting the types of LCM processes, required for the performance of a certain type of works, to these areas.
- Defining the duration of each of the assigned LCM processes and the composition of the team assigned to perform the related works.
- Assigning the combination of the LCM process, its duration, and the related team to a specific area or areas of the construction site (building).
- Generating a comprehensive schedule that indicates the timeframes for all the LCM processes, as well as providing details on the construction teams associated with them and the resources required to implement each of the processes.
The user can track the progress that has been made on a daily basis using a separate dashboard. This includes the work that has been done, the status of each process, and any possible delays or mistakes that have come to pass. The application provides ease of use in copying and pasting LCM processes in their entirety. It highlights unwanted process overlaps and automatically moves any conflicting items to the next day. It is possible for the user to select multiple items and move them to another date and time, or remove them altogether.
Our technical solution for the project included the following technologies and tools:
- Libraries: React, Redux, XState, Chart.js, express, Jest, ESLint.
- Testing: Jest (Unit tests), Selenium (Integration Tests)
- Integrations: Power BI
- Platform: Backendless Pro
Implementing the project involved an array of formidable technical challenges. We analyzed a huge number of requirements and developed a vast amount of diverse functionality. Many of the challenges we’ve come across were related to the solution being extremely data-intensive. The database of the solution contains hundreds of thousands of data records, and presenting any of the views to the user requires processing tens of thousands of pieces of data at a very high speed. Additionally, any user action on any of the application screens impacts the entire application and triggers a massive number of intricate calculations that also need to be made very expeditiously.
We have managed to comply with and, in many instances, even exceed the clients’ requirements for the system. Many of the highlights of the development process are illustrative of our mastery in the development of intricate and demanding software functionality. In particular, these highlights include:
- A scrollable schedule with the time span of more than 100 years, where each of the processes is colored differently.
- The schedule can support more than 20,000 elements. It supports large-sized data tables with progressive rendering that contain up to 100,000 rows.
- The ability for the user to perform UI actions by using shortcuts (CTR+C, CTR+X, CTR+V, CTR+A, ESC, CTR+Z, CTR+SHIFT+Z) and adjust the level of zoom by using the mouse wheel.
- Synchronized scrolling between several independent parts of a view.
- A minimap that allows one to overview all the elements a schedule contains. UNDO/REDO support for the most recent user actions.
- The ability to generate PDF files, the size of which exceeds 100MB, and which contain up to 5,000 pages.
- A Custom Roles and Permissions section, which allows flexible configuration of the access permissions for each user. Real-time notifications.
- Full synchronization of analytics data with Power BI business analytics service.
- The ability to support more than 500,000 API calls to the server per day.
With the help of Backendless, our clients have been able to fully implement the LCM delivery model that was absolutely mission-critical to their business. Employing our Backendless Pro solution has allowed them to implement this model within a dramatically reduced time frame and at a very moderate cost.
Furthermore, our clients have been able to not only consolidate and efficiently automate their own business processes, but have also begun to offer LCM services to other companies in the Construction industry. At present, the business entity, created by them to steer and manage the LCM project has grown into a full-blown consulting and technology provider to the Construction Industry. The companydrives digitalization in this industry by offering services that are supported by the LCM software solution we delivered.