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Features Of Measurement Software In Construction Industry Information Technology Essay

3.1 Introduction

The use of measurement software in construction industry has focused on measurement and BQ since these two have been the predominant core activities of work. However, as we are aware today, the use of computers can be applied to many different situations. This chapter will review the application and features of measurement software in local construction companies. The common application functions of measurement software such as measurement, cost estimation, tender document preparation, BQ preparation and the like will briefly described in the first sub-chapter.

In addition, case studies of measurement software currently available in market whether local or foreign will be conducted in this chapter. This chapter will also provide the key features or modules of the Microsoft Office Excel 2007, CATO Suite, BinaLink, Buildsoft, WinQS, PriMus-DCF and PriMus REVOLUTION in more details. The positive or negative impacts of measurement software on local construction industry will be explained and carried out by few survey analyses additionally. A summary of this chapter will be presented in the last section.

Questionnaire will be drafted based on this chapter to meet the last two objectives of the research which are the extent of measurement software application and the resulted impacts from it in local construction companies.

3.2 Application and Features of Measurement Software in Local

Construction Companies

Measurement software were created and developed to serves the roles and responsibilities of QS profession in a construction companies with lesser time and higher accuracy. Application functions of measurement software enable to perform the following:

Measurement

Measurement is the main activity that any quantity surveyor engages in during the stage of tender preparation. Curren (1987) advocates that computer can measure quantities automatically and is more accurate compared to measurement done manually (cited by Lim and Ong, 2008). This goes to show the use of computers is vital to the quantity surveyor as it helps in reducing the time needed for taking-off quantities.

Cost Estimation

Ahuja and Campbell (1988) defined that cost estimation is prediction of probable cost incurred for a proposed construction project. It is a technical process and has been described as both an art and also science. Estimating is usually carried out by quantity surveyor or estimator on behalf of contractor with the attempt to forecast the tender sum to be included in the BQ before submitting the tender. The purpose of the cost estimation is to obtain the expected cost of a project in varying degrees of accuracy at different phases of project. Cost estimating software will enhance the accuracy while estimating the building cost and examine the implication of initial cost design.

BQ Preparation

Computer systems are used to facilitate this process by automatically reducing double keying work and thus saving a huge amount of time. In term of BQ production, Microsoft Excel is widely used for doing taking off and preparation of BQ. Traditional spreadsheet measurement sheet have the ability to reduce the burden of timesing and squaring as well as checking of this two steps (Hamid and Chong, n.d.). BQ production involves a long and tedious process. Nigel (1978) has listed out eight major steps in producing a BQ as below:

Measurement of Quantities

Timesing and Squaring

Checking of Timesing and Squaring

Abstracting

Checking of Abstracting

Preparation and Checking of Draft BQ

Preparation of BQ and Checking

Final BQ

Tender Documents Preparation

The phase of preparation of the tender documents is extremely important, as it determines the terms of the tender procedure as well as the terms for execution of the contract. Kovari (n.d.) noted that seven documents will be provided in tender documents preparation and the format of it can be saved into the memory of the computers as shown below:

Advertisement for Bids (Notice to Contractors or Invitation to Bid)

Draft Contract which included type of contract, general provisions or general conditions and special provisions or special provisions.

Statements of Work, Services and Technical Specifications

BQ

Schedule of Execution

Bidding Schedule

Approved Drawings

Project Cost Control

Cost control starts at inception, when guide prices or indicative costs will be required through the stage when an early price estimate is prepared and the tender process undertaken by the contractors through the final completion and agreements of the final account for the project. The architect or engineer will want to consider alternative solutions that meet the client’s overall aims and objectives during the various stages of design. The quantity surveyor will offer cost advice for the comparative design solutions of the alternative materials to be used and also advice on the cost implications of the design morphology and procurement. Cost control does not stop at tender stage but continues up to the agreement of the final account and the issue of the final certificate for the works. Hence, cash flow estimating software enables quantity surveyor record and calculates the date driven accurately and faster. It is also providing a better monitoring on the building process (Ashworth and Hogg, eds, 2007).

Valuation

In practice, the contract normally is to be paid by employed a sum on account as the construction work proceeds. Before the Architect issuing a certificate, quantity surveyor has to prepare an interim valuation (Lian, 2009). Interim valuation can be carried out by using the BQ programme as database usually. The main items to be considered when valuing the words area as following:

Preliminaries

Main Contractor’s Works

Variation

Unfixed Materials and Goods

Statutory Fees and Charges

Nominated Sub-Contractors Works

Nominated Suppliers Goods

Fluctuation in Costs of Labour, Materials

Retention

Final Account Preparation

According to Ashworth and Hogg (eds, 2007), the majority of construction projects result in a final cost that is different to that agreed by the client and contractor at commencement of the construction works. The calculation and agreement of this final construction cost, the final account is usually of the utmost importance to both the employer and contractor. Therefore, parties to the contract need to ensure that the final account incorporates a fair valuation of the works carried out. Within lump sum contract arrangements the price agreed by the client at commencement will normally require adjustment for several matters including variations, provisional measurements, provisional sums, fluctuations, and claims. Thus, quantity application software will sort, store and analyse the capability and score the goal of time saving.

3.3 Case Studies of Measurement Software Available in Market

Anything and everything can be computerised nowadays. It is inevitable that the complex task of measuring quantities off drawings or taking-off has now progressed into the digital realm. ICT is becoming a strategic asset for any organisation to deliver business improvement in the AEC industry. Hence, QS firms are encouraged to use the computer to perform traditional tasks. The following are some measurement software currently used in the market.

3.3.1 Microsoft Office Excel 2007

Microsoft Corporation is a software company based in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft is ranked 15th in the world’s top 500 companies and its operating software has driven 93% of the world’s desktop computers since 1991. Microsoft Office software encompassing a suite of e-mail, word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools dominates 90% of the market and brings in $9 billion annually as a third of the company’s revenue (Corporate Watch UK, 2004).

Graduate School (2010) stated that Microsoft Office Excel is a software application that offers three distinct processes for managing data such as spreadsheet, database or graphing. The primary feature, spreadsheet is a number crunching tool allowing for sophisticated calculations such as budgets, finances, inventories or any task that is numerically oriented. The database and graphing functions allow for selecting, retrieving, viewing and charting data that is contained within the spreadsheet mode.

According Microsoft Corporation (2010), Microsoft Office Excel 2007 is a powerful and widely used tool that helps people analyses information to make more informed decisions. There are the top 10 ways in which Office Excel 2007 can help users create spreadsheets and analyse, share and manage information more effectively as shown below:

Office Excel 2007 features the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface to help users find powerful tools when users need them.

Import, organise and explore massive data sets within significantly expanded spreadsheets.

Use the completely redesigned charting engine in Office Excel 2007 to communicate users’ analysis in professional-looking charts.

Enjoy improve and powerful support for working with tables.

Create and work with interactive PivotTable views with ease.

“See” important trends and find exceptions in users’ data.

Use office Excel 2007 and Excel Services to help share spreadsheets more securely with others.

Help ensure users or users’ organisation work with the most current business information.

Reduce the size of spreadsheets and improve damaged file recovery at the same time.

Extend users’ business intelligence investments because Office Excel 2007 provides full support for Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services.

3.3.2 CATO Suite

Causeway Technologies was established in 1998 to provide its customers throughout the United Kingdom with a range of competitive software products and services. It is a fast growing organisation currently employing in the region of 200 people and is the leading software developer for the construction industry. From feasibility through to final account, cost management professionals are faced with ever tighter deadlines in which to deliver accurate cost information (Causeway Technologies Ltd., 2008).

The CATO Suite has been developed with the close participation of the profession and provides powerful support to the QS professional. The introduction of CATO Enterprise is an opportunity to implement a step change in their business processes effectively to provide their staff with a QS desktop. The creation of BQ and cost plans in a controlled environment providing information can be relied upon and used to build a database for future projects and importantly reports produced in a consistent manor for clients (Causeway Technologies Ltd., 2008).

14 types of modules of the CATO Suite provide an affordable solution that can be managed and adapted to company requirements are (Brochure of CATO Suite):

CATO Full Contract

CATO Management Contracts

CATO Quickest

CATO CADMeasure

CATO Earthworks

CATO Cost Planning

CATO Cashflow

CATO Document Register

CATO Procurement

CATO E-Tendering

CATP Project Controls

CATO Cost Management

CATO Whole Life Costing

CATO Rates

CADMeasure is a multi-purpose measurement tool that enables users to measure from electronic drawings with unprecedented accuracy. It provides an easy to use CAD based on-screen professional measurement facility, ideal for all types of measurement from the most sophisticated 3-dimensional building object model to the simplest sketch (Brochure of CADMeasure).

The features of CADMeasure are:

Easy to use through familiar pull down menus, toolbars and dialogues.

Local or network versions available with concurrent licensing.

Access to all non-editing AutoCAD commands during measurement session.

Comprehensive on-line help system.

Full Audit trail with automatically annotated drawing record.

Suitable for a range of different users including those involved with property, construction, manufacturing, medical and retail sectors.

Ability to store and record complete measurement history in line with design changes.

Dynamic link between measurement and drawing content.

Available both as a standalone solution and for use with existing installations of AutoDesk products including AutoCAD, MAP 3D and Architectural Desktop.

Drawing integrity retained.

Improved measurement integrity via new XML file format.

Supports remote software development for effective multi-user implementation and updates.

3.3.3 BinaLink

Bina Link Solutions Sdn. Bhd. is a company formed by Malaysians who are familiar with local standards and procedures with the objective of providing IT solutions to the construction industry. The company founded by experienced personnel of the construction of the construction and IT industry. The company staffs have vast experience working in consultants’ and contractors’ environments. They involved themselves in the rapid advancement of computer development and usage in the construction industry in the last two decades. The development of the company’s programme is carried out by dynamic and knowledgeable staffs that are conversant with the latest in IT (Bina Link Solutions Sdn. Bhd., 2006).

According to brochure of BinaLink, there are 9 types of modules are:

BinaLink BQ Module

Binalink Tender Module

Binalink CAD Measure

Binalink Tender Comparison Module

Binalink E-Tender

Binalink Preliminaries

Binalink Worksheets

Binalink Progress Payment Module

Binalink Final Account Module

The BinaLink BQ Module is an exciting innovative system especially developed for use as a superior tool for the preparation of BQ and construction costing. It is developed by Malaysian experts on a familiar Microsoft Windows platform to suit a standalone or networking environment. In addition, it will be unique local working methods and cost effective system (Brochure of BinaLink).

The key features of BinaLink BQ Module are:

Standard BQ Libraries

Mutiple Column BQ up to 3 columns

Lump Sum Bills

Project Summary Reports

Direct Measurement Method

2 Dimensional Worksheet Measurement

Formula Worksheet Measurement

Rebar Worksheet Measurement

Flagging Reports for Sub-total Quantities

Resource Reports

Built-up Rates with resources, price and resource databases

Mark-up Reports

Gross Floor Area Measurement for Elemental Cost Analysis

CAD Measurement Facilities with Direct Linking to Worksheet (Optional)

3.3.4 Buildsoft

Buildsoft is an Australian company with its head office in Sydney. Buildsoft was established in 1985 to develop and market computer software for the building and construction industry. The company staffed by an enthusiastic team with many years of practical experience in the building industry. In Australia, its products became the industry standard and now exported to 20 countries. The company have a select network of accredited overseas distributors and over 5000 worldwide users. Because of this, Universities and TAFE colleges in Australia as well as selected Universities throughout Asia and the United Kingdom are teaching its products as the accepted standard (Builsoft, 2009).

Products available are:

Offsider Estimating

Global Estimating

Subbies Comparison

On-Screen/Digitizer Take-off

Digitizer Board

Scale-Link USB

Maths Mate

Buildsoft Global Estimating is an estimating programme that has been tailored for commercial use in the building and construction industry. BQ or detailed Estimates and Cost Plans will be produced. It designed primarily for use by commercial building contractors and professional quantity surveyors. It is also including features which allow it to be used in other industries where estimating is required.

The main features of Buildsoft Global Estimating System are:

BQ

Composite Rates

Libraries for Description & Rates

Tendering Function

Multi-level Mark-up Function

Estimating Functions

Job Analysis

Cost Analysis

Quality Analysis

Measurement – Calculation Sheet

Interim Valuation/Progress Claim

Tender Comparison System – SCP Module

Buildsoft Take Off System (BTOS) – CAD Measurement Module

Buildsoft Online Tendering System (BOLTS)

3.3.5 WinQS

Advanced Cost Engineering (AEC) Solutions cc was formed in June 1996. It is involved in the system design, the marketing and the support of the WinQS system which, over ten years has grown to be the most widely used QS system and had more than 3000 licensed systems installed in Southern Africa as well as internationally nowadays. The WinQS software is constantly being upgraded and new modules written to provide solutions for quantity surveyors and contractors. WinQS provides a complete QS system with on-screen take-off dimension, It provides an ease on pricing due to multiple sets of price may be stored for each project and be copied, multiplied and select for use in Bills production, estimating, valuation and others. The system features of WinQS will be shown in Table 3 (WinQS, n.d.).

WinQS is a complete QS system for:

The Production of BQ Documents

The Production of Estimates Documents

The Calculation of Monthly Valuations

The Cost Analysis of a Project

Joint Building Contracts Committee (JBCC) 2000 Certificate Module

Contract Price Adjustment Calculations

Tender Analysis

Financial Review

Costs Reports

Table 3: The system features of WinQS (WinQS, n.d.)

3.3.6 PriMus-DCF and PriMus REVOLUTION

ACCA is the Italian leader in the Building Industry Software. ACCA is a reference point in the field now to covering an unparalleled range of solutions and distributing the programs which are the standard for the industry. Founded in 1989, ACCA grew rapidly thanks to its products, well-known for their usability and their strongly innovative inspiration. This company is ISO 9001:2008 quality management system certified. Therefore, the company structure will ensure to improve constantly the processes and activities meeting customer’s needs and satisfaction (ACCA software, n.d.).

PriMus-DCF is the BQ software for working directly with Internet Explorer. It is more transparent, closer to your natural and ordinary way of working and thinking, and therefore easy to manage with the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) philosophy. The Document Computation Format (DCF) standard introduces a revolution in the building software world undertaking the basic data sharing concept. Users can easily transmit BQ and estimates documents and everything in users’ document will be contained in one unique file, no heavier database structures but just a small size compressed file. With PriMus-DCF, everybody can open a DCF document and work on it freely (ACCA software, n.d.).

According to ACCA software (n.d.), PriMus REVOLUTION allows integrated development and processing of all estimating or project management documents, updated with the latest regulatory guidelines with the automatic generation of:

BQ (forecasts, resulting costs, work variation surveys, final accounting, quantity estimates, requests for proposal, labour incidence estimate, etc.)

Measurement Book

Accounting Register

Cost Summary

Work Progress Statement

Payment Certificate

Steel Reinforcement Bars Requirements Book

Price Lists

Comparison Table (for work variation surveys, comparison of work progress statements, comparison of multiple design assumptions or proposals, etc.)

Weekly Lists of Workers, Equipment and Costs

Forms (completion of works, beginning of works, suspensions, resumptions, execution, etc.)

History Management

3.4 Impacts of Measurement Software on Local Construction

Industry

According to the conducted survey of Lim and Ong (2008), the measurement software is still not widely use or fully utilised in measuring quantities for preparation of BQ or other extent usages in local construction industry although most of the companies have it. Based on the feedback from the survey, the common problems associated with measurement software are:

The use of such software requires learning and remembering many procedures

Lack of flexibility

Need to train new staff to use the software

Using measurement software to take-off quantity requires the taker-off to perform transferring of raw quantities from one software into another either digitally or manually to produce the quantities in the BQ format as compared to the manual method. Newer technology is being developed that allows seamless transfer of quantities from measurement software to the customised software for the preparation of BQ. However, not all measurement software has the complete package of measuring and BQ production software.

Most of the companies which using the measurement software would need to spend money and time to train existing and new staff to use the software before it can be utilised efficiently. The need of training also indicates that the education of quantity surveyors has not focus on this skill, as it has never been required. Nevertheless, a change to the education curriculum is necessary to produce QS graduates that are skilled in using measurement software now. The survey also noted that it is difficult to check the measured quantities if the measurement is done by using measurement software if compared with the manual method. In fact, only staffs that are skilled in using it would be able to check the quantities easily.

Besides, the survey also attempted to find out the advantages of measurement software as the following:

Higher accuracy

Ease in editing the measurement

Increase speed of measurement

Easy to measure

Reduction of Workforce

Most of the companies agreed that utilising measurement software in measurement of quantities produces high accuracy. Measurement of quantities directly from digital format drawings removes the need to reproduce drawings on paper. Wheeler (1992) stated that reproduction of drawing on paper will reduce the accuracy of the drawings and measurement scaled from paper will further erode the accuracy (cited by Lim and Ong, 2008). There is also eliminated to mistakes due to human error in reading the dimension off scale rule and recording the dimension on paper or spreadsheet file.

Measurement software allows for easy digital editing of quantities measured. This is because it contained function such as block, entity area, copy, paste, delete and undo as any other software that facilitate the editing process. In addition, application of measurement software will increases the speed in measuring quantities as compared to manual method. This is due to the ability of the software to generate quantities. Memory of computer also enables a program of instruction saved and turns it into fully automatic, it then simplifying the works.

Finally, workforce required to measure quantities could be reduced with the use of measurement software. Most QS firms have reduced the number of technical assistants specialising only in measurement of quantities in common practice. With the use of technology, the measurement work is now easier and faster but the skill needed has also evolved to a higher level consequently.

3.5 Summary

This chapter is about the current application and features of measurement software and its impact on the construction industry. Due to many business processes are now almost completely computerised and the tendency is toward a greater computerisation of the remaining processes, there might be a market in the use of measurement software for QS to carry out the works such as measurement, taking-off, BQ production, etc. more efficiently and speedily. This research also found that Microsoft Office Excel 2007, CATO Suite, BinaLink, and Buildsoft are the common and popular measurement software have been used in local market.

Although there are vary measurement software provided in the market and adopted in construction companies, this research found that QS appears to be one of the few professions that have not been profoundly transformed by the application of the technological advancement offered by digital revolution especially in a developing economy like Malaysia. The biggest impact of measuring software on QS practice had been on improving the speed and efficiency of professional services. Information flows in construction would increasingly be made electronically and a wide range of measurement, estimating and costing procedures also would be done through the use of software packages.

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