Benchmark Estimating Software™
When a government client decided to acquire an estimating software package for its infrastructure capex and maintenance programs, they commissioned MIEngineers to carry out an assessment of their options. They needed a tool that was easy to use, fast, and able to store large library items and resource data. After an exhaustive global search, we found that none of the available estimating software satisfied the client's requirements.
Here was our big opportunity. We decided to develop a proprietary software solution and quickly scoped a new product development plan, forming a collaboration with external software experts. After 12 months in the laboratory with its share of wins and set-backs, we created our first piece of professional estimating software. We named it Benchmark Estimating Software™. It was a big moment of realisation for us.
The result was a software product suitable for all users in an organisation; from hard-core professional estimators to casual users. It delivers productivity improvements for cost engineers and estimators, with automatic features delivering a rapid production of estimates, and even the ability to use parametrics to bid whole projects quickly and consistently. Libraries allow a multitude of data to be stored and retrieved again quickly.
That was in the late 1990s. Benchmark Estimating Software was subsequently created as a separate firm to manage and develop the software business. Today, there are now over 2000 estimators in the road, rail, civil, asphalt, landscaping, telecommunications and facilities management industries using Benchmark Estimating Software every day.
Roadworks Estimator™ Software
A perplexed senior executive of a major road authority asked us how he could give his Minister a meaningful price for a new a road project in an hour, with virtually no details. This was a familiar problem we were determined to solve. Applying our first principles philosophy, engineering know-how and established R&D processes, we developed a software solution we named Roadworks Estimator™ within a year. Using advanced parametric modelling, this product can produce meaningful costs, regardless of whether all you have is a topographic map with a line on it showing the possible location or very limited details.
We were subsequently approached by a client with a near impossible task. They needed a price in three weeks for an 800km upgrade of the Pacific Highway from Sydney to the Queensland border. Using the Roadworks Estimator™, we met the client's needs. Blind testing by this and another concurrent client on eight projects, all gave results accurate within 10% of the final approved estimate based on full details.
Managed Motorways and Freeways – Parametric Estimating
We are all too familiar with regular and worsening traffic conditions on our roads and highways. The economic, social and environmental costs are enormous. Road Authorities around the world are plagued by traffic volume build-ups, to a point where traffic speed slows or even stops. Authorities in countries like the UK, Netherlands and Australia are increasingly turning to new technology solutions to remedy the situation. This is typically known as Managed Motorways and Freeways.
Current practice includes demand management facilities to limit the number of vehicles entering the managed area. These may be limited according to type so that trucks may enter via a free flow lane whilst domestic vehicles queue. When on the road, vehicles are controlled by a system of electronic signs driven by cameras, sensors and traffic management control. When traffic is heavy, a procedure such as ‘infantry running’ or ‘hard shoulder running’ may be invoked.
This is all well and good, but retrospectively installing complex and extensive electronic technology into thousands of kilometres of existing motorway is not easy. Knowing our capability as a problem solver, the Highways England asked for our assistance in evaluating the cost of converting their motorways to a managed system.
We determined that the parametric modelling module within Benchmark Estimating Software was a viable solution. Following three months of product development, we created a tool that was able to calculate, within minutes, reliable strategic and concept estimates using only data from the existing road collected in an Excel form and imported automatically into a Benchmark project.
This tool enabled the Highways England to confidently assess the viability of converting elements of its motorway network to managed motorways. Once they had decided to proceed with the transformation of the network, we were then asked to produce a second model at the detailed design stage.
These are examples of how parametric models can be produced, resulting in estimates being costed in a matter of minutes at strategic, concept and detailed phases.
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
You will hear much about BIM. Some people think of it as a 3D model for a project whereas others see it as a database that is represented as a drawing. Who is right? The answer is simple; they both are.
A BIM model will incorporate the drawing in a 3D format. It will include data about the design including details of equipment contained in the design. When we calculate estimates for the work or create a schedule, then this cost and time information can be saved within the BIM model.
As the project proceeds through its lifecycle, the BIM model will be updated with more detailed information. As an example; equipment information will become more detailed, from say a description at a very early stage of say, pump, to complete manufacturer and model number at the time of letting a contract for the works. Finally, after the project is built and the BIM model reflects the works as executed, the owners will have comprehensive information available on which to base maintenance budgets.
BIM will even change the processes of tendering. In the BIM world, all that needs to be issued by clients is a BIM model incorporating everything, including specifications and contract conditions. Similarly, tender submissions will submit a completed BIM.
At MIEngineers we are establishing processes for designing, costing and delivering in accordance with this new paradigm so as to ensure we are able to satisfy the needs of clients now and into the future.