SiteStudio Platform Design Principles
The Nature of Mining Construction Projects
The SiteStudio Platform was created and honed inside various complex mining infrastructure (Mine, Rail, Port) construction projects over many years.
Without a sufficiently capable and flexible platform to dynamically keep pace with the nature of these projects, the frontline of such projects can quickly devolve into being managed via a lot of spreadsheets that frequently contain inconsistent data.
The following challenges for mining construction projects drove design decisions that are embodied in the SiteStudio Platform:
1. A mining construction company typically has many projects running at the same time, or as the Major Contractor on a project with many subcontractors running separate projects as per the following diagram.
Mega Project with many subcontractors each running separate significant projects
- The Operations Manager, senior Project Controls staff and other head office based staff are constantly trying to keep abreast of challenges across a variety projects. Many of these challenges could be better aided with integrated information management that adapts as the project evolves.
2. Capability developed for one project might be identical or mostly similar to that required on other projects.
- The SiteStudio Platform includes the ability to either Link or Clone capabilities to enable reuse across projects.
- Link - use the capability on additional projects with the exact same source code and database design. Any changes made to the master copy of this module are automatically made across all projects.
- Clone - source code and database design are copied into the new project enabling customisations to suit that individual project to be made.
Reuse and adaptation of Packages through various projects
3. The company is often commercially involved in a joint venture or as part of a consortium with other mining construction companies for any given project.
- Examples where SiteStudio has been used on commercially complex projects include:
- a) Underground Diamond Mine Project - two companies were in Joint Venture.
- Each company required separate customised timesheet generation and management.
- Accruals integration was provided for one of the companies.
- Combined data was required for reporting to the client and for internal project management.
- b) Rail Duplication Project - two companies were in Joint Venture, a third formed a Consortium with the Joint Venture.
- Each company required separate customised timesheet generation and management
- Both the Joint Venture and Consortium had to report to the client on various aspects of the project.
- The same client specified Progress system reporting from the Underground Diamond Mine Project enabled the consortium companies to be paid on time.
Six weeks required to setup SiteStudio for use on a project with a complex commercial structure
Import data to assist with accrual calculations
Generate accruals spreadsheet to be sent back to corporate system
4. The company interfaces with many different businesses during the course of the project. (eg subcontractors, suppliers, clients, EPCM, government bodies)
- A small list of examples include:
- The induction requirements for anyone who went to site (client, EPCM, subcontractors, suppliers) were managed via the SiteStudio system for the project.
- Flight details contained in PDF files sent from the flight travel booking company were imported into SiteStudio for integrated management within a single system.
- Material supplier invoices supplied as PDFs were imported where appropriate to ease management of related data and provide integrated reporting.
5. There may be one or more layers between a construction company and the ultimate client. (eg a larger EPCM company that manages work on behalf of the client mining company).
- Many of the projects are "open book". Aspects of the web-based SiteStudio system can be opened up for use by the EPCM, promoting a more collaborative environment.
6. Each party involved had their own unique arrangement of disparate business systems that were involved in managing aspects of the project.
- Within the same division of a subcontractor company, different state based operations (eg WA and QLD) would have different timesheet format requirements.
7. Internet connection speeds were often too slow or even non-existant at various locations on a project.
- For one remote project, the site relied on a single 3G mobile broadband dongle for 30-40 staff to run all their systems. It was reported by Administration staff on the project that SiteStudio was easily the fastest system to use.
- This was due to the extremely low-bandwidth RDP-like (Remote Desktop Protocol) web technology that SiteStudio is built with.
- Furthermore while many other systems were run from the internal corporate network (either out of Perth or Melborune), SiteStudio was delivered from an external 3rd party server hosting provider in Brisbane.
8. Projects change quickly. The hot topic on the project can quickly change. One day it is safety reporting, the next it might be progress reporting, claims, flights, accommodation, manning levels.
- Perhaps the most critically important feature of the SiteStudio Platform is the ability for anyone (with appropriate system permissions) to quickly design, build and maintain capability for use on a project to aid in solving information management challenges.
9. There is high personnel turnover on projects.
- One project had a peak workforce of 270. During the 9 months that SiteStudio was employed on the project approximately 900 different people worked on the project. The expectation at the start of the project was for a 10% churn, not 200+%.
- With that much continuous churn, it is easy to see just how easily personnel management issues can impact a project.
10. Project management personnel (Project Manager, Construction Manager, Project Controls, Administration, Supervisors, Engineers, Planners) may be located in different buildings on the project site.
- For one project this resulted in the level of discrepencies in data being managed by Project Admin, Planning, and Project Accounting suggesting that three different projects were underway.
11. The Fly-In-Fly-Out nature of remote sites means that there are constant staff changeovers.
- The more than information can be centrally managed on a project, the easier it is for teams of people to collaborate across the project regardless of who is onsite at a given time.
12. Project management personnel meet with the client weekly and need accurate, consistent and adaptable reporting to present to the client.
- The ability to press a single button once a week as little as 5 minutes before the meeting is due to start provided much relief to Project Admin, Accounting and Managment staff.
Generate a Weekly Site Report to take to your meetings
Easily inform the client as to what equipment is currently onsite and working
Provide a summary of progress at major sites across the project
See daily summaries of hours being consumed and much more (weather, safety, environmental et al)
13. Clients on these projects would often only pay claims if both Hours and Quantities were very accurately reported.
- Two examples:
- For one project, the client was adding 50 lines of costcodes to the spreadsheet we reported on each week, in addition to the already existing 3000 lines. Until SiteStudio was setup to automatically data to this report the subcontractor was often not paid on time due to inaccurate data collection and reporting.
- For another project, there was a parallel project (different section of the same railway line) for which the subcontractors were not being paid for months on end due to inaccurate data collection and reporting. The subcontractors on this project were being paid on time, arguable due to having SiteStudio implemented.
Imagine arriving at site with a sophisticated yet fully customisable Labour Hours management capability
For the most time consuming data entry aspects of your project, some customisation can make it easier to manage
Employee Leave is fully integrated, available for cross-referencing and reporting as required
Customise the management of your Costcodes to suit your project
Keep a central repository of Client Costcodes including the ability to import new ones as they are allocated by the client
Record and manage installed Quantities, ready for automatic inclusion in the Client's Quantity Manhour Report
Effortlessly move hours around to match the quantities you installed
Manage your Dayworks information easily
Keep track of variations and client correspondence letters with ease
Easily submit and reconcile Variation payments
Effortlessly generate a consistent Quantity Manhour Report spreadsheet for your team to verify before sending the real one to the client for payment
With the press of a button the client supplied Quantity Manhour Report is automatically populated for you to submit and get paid by.
Will all required data already in SiteStudio, it is easy to populate the spreadsheet in which the Planners house their S-Curve calculations and graph
As a consequence of the abovementioned requirements, many design decisions (listed in next section) were required to best satisfy the circumstances.
Critical design aspects of the SiteStudio Platform
To satisfy the abovementioned nature of mining construction projects, we begin with a simple overarching design for what we want to see:
SiteStudio Data Flow
The following were designed into the SiteStudio Platform:
1. By default, every single entity (eg Employee, Labour Hour record, Equipment Hour record, Site Variation, Submittal, Employee Classification etc) that goes into the system has separate forms automatically created for:
a) Adding new records
b) Updating or Deleting existing records
c) Viewing (filter, sort, search, export) all records
d) Audit to show timestamped history of changes for any given database record
By doing this there is always a fundamental way to collect and manage data, even if it not the most efficient or desired design for long term.
Customisations can be later made to achieve efficiency when working with the particular data.
Data that was formerly found in spreadsheets now exists inside a generic but endlessly customisable and interconnected business cog in the wheel of the project
2. The overall goal was to make it eWasy to get data into the system, clean up that data as necessary, create workflows, report accurately as required by an internal or external party.
3. As a result of employing the SiteStudio Platform you can expect much greater alignment of people across your project and organisation.