24 February 2018

Techzone- Lalu Varghese, Director CCS India and Izak vn Niekerk, Software Testing & Training, CCS SOuth Africa

We provide a fully integrated construction solution

 

Construction Computer Software is a company that was created in 1978 and has been registered as a business since 1982. The company promotes two Software solutions, namely, Candy and BuildSmart. In an exclusive interview to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES, LALU VARGHESE, DIRECTOR, CCS INDIA and IZAK van NIEKERK, SOFTWARE TESTING & TRAINING, CCS SOUTH AFRICA dilate on their company’s software offerings and future plans in India.

 

 

 

As an ERP tool, tell us about how your product contributes to a company’s bottom-line. What number crunching can you show.

Lalu: The two software products; Candy and BuildSmart, can function independently but are much more effective when used together. A very simple explanation of the two products would be that Candy is used to determine the original budget and timespan of the project and then to measure and control the budget and time, once the project is in progress. BuildSmart controls the financial aspect of the project from procurement, time and attendance to payment of the resource involved in the execution of the project. Together they tie the budgeted cost and time with the actual cost and time and any variances are highlighted.

BuildSmart’s modules are:

• Web based (Remote live transacting, Al l Transact ing inc luding Requisitions, Deliveries, Stock, Plant/ Labour Returns)

• Integrated Procurement (Candy Resource quantity and rate comparison, Approval, Workflow Control)

• ERFQ (Electronic Request for Quotation)

• Multiple Organizations, Multiple Currencies (per cent Consolidations, JV’s, Inter-company etc.)

• Multiple Banks/Cash Books, Multi Currency (Bank Reconciliations, EFT’s, Chq Printing etc.)

• Journals (Standard, Accrual, Recurring, Auto Calculated O/H recovery, Fixed Asset, JNL Imports)

• Fixed Assets (IFRS compliant (Useful life), Multiple Depreciation methods, Disposals, F/A Tax Report etc.)

• Accounts Payable & Receivable (Remittances/EFT’s/Cheques, Aging, Retention management etc.)

• Subcontractor (Certi_ cates including Work Done, VO’s, MOS, Escalation and Contra charges, Self Invoicing)

• Plant & Equipment (Costing, Hire, Utilisations, Maintenance & Servicing, Fuel Consumption etc.)

• Workshop & Job Cards (Multiple workshops, Plant Repairs, External/ Internal and MRP Job Cards)

• Stock Management (Multiple Stores, Unit Conversion, MRP, Bulk, Movement, Averaging)

• Yard Stock Management (Sca_ olding/ Shuttering, Hire/management, Internal/External, Site tracking)

• Cost Reporting (Multi level, Project/ Contract/Activity/Ledger Code cost and allowable(budget) reporting)

• IAS11 Profit Recognition & Calculation (IAS11 Profit calculation and journal)

• Financial Reporting (Balance Sheet,  Income Statement (IAS21), Trial Balances, Statutory reports VAT Taxes)

• Integrated Payroll (Live Accurate Contract Costing, Statutory Calculation and Reporting, EFT’s/ Cheques)

 

IZAK: Candy as a software tool on its own also has different modules inside with the possibility of each module to function independently, but with the modules used together it just makes for a much more powerful tool to control the project. Candy’s modules are

• Estimating – Used for creating a BOQ from scratch or pricing an imported BOQ received from the client.

• Planning – Used to schedule the program activities and project time and record progress and as-built.

• Link and forecast – Used to establish a dynamic link between the BOQ items and the Activities where changes in either the BOQ or Contract program is reflected immediately. The link and forecast produce a monthly budget forecast.

• Cash Flow – _ is is where a true cash flow scenario can be calculated based on external parameters including cost close periods, advance payment from the clients or to the subcontractors, payment plan options agreed with the client, pre-payments, to name a few.

• Valuation – Used to record actual progress against budget allowable and producing payment certificates

• Sub- Contract management – is module is used to manage the payment of subcontractors including MOS, contra charges between main contractor and subcontractors or between di_ erent subcontractors, etc.

• Cost and Allowable – In this module the To Date budget allowable of the project is compared to the real cost spend To Date as received from BuildSmart. The user can use additional cost rates and cost work sheets to predict possible changes to the cost to completion and so doing potential future losses can be identified and action can be taken.

 

 

Operational project management on a real-time basis across several parameters need to be managed simultaneously and work processes need to be integrated seamlessly across all operational silos. Tell us about the systems integration of Candy Planning, how it provides a centralized dashboard of work processes to allow operational control on a real time ongoing basis.

IZAK: Candy Planning is part of a suite of modules that integrate with each other to assist in the control of the project from tender stage to handover stage. Because of the dynamic link between the planning program and the BOQ changes to either the budget and or program are reflected immediately.

These changes can be transferred to BuildSmart as and when required by the user. The “to date" status of the real cost spending can be transferred back to Candy as and when required.  There is no need to wait for the accounting side to first do a cost close and then receive the information (a week later after the fact) In other words the comparison of budgeted cost vs. real cost to date can be made if and when required by the user – every week, month etc.

Because of the link between the BOQ items and the activities in Candy Planning module; the user also has the Cost to Completion forecast information available if and when required, either in several forecast reports or graphs.

 

 

 

Tell us about the artificial intelligence model developed for Candy Planning, where does it sit in the larger construction software ecology.

 

IZAK: If the reference is to the current development in BIM, then this is currently handled in the QTO (Electronic Quantity Take-Off ) module in Candy.  The current development in Candy allows for a 3D module to be used to generate the quantities for the BOQ. Currently Candy planning can exchange  planning data with Synchro software via MSP XML export file. This file can then be used in their software to create a 4D module using the 3D model design supplied by the Architects and Engineers. This method was used successfully by Murray & Roberts on the Portside High-rise building project in Cape Town. However, because BIM has not been adapted by all stakeholders in the construction industry, very few Architects and Engineers are producing 3D modules or drawings. Most projects’ data is still limited to 2D drawings. An effective artificial model requires global standardisation that is adapted all over the world and based on my limited knowledge about this subject, this has not yet been established.

 

 

 

What is the level of operational intelligence and analytics generated using tools like cluster analysis and systems engineering in your product. In short what analytics do you offer?

 

IZAK: Cluster analysis involves the grouping of relevant data for meaningful analysis. Candy software allows for several groupings of the data depending on the analysis required. For example

• Value analysis –The Bill items that contribute the most value to the project can be extracted. This helps the contractor focus on these items to ensure the project is financially successful.

• With the BOQ linked to Activities this same analysis is possible. I.e. the contractor can focus on the activities with the most value to ensure that they are complete in time or even ahead of schedule

• Resource analysis – The usage requirement of each resource on the project.

• Job analysis - What is the budgeted derived rate, production and manhour requirement based Task and Cost (accounting) code grouping.

• Grouping of planning activities by subcontractor responsibility, or by supervision responsibility, design responsibility, etc.

 The most functional cluster analysis in the softwareis found in the Cost and Allowable module. In this module the comparison between the To date budget and the real cost spend can be made, based on the grouping of resources by accounting cost/ledger code and Activity/task coding.

 

 

 

Please define its project management functions. What are the independent project specific relational data bases it can generate?

IZAK: 0f the core functions of project management scope, time, cost and quality; Candy software assists with three of them

• Scope
• Time
• Cost

By connecting the BOQ items with the scheduled activities to produce the budget forecast; the project scope, time and budgeted cost are all handled in the same software. With the integration with BuildSmart the budget to date can be compared to the actual cost any time the user requires. The Cost to Completion forecast is also available. So, all the information is available for the user in one place.

 

LALU: With regards to the database – Candy’s database is a proprietary database which is privately owned and can be password protected by the owner/user. It can only be accessed by another user using Candy software. This security feature minimises the risk of sensitive information, being available to the general public; like rate build-up, which is the core of the construction company’s existence. With regards to the data base – BuildSmart is a Web based architecture (ASP/.net Technology) Powerful Sequel Server Database.

 

 

Please outline the structure of its library to generate and collate a new project with similar projects for data intelligence.

 

IZAK: Candy software allows the replication of data from any previous project in the current project;making the need for a centralised library unnecessary. However, several of our clients prefer to consolidate information in one or more central “master”projects /libraries thateach then be used as foundation to price and plan new projects. Candy Planning allows the copying of program data between different programs and this makes it easy for the planner to build up some sort of template to use as basis in a new project schedule.

 

 

Its ability and flexibility for stochastic modelling for risk assessment, evaluations and other analytics.

IZAK: Risk assessment & analysis, specifically on the feasibility and cashflow of a project are part of the Cashflow model in Candy. The user can take just the BOQ items summarised by trade or functional grouping and transfer this information to the Cashflow module. Or the user can make use of the advance function in Candy of linking the BOQ to the program/schedule activities and transfer this more accurate information for analysis. The Cashflow module is a separate module where different variables can be entered (i.e. advance payment from the clients or to the subcontractors, payment plan options agreed with the client or interest rates paid or earned, etc.) to understand the impact of these variable risks on the forecast outcomes Several “What if?” scenarios can be applied in the Cashflow module without any adjustment required in the original source (estimate and program) In the NEC3 Engineering and Construction  Contract for example, it is a requirement in clause 31.2 for the Contractor to show provisions for time risk allowance on each programme submitted for acceptance. Candy planning assists with this calculation of the Time Risk Allowable based on the Planners calculation of the duration using the production input fields available.

 

 

 

What is the extent of data mining allowed by your software

IZAK: As mentioned before Candy’s data base is a proprietary database which can only be accessed by another user using Candy software. With regards to data exchange to 3rd party software, Candy allows the user to choose which data can be exchange with other software by means of specialised exports or creating either an Excel file or XML file from any of the screens or reports available. Candy Planning allows the export and import of both Primavera® and Microso Project®via XML files.  Data mining of Candy’s own data is also available and several on screen tools & reports are available for data analysis. For example, the Job analysis function can produce a production, rate and manhour analysis summarised by Task and Accounting cost/ledger codes. Derived rates can be produced based on the Task defined, for example a derived rate per m3 for Concrete in beams can be  compared to the derived rate m3 rate of all BOQ items related to Concrete in Columns, etc.

In Candy Planning there are filter tools available assisting the planner to identify the cause of the delay when a project update indicates an overrun of the end date. Extracting only a program for each subcontractor is also possible in Candy Planning. Filtering out only activities that falls under a certain supervisor is possible. There are several other filters available for mining or analysing Candy Planning’s data.

 

 

Does your product integrate with legacy systems, or other complementary systems in the construction software ecology.

IZAK: With regards to the integration with other complimentary software systems of Candy Estimating and Valuation can integrate with WinQS® and QS plus® All the screen layouts and reports can be exported to either Excel, HTML, XML or CSV type files. This makes the exchanging of data possible with most current software and future software; as these file types is the most common types used for exchanging data.

As mentioned before Candy Planning can exchange data with Primavera® and Microsoft Project®.Unfortunately, due to different conventions used by different planning software; certain data cannot be exchanged accurately, for example allocated resources of the estimate and program. So, our exports and imports do not include any resource or cost related information, as receiving the wrong information is worse than receiving no information.

 

 

In what way does your product help maintain lean supply chains and allow lean construction.

IZAK: Lean supply chain management and lean construction is a process/method to minimize the waste of time and material. Both Candy and BuildSmart can be used as tools to assist in this process. In Candy planning module there are two products available; Long lead schedules and Information schedules.  These schedules are displayed separately from the program but are linked by activity number to the program. The function of the Long lead schedule is to use the activity’s start date, to determine when process of the appointment of the subcontractor or supplier must start, for the activity to start on time. The Information schedule is used to assist with the timeous procurement from the suppliers to ensure that the material is available on site when the activity starts.  With both schedules there is a function to export a predicted delay back to the program to see the knock-on effect on the rest of the successor activities. With this information available the contractor can then adjust his plan or program minimise this anticipated effect on the project (which is the goal of lean construction) The link between the BOQ and Program allows the production of an accurate allowable resource forecast based on the original budget. The allowable resource budget is transferred to BuildSmart and used as the parameters against which the procurement of the resources is done.

LALU: Our procurement system is fully integrated with our Candy system. This means that the resource list made available by the Quantity Surveyor can be downloaded into the BuildSmart Procurement System at any point and time with the push of a button. This enables the buyers to assess what to buy; what quantities to buy; and when to buy; using pre-determined pick lists, not exceeding the allowable quantities.pre-determined pick lists, not exceeding the allowable quantities.

 

 

 

What is its level of scalability across size spectrum; from big EPC contractors to small contractors and individual builders.

IZAK: In the nearly 40 years since Candy was created; several projects big and small, build by contractors both big and small have effectively used Candy. As Candy is an “all-inclusive” Software tool for project control it makes it ideally suited for the Small contractor. But because of the independent functionality of each module in Candy, it can also be used by Big Contractors where the task and work of each stakeholder in the Contractors Project team are compartmentalised in the modules as found in Candy i.e. Estimating for estimators, Planning for planners and Valuation, Subcontract management, etc. for the Site QS. And all these discipline’s information can be consolidated for reporting and analysis by top management.

 

 

How is your product the most critical and complicated link in the timely execution of projects, because execution delays invite stiff penalties.

IZAK: I would not be so arrogant as to say it is the “most” critical link in the execution of projects, as it is just one tool in many subsets of different tools used by the construction industry to execute a successful project outcome.  What I could say is that our products (both Candy and BuildSmart) are designed to simplify the users’ work. Our philosophy has always been to make the software adapt to the user and not that the user must adapt his way of working to complicated software. As an example, our Candy planning module allows for very easy yet precise planning with all the tools available in the planning module. This feature makes the software tool functional for all that should be involved with planning, from the project manager, contract manager, right down to the line supervisor at the core of the work.

 

 

What is the level of penetration of your product generically in India’s construction sector. What is your market outlook here?

LALU: We are active in India only for the last 5 years and our penetration is reasonably good.

CCS products are installed in many offices in India among them large listed companies to small contractors and consultants. We are expecting an organic growth as more and more construction professionals realise the potential of a fully integrated solution to control projects, enhance profitability thus creating a competitive advantage. CCS  India has offices in Mumbai & Kochi and they can be reached on info@ccsasia.com




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