I was first introduced to Minotro through my long-term business association with creator and founding director Paul Smith. Paul and I were previously involved in an Internet security project back in 2003, when world trade was still recovering from the air attacks of Manhattan in 2001. Two things remain in my memory from those exciting (if not totally rewarding) times: (i) Paul was a consummate entrepreneur with seemingly unbounded talents (ii) Paul and I were destined to stay close friends, irrespective of business success or failure.
So be it, that in February 2017 I receive a call from Paul.
'I've got something you might be interest in'.
I receive an email with a non-disclosure agreement and an associate agreement, both requiring signatures, which were duly honoured. What arrived on the next email was an overview of a methodology for monitoring large-scale construction progress which, on the face of it, seemed at best 'death by PowerPoint' but as the story unfolded became ever more intriguing.
My previous engagement was advising a subcontractor with a Geoffrey Osborne Contractors project created by the architect Ian Ritchie, the restoration of Mercers Walk, Covent Garden, London. The contract was sufficiently large enough for my client to need a level of IT understanding above their capabilities, hence my involvement (the owner still used an A0 drawing board for creations, much to the amusement and applaud of Ian Ritchie, who would take back examples of these drawings from his numerous visits to Bristol during the life of the project, to show his team how it used to be done! - but I digress). Having been involved in engineering and construction computing projects for more decades than I'm prepared to admit, the one thing that came clear dealing with such a small construction and restoration project, was that nothing had really changed when it came to staged payment due dates and agreeing the level of completed works worthy of meeting the payment deadline. Osbourne was not, and is not alone in this respect, Interserve, Carillion, Hielderberg showing similar traits.
But what stuck out the most was the Monday morning dilemma. Leaving Bristol at 5.30am on a Monday morning, the team would arrive on site after a three hour road trip ready for the usual, same old safety induction, then the toolbox talk, then site registration and CSCS card inspection, only to find that another trade had not completed the previous task that would allow our guys to actually start work. So in came the phone call around 9.00am
'We can't start work 'til the scaffolders have finished'.
In fairness, in almost every case, the scaffolders, or indeed any other trade were innocent of tardiness. They were simply unable to complete their task on time because the previous trade had completed late, and so on. The problem was not that the project was delayed, but the fact that we didn't know it was delayed. The previous Monday morning schedule works schedule had not predicted any of this, nor could it.
At around 10.30am, the usual email came on from Osbourne with a request to download this weeks scheduled from Dropbox. Not just our bit, the whole shooting match. The next hour was spend identifying any changes from last week's schedule, or whether there were any additions which needed our attention. This process required the inspection of other trade's activities to avoid knock-on effects to our own (one example of this is that the steel erectors had been instructed to lower a structure by 35mm but having built the in-fill aluminium screens, this was not noticed until we tried to install the screen to find it didn't fit).
The cost of these shenanigans was typically: four men at £100 per day, overnight accommodation somewhere near London (how about Enfield being the nearest affordable option) plus per diem for food and drink, total daily overhead £920, add to this fuel, congestion charge and parking fees/fines making a daily bill of around £970.
Keep this in mind as we return to Minotro. If this is a typical situation for most subcontractors working on a small-to-medium project, what could it possibly be like on a large-to-enterprise-size site? The complexity of managing such a project increases exponentially with size. I know of one oil & gas project that is loosing $2 million per day because a pipeline terminates, not in the wrong location, but a mere 300mm out of alignment. So, if you're involved in enterprise construction management, or a decision maker keen to see what could go wrong, not next week, not tomorrow, but in the next 30 minutes, why not take a look at this ground-breaking progress monitoring technology.
Leonard Greenwood - Oct 2018