The Worshipful Company of Mercers (The Mercers' Company) is the premier Livery Company of The City of London. During 2014 - 2015 Mercers' Yard enjoyed an architectural revival with which I was fortunate enough to be involved. This article also tells of the lead up to my involvement with Minotro Ltd. I was first introduced to Minotro from my previous business association with creator and founding director Paul Smith. Paul and I met in 2003 when we were involved in an Internet security project, at a time when the business world was still recovering from the Manhattan air attacks of 2001. Two things remain in my memory from that time: (i) Paul was a consummate entrepreneur with seemingly unbounded talents (ii) Working with Paul was a gas...
So be it that, in February 2017, I received a call from Paul.
'I've got something you might be interest in'.
Along came an email containing a non-disclosure agreement, an associate appointment and an overview of a methodology for a new way of monitoring large-scale construction progress, which as I read, became ever more intriguing.
Prior to Paul's call I was engaged in advising a Bristol-based subcontractor to Geoffrey Osborne; a project conceived by the architect Ian Ritchie: the restoration of Mercers' Yard, Covent Garden, London.
The contract was sufficiently large enough for my client to need a level of IT understanding above and beyond their capabilities, hence my involvement (the owner still used an A0 drawing board for his creations, much to the amusement and applaud of Ian Ritchie, who would take back examples from his visits to Bristol to show the team at his London office how it used to be done).
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 even such a small construction and restoration project, was that over the years, nothing had really changed when it came to up-to-date progress reporting.
What remains in my memory from then was the Monday morning dilemma. Leaving Bristol at 5.30am on a Monday morning, our installation team would arrive on site after a three hour road trip, ready for the mandatory safety induction, the toolbox talk, the site registration and the CSCS card inspection, only to find that a previous trade had not completed their own scheduled task in time to allow our guys to start work. So in came the phone call around 9.00am
'We can't start work today, the scaffolders haven't finished yet'.
In fairness, and in almost every case, the scaffolders, and indeed all other trades, were innocent of tardiness. Like us, they were simply unable to start on time because the previous trade had completed late, and so on down the line. The problem for us was not that the project was delayed, but the fact that we didn't know it was delayed. The previous schedule update had could not predicted any of this. It was last weeks news.
At around 10.30am on Monday morning (five hours after our guys hit the road), the weekly email came in from Osborne with a request to download this weeks schedule from Dropbox. Not just our bit - nothing that easy - the whole darn shooting match. So the next couple of hours was spend seeking out any changes from the previous schedule update (from the previous Monday), and whether any additional tasks had been sneaked in, contrary to our contracted work programme, all which needed our attention. This process also 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 already manufactured the in-fill aluminium screens, this was not noticed until we tried to install on site to find it nothing would fit).
The cost of these shenanigans was typically: four men at around £150 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 £1,220, add to this fuel, congestion charge and parking fees/fines making a daily bill of around £1,300.
Keep this in mind as I return to Minotro. If this is a typical situation for subcontractors working on a small-to-medium project, what could it possibly be like on a large-to-enterprise site? The complexity of managing these projects increases exponentially with size (I know of one oil & gas project that was loosing $2 million each day at one point because a pipeline terminated, not in the wrong location, but a mere 300 mm out of alignment - maybe the same steel erectors?)
What unfolded from Paul's call back in 2017 was a two year exercise with Minotro requiring patent registrations, strict non-disclosure and silent running while due diligence trials were conducted in the Canadian and USA oil & gas industries, testing the application live in the field with construction projects typically over $100 million value. In August this year (2019) the application came out of beta with full mobile functionality and a track record of $800 million construction projects monitored for real-time risk points.
By the time of this update (November 2019) Minotro will have easily exceeded over $1 billion of construction dollars, not just from oil & gas but from mining, utilities and urban development, now with several big names on the client list ready to move forward.
So it would appear the time has come to introduce leaders of enterprise construction to this revolutionary way of managing live progress tracking and real-time risk detection. Click the link below for more news.
Minotro goes live in 2020.