As Western Canada’s fastest-growing construction company, ETRO’s goal is to build what matters tomorrow, today. They believe technology and manufacturing are the future of construction and are out to disrupt the status quo of the industry. From centralized purchasing to automated schedule tracking, ETRO uses Lean practices and digital innovation to find ways to work more efficiently and do more with less.
Big believers in BIM and VDC, ETRO ensures scopes of work are coordinated with clash detection and issues are resolved prior to starting work on site. By linking models with the construction schedule they are also able to take the project into the 4th dimension and visualize the future site process with milestones, phasing, sequencing, and site logistics. By implementing parameters into project models ETRO’s estimators have the possibility of catching significant project changes relevant to original project calculation and evaluate subcontractors' offers fairly. High-quality as-built documentation is another characteristic of each ETRO project.
For ETRO, working only with 2D is no longer an acceptable way of building - 3D representation has become second nature. They needed software that reduced the cognitive load because technology or digitalization should support people to be more efficient and not create additional time-consuming or duplicate work. One shouldn’t be scared or bogged down by the complexity of the interface. Often, the person who has the expertise in highly technical software isn’t the person with the knowledge of the construction phasing or the specific project. Unless the person who creates the 4D simulation also works on the actual project, it is difficult to understand their logic or scheduling. This results in hours of additional work to educate oneself, gather information from the right people and then work on the drawings – in other words, they are the wrong person with the right tool. ETRO wanted to equip their teams with a single software for creating site logistics simulation that anyone could use, regardless of their technical expertise.
cmBuilder is user-friendly and easy to navigate, making it simple to adopt. It has many features that can be used across various stages of construction, and this enables you to get more work done using a single web-based software. To ETRO, it meant replacing a few challenging softwares, ultimately saving time (and money!) while optimizing their processes. But often it’s hard to decide who the right person is. So, the cmBuilder subscription comes with an unlimited number of users. This enables everyone to implement their knowledge with the technology that could help digitize their expertise in an intuitive and hassle-free manner. It allows you to save all information in one spot and recreate scenarios if you want to try options. So, one person can build on something someone else has created and the resulting shared knowledge leads to a level of detail that would previously not be possible.
ETRO's cmBuilder Journey
Xenia, VDC Manager at ETRO, was one of the early adopters of cmBuilder having been introduced to the software even before its launch. When she first used it, she was amazed by how easily she knew what to do and where to go. It felt friendly and familiar. The next step was to get more people involved.
Before cmBuilder, when Xenia received logistic plans with equipment she didn’t know all the details of, she had to either find it in the 3D library of some complicated software or use a few blocks to symbolize the equipment. With cmBuilder’s in-built resource library she can now use equipment, such as cranes, that not only look like the actual thing, but are also parametrically adjustable according to their real-life specifications.
This saves a huge amount of time and effort, ultimately letting her focus on the actual plan instead. It’s a long and painful process to find all these objects or create them - especially given that she needed to do so for each project separately. cmBuilder provides a huge list of resources covering almost every common item that is used in Canada which is more efficient than starting from scratch.
During the pursuit phase, when there is just a rough schedule and no drawings, cmBuilder lets you create a low-detail representation of the building using the massing feature. It is very important to be able to see in 3D, especially if the geometry is complicated because many realizations come by visualization of the resources around the construction site. The flaws in your plan, if any, are more easily visible and therefore can be fixed before construction even begins leading to saving many hours during actual construction.
Using cmBuilder, Xenia realized that if the objects were to-scale, they would end up having to cut more trees, which is never desirable. There was also a Skytrain line really close by and on seeing the simulation on cmBuilder it was clear that it would cause a problem later during the construction phase. Even though the building and the line would not be touching each other, while creating the façade there needs to be some additional space for scaffolding. 4D visualization enables you to think deeper and help you be aware of potential issues and be innovative on how to solve them. And even if you can’t solve them, it is always better to know beforehand that there may be additional costs.
ETRO has found using cmBuilder in proposals submitted to clients gives them a competitive advantage. Without a lot of effort, they can easily show the challenges or issues via a site logistics simulation on cmBuilder. What would otherwise have taken them 3 or more days to create on other BIM/simulation software now takes them 3 hours to create on cmBuilder. This shows their prospective client the level of detail and thought they’ve given to the specific project.
Even though ETRO is at the beginning of using cmBuilder, the learning curve of cmBuilder is significantly lower and with the detailed training workshop from the product team, most of the team has been able to easily pick it up and use it.
While pre-construction processes mainly entail soft costs, ETRO has reduced the number of softwares used and licenses purchased in the process. Because of cmBuilder’s subscription models, every individual at ETRO has access to the platform. This means that anyone can create their own simulations and won’t need support from the VDC department. Any other 2D PDF editors, 4D visualization tools can thus be replaced, even if they may provide more detail, because now cmBuilder is the one-stop tool in the workflow and can be used from the pursuit phase through to construction. And all this without needing to install a local, heavy software – entirely on the web and therefore can be done anywhere with good internet access.
When ETRO needs to share plans with other project stakeholders they just provide an access link to their project. The best part is that the person receiving the link doesn’t need to have a cmBuilder account, install any software, or be specifically educated on the interface as it has a very intuitive viewer. All they need is a smart device with an internet connection – which pretty much everyone has these days!
An interesting side-effect is that cmBuilder has got the creative juices running in some who are not just using it to make standard simulations but also to analyze situations and create something to improve the current construction process. The fact that implementing changes in cmBuilder scenarios is quick and easy, leads to more conversations within the construction team and promotes construction ways that haven't been used before.
Essentially everyone in the team is now the right person with the right tool – cmBuilder!
At our customer spotlight event, we had the privilege of Xenia discussing complex VDC challenges and how ETRO solved them using cmBuilder.io as well as showcasing one of their construction projects for which they are simulating the site logistics on cmBuilder.