Constructed Futures

Aaron Peterson: Building Intelligence for Facility Operations and Digital Twins with VueOps

Episode Summary

Creating a true digital twin requires that some baseline data and data flows be put in place. VueOps was created to help define those data requirements at the beginning of a project, and collect, organize and manage that data at handover and during building operations. Aaron Peterson leads us through a description of the practical reality of gathering & managing data, and where these sorts of data-driven projects can lead us in the future.

Episode Notes

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Episode Transcription

Aaron Peterson

[00:00:00] Hugh Seaton: Welcome to Constructed Futures. I'm Hugh Seaton. Today I'm here with Aaron Peterson, sales leader at VueOps, Aaron, welcome to the podcast. 

[00:00:10] Aaron Peterson: Thank you. Great to be with you today. 

[00:00:13] Hugh Seaton: So Aaron, I want to start with introducing VueOps. What do you guys do and maybe talk a little bit about the amazing heritage that got you where you are today.

[00:00:23] Aaron Peterson: Wow. Heritage is a big word. But VueOps is focusing on a big problem, Hugh. So we're working with customers post-construction to help them better operate their facilities. And it's a mouthful. It's a big space. There's lots of opportunities there, but simply put we're focused on helping our customers use the data models and information that's available to them through turnover in the operation of their facilities. And we do that through a SaaS business, bringing a great software product to our customers, but also supporting them with technical service. 

[00:01:07] Hugh Seaton: And you anchored some of this on the idea of turnover. Talk to me a little bit about how that how that goes well, when you do it, but also maybe contrast with what happens when people like you aren't there.

[00:01:20] Aaron Peterson: Well, we see it every day. It it's a data flow from design and construction into operations is a persistent problem, primarily because the owners, the customers that are procuring new construction, new facilities, don't always ask for what they need to operate the facility. They ask for the paint color and the door hardware, the radiology equipment, but they don't ask for sometimes the data that they need to then manage that facility, in their environment going forward.

That problem is just, it's baked into the industry. It's an old industry, it's just baked into it. And so some customers are coming to this very fast and with those we, we help to improve and optimize their workflow, show them new tools, like our virtual investigation platform, to help them build on what they're already doing well.

Others are just trying to figure how better to communicate to the market to define their needs, so that they don't necessarily put something on the table that costs more than they can afford. So it's a dynamic place. People are in different positions of maturity and awareness on this journey.

And we're really supporting customers where they are, that we bring solutions and technical expertise for all positions on that journey. 

[00:02:42] Hugh Seaton: And one of the things that VueOps provides is consulting, right? I mean, you guys, in addition to the SaaS, you surround it with a lot of capability and a lot of consulting and thought leadership, is that right?

And do you find that that's kinda critical to people even knowing what to ask for 

[00:03:00] Aaron Peterson: 100%. We often find companies that are well down the road, but are looking maybe for workflow optimization, how to better use visualization and planning the work disruption notices or preventative maintenance plans.

But then you also find people who are looking to leverage BIM models post-construction. So they're at the stage of like, well, we're not even asking for BIM as part of our turnover, we're still asking for hard copy. Like how do we even write that requirement to have the market deliver it?

Other customers, know what they want, but they're not clear on all the data they need and why they need it. And so we do stakeholder engagement to help them understand, what parts of their business, you use this data and how to streamline that ask so that you don't make it your burdensome on the design and construction teams, but part of the flow of how they author collect and quality check data along the process.

So it is helpful that we have such a great technical services team because our customers, depending on... even certain customers are different region by region, project, by project. So you need to be able to scale where your customer needs you depending on what they're building and where.

[00:04:13] Hugh Seaton: And how much of this is building the bridge as you walk across it as well. Right? Is that like you're discovering some things and applying the lessons from elsewhere in here, but I mean, I've got to imagine that there isn't a one size fits all, so you, you have to figure things out, to make the most of the software that, that itself has probably pretty standard.

[00:04:31] Aaron Peterson: Yeah. That's well said we built a software platform before we had customers, right? So we put our ideas on the table first. And, some of that is bringing our customers to the future, as we imagine it, some of that is having them re-imagine our product and use it in ways that we didn't necessarily intend.

And so we're definitely building the bridge as we go. I think you touched on one of the most exciting parts of this, though, is quickly cycling the learning back through our team, our process, our software. And so like just a contextual example here. We learned through many different customer interactions that translating from their CMMS system and how they named their assets the asset ID is many times unique to that system. And most often different from the way it's named on the construction documents. So all of a sudden you have this thing they're looking at on a plan that is named differently in their management system. 

And we realized, wow. VueOps is also a translation tool. Right? And so all these things just start to fall out. Once you put it in the hands of our customers and they challenge the application in ways that we didn't think about. And so that's, that's just such an exciting part of this, of this business journey. 

[00:05:59] Hugh Seaton: Yeah. It's funny you come across this. I don't know if you want to call it data dictionaries or you want to call it just mappings, but that's kind of endemic across the built environment, right? Is you've got to an architect. Who's been calling it this for a long time. And a specifier has been calling it this for a long time. And along the way two dozen people touch it and call it something else.

It becomes a bit of the tower of Babel. So you guys are sitting in the middle trying to connect tomatoes and tomatoes. 

[00:06:27] Aaron Peterson: Yes. Naming, naming, naming, naming. Everybody understands the concept. No one does it very well. And it's just because it's not a driving factor you don't buy a name, you buy a fan, you don't buy a number you're thinking about that room, but if you don't think if you don't have a strategy out of the gate, you end up in a facility having certain things named the exact same. And so you're not going to do maintenance. You're gonna do maintenance on one or the other. So you have to think about unique names.

The thing is our customers have these names. They don't always communicate them to the architect out of the gate. And so then they go out with a a new adventure to name things. And a lot of this can really be short-circuited. When the customer is more clear on what they want and why. We find that design teams actually love some pretty clear rules because it's one less thing they have to think about as they form a team.

And so we've helped a number of customers, specifically university of California, San Diego, where we helped with some of their BIM guide framework. So it, it is, there's a lot of just basic principles that when you don't care for them along the way, the data gets corrupted.

And at the end of the day, when you have a hundred million dollar building and you're trying to manage 60,000 pieces of data, so they're not all using a similar schema, it gets hard to manage what is, what is related to what? And so we're trying to get ahead of these things.

And as we get to partner with general contractors, they're already working on this. Cause you know, they don't like the same thing named differently on their projects. It's difficult to procure schedule, punch list, validate commission. And so we all don't need 10 lists. We need one, one master list.

And I, I really think there's convergence in the industry, not only operations, but design and construction around this principle. And that's been very exciting to see over the last few years. 

[00:08:35] Hugh Seaton: That's really cool. Yeah. I would assume that the contractors like the idea of the best handover possible, cause they get called again, right?

It's in their interests and to the degree they're not doing remedial naming, they're better able to do that. If you were to talk to an owner and generic, I mean, obviously everything's, everything has its own snowflake, but if you were to generically say, I wish owners knew these things, what are some, some ideas of what you wish they knew?

I mean, it sounds like one of them is, I wish they had a meeting and sat down and said, what are we going to need to be able to operate the building that seems like a pretty general one, but what are some other things, or even just better versions of what I just said that you think owners should know that, that, that would help them to set up for success the 18 months or 24 months when they, when the building gets handed over.

[00:09:23] Aaron Peterson: Yeah, I think it gets down to clarity within their organization. So who, which stakeholder is going to use this information and in what way, right. We know that many people use floor plans. Which ones there's a lot of use of the architectural floor plans or fire life safety plans or furniture plans.

So understanding that certain groups will use the same thing is important. Then you know, understanding I guess, where are these items are going? ‘Cause sometimes depending on where they end up, you have to organize or configure them a certain way. And so just asking the design teams to do a minor tweak of a Revit model to produce a sheet is, is not a problem when the design team is on site, right?

Doing this post construction once everybody's disbanded and is on a new project. It's harder to get it back. I think the other thing that's important is understanding which assets you're going to manage, and what data you want to, you want to, understand about those assets. 

But as we've been focused on that what's the real asset list, we're realizing that a lot of the data that VueOps has prioritized as valuable, it doesn't need to fit in a CMMS. It can fit other places because it has other workflows. And so I think, as we're reflecting on this you don't always have to have a one one-to-one relationship for all these things in your facility, right.

Just because it's in your CMMS, that isn't only what you should collect and organize. Our customers struggle with managing paint schedules, right? There's all these rooms, all this different paint. Sometimes just having a clear understanding of finishes, can really accelerate some of the, some of the mundane workflows that actually cause them to trip over some of the more optimized workflows of like, is your fan operating properly or your filters changed.

And really the other thing I'd say is really empowering owners to ask for what they want. Some of this stuff is just really... It's striking to me that they're not more bold in requesting the data they need. Right. There's this kind of old school thought of, well, I'll get what I get and then I'll, I'll make it work and conform to my system.

There's hundreds of people on site typing. And so why not just show them what you need and then in the course of their business, they type it for you. It's already quality checked by numerous hands. And so I think getting more customers more clear on truly asking for what they need, putting those requirements out early if you get this ahead of the moment of bid or competition, I don't think people are going to put costs against data quality it's part of their business.

And so if you get ahead of that, this should be a zero cost transaction. And in doing so, you're asking everybody to be more cognizant of that data quality for no cost impact. So that's what I would, I would start is just get ahead of it. Be clear what you want, understand who's going to use it and where it's going to go.

[00:12:35] Hugh Seaton: It feels a little bit like the who's going to use it is, is equally as important as, as you know, not being afraid to ask for it because I've heard folks on the facility side complain that when they're given too much data, they now have to hire someone to deal with it. Probably because they, again, they weren't thinking of who would use it.

You know what I mean? And I think I'm also talking to people who weren't necessarily part of the commissioning group. They're part, they're the ones who are grabbing it, getting it at the end, probably from larger facilities. But I wonder if that's some of the hesitation is that data needs to be managed.

And if people have experience from the past where maybe the systems weren't quite so robust, that they're like, oh my God, if I get all this stuff, I got to do something with it. Do you think that's a factor? 

[00:13:17] Aaron Peterson: Well, there's a, there's a lot to that point. You know, projects are turning over thousands of artifacts with thousands of pages in them with thousands of unique characters that are, important data.

And so just because you get everything you asked for doesn't mean you can actually search and find it effectively. And the other thing is there's, there's a real difference in how design and construction information is organized versus how someone who's not in that field would expect it to be assembled.

We've we see this often where as a person, an engineer who studied construction plans for nearly 20 years, I know where the things are. For some of the people that managing the facilities where design and construction, foots them and organize them is not obvious. Right. And so you need tools that go deeper into the search of the information you requested.

Or you need to be very specific in asking design and construction to deliver the information, not only for design and construction, but for facilities to use in a unique way. See, that's where I think you might get a cost impact for double handling. And so VueOps is focused on really a deep search of the information that's available.

And I think that's been one of the most exciting parts of the business this year is watching our customers move through these significant document collections, and pinpoint the thing they were looking for. I mean, we've had so many amazing interactions Hugh, where they're like, oh my gosh, that would have taken me days to find you found it in our virtual session here on the phone on the zoom.

And, it's just cool because you know, some of these tools weren't available and now they are. And once the customer knows that it's there, it changes the way they think about this facility, but the other one and the next one, and that, that kinda excitement is what gets me coming back every day.

[00:15:14] Hugh Seaton: I love that. And it feels like you're going to start to change the way people do their jobs. Right. If they, if they know that they can check something faster and easier than to check it more often, and they're going to manage it more tightly and better if, as opposed to needing to rifle through binders to find something or however it may have been done in the past.

And that's, that's also really exciting, right. Is the idea that you be, because you're removing friction, you're going to change the fundamental way that buildings get managed. 

[00:15:43] Aaron Peterson: Yes. I mean if you think about tasks that you don't like to do. When do you do them? That's right. That's right last, last, right. Or not at all.

And so if you can make it easy and successful, maybe we do them first or middle. And so what this what this whole thing is about is freeing up, some of these workflows, like at the end of the day, I honestly believe the VueOps has the power to help our customers save water. Energy labor productivity at the end of the day bottom line cash.

But it's this awareness of you don't have to walk to a room to pick a binder to then shuffle through it and question whether this is the right information or it's outdated. You can scroll through your phone and find something immediately. It's just a different way to think about building information. 

And then I'm optimistic that that really improves user user outcomes in the spaces, whether it's a patient room or a research lab, a data center or a dorm or cafeteria, right. Just things are running better because those that are charged with it are able to do their job faster, with more effectiveness.

And so it gets into this digital twin framework of like, no, we're just at the basic levels, Hugh, of like a base model of what is in the building, where it is. We're getting historical data on it. And what's exciting is how do we integrate sensor information? How do we integrate external sources?

And then how do we help those leverage and optimize the building to think for itself, like those are way off, but you can't get anywhere if you don't have the first level established. And so. I'm excited because I think we have the first level established, the second level of established, which means we have a chance to build up. 

Actually, and you brought us right to the next thing I was going to talk about is this idea of digital twins, which can mean a lot of different things, but are you seeing the beginnings of that? Are you seeing people ask for that or people at least ask about it as in terms of how you can help them organize data flows and so on.

Yeah, not everybody uses the word digital twin people are, are much more direct about data. They want the data. And, they want it because in some cases they're required to have it, for federal FDA type of facilities or, or other highly regulated facilities.

In some cases, it helps them organize internal systems, whether it's inventory or location or cost coding or labor tracking. But, I think, I can't say that everybody's, everybody's coming to the same idea in the same way. Like some people are just trying to get organized around what do they want for a model because they know everybody's using the models and they want to collect them so that the next project, they can start with that frame of mind and not have to rebuild everything. Right. Others are trying to get better at Organizing systems so that we can understand parent child relationships so that when you manipulate something, like, what does it mean? Does it mean this room is impacted these, these equipment downstream are impacted? How do we know about that? Would this improve safety? So there's just, this, there's a... people are coming at it in very different ways, which is super exciting because for us, it's not just one and done. It's like, okay, where are you?

Where are you at today, customer? And how can we support you on this journey? It's related, right. But they're all slight, slight tweaks on the process. 

[00:19:26] Hugh Seaton: Yeah. And, and as I mentioned, that what people think of digital twin is, is, is a little bit open for debate. One thing that it does get into though is being predictive.

How are you guys looking at that? Because I think to the point you made earlier, like it doesn't have to be a quote unquote, entire digital twin for subsystems and parts of the, of the building to have enough rich data that you can be predictive and maybe other parts are not. Cause it's just not critical.

How do you guys look at that?

[00:19:54] Aaron Peterson: Well, I think I'm at a base level. One of the things you should be able to predict is that you're receiving similar information across your enterprise, right? And so part of is exposing customers to their first facility, potentially, in the VueOps method. And we evaluate, like, is this what you want? Do you want more or less?

Are you using it as you expected? Do you want, do you want to use it differently? And so part of predictive to me is how do you replicate it from facility to facility? Right? Can you, can you at least have a similar look and feel across your portfolio? I think it starts with that. Then you get into the more complicated scenarios of sensors, and things like that.

And we're just starting to get into that world. There's a lot of innovation on that. There's people giving BMS companies run for their money while at the same time BMS companies are changing the world. As we, as we speak. So I'm so excited about the innovation in that space, because I think it Just to connectedness in residential homes for as a point of reference is, is it implies that everybody's moving toward a better future, but it gets back to you gotta be able to connect it to an underlying digital twin level one.

And I think the fact that we've understood that and can replicate that, enables us to set up for the next more complicated phases and hopefully make those predictable as we get better at them. 

[00:21:29] Hugh Seaton: There's a really exciting underlying theme that I'm hearing that I've also heard in more in the construction space and that is there's just this movement across the, the, I don't know, a whole AEC ecosystem to normalize how we collect data so we can aggregate it. You hear it in the field a lot. You hear it in design to maybe less of a degree, but still you see it there too, where there's this desire for people to collect data in the same way. So you can do things with it. I mean, I, there's a great example of a, of a, of a company in, I think they're in the Southeast where a project manager had spent like 18 months teaching or cajoling is maybe a better word. All of the project leaders in that company to report data the same way so that it could turn into a dashboard so that senior management can allocate resources. And yeah, I mean, that's just one example of a mid-sized company that was a little easier to talk about, but you see that everywhere.

Right? You see that, that more and more again, on the construction side, there's this push to, to create and then you know, connect data so that you can then do higher order things. And I'm hearing you say the same thing on the facility side is until we've got everything at least enough of it, so that you're able to relate data to data and equate data to data, to other data that then you can ladder it up to higher order or higher order applications.

And it sounds like that's one of the things that VueOps is really starting to solve. Correct? 

[00:22:53] Aaron Peterson: 100%. One of the processes we're, we're proud about is a facility data specification. And so here there's obviously, a list of products that can go in the building. And so understanding what that is for each customer which products they actually care about in their maintenance program, and then understanding which of those products are actually in this specific facility.

And then which data against those specific facility products they care about these types of organizational structures they're powerful. And so as we begin to introduce these to our customers the things that come out of it are. "Huh, we got a lot of different products from facility to facility."

Your supply chain must be difficult to manage. Have you have you thought about one vendor versus 10? And so I think what the world is realizing is data is one of the most undervalued parts of the business. And when people recognize that design and construction data is just as important as you know, their HR data, their financial data, their whatever widget data that they make money on.

If you can harness your facility data, guess what? That's more efficient. You can, you can manage it and buy and service it more efficiently. Potentially scale and build a portfolio out more efficiently, you have more money to put back to the main business. And so just like at general contractors, designers, if they can make organizing their own internal data work internally, they can run a better business.

It's the same thing for facility managers, operating facilities. They can run a better business. But it's a big, it's a big problem. It's a big, it's a big lift. There's lots of different software applications in our customers, environment and you know, the translation between those is not a gimme.

So it's not gonna happen overnight, but I, I, the industry is definitely moving towards this. And when you have, I think all the partners are aligned for their own reasons as well. Right. You have collaboration on it. And I think that's the coolest part that I've seen over the last few years is designers and builders are focusing on higher qualities of data to run their businesses and then pass it onto the customer.

Who's operating the building who then uses higher quality data to operate that facility. It's just it it's, it's awesome. 

[00:25:26] Hugh Seaton: It gets into virtuous circle, right? Is they, they see the benefits of that data and say, wow, wouldn't it be great if we had a little more and then you'll go get more. 

[00:25:34] Aaron Peterson: The next phase here, Hugh is going to be who owns what?

Right. Does the customer own it as the GC and team are building for it? Or is the GC on it when it's in their hands and they're building like this, this little Part is emerging in the, in the industry. And frankly we're, we're agnostic to it. It's just it's data for use in the facility who owns it doesn't matter, but it'll be interesting to see how people associate risk with, with that or without it.

Just another tangential topic already. 

[00:26:09] Hugh Seaton: That's a great one. I mean, we, I had a conversation with Brian Pearl Berg of consensus docs that make contract contract documents for for construction and that that, that comes up is that there isn't a standard way... there's language to go any way you want.

You know what I mean? There is kind of tried and tested ways of saying that, that the, like, it really comes down to a lot of, a lot of data you might care about gets produced by a subcontractor even. And then who owns that even though you're the author, but at the, but you were paid to do it, but there's no work for hire in, you know what I mean?

You're not really hired to be an IP producer, but you're producing IP. So I think you're totally right. Is there's a whole facet to the outcome of work that is going to be recognized and they'll handle it. Good contracts will handle that appropriately, but I'll bet you there's a few out there that don't, and there's a there's a question whether, whether someone knows to go after it or if there's really a mechanism to do that, we'll see.

Can we end with, with where you see this going? I mean, that's a pretty open-ended question, but how would you like people to imagine the world in five or 10 years when it comes to what VueOps does?

[00:27:17] Aaron Peterson: Oh, that's an awesome thought. You know, I think what we've experienced is when we're introduced to customers, we show them the future. And once you've seen it, you can't unsee it. And so. That's just such an exciting moment. And so I think what we're experiencing is that we're going to continue to support customers more broadly beyond one build but you know, to support them across their entire capital program build and then support them across their existing infrastructure portfolio.

And customers are gonna use our tool as part of a virtual investigation strategy to support the world we live in. Not everybody's on site all the time. Sometimes these problems emerge while you're sleeping. And so you get woken up. Can you troubleshoot it from your bed on your iPad?

Well, you can with our solution and then you can deploy resources to go out there and fix it and have them be as efficient as possible in their, in their resolution of that issue. And so supporting customers across their whole portfolio, but also supporting them as they make changes. Because the one thing we've observed along this journey Hugh is if you're going to do it the first time, have a strategy to keep at this solution, you know operationally accurate, you gotta handle changes. Right? 

And so supporting customers through the, through the full journey changes to a facility, And then working with them to improve their workflow. And so is it, does this, our tool help them with agency certification or reporting, does our tool help them with FM budgeting for the next year or Help them with maintenance planning.

We know it can help with day-to-day maintenance and improvements on, like I said, energy, water, and labor, but there's other things other derivative outcomes that are possible. And so working with our customers into those solutions. 

And then finally working towards a greater integration type of platform where we're not just a one program in their constellation of applications, but we're integrated with their applications. So they don't have to necessarily jump between, softwares, but they're all connected. 

That's where we see it going. And it's you know, for me at the end of the day, It really supports some sustainability goals, which I'm just very passionate about, especially living here in fire ravaged California climate change, it's here.

And so we need to, we need to understand how to use all of our resources in a more efficient manner. And I think it starts with data. 

[00:30:03] Hugh Seaton: that's great. Fantastic vision. Well, Aaron, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I learned an awful lot about kind of a bunch of things, but VueOps for sure.

And, and facilities as well. So thank you. 

[00:30:16] Aaron Peterson: Thank you. We're excited to be in this space. I'm excited to support our customers and you know, bold with where this is all going, and it was great to connect with you today. And hear your perspective as well, hugh would love to speak again if possible.

[00:30:33] Hugh Seaton: Cool. We'll do that.