Constructed Futures

Steve Sims: Digital Transformation of FM Knowledge at Agile Handover

Episode Summary

Once the building or facility is built, reams of data about operation, attic stock, warranties and just where everything is must be handed over in a way that is useful. The handover process is famously inconsistent and often expensive for both contractors and their clients, the owners. Agile Handover is solving this through data integrations and a proprietary approach to managing data for clients.

Episode Notes

Episode Transcription

Steve Sims

[00:00:00] Hugh Seaton: Welcome to Constructed Futures. I'm Hugh Seaton. Today I'm here with Steve Sims, director of business development at Agile Handover. Steve, welcome to the podcast. 

[00:00:15] Steve sims: Thank you Hugh. I appreciate you inviting me. 

[00:00:19] Hugh Seaton: Excellent. So I'd love to start with what agile handover does. Let's kind of lay the groundwork. 

[00:00:25] Steve sims: Sure. Well, we're a company that is digitally transforming the ability to capture facilities management knowledge from engineering phase, the construction [phase], the commissioning [phase], the actual handover. And of course, then the O&M phase. So we've got a technology stack, we call it digital handover management. It's a platform that has a processors and an engineering logic and uses natural processing language to make the inefficient job of handover into an efficient cost effective way to capture the data and document knowledge that owners require. 

[00:01:13] Hugh Seaton: And do you primarily sell to owners or is it across the board to contractors as well? 

[00:01:19] Steve sims: Well, it's mostly owners, but now contractors are jumping on the digital transformation bandwagon.

And they see that it's a cost effective way for them to meet the owners requirements and deliver the goods that the owner bought and paid for. 

[00:01:40] Hugh Seaton: So I have to ask, because this is usually a fun thing to hear about companies like yours often have before and after stories, customers come to you because it was like, oh my God, that was such a disaster.

We can't have that again. Can you give me some examples like that or of how you came in and cleaned house or at least made it significantly different. I think that helps people to understand what you're doing. 

[00:02:05] Steve sims: Sure. Well, I'll kind of tell you the journey.I've been in the technology space for a long time and worked with a lot of owners, and been trying to do this.

And about 15 years ago, I started off on this mission and to bring digital databases, asset digital databases, online for owners. And, you know, I used to work at Bentley and we did a good job with what we had, but we didn't have this solution. And so, some of us left and built this, so we could deliver this to the owners and reduce that hidden cost of handover. Because that's what's been cost prohibitive for contractors and for owners to specify digital submittal requirements.

That can be delivered over and over because they're clear, concise, and they're valid of what the owner actually wants and what the supply chain needs to deliver. Whether it's a manufacturer, whether it's an engineering firm, again, if it's a GC and what all his subs do. And of course then commissioning agents.

And then the last piece is the own last mile.  what's really responsible from an operations and maintenance perspective to keep your digital databases current and up to date. So that's kind of where it all started. And about three years ago, the technology got brought to market. And has been a very successful in places.

We actually have a usability lab customer, and you know, it's no secret. It's the Howard Hughes Medical Institute people, we've got case studies out there, but those folks really pushed the bar on capturing asset digital databases for everything they have across their facility campus from. All the equipment that they have, all of the furnishings they have, all of the test equipment they have. Keeping track of it, knowing where it is and knowing what condition it's in. And, you know, basically all of the attribute information you can look for. 

[00:04:27] Hugh Seaton: And what is it about the Howard Hughes facility that made, other than being well-run? Is there something about what kind of facility is, or what the facility does that makes what you do particularly useful?

[00:04:41] Steve sims: Well, I mean, a facility is a facility, whether you're in the Fed space or you're, you know, automotive or manufacturing of any kind, but, you know, they are a funded organization and, and they do world-class experiments and everything they have is pretty mission critical. 

It, you know, it's just like anybody.You've got mission dependency indexes and condition assessment ratings, and you want to make sure that you're keeping your facilities,   operationally ready to fulfill the mission that they have at hand. But I will tell you that they are forward thinking people and they are setting the bar and their facilities management team is a bunch of rock stars.

They can get in the weeds and understand the problem. So, you know, they knew they had a problem. I mean, I can't speak completely for them. But they're an owner that saw the need, saw the success and continued to push the envelope for digital transformation of their facility management knowledge. Now So other owners now that are doing that as well.

[00:05:59] Hugh Seaton: Yeah. And what's driving some of that, is it, I mean, obviously everybody wants their facility to run well and they want to know where everything is and all that. But are you finding that owners are understanding what they can even ask for in a way that maybe wasn't true earlier? 

[00:06:15] Steve sims: Yeah. I mean, you know, it's an educational process because you know, this is new people haven't done this before they've worked around it, but they haven't gone directly at it.

And so, you know it's a continual value attachment, if you would, down imperatives timelines that, these folks have seen, put on the timeline and are knocking them off as you go. So yeah, it's in the nice thing is it's, you know, we've been able to be involved with them directly as a technology provider, as a handover SME and to work with their team and to, work with all of their operational staff as well. So it's, it's, it's been a very good relationship, and I applaud them because they're doing what owners want to do, but they're actually doing it. 

[00:07:18] Hugh Seaton: And on their end and let's talk abstractly. I don't want you to have to speak specifically about a client, but generally speaking, how much difference is there in terms of time commitment on the client's side to work with you, or do they need someone who's going to organize things or someone who's going to work with you or is the software and the system that you have, you know, doing a lot of the work and, and they're just approving things like how what's the, what's the involvement of the client.

[00:07:45] Steve sims: You know, the software is, like I said, it's a set of processors to be utilized based on how you do it, but it all starts with, you know, what have you got? So, you know, everybody has silos. They got this management system, they got facilities management, they got IWMS, they got building controls, this, that, and the other.

And so when you look at it, we pretty much get involved in laying out the data architecture and we do it through the old IDEF process that we've utilized for years. And so it maps out, you know, who are the data participants, if you would, from the people that are providing data, who are the data users and what kind of systems do they have for the management of change?

And so, for example, you know, when reconstruct or shutdown turnaround or a capital project comes in, you've got all this data and all these documents that aren't necessarily the same apple. And so when you define that, you know, I'm going to get BIM data and they call an air handler or boiler this and the maintenance management database schema of calls it that. And the facilities management or the IWMS or the document management calls it that, that's been one of the dilemmas is you try to stuff everything into a silo, but what you don't have is a federated version of that same apple. And so we're able with our patented technology to do that normalization transformation process that enables that to be captured and efficiently put in the siloed, supposed to be, but found by any other silo user or any person, because it's all indexed and associated.

And that's been the missing link for people getting that accomplished. And you can go anywhere in America or around the world. And it's the same problem because, you know, they put a new technology stack in to solve all the problems and it didn't solve all the problems. 

[00:10:12] Hugh Seaton: Labeling and naming is a problem everywhere isn't it? I mean, it's not just a construction or a facilities problem. It just shows up here a lot. 

[00:10:23] Steve sims: No, I was going to say you're absolutely right. 

[00:10:26] Hugh Seaton: And how does that process work? So let's say it's, you know, a new facility or a new set of facilities. Is there, kind of, some service and some, some software brings some understanding, but you know, you or your team or the client team is going through because often, you know, with data, the very beginning is a little bit of a pain in the neck to set it up. But once you have it set up, then it's off to the races. Is there a little bit of that? 

[00:10:52] Steve sims: Yeah. I mean, basically, you know, most folks are similar, but dissimilar, in how they, label things. And for example, again, the traditional thing is here, I've dumped everything to you. I may have a project close out matrix.

I may have an equipment list, I may have whatever you said your submittal requirements were. And you know, the contractors, you know, they're doing a great job, trying to amass this and deliver what the owner expects them to deliver. But again, it's not very clear, concise, and valid, and I'll just give you an example, the Feds.

Have you had the UFGS standard for a long time. Now they're trying to turn it into a true digital standard and realize the normalcy, whether I'm, you know, the Corps or the Navy or NASA or whoever that way the supply chain gets a common submittal requirement. That they know they can deliver on for, you know, product attributes that are required documents that are required.

Who's the, stage deliverer, it's called the maturity model. Is it design? Is it construction? Is it commissioning so forth and so forth? And who's the responsible accountable party. And so when you do that, you start streamlining it. But most people aren't there. And so the messy stuff that gets submitted into a submittal portal via any technology stack, you want to mention the stuff is there. 

Now the owner says, great, you delivered it. Now what am I going to do with it? Well, in most cases, they don't do a heck of a lot with it. And that's been part of the problem is, yeah, I got it, but it's not digitally available. I can't utilize it. I can't put it into, you know, my,  RCM program. I can't put it in to my, IWMS for move management.

It just never gets put online. And so what we're able to do is, is very efficiently, have those rules for process and the different data sources, even just normalizing upfront, you call it an air handler. This, I call it that. So I normalize all of the equipment to what the owner wants. And then I go through and start harvesting the information from the different data sources.

To capture and populate that I did get the attributes to capture and populate that I do get all the required documents. You know, any site acceptance test, then you test and balance reports, any warranty information, and from a project manager standpoint, oh, I've gotten my gospel and I'm doing it. And yeah.

So I sign off, I let it be brought online, but I can't use it cause I really don't have what I need. So we have a QA QC process that basically says all of your stuff that's supposed to be submitted, here's what we're supposed to have. And. I can press that button and run that report. And it tells me that I've got all the documents or I don't, I've got the data or I don't, and it can give you an incomplete submittals checklist that you can hand back to the contractor and say, Hey, you know, this stage milestone, whatever, we don't have all that we bought and paid for.

So please give it to us. And so that takes a burden off as well. And then the other nice thing is once you do have a complete submittal and what you want to do is get this stuff done before financial close out. You want to get it online in your O & M systems. So Ops people can use it to do their maintenance plans if they need to, for a new piece of equipment, they need to set up stuff in the building control system. They need to have access to that wealth of information. And this system allows that to happen from taking the submittals to saying that I've got all of them. To then transforming, normalizing to where that information needs to go because our system doesn't own the data. It just knows what you've got, where it's at, so people can find information. 

[00:15:55] Hugh Seaton: So it sort of sits in between various databases or pulls in information from various databases and among other things makes sure that things can talk to each other and you may call it a tomato, but that's okay. We know that that really means tomato. 

[00:16:10] Steve sims: Well yeah. And that's the beauty of it is the users don't really care where it is because when I'm looking for a voltage or I'm looking for a weight or I'm looking for a clearance dimension, Or I'm looking for air flow cause I'm making sure my air flow is moving air at the rate for COVID, these things aren't in your maintenance management systems all of time or hardly ever.

And so that type of other information is available to them too. And they can find it because it's been indexed, it's been associated, it's been captured, has been validated. And the management of change for all those CDE connections takes place through this middleware solution. Okay. 

[00:17:03] Hugh Seaton: You used the word, I want to make sure we call out and that's CDE and I understand that to be common data environment. Is that what you meant? 

[00:17:10] Steve sims: Yes, sir. That's what I mean. 

[00:17:12] Hugh Seaton: Yeah. That word gets used a little bit and I want to make sure we define it because I think it's an important one. What is a common data environment? 

[00:17:20] Steve sims: Well, you know, everybody calls their silo the common data environment. Sorry. And that's why I say... 

[00:17:29] Hugh Seaton: that's really funny.

[00:17:31] Steve sims: ...the connections plural. Yeah. Because what an IWMS system has and what it does is great. What a maintenance management system has and what it does is great, but they don't talk to each other. They don't share information. And if I'm an IWMS customer and I'm needing something, can't find it in the maintenance management, but I can find it because it's been indexed and associated and it's in a digital database somewhere because I know because the system did that.

And so people then can find stuff, whether they do it through their tab view, windows of their, CDE silos, or they can find it globally from those silos and through this database, that is nothing more than a simple terms, a card catalog of all the data and documents about all of your equipment in rooms, spaces, and locations across your, your campus portfolio.

[00:18:38] Hugh Seaton: That's fantastic. Really, really interesting. So how do you guys connect? Let me back up, a lot of the people that are listening to this will come more from the construction side. So let's talk a little bit about how you connect back into construction technology, or if that's even necessary, whether that's a Procore or that's, I mean, Bentley obviously spent some time with, and then moving forward towards some IWMS and so on, talk just a little bit about how those connections tend to work.

[00:19:10] Steve sims: Sure. So some folks use Sharepoint for submittal portal, others, you just eBuilders, BIM 360, Procore, and so forth. That's really a destination location that you attach to. And so in, in the case of, one customer, they use SharePoint. So when they have a capital project, the contractor submits everything to their shared Sharepoint, submittal portal location.

For that to be their complete submittal, our system just attaches to share point and will read through that information. Whether again, it's spreadsheets, it might be a COBie spreadsheet. You know, it might be BIM model. That might be 2D files, PDFs. You name it. And it goes through. And of course, you know, there's generally an equipment list of course.

And so it will take that equipment list and, and process it to be normalized. And then it'll start the QA QC process to start looking that I do have the documents and I do have the data about that. With BIM 360, we have a direct integration with their portal and we tie into the issues resolution engine.

So when our QA QC reporting engine finds, let's say incomplete information, it's automatically routed through the issues resolution engine, back to the project teams. And they now know that. Gee, I missed some warranty documents for five pieces of equipment. I resubmit them the process re-gens and it says, okay, I got all the O & M manuals now.

And then it can be turned over to the owner, through our processing, to their CDE silos, the way it needs to be. And so, you know, it's, it's, it's a simple process and, you know, we attach to many different places because everybody has something different. But that's part of the problem too, is the front end Submittal.

If I'm an enterprise owner and I got 15 different sites doing it 15 different ways, I'm not really capturing the efficiency of a true submittal portal to then be a handover management processing. And so, you know, we get involved with people and suggesting things and in that front too 

[00:22:08] Hugh Seaton: So just to clarify the upfront kind of processing of specs into submittals and all that. Is that something you guys get involved in? Are you primarily towards the end of a project? 

[00:22:18] Steve sims: Well, with the FEDs we're actually on the front end process of generating true handover submittal requirements for the various phases of a project. Again, design, construction, commissioning, and of course the O & M side.

[00:22:40] Hugh Seaton: Got it. Um, so I asked a little earlier about what happens when you're not there. I, you know, w what, what do you replacing. I mean, a lot of people may know that, but I think it's worth digging in a little bit is that, you know, you're simplifying all this, but what happens without you? 

[00:22:59] Steve sims: The customers can process their own project day in and day out. We're a technology provider, number one, but we're handover subject matter experts. And so we coach and train and develop the handover program, tied into their governance compliance. So they don't have to have us.  they can bring us back if they're doing something new and different that we haven't done before, but it's truly an educational coaching process we do with customers because you know, we're not, we're not a service company.

We're a technology company that helps you implement the technology and do it as good as we do. Because once, once you have your world set up, then it's clicking and ticking. 

And, you know, I'll give you an example. We had a customer that wants us to go through terabytes of stuff. And, you know, we basically attached to some of their projects that they did.

And two days later we had all their stuff indexed online in the system, for them to start utilizing. And so we got most of their stuff set up in a very short period of time. What we traditionally do with people is we actually do a coaching/training production environment with you, because then if I teach you how to do it. And I coach you how to repeat the process. And if I'm going to tweak a little bit, I document and validate it and we redo it again, then customers know how to do this as good as we do. Because the system is pulling the heavy weight for you. You know, you don't have to be a subject matter expert.

To be able to utilize the system when it's been configured the way it's supposed to, to process your data the way you want it to. And we've proven that, cause we've done it with interns. 

[00:25:17] Hugh Seaton: Yeah. That's great. Yeah. No, I believe you. It's just a great way to prove the point, right. Is that they may be very bright, but they don't have 10 years of experience.

And if they, you can make them, it worked with them, you know, it's an illustration that, that it'll work for you, Mr. Client, 

Steve sims: absolutely. 

That's great. where do you see this going? So you, you had,  you built something really special and it's, it's solving lots of problems. Where do you see things developing over time?

[00:25:48] Steve sims: Well I see it becoming less of a disruptive technology if you would, than a mainstream technology, because more and more people are seeing it. It's being engaged with more and more people, owners predominantly, but we're also now working with contractors. To help them understand that this solves a big problem for them, because if they can get clear, concise requirements from the owner, which they can, then when the, they do their submittals, they spend less time, less money and, don't have to keep searching for stuff to deliver what supposedly was bought and paid for.

And so if you have, you know, the supply chain working together with the owners, then it helps facilitate that. And, you know, again, construction people been doing construction projects forever, and they do BIM VDC and, you know, IWMS and, and you know, that helps, but it doesn't solve the whole problem.

And so, you know, we're able to help do that. With a very efficient technology that was designed specifically because nobody in the marketplace has designed a handover management system to do the task at hand. We did, we brought it to market. Now people are, let's say, excited to do the messy job of handover.

Cause it is messy. Everybody knows that.

[00:27:37] Hugh Seaton: The end, I mean the end of any project, it's tough to keep people focused and motivated and you know, the best, the best GCs will suffer from that a little. Right. And subsequently. Not suffered, but they're onto their next job because they don't have a lot of, a lot of slack, so they need to be on to the next thing.

So being able to organize this as is huge. One last question is, do you find that this is, I know that it works for any facility. We covered that earlier, but do you find that you get easier traction with more complex facilities that have a lot of operating in them versus large facilities that have, you know, a lot of offices or classrooms? or is there any difference?

Are there, do you find there are segments for how you go and sell and where the value proposition just really they're dying for it? 

[00:28:28] Steve sims: Well, you look for owners that know they have a problem and want to do something about it. We look for specific, let's say benchmark accounts in, in the different vertical spaces,  for universities, for healthcare, for the federal agencies, for the oil and gas agencies and so forth.

And so every owner has this problem. I don't care who you are, I've been doing this way too long, and I can go into your database. And I can't find stuff very quickly and very easily. If at all. And so, you know, if people understand, they want to tackle it and they don't want to spend millions of dollars to do it, then they need to call us because we're very fast, we're very efficient.

And our solution is very cost effective.  whether you're an enterprise agency or you're a community college that has these products. 

[00:29:34] Hugh Seaton: This is really great. I've learned a lot about the handover process and how you guys are solving it. So, Steve, thank you for being on the podcast. 

[00:29:41] Steve sims: Yes, sir. Thank you Hugh. Thanks for having me and I hope to talk to you again soon.