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What Happened with Construction Business Software at CONEXPO?

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While CONEXPO is all about the equipment, there were business and productivity software products that came in force, and here is some of the zeitgeist.

Amidst the cranes, aggregate screens, excavators, pavers and concrete plants at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023, there were plenty of technology exhibitors, many of course oriented towards equipment management, maintenance and utilization.

But attendees got to learn about business technologies that focus on the back office instead of the field, up to and including enterprise resource planning (ERP), project management, purchasing management and more. While most business software at the show was construction-specific, multi-vendor enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors including Sage, Acumatica and Deltek made the trip. Their investments in the event may be an indicator of which vendors are aggressively pursuing the heavy, civil and other construction entities that attend CONEXPO.

Construction Software Adjusts to Cloud Models

Regardless of whether the software was tightly focused on the construction vertical or not, vendors are dealing with advancing cloud technology. An example is Sage, whose construction ERP products run the spectrum from what Sage Vice President of what Construction and Real Estate Dustin Stephens called “on premise solutions with cloud options” to the multi-tenant Sage Intacct Construction.

Software companies like Sage that have grown into the construction space by acquiring solutions with 30 years of industry development are now faced with the task of moving those established bases onto more modern cloud products that are easier for customers to integrate with and support. This entails not only trying to help the newer cloud products reach functional parity with their progenitors, but working to grow support with the installed customer base for the transition to newer products.

“We appreciate that our customers trust us and our implementation—we have taken them through changes before,” Stephens said. “We are giving them the power of choice with different models, and with hundreds of third-party solution vendors, communities and resellers.”

Newer solutions being offered at CONEXPO from startups may be more modern but will lack the install base and functional depth and breadth more established companies will enjoy, either in total or in North America. Israeli civil construction/infrastructure analytics company Datumate used the show as a platform for its DatuBIM analytics software and DatuFly for automatic aerial data acquisition. Swiss software advisory, consulting firm and reseller Software One had a team on hand to evangelize for MTWO Software, a broad and integrated solution that encompasses planning, construction and asset operation post-commissioning with BIM model management. Software One markets the product for Stuttgart-Germany-based RIB Software. RIB had marketed the solution on-premise, but Software One and Schneider Electric are collaborating to market the solution as a subscription-only product built in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

“One of our big door-openers is estimating,” Software One North American Marketing Leader for MTWO Construction Cloud David Rego told IRONPROS in a debriefing call before the show. “For estimating, one of our key focuses is our BIM Model Management. We can do 5D simulations with that, bring in REVIT model, layer on top the schedule and the estimate for the cost. We support what-if scenarios, so a project team can envision the outcome of different approaches.”

Meaningful business software product announcements at the show include:

Some Automation from Autodesk

If contractors and subcontractors have a least-favorite part of their work together, it may be the struggle of creating and maintaining a submittal register. At the show, Autodesk announced the release of AutoSpecs, a tool to analyze your spec documents and create an accurate submittal register for its Autodesk Construction Cloud offering.

AutoSpecs enables users a to generate submittal logs in minutes, eliminating what would otherwise take project teams weeks to complete. AI built into AutoSpecs can also identify missing submittal items before they're costly errors. AutoSpecs’ suggested submittals, powered by Construction IQ, analyzes the current project specification against historical project data to suggest potentially missing submittals from the project specifications.   

An integration then can push the submittal log into the field collaboration, cost control and project management tool Autodesk Build. As the project enters work-in-progress in Autodesk Build, the construction team can track status of submittals and review processes, annotating and marking up submittals and saving closed submittals for later reference. Companies that subscribe to Autodesk Construction Cloud for Construction Operations will have access to AutoSpecs following general release March 21.

B2W Rolls Out Enhancements

While it is still early days since Trimble’s acquisition of B2W and its estimating and construction operations suite, the product team is already churning out new functionality.

  • Enhanced employee hours and equipment meter readings, including clock-in-clock-out functionality and GPS confirmation of location are now in the B2W mobile app for individual time and performance tracking.
  • B2W Estimate has new tools to manage and compare quotes from vendors and subcontractors. The B2W Estimate API has been extended for even more interoperability with other applications and data sources that support the estimate.
  • A variety of transactions and conditions in B2W applications can now trigger an instant message or other immediate communication. Management teams may find it helpful to automate these notifications for scheduling, field operations or fleet maintenance events such as safety incidents, schedule assignments and updates, field log or timecard status changes, maintenance requests or work order completion.
  • Expanded connectivity between B2W Schedule and B2W Track applications increases opportunities to populate field logs with information from the schedule and to communicate personnel, equipment and material needs from the field tracking application to the scheduling and dispatching application.
  • New export functionality in the B2W Maintain maintenance management application makes it easier to reconcile purchase order information with Viewpoint and other accounting programs.

Command Alkon Launches Customer Portal

Command Alkon, the supplier of integrated solutions for construction materials producers, debuted their new Customer Portal mobile app, which will be a step up for customers already using a previous app, MOBILEjobsite. Command Alkon customers can make the app available to their customers so they can view order insights and track order and delivery status. Customers can brand the app for their own business, delivering a professional appearance.

 With this app, Command Alkon customers can give their customers real-time insights on order status, details about the truck including, thanks to an in-drum internet of things (IoT) sensor, reliable data on the qualities of the concrete itself. This new Customer Portal is fully integrated with COMMANDbatch, TrackIt, COMMANDseries, Integra, and the Command Alkon Cloud Dispatch system.

“This product allows the small producer to really be on more equal footing with the larger multinational corporations that might have large IT departments,” Command Alkon CEO Martin Willoughby said. “With Customer Portal, we have a product that can be branded by our customer, and in turn we are helping them be successful with their customers.”

Willoughby stressed the central role played by Command Alkon’s rebuilding of its core application into Connex, a modern, API-driven multitenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) application. Command Alkon had earlier consolidated multiple acquired products into a single multi-tenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) application that unites the heavy construction value chain for ready-mix, asphalt, sand and aggregate producers and their customers and haulers on a single application.

“Connex was intended to be a data warehouse to share and upload the information,” Willoughby said. “As a byproduct of that, the investment they made, it has come to contain all of the data elements the industry cares about. And we can make those visible to our customers and their customers to help them realize value.”

According to Command Alkon Chief Product Officer, Ranjeev Teelock, Connex is also underpinning streamlined communications within the materials provider itself, which in turn creates business value.

“Our customers fit their business processes built around the limits of technology they have,” Teelock said. “In some cases, they may name a file with something like ‘send order first.’ Now with the Connex platform, we can talk within the same office and provide instruction. We have an internal messaging tool but are also integrated with internal messaging tools like Microsoft Teams.”

Contractors Get a Chance to “Dig Into” InSite

Site work contractors were able to get a briefing on Insite Software’s Elevation Pro, the takeoff tool for heavy and civil construction. The software generates quantities from inputs like PDF site plans, CAD files, existing and proposed topos, data collection imports, boring, stripping and subgrades. This is attractive because all of this work is done speculatively, and automating it makes it feasible for contractors to pursue more work without falling down on accuracy than they otherwise could.

“This is pure overhead because you are not even sure if you have won the job,” InSite CEO Steve Warfel said in an interview as his company’s exhibit was being set up on Monday. “Once you win the work, you have to get it into construction, and GPS machine control has revolutionized this industry, but an important component of it is making the data. The data is a stumbling block for a lot of customers, and our whole function that separates our company is that we have made all of these processes really easy.” 

Kojo Automates Price Matching

Construction procurement platform Kojo rolled out automated invoice matching to drive lean improvements in purchasing and sourcing functions in the back office.

Kojo’s Invoice Matching flags errors like incorrect quantities and prices with an automated the three-way matching process, comparing the vendor invoice to the purchase order and then to proof of delivery. This standardizes the project on correct prices and quantities, at the line-item level and saves time. 

“Kojo gives me better visibility into our end-to-end materials management process,” said Alex Eldridge, project manager at Tharco Inc. “I used to have to do everything from memory. Now, with Kojo, I can see everything from the time we ordered through receiving, invoicing, and payment, all in one system. Kojo makes it easier for me to back up our data and catch mistakes before we pay for them.”

Automated Invoice Matching soft-launched in Q4 of 2022 and to date has processed $2.8 million in invoices, catching mistakes on 27% of invoices processed.

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