This cloud case study describes how iPurity, a company that installs clean pipe in factories making computer chips and medicine, chose a cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from Plex Systems as its integrated IT solution. This cloud computing example highlights the creative ways cloud offerings can be used to inject more productivity into construction processes, and in this case how they can simplify and speed-up business start-ups. While much of the information comes from a published case study put out by Plex Systems, there is also unique content and perspectives from two of the primary architects of the new company-Kurt Gilson, CEO of iPurity, and Ron Nussle, Jr., president of ICR Group, Ltd., a company offering products and services for integrated cost reduction, lean supply chain, China sourcing and construction supply chain. This is Part 2.
“Plex Online came out heads and shoulders above Salesforce.com,” says Nussle. iPurity had found the solution provider that would help design a company from the ground up.
It is construction’s nature of each project being different that posed the biggest challenges of adapting the manufacturing ERP solution.
“The biggest challenge taking manufacturing ERP to construction was the ‘hyper-high-mix/low-volume’ production model of construction,” explains Nussle. “Construction, especially high-tech industrial process gas industries which iPurity focused on, is 100 percent one-off projects. The components are standardized, but the bill-of-materials (BOM) is unique for every project, for each phase of construction and for each field-crew. We had to build automated macros outside of the SaaS model using MS Excel to rapidly generate these BOMs, and then populate the standard BOM upload template into our SaaS model.”
The second biggest challenge, Nussle says, with using a manufacturing ERP with construction, is terminology. For example, buildings became job sites and production cells became field crews.
Incorporating the functions of estimating, take offs and project management required rethinking the whole concept of integration.
“Overall, there are many companies talking about building information modeling (BIM), but very few are doing the hard work of actually integrating all of the trade-partners into the model,” says Nussle. “The iPurity solution was to take a ‘green-field’ approach and NOT attempt this complex integration. Rather, we started in the SaaS model from day one with NO data integration to existing systems. We built our database from the ground up rather than attempting to build ‘hooks’ into other systems such as project management, estimating and BIM. This greatly simplified the task of managing the trade partners on the job site. Then we trained all the estimators in the native system, rather than trying to integrate their existing systems into the SaaS model.”
Nussle says that because estimators and project managers were already looking for better ways of doing things they took to the new system very well.
From the experience Nussle says there are some key take-aways for others.
“Value-stream-map the entire construction process BEFORE you invest in software,” he counsels. “This is where the low-hanging fruit was found. iPurity found the most benefit by first value-stream-mapping the traditional construction process from pre-construction to…invoicing. Next we identified waste and (found the) solutions to eliminate the non-value-adding steps in the process. Finally we looked for a software solution that would operate in the new, lean state, rather than examining the traditional construction software offerings, which were married to the way most companies had done construction for decades…or as I like to say, ‘Large scale construction hasn’t changed that much since the pyramids were built by subcontractors from Israel.’”
But for iPurity things haven’t had to change to get better-they started out better. The company reports up to a 67 percent reduction in installation cycle times compared to its competition. Its installed cost is five percent lower than competitors with full price transparency for owners, and a bevy of other advantages that save time and money for all those involved.
“As far as we know, this is a unique approach that has not been successfully attempted till now. iPurity is one of the first companies in the world to apply established lean-sigma manufacturing methods to the project-construction industry,” says Nussle. “Tract homes which are ‘cut-and-paste’ configurations have done so, but large-scale commercial projects are each unique, and no two facilities are ever the same.”