IT offers to streamline steel projects

The use of IT software solutions in the construction industry is helping contractors and developers alike, to meet their tough project schedules. Zoe Naylor profiles the entry of two contrasting IT products into the local market.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  April 1, 2006

|~|115prod200.gif|~|CADS recently launched AdvanceSteel, its steelwork detailing software in the UAE, which can be used for all structural and secondary steelwork.|~|With deadlines and margins being squeezed ever tighter, consulting engineers, civil engineering contractors and even the Government of Dubai, are increasingly relying upon IT to assist them in the smooth and timely completion of projects. UK-based CADS provides a global rebar detailing service. Its software has been used on numerous projects in the UAE, including the Dubai Mall, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Festival City and the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Earlier this year CADS launched its latest software, AdvanceSteel 6.1. Designed for 3-D steelwork detailing, AdvanceSteel is a modelling, detailing and material listing system for all structural and secondary steelwork. After a successful UK launch, the next push for the software is the Dubai marketplace, according to Ian Chambers, international sales director at CADS. “The initial roll-out of AdvanceSteel was done in the UK in January, which was very successful,” says Chambers. “We knew that this was a big release for us so we wanted to make sure that everything was good in the home market before going into Dubai, where we’re basically adding it on to the existing CADS RC business that we’ve started there.” The new structural steelwork software was introduced to the Dubai market via a seminar held in March, which proved to be a resounding success. “We were lucky enough to pick up our first customers there and then: Future Vision Steel Construction and ETA Mechanical,” adds Chambers. CADS is aiming to reinvigorate the steel fabrication market with the launch of its new software, which it claims will provide a real alternative to users of Xsteel and StruCad packages. “This year, with our version 6.1 of AdvanceSteel, we’ve crossed the line where we feel we can take these people on,” says Chambers. He says the company now has high hopes for its product in the Gulf region: “We all know how strong the AutoCAD platform is in Dubai — the software is almost a standard part of most people’s PC. The big advantage is that our version 6.1 still runs on that platform. So a lot of people in Dubai seem to regard AdvanceSteel as a natural upgrade to their existing AutoCAD installation.” The new software goes on top of the AutoCAD and features additional toolbars and commands on the menu, which turn AutoCad from being a general grafting system into a specialist intelligent steel work system. According to Chambers, AdvanceSteel can be used for a vast range of projects and is particularly well suited to Dubai’s construction market: “I think we’re starting to see more and more structural steelwork nowadays in Dubai,” he says. “A lot of the basic floor structures are built up using structural steelwork because it’s light and very fast to construct. That’s how a lot of non-residential buildings in particular will start to appear in Dubai. This type of building has RC and steelwork in it — again we have software solutions for both, in the same Autocad environment.” Shopping malls, airport buildings and leisure developments are all projects on which the software can be put to use: “AdvanceSteel is ideal for doing these kinds of structures because it can model curved members very well. It’s got some of the best functionality for modelling on the market, and can do a lot more than just the regular square buildings or low-rise industrial buildings that you see in Jebel Ali, for example,” adds Chambers. Process plants represent potential new market opportunities for CADS in the Gulf region. “William Hare, for example, is one of the biggest fabricators in Abu Dhabi supplying the oil and gas industry, and their office has over 100 people currently using AutoCAD. “The firm has looked at AdvanceSteel in the UK and in the Middle East, and is looking like a strong favourite to be used for their steelwork modelling on all sorts of these oil and gas structures — another area where we’re not traditionally supplying that sort of customer in the UK but we have the scope to do so here.” But while some IT appliances are being used by contractors to help plan and build physical structures, other packages are being used by companies in the industry to improve their corporate structures. The Corporate Office (TCO) of the Government of Dubai is utilising advanced IT systems to help manage its global operations. TCO has selected Oracle E-Business Suite to fully automate, integrate and streamline the business operations of PCFC (Ports Customs Free Zone Corporation), DP World, Nakheel, Customs and the Jebel Ali FreeZone. The move is aimed at streamlining group operations by improving operational efficiencies, enhancing financial reporting, maximising the return on human talent and increasing the quality of customer service. Oracle Consulting was awarded the contract to manage and implement this vast project, which covers financial and property management, project development, human resources management and customer relationship management. The idea is to create a single integrated environment that enables business managers at all levels to make faster fact-based decisions. “One of the key reasons for going ahead with this project was to cope with our growth, both locally and internationally, and provide a solid and consistent solution for our businesses,” said Hamed Kazim, group chief financial officer at TCO. He added: “Our group’s ever-expanding business operations span the development, management and marketing of ports, real estate development, investment and free zone operations around the world. “We wanted an integrated system that could support our global operations while providing our business executives with the insight they need in order to make fast, smart and fact-based decisions.” According to Francis Veldeman, group chief information officer at TCO, Oracle Consulting was chosen to implement the project because of their expertise in global IT projects: “We are particularly interested in a single global instance that caters to the needs of each business unit and will connect all our servers in Dubai, regionally and globally with each other. This will ideally ensure full availability, full transparency and consistency of data relating to employees, customers and suppliers, and will also provide TCO executives with a global view of the business. Husam Dajani, Oracle’s vice president for the Middle East and Africa region, said that the exponential growth of the group’s business units created an exciting partnering opportunity for Oracle, which was fully prepared for and totally committed to this global project. “Consolidating financial and operational information and customer service processes on to a single platform that is accessible online, reduces operational expenses and gives TCO a transparent, up-to-the-minute perspective on all its operations and activities. “The group’s major business units, such as DP World, Jebel Ali Free Zone and Nakheel, which have complex IT requirements, will derive the maximum benefit from Oracle’s global single instance deployment model that will deliver enhanced business intelligence at a reduced operational cost.” The Corporate Office of the Government of Dubai is not alone in signing up to Oracle’s E-Business Suite: Qatar Steel Company (QASCO), one of the largest steel manufacturers in the GCC region, recently implemented Oracle E-Business Suite as part of its own expansion plans. Demand for steel has grown rapidly over the last five years, in tandem with the real estate boom in the Gulf. In a bid to capitalise on current and future growth in the region’s construction industry, QASCO is following an aggressive expansion plan that will see the steel manufacturer complete the building of a state-of-the-art facility by 2010, capable of producing four million tonnes of iron per year. Oracles’ E-Business Suite will allow QASCO the ability to expand while retaining its efficient manufacturing structure and high-quality production. According to Malek Hamdieh, information technology manager for QASCO, the company required a solution that would provide an integrated view of its growing operations: “We had a set of stand-alone systems developed internally by our IT staff,” he says. “These systems, while operating independently, could not provide an integrated view of our business operations. We wanted our executives to have up to the minute accurate information to enable them to make business critical decisions quickly. Oracle E-Business Suite gave us this capability and much more.” ||**||

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