Eight Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Technology Consultant
Technology is constantly evolving and it affects almost every aspect of today’s businesses. In order for your company to stay on the cutting edge, you must keep up. That means having good IT consultants who can keep your business at the cutting edge of current technology. When it comes to the mission-critical task of hiring a good consultant, you can’t afford to make a mistake. Here are the top eight mistakes to avoid:
Failing to Identify Your Needs
There are numerous reasons for hiring a Technology Consultant from upgrading your current enterprise system (or modules), maintaining or modernizing your legacy systems, updating software and hardware, or just having a qualified resource to help train your staff or work on short term projects. No matter the need, finding the right Tech for the job first requires identifying exactly what you need him/her for.
Too Little Manpower
If the work you need is extensive and you’ve hired an independent contractor, there may not be enough manpower to handle the job. That could either create a situation in which the work goes on far too long with no end in sight or simply does not get done at all. Neither situation is acceptable. It’s important to hire a company that has enough manpower to handle the size of the job.
A consulting contractor can handle the job if it is within their means. Some small companies can also handle some very large jobs as well. Just be certain the size of the company suites the size of the job.
Area of Expertise
It’s important that the person hiring the consultant understands what the company needs well enough to conduct the interview with pointed questions. Does this consultant have the expertise to do your specific job? Technology consultants cover many different areas of expertise. Their resume may not pinpoint your job. Therefore, interview questions must be specific in cases like these. Do you, as the interviewer, have the specific knowledge required to garner whether or not this consultant can do what he or she needs to be able to do for your company? Are you asking the right questions? Is someone else within your company in a better position to be interviewing for this contract?
Get it in writing
Be certain you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Be certain the entire scope of work and job is outlined within the contract. What will the consultant be providing? Some consultants set up hardware, software, or complicated systems and then leave without training anyone to use it. Be certain that having someone on your team trained is part of the service and that it is specified in writing as part of the contract with the IT consulting firm. This is a critical part of your contract.
Since the IT consultant will have access to some of your most sensitive data, be certain this contract also includes a confidentiality agreement as well as a right to all Intellectual Property created during services rendered.
Make Sure the IT Consultant is Not Trying to Sell You a Product
Your Technology Consultant should be focused on what is best for you and your company – not on selling you a particular product because he/she gets a kickback from that company. Ask them outright if they receive a commission for selling you a particular software. Be certain that your written agreement with the IT consultant specifies that they are not engaged to sell you a particular product, that they do not represent any one software or hardware company. Only in that way can you be certain that the tech has your best interest in mind.
Failing to Speak the Same Language
In addition to making sure someone within your company is trained to continue using the software or hardware or system that the Technology Consultant has put into place, be certain that someone within your company, someone who has been involved in the interview process (see #3) understands exactly what the consultant is doing. They don’t have to understand how the tech is doing what he’s doing, only why he is doing it. If you’re in a role that requires oversight of specific software, hardware or systems, you should understand this information. Anyone within your organization that will have direct involvement working with a particular software or system should be involved in hiring this consultant to be certain communication is open and fluid.
Becoming Dependent on Your Technology Consultant
If you or someone trusted in your organization does not train in what the consultant is putting in place within your system, the consultant can build in complexities that will require you to call on them frequently at their regular hourly rate (which could be astronomical and eternal). Additionally, they could custom-build something into the system. Be certain that your contract gives you full ownership of any Intellectual Property conceived during the project.
An unsavory Technology Consultant can hold your systems hostage as was exhibited with the Colonial Pipeline recently. Ransomware is prevalent. Generally, it’s not as blatant as a consultant who has been inside your business – but it can be. Why take the chance? There have been numerous instances of highjacking associated business bank accounts and draining the funds. It can take months or even years to recover these funds – if ever. And often the perpetrators never get caught. Don’t let this happen to you. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are working with a reputable company and consultants.
Know your consultant. Looking at this person’s resume is not enough. Your Technology Consultant will have access to some of your most sensitive data. Be certain that he has had this responsibility before. Know that he has completed past projects on time and with exceptional results. You can only be certain of this by having his employer verify this information. You can also so do a separate background check for internal purposes as well.
Hiring a Technology Consultant is a big responsibility. Don’t let it intimidate you. The consultant or consulting company is there to help you. By selecting the right consulting company and avoiding these pitfalls, you can make this a win-win for both parties. Remember, working with the right consultant could make the difference between success or failure for your company.
Simulation is a process of using a computer model that represents an existing or planned system to understand the various interactions and constraints in a production system. Simulation modeling allows proposed changes (what-if scenarios) to be tested, productivity, labor and equipment impact analysis of these changes to be performed and understand and visualize the effects of change and the resulting costs prior to implementation.
Production & assembly lines can be a simple or a complex process depending upon the products, the part routing, and facility layout. We put together a list of some commonly received questions for improving processes of all sizes:
Where are my constraints in the process and how to manage them?
How should I allocate my operators?
Where and how much buffer should be added?
Simulation can help identify maximum production line capacity. If the simulation predicted capacity is less than the target, a Throughput Improvement Road Map (TRIM) as shown in Figure 1 can be developed using Simulation studies to achieve the target capacity. The TRIM will identify the constraints (might be cycle time, station/equipment downtime, changeovers, etc.) that will have the most impact on the production. The Team can then and decide the best way to bust the constraints based on cost, ease of implementation, resources required, etc.
Figure 1 – Throughput Improvement Road Map (TRIM)
Simulation can also be used to validate operator or resource allocations. Initially, line balancing technique can also be used to smooth out the production flow by allocating task to the operators such that the task can be completed within the allocated time. Line balancing data then can be fed into simulation for validating the output. What-if scenarios with different operator allocation or schemes can be run to see impact on throughput and overall operator utilization as shown in Figure 2, thus reducing overall cost.
Figure 2 – Operator Relocation Analysis
There is always a tendency to add more buffer to the production or assembly process. Adding buffer is not cheap, buffer not only increase inventory cost but also require additional capital to buy equipment to store and move the product. Example – A conveyor needs to be extended to accommodate more buffer, additional fixtures required to hold a product in a automated robotic process etc. Simulation can not only help identify location of the buffer but also quantity of buffer required. Buffer sensitivity analysis as shown in Figure 3, can be conducted to identify number of buffers required at a certain location.
Figure 3 – Buffer Sensitivity Analysis
As you can see Simulation can offer various insights in identifying the constraints, use of labor and identifying location and quantity of buffers, thus simulation can not only help increase production but also help in reducing the cost, thus increasing profits!
PMC provides a broad range of business analytics and business intelligence services to enable corporate decision-makers to increase their bottom line. The PMC Difference stems from a deep rooted philosophy of helping our clients achieve success at ever level of their organization. The relationship that we establish with our clients is not that of a vendor and customer, but rather a trusted partner that they can call when the need arises.
PMC’s business analytics and business intelligence services involve extracting patterns from large data sets by combining methods from statistics, operations research, and artificial intelligence with database management (Data Gathering, Warehousing, Querying, Reporting and Dashboard Development).
PMC’s process follows six phases:
PMC’s team members and technical staff draw from decades of experience in statistics, forecasting, operations research, optimization, and simulation and database management. We deploy a large set of analysis and modeling techniques for every client. PMC can solve your unique problems, and here’s how:
We really do understand technology: Unlike most staffing companies, we have an IT department with Web Developers, Business Analysts, Project Managers, Data Scientists, etc.
We have 192 skill and competency tests that we perform to further screen candidates: This eliminates any unqualified candidates.
Turn-Around time: Resumes in your inbox in 8 to 24 hours.
NO Third Party consultants. We just don’t use them. All our consultants are on our W2: You don’t have to worry about contractors not getting paid, VISA issues, etc.
Over 300+ consultants in various IT roles: Web Developers, Business Analysts, Enterprise Architects, QA Analysts, Project Managers, Network/Systems Engineers, etc.
We have placed over 1000 people in various IT roles across the country: 40+ years of IT Staffing/Consulting experience is what we bring to the table.
Innovation: PMC leads the industry in IT Staffing innovation with productivity and process improvements in everyday operations of screening, interviewing, and qualifying candidates.
Advanced Screening and Recruiting Process: We have a 13 steps recruiting process unlike any other staffing firm in the business.
Let’s say for the sake of argument, you’re happy with your current IT Consulting/Staffing vendors. The next question would be, how are you measuring their performance, success on delivery, and value to your organization? Let PMC share with you the following list of principles, laws, or guidelines that has helped design and implement effective technology strategies and approaches for our customers.
Skill specific candidate testing: In order to ensure a candidate has the skills he says he has; we test him/her. These can be written tests, role-plays, simulations, or for example asking a Web Developer candidate to write a code snippet or asking a Business Analyst candidate to explain the key components in a Business Requirement Document (BRD). These tests will not necessarily be elaborate, but they will able to differentiate the candidates who have the necessary skills from those who don’t.
We include our technical personnel in the interview process: Having the final candidates interview with others in the company (especially those working at client sites in similar roles) provides additional perspectives on the candidate. Those additional perspectives greatly increase the odds of finding the best candidates.
Competitive Rates: The very best is always in high demand, and we realize that if we don’t literally “fight” for a top shelf candidate, you don’t get the best candidate in the market. That’s why we maintain a low profit margin to stay competitive and pass on low rates to our customers.
Speedy Response: Making fast hiring decisions is essential whenever a candidate in high demand decides to make a job switch. We normally respond with a resume profile to our customers within 24 hours.
3D Laser Scanning may seem like an intimidating undertaking for your business, but with PMC’s experienced team of laser scanning from buildings, to trains, ships, and everything in between, we can get the job down quickly, effectively, and precisely.
Are laser scanners safe?
Yes. Most modern scanners use infrared, class 1 lasers and are completely safe to use around people.
How much does laser scanning cost for manufacturing and industrial plants?
In this case size of scope has a significant effect on cost. Manufacturing scanning is almost always priced on a per square foot / square meter rate. This rate starts high for smaller jobs and rapidly drops as the scope becomes larger. For smaller projects, you could expect rates as high as $0.20/per square foot ($2/sq. m). For the largest projects rates can be as low as $0.07/per square foot ($0.70/sq. m).
In addition to the flat per square foot rates, some projects may have other cost factors such as limited access windows, specialized training requirements, remoteness of the site.
Can you scan while the plant is running?
Yes although it is not ideal. There will be areas that can not be captured due to safety or obstructions.
Can you scan with minimal lighting?
Yes. Scanners can scan in complete darkness. Scans will be in grayscale, color capture requires good lighting.
What will be captured on the scan?
Modern scanners are extremely high fidelity and what is captured will look like a photograph. Similar to a camera, they will capture whatever they see. Care can be taken to ensure that sensitive information is protected but these areas should be discussed before scanning is underway.
What are the tolerances/accuracy?
This is an extremely complex topic but in general you can assume that single scan accuracy can achieve +/-1mm and accuracy and degrades from there with each post processing step. A point cloud of many scans will have less accuracy than a single scan, and a model less than that. There are also other more complex concerns when you get into the modeling step of the process. As an example, do you want things modeled orthogonal to have nice looking layouts or do you want them placed as they really are.
How long does it take?
Tripod-based scanners have various run times that range from just under two minutes to up to ten for very high-resolution work. In general, you can expect each scan to take around five minutes and our team to move through space quickly. Overall project timing is a factor of resources deployed. For example, on large projects, we will deploy 10 scanners and run 24 hours a day.
Do you scan on weekends or holidays?
Yes. This is very common in our industry.
How does the scanning figure out things that are not in the “line of sight”?
We accomplish this by setting up multiple scan positions. It’s important to understand that all large area scanners are a line of sight. Although solutions like Ground Penetrating Radar serve a purpose they are nowhere near the fidelity of current-gen laser scanners.
How do you get a digital twin / 3D model / BIM from the scan?
Although there are tools that assist, modeling is still a manual process that can be very time consuming. For this reason PMC has built up an international team of more than 50 dedicated plant modelers.
What formats can you output, when you are done processing?
For scanning, we support all formats including RCS/RCP, POD, e57, several native formats, and several web formats. We also develop CAD models in all major platforms including AutoCAD, Autodesk Factory Design, FactoryCAD, Revit, and others.
How long does it take to turn scanning events, into CAD drawings?
This varies based on the scope of the project and the number of modelers assigned. In general, you can assume it will take 3 or 4 times longer than the scanning took.
How far away can you be, to still grab Laser Scans (how tall of a ceiling, or deep a Pit)?
Modern laser scanners have ranged in excess of 100m. Data captured at that range will not be dense or of the highest quality. In most cases interior scanning does not require ranges in excess of 25m. In fact, by default PMC excludes data captured at a distance grater than 25m in order to improve the overall quality of the point cloud. If you truly need long range data there are special techniques and equipment that can be used to capture long-range data but it requires advanced planning.
The ecosystem of technologies that capture 3D spatial data (Reality Capture) has changed drastically over the last several years. The data reality capture is often use to develop BIM design models or for construction coordination. One of the challenges for Architects, Contractors and ownersseeking the right value is the technology and planning to fit the scope and data use case. Often buildings with little or no existing data need the right type of reality capture defined to fit budget and usage scope. Requesting BIM to FM models or Digital Twin asset modelsin the current technology growth, can effect the capture and usage applications.
Perspectives will always change over time, and that’s especially true in the world of Reality Capture. I’ve been working in this realm now for 20 years and though reality capture is a relatively new term, in the past there wasn’t quite a defined description for this level of service. When I started, the only way to describe this type of work was in terms of a surveyor. As time went on and this laser scanning cat was let out of the bag, I’ve fulfilled roles as a mentioned surveyor, laser scanning tech, 3D Imagery Engineer, CAD drafter, scanning dude, VDC manager and probably and handful of other titles that all basically meant the same thing, and that was applying laser scanning technology to render out drawings CAD.
Now that laser scanning and Reality Capture are validated technologies and workflow methodologies have been refined well past the point of proof of concept, there is an array of options and deliverables that fall under this category. Not all construction projects require head to toe documentation with scanning, which may lead a project manager to consider different Reality Capture offerings. Here are some examples of the other facets of Reality Capture for Digital Transformation…
Project Coordination: Typically, the tool of this trade tends to be Navisworks. Imagine if there’s a baseline understanding of an interior space whether those dimensions have been acquired via laser scanning or tape measure only to be drafted or modeled out in Revit. Once that understanding of space has been acquired and all interior elements and obstacles are virtually visible in CAD, that’s when proposed design can be added, from any trade, fixture or element. That’s when the fun begins, as you’ll quickly be able to determine if the “mocked up design” will work or “clash” with design. It’s easy, you can see it!
Virtual Tours: Sometimes on the front end of a construction project, extensive mapping and understanding of the existing space may be required. However, in post construction the main benefit of a visualization may only be to look around, to confirm what’s been constructed, and to frankly show it off. That’s where Virtual Tours step in. It’s the ability to add somewhat of a Google Streetview to your project, to get people virtually moving within the space, because why not show off what’s been accomplished. It’s easy to use and lite as there’s no data to transfer, it’s web-based!
Static Laser Scanning: A more traditional form of laser scanning where the technology is tripod based and that scanner is moved through the scene to capture, and put laser scanning point cloud data on what’s important to the project and/or model.
Mobile Mapping: Similar to and based out of terrestrial or static scanning; mobile scanning is that same lidar technology on a moving platform. The standard benefit of applying this technology is gaining overall coverage on a project, though incremental accuracy may be the sacrifice, but that’s ok depending on the project need.
Digital Layout: By implementing laser scanning/reality capture, introducing benchmark targets onsite that are similarly located and placed in a Revit model, survey layout information can be utilized while onsite to directly related to and locate elements that exist in the model. By tying into targets and getting surveying equipment utilizing the same coordinate information that’s used in the model, it will enables the ability to “lay-out” or digitally locate elements that exist in the model, that need to be located and placed or built onsite.
Asset Management: Reality Capture and BIM work begins in producing the “As-built” conditions which are ultimately compared against proposed design, and then asset management steps into the process. This focus starts to add back all the pertinent information back into the model in regards to asset information such as in install date, manufacturer, record of an asset being serviced, and whatever other important information that needs to be linked back to that asset. Most standard BIM and Reality Capture efforts have certainly completed the interest of producing and similar 3d rendering models/representations, whereas asset management efforts put all of the necessary information back into that 3d model.
Establishing a consistent coordinate system: In Revit and in onsite: As multiple forms of spatial measurement technologies are introduced to a project site in enable and enhance building, they all need to be utilizing the same coordinate system to maintain an all together project accuracy. Laser scanners, total stations, distance meters, tape measures are all accurate measurement methodologies within their own relative need that they are supporting, but typically not as accurate when they are all used in conjunction together, on one project site. Reality Capture methodologies can help establish a consistent coordinate system that is seen and used in Revit and translated back onsite, where scan targets can be used as benchmarks that contain that same coordinate information that’s in Revit. By using these benchmarks, or creating co-similar Control Lines that are both onsite and in Revit, it make it much easier to “tie into” that same coordinate system that’s being referenced in Revit, despite whatever measurement tool your using everybody ties in the same way, using the same coordinates.
Scan-To-BIM Digital Transformation: When the scanning stops, that’ when the building begins so to speak. Whether the scanning is static or mobile, once it is brought into any number of 3D programs and the “points are turned into pipes” I always like to say; or wall, windows, doors or any other 3D elements, that’s when the rendered 3D model is produced from the point cloud, or hence the laser scanning data to a BIM deliverable.
Peter Abraham joined the team at PMC as of November 2020, bringing with him 20 years of focused experience in Reality Capture services in the AEC market, that range from data capture expertise and Virtual Design and Construction management.
Point clouds live somewhere in space, where they are in space are based on something called a coordinate system. In today’s post, we will keep the math to a minimum and approach coordinate systems from a practical, applied approach. In the world of CAD and point clouds, coordinate systems are defined by an X, Y, Z origin point, and a Z-axis rotation. When a point cloud is first registered, the origin and rotation are based on where the first scan was taken. This is seldom a good location as it is very arbitrary. To produce a useable point cloud, we need to put the point cloud on a rational coordinate system that the whole project team can use.
We assume that your building is relatively flat and level. If it is not, we need to talk. When we say relatively we mean that the main floors of the building would be flat within +/-1″ at any measured point.
How do you know what coordinate system to use? That is easy; PMC will ask a couple of questions to understand better what coordinate system is required for your project once scanning is complete. We do our best to break it down into a few simple questions.
Before we begin
Typically buildings will have some drawings or plans originating from construction. When there is existing CAD/BIM data of the building, it can be used as a reference for the point cloud data’s alignment. Generally, this is the preferred option for most teams. Aligning to your existing CAD/BIM data ensures that the existing data can be used without a need to shift it in the CAD/BIM environment.
If your building is ancient and there are no existing CAD/BIM drawings, no need to worry. We can work with that.
While AutoCAD and Microstation straightforwardly handle coordinates, Revit can have a Shared Coordinate added. If your Revit model is using Shared Coordinates, please let us know.
Have a survey file you want us to use? We should have already talked about that, oops. Please stop here and contact us.
It starts with a question
The first question you will be asked is, can you provide a CAD (DWG/DGN) or Revit model of the scope area? If you answer this yes, you will be almost done. We will have one more question for you. No worries though, even if you answer no, there are just a few more questions.
PDFs can not be used for alignment, only CAD/BIM data. If you don’t have a file, it’s not a problem. There are just a few more questions we’ll need to ask.
A simple Yes or No
If you chose yes to the first question, keep reading. If you chose no, skip to the next section.
You’ll be asked, do you want PMC to perform the best fit of the point cloud to the provided CAD or BIM file? What does that mean? It means that PMC will align your point cloud to the provided CAD or BIM file. Given the difference between the actual built environment and the assumed world of CAD, your point cloud will be centered within the CAD data and not aligned to any one benchmark. If you want to lock the point cloud to one specific point in the building, you need to pick no to this question. Some examples of this desire to have the origin be the center of a building column or a building corner.
You chose NO, now what?
You will be asked two additional questions to help define the origin and rotation of the point cloud. We’ll start by asking about the X/Y location then rotation. We provide the most common answers for you to pick from, but you can always choose to customize it. We know that every project of the built world is unique and will often require unique solutions.
Q: For the X and Y-axis origin (North and Easting), how do you want the point cloud aligned?
A: Here, we ask you what point within the point cloud do you want X=0 and Y=0 to be. Typically this is some logical point in the building, like a corner. Sometimes it can be a known benchmark point like the center of a fire hydrant.
Q: For rotation of the point cloud, please select what you would like.
A: In the first question, we locked in a 0,0 point, but we can rotate around that point. You likely don’t want your building to be rotated at 31.25 degrees, but what do you want it rotated too? The most common answer is to align the longest wall along the X-axis. You should consider how your project will fit your sheets and if having a project north or true north is important to you.
The Z-axis or Elevation?
We’re almost done here. We need to sort out elevation. What we need to know is, what do you want the elevation of the first floor you walk on when entering the front door to be? The most common answers are 0 and +100. Sometimes we are asked for sea level. We will take multiple measurements across that floor and average them to set the elevation.
If your building has multiple “main doors” to different floors or you think we may be confused by what the “front door” is, please reach out to us.
Wrapping it up
You’re done! We know how to align your data and it will be in your hands shortly! Have concerns still? Worried we don’t know what you mean? No problem, the form is not meant to replace talking to one of us. If you have any concerns at all we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out at any time to the team at PMC.