Trimble and Microsoft have announced a strategic partnership to host the full range of Trimble Construction solutions on the Microsoft Azure cloud services platform including on-machine and field technology, modeling and collaboration software, project and resource management, and underlying analytics.
So why Microsoft, and why now?
Trimble launched its construction strategy in 1999 and over the years developed dozens of separate applications to improve construction productivity, quality, transparency and safety, says Bryn Fosburgh, senior vice president at Trimble. “We mapped out the construction workflow from A to Z, from design to estimates to survey all the way through the construction process, operations and maintenance.”
“At that time, nothing really was in the cloud,” he adds Fosburgh. “We started to build applications through our acquisition of Gehry Technologies. That drove our early cloud development for construction collaboration and then renamed it Trimble Connect.”
With the Microsoft deal, Trimble will now have a partnership to deliver cross-platform connectivity and transparency to all the Trimble Construction products and all the stakeholders involved. “Now what happens is that multiple stakeholders can work on that same data and improve that data before it gets out to the machine or before it gets out to the surveyor, because it’s in the cloud,” says Fosburgh.
When information is on paper, changes and corrections can take hours, days, even weeks to get to the intended target. With the cloud, a designer can visualize what the crew is seeing at the site and then make changes in near real time.
“If you have an as-built in your hands, you have to remember that it is only accurate for a moment in time,” says Fosburgh. “The cloud environment allows stakeholders to give input into that final process, which improves productivity, reduces rework and gives them significant transparency, because they can see what's been constructed in progress.”
Bringing teams together
Almost every construction project employs a diverse range of separate companies: engineers, designers, architects, general and subcontractors. And it’s not uncommon for these participants to have their primary businesses in a different city or state.
Keeping track of all these team members can be an administrative headache. Omissions, slip-ups, changes or mistakes from one can ripple through the timelines of the entire project. Giving everybody instant access to all these streams of data via the Trimble Construction Cloud brings great economy of scale, says Fosburgh. It also cuts down on the number of emails, text messages and phone calls each subcontractor or stakeholder has to make to find out what’s going on.
And it’s not just design and field crews that are being connected. With the shortages of materials plaguing the construction industry, cloud-based visibility into the logistics and supply chain will give project managers a better idea of where their materials are — things like lumber, rebar, gravel, and concrete.
With the Trimble Construction Cloud, suppliers can enter their inventory, and whoever needs to can get instant updates with just a few taps on their phone or tablet. This prevents the problem of having workers show up on a site with insufficient machines or materials to do the job.
While there are many cloud computing services, Trimble chose to partner with Microsoft for several reasons.
“With HoloLens, we started a relationship with Microsoft in May of 2015,” says Fosburgh. “And HoloLens was very successful.”
[You can read what Equipment World wrote about the features and evolution of HoloLens in the articles here:
- With Trimble’s HoloLens SketchUp Viewer, you can walk through a building as you design it
- Trimble updates its AR hard hat with Microsoft HoloLens 2: Layer-able, hand-manipulated 3D hologram designs right before your eyes]
Microsoft’s brand and market reach was also a plus. “They have very strong technology and knowledge of this market. Many companies use Microsoft and we saw that commonality as very beneficial,” Fosburgh says.
Another plus for Microsoft was its widespread use in government agencies. As every contractor knows, getting permits and scheduling inspections introduces a degree of uncertainty about timelines on projects. And while every government agency is different, Fosburgh says, the hope is that the transparency of the cloud-based system will eventually enable a more timely review of the processes that require government inspections and permits.
“Every entity is a bit different,” says Fosburgh. “Some are quicker to adopt digital transformation than others, and that’s why it was so important for us to have a partnership with Microsoft because they’re very well-known and competent in this kind of enterprise software. We would love to see how government entities can publish data to improve the permitting process.”
Contractors and other stakeholders will be able to join the Trimble Construction Cloud on Microsoft Azure sometime in 2022.
For those who already have significant amounts of data on Trimble legacy products, the company has experts who can guide them through the process of migrating their old data to the new cloud platform, says Fosburgh.