Case Study Published: 11/10/2018

Gratte Brothers reduce their point cloud modelling time using EdgeWise

“Creating a basic model from scan data used to take two months to complete. Using Edgewise automated feature extraction technology it now takes us two weeks. We implement it on every job, achieving a significant improvement in first-time accuracy and enabling us to deliver better outcomes for our clients much quicker.” Anthony Chung, BIM Manager, Gratte Brothers

Meet Gratte Brothers

Gratte Brothers Group is one of the UK’s leading independent building services companies providing electrical, mechanical, security, commercial catering facility services, building services maintenance, and design services. Originally registered in 1946,  the Group employs over 650 people and has an annual turnover of £100m +.

Gratte Brothers provides a high standard of service throughout all its business processes, with the core objective of developing long standing client relationships in order to fully understand clients’ business needs and so continuously improve the level of service delivered.

The group's philosophy is that, as a service provider, its success in delivering customer satisfaction depends on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of its people. Equipping people with the right tools for the job is an essential element of this approach, constantly demonstrating the group's ability not just to deliver high quality outcomes but to ensure best practice in the continuous adoption of new technologies. This approach ensures that appropriate solutions are called upon in every instance and that Gratte Brothers remains ever responsive to the needs and requirements both of clients and of partners in the supply chain, with a focus on collaboration.

The challenge – Modelling extensive structures fast and accurately: eliminating guesswork, re-work, and hard work

Anthony Chung is BIM Manager at Gratte Brothers. He had been working for some time alongside the company's electrical and mechanical divisions on a large-scale project for a major UK client. The client identified a need to produce a record of its entire estate from a complete cloud survey, to within a 50 mm tolerance.

"Up to this point, standard 3D modelling tools had always sufficed for the requirements we had from other clients but, due to the sheer scale of this particular exercise, we knew this project would need the most sophisticated software available for rendering scan data into a 3D model. Elsewhere within the client's organisation, designers were using EdgeWise automated modelling software. Our client suggested we might want to consider the same software solution for this project," explains Chung.

Hide and seek: traditional limitations in working with scan data

Companies often find themselves having to interpret information when attempting to translate point cloud data into a trustworthy and accurate 3D model. It doesn't do it itself. This is primarily due to the nature of the scanning process.

The laser beam can only record surfaces within its line of contact, and thus it can't record what lies behind an object. The only way round this is either for site surveyors to spend more time on site repositioning the laser scanner, or for designers to visit (or request that surveyors re-visit) the site when elements of the scan require further clarification or rescanning.

Either way, it's a time intensive process both at the scan stage and at the data extraction stage when traditional manual modelling software is used bringing the data into CAD and Navisworks to trace over the point cloud. It requires source inputs additional to the scan; photographs via ReCap Photo, for example. This all makes for an expensive process; variable degrees of accuracy achieved at a price, and at considerable effort. It also requires a specialist CAD operator.

The solution – Accurate as-built modelling workflow: Reducing a six-week task to a week in the test

Gratte Brothers has a relationship with Excitech dating back to 2006 and, as a company, trust Excitech’s expertise in technology for the construction sector. Excitech demonstrates commitment to Gratte Brothers' pledge to use the latest technology whenever appropriate, often arranging introductions with software vendors to discuss the advantages of solutions directly with the teams responsible for developing them. When Chung asked to see EdgeWise in action, pursuing his client's recommendation, Excitech provided a trial copy for testing and set about arranging for Chung to meet ClearEdge3D, the developers of EdgeWise.

"Excitech are very supportive in this way," says Chung. "You can rely on them to help you make the right choices and to move matters along quickly when they need to be expedited for client demands. We met with the suppliers and they took us through how EdgeWise works. 'Very easily' is the answer; it's a dream to use.

We conducted a test on a previously scanned pier project for our electrical services division. The original had taken us six weeks. With EdgeWise it took us two weeks. I'm convinced that now we’re completely familiar with using EdgeWise, it would take a week. The test validated our client's confidence in the software, and also showed us that this was to be the new regime for Gratte Brothers. We placed the order there and then."

"This is great technology"

Chung reports that EdgeWise had accelerated the model process by 50% to 70% and significantly reduced costs. He says it's "a pleasure to use". The solution makes life easier primarily because it automates processes that were previously manual, and largely subject to hit and miss.

The quality of input data from the scan and supportive information still has to be as high and comprehensive as it would be with manual interpretation since, as Chung says "The output you get from any software is directly dependant on the quality of the data you input in the first place." The difference to traditional manual approaches, however, comes in the automation that EdgeWise brings to interpreting the data.

Gratte Brothers is deploying the EdgeWise Suite, which comprises three programmes targeted at specific aspects of a project, enabling the features and structures extracted from the point cloud to be directly imported to Revit, as Revit family objects.

  • EdgeWise MEP: Thanks to its automated feature extraction algorithms, EdgeWise MEP can model 90% of pipes in any size data set. Manual intervention is minimal to zero as the software can automatically model pipes, conduit and round ducting in Revit.
  • EdgeWise Building: Walls, windows, doors and other features can be automatically identified and extracted.
  • EdgeWise Structure: Used to accurately extract steel, concrete and wood structures.

Chung and his team are using the software mainly in the company's electrical services and mechanical services divisions where it is used for plant rooms. Since responding to the initial request from its major UK client, Chung has brought EdgeWise into play on three large office block developments.

He finds it remarkably easy to use and relates the story of a recent new starter at Gratte Brothers who had never seen EdgeWise before. He took to the screen, looked around at the interface and options and achieved workable competence in using it by the end of his second day.

​"Within a week he had it mastered," says Chung, who has become a staunch advocate of EdgeWise in a very short space of time: "This is great technology doing some amazing things. I love it. I really enjoy using it every single day. It's the closest I've seen software get to magic."


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