D-tools Case Study

Use of D-Tools System Integrator software facilitated the successful execution of 16-museum, 58-acre, $20 million retrofit project

It isn’t every day that King Salman of Saudi Arabia takes time to tour a project completed by Automation Control Energy Systems (ACE). Undoubtedly, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-based Systems Integrator that delivers fully automated systems to a variety of vertical markets has completed some significant undertakings, including the Al Nakhlah Tower, Marriott Courtyard on Olaya, Mall of Arabia in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

But only ACE’s most recent accomplishment, the design & engineering, installation of audio, video, lighting, and control systems in the Atturaif Living Museum, warranted a visit from the king. The historical project, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction in the Middle East, spans 16 museums across 58 acres.

“The museum, itself, is a city,” says ACE General Manager Robert Cole. “ACE got involved due to the historical importance in Saudi Arabia and, most importantly, because it is the Jewel project of the Royal family of Saudi Arabia.”

Encompassing 5,000 pages of technical drawings, schematics, Network LLD/ HLDS, Installation of 400 loudspeakers, 110 projectors within 130 exhibits, and seven light and sound shows, Atturaif Museum is, perhaps, ACE’s most impressive integration to date.

Noting the critical foundational role system design played, Cole said, “We could not have managed, completed, or profited from this project without D-Tools System Integrator (SI) software.”

Rebuilding Atturaif
Atturaif, a ruling city in 17th century in Saudi Arabia, has laid in ruins at the end of the 18th century. Towering palaces, rotund mosques, and bustling markets have been left empty and bare. The rebuilding of the Atturaif has been initiated by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in early 2009 with the goal of the revitalization not just to restore the architecture to its former glory but to turn Atturaif into a place where visitors could learn about the history, stroll the shaded walkways, glimpse life on a farm, to see the live theaters in streets & mud buildings and shop at a sprawling souq (a Middle Eastern market).

The rebuilding and revitalization of Atturaif play an important role in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince’s Vision 2030, which basically aims to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on the oil industry by diversifying its economy. Measures to promote Gulf tourism play a hefty role in the Crown Prince’s goal.

Centralizing Data through D-Tools
The Atturaif Museology and Development Project was awarded to ACE as a part of the consortium, Cole explained. ACE received the project as a retrofit, the base build was created by a previous company working at the museum. “The base build had many issues, such as no serial numbers for hardware, lighting fixtures, cables labeling, and warranty information on parts. In addition, drawings were not up to date, manufacturer/vendor information was missing, installation dates on the Request for Information (RFI) were scattered, and so on,” Cole said.

ACE with the help of using D-Tools SI developed the baseline engineering, showing the clients the capability of the system– the Ar-Riyadh Development Authority for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia how ACE would design, install, and integrate  the museum’s audio, video, lighting, and control systems across all exhibits in a professional and systematic way.

“With the use of D-Tools SI throughout the entire project, all of the data was centralized throughout a single database, giving management a better grip on decision making, reporting, resource management – providing confidence in the progress review meeting with clients,” Cole said.

Specific elements of the project included lighting control for 25,000 different lighting fixtures installed at the whole site, extensive projection mapping and warping for a variety of exhibits, sound and video for an open-air amphitheater, which includes Renkus-Heinz steerable line arrays to deliver crystal clear sound without the need for architectural changes within the restored space.

The top brands represented include Digital Projection, Inc., Barco, 7thSense, QSC, Panphonic, Cisco, Dell, LG, I-Tech Company, Planar, Gefen and Lightware extenders, etc.

“We worked hard to make sure the manufacturers’ product lines came out shining on this, and we were able to pull it off,” Cole said.

How D-Tools Streamlines ACE’s Process
The initial estimation provided to the clients was just a ballpark price. “There was no way for ACE to provide an exact bid without having real drawings,” Cole said. “Nor is that the way things work here (in Saudi Arabia).

Once the client agreed to that bid, ACE refined the proposals in D-Tools SI to provide an accurate estimate, accounting for every wire, cable, down to screw. Those proposals became the foundation of the project. “Once the proposals were refined using our drawings, and then approved by the client, everything moved forward with the installation phase,” he said.

Cole said D-Tools saved an immeasurable amount of time on the project during the design phase. “The contract was a re-measure contract, and D-Tools enabled us to identify each of the important milestones.” With every schematic drawing and rack elevations in D-Tools, it was easy for the on-site installers to determine what cables would go into each area, for instance.

“The complexities of the audio aspects alone were significant,” Cole recalled, “For instance, we have 400 speakers throughout the site, and each one has its own home run. By using D-Tools, we were able to take the base-build drawings and use them to develop the field impact drawings and apply those to the proposal.”

Due to the size of the project, ACE had to break down each of the 16 museums into a separate proposal. “We’ve learned from experience that you can only get so many parts in a proposal before it doesn’t work anymore,” Cole commented.

By breaking down each museum into a separate subproject, different departments could easily work on these subprojects at the same time, keeping their workflow progressing efficiently. “If one draftsman had a proposal checked out, and the whole project was configured as one proposal, no one else could get in and make changes,” Cole said.

At one point, there were as many as 100 field technicians working on-site at once.

Cole described the project management process, made possible through D-Tools SI’s Mobile Install feature: “The tasks were generated based on the proposals, and those would go out to our guys’ inbox in the field. When they were done, they’d update the status of tasks, and it would show as 90% complete. Once the task reached 90%, management would then contact the client for inspection, and after a site inspection, the task status would reach 100%. Then the task attached with approved inspection report was given to the accountant, who could extract it from D-Tools [into QuickBooks] for billing.”

Though massive in scale, the Atturaif Living Museum project progressed quickly, without many of the delays often inherent in the approval process when multiple change orders are required. The client received a live dashboard through D-Tools Mobile Install, enabling them to view all in-progress, completed, and due tasks. The digital documentation approval feature streamlined changes and approvals.

D-Tools’ handy change order function was not available when ACE began the project nearly two-and-a-half years ago, but the company was quick to adopt the functionality as soon as it launched.

“My accountant loves the change order feature,” Cole said. “Before we started using it, it was tough to track the changes. We would just un-assign tasks. Now everything is tracked accurately in D-Tools.”

The extensive documentation provided by D-Tools also enabled faster inspections, a crucial aspect of seeing the project through to completion. “Inspections are completed by independent consultants, and can be tricky,” Cole said. “It’s not like working in the states. Documentation was key, and D-Tools helped us accomplish that.”

D-Tools: Part of the ACE Company Culture
ACE has used D-Tools SI since 2010, and Cole has made a conscious effort to integrate the software platform into the company culture. “If I see my guys trying to use a spreadsheet, I yell at them,” he joked. “I tell them we have a database and it creates its own spreadsheets.”

He admitted it can be challenging, at times, to shift the mindset of new employees. “They just don’t understand that you can enter all the information, pull customized reports automatically, and find everything you need in D-Tools. But, once they see it, they’re sold.”

Ongoing training, however, ensures that the ACE team is on top of new features and always up-to-speed. Cole said newcomers to ACE often begin using the Mobile Install app. Members of the management team progress to the desktop version of D-Tools, as needed.

The team attends webinars and relies on the D-Tools technical support team as needed, which ACE receives as part of the Gold plan membership. If employees begin asking questions, Cole is quick to direct them to technical support. “Live help is very responsive,” he said.

Cole also holds weekly meetings where he keeps employees up-to-date on the latest updates to D-Tools. “It is a learning curve for every person coming in, but we get them involved so they can get excited about the capabilities available,” Cole said.

Growing with D-Tools
ACE has grown from a firm of four people to a team of 40 over the past 6 years, with a revenue increase of 100% since implementing D-Tools.

Cole said the platform has enabled ACE to take on increasingly bigger projects and to enhance profitability. Projects like the Atturaif Living Museum would be virtually impossible to complete without the comprehensive functionality of D-Tools to track parts, labor, and to manage every phase of the project.

“We’re going to walk away with 18% profitability,” Cole said. “If we didn’t use D-Tools SI, we would have never profited a dime. It’s a great product, and it saved our life on this project.”

Arratuif Living Museum: By the Numbers
Arratuif Living Museum was an incredible project in size, scope, and cultural significance. It is difficult to grasp just how vast the technology systems are that span the site.

These statistics may put ACE’s tremendous accomplishments into perspective:

58 acres of land
130 exhibits
25,000 lighting fixtures
400 loudspeakers
110 projectors
7 sound and light shows
150-seat amphitheater
125,000 feet of cable
16 separate D-Tools proposals
5,000 drawings
7 gigs of SQL data
35 revisions / change-orders in D-Tools
100 technicians working on-site
120,000 visitors expected annually
$20 million USD
18% and 100% client satisfaction (profitability thanks to D-Tools)

Those interested in learning more about D-Tools and the company’s award-winning System Integrator software platform are encouraged to sign up for a free online guided tour by visiting https://d-tools.com/live-demo-webinar/ or for a free 30-day trial, which can be downloaded by visiting https://d-tools.com/hosted-free-trial-signup/.

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