Explore Page / Running Scenarios in ALICE Pro & Core

On This Page: 

 

Getting Started with Explore

A. Intro to Explore Page 

Once the project is set up in the Plan / Prepare page, the user can now explore different scenarios in the Explore page. This is where the user can ask “What If” questions by adjusting one or more parameters at a time. 

The table below is a list of parameters (or inputs) that the user can adjust:

Labor

Equipment

Materials

Rates

Milestones

         

Available crews

Available equipment

Available material

Production rates

Milestone start date constraints

Workforce per crew

Hourly cost of equipment

Unit cost of material

Quantities can also be assigned as production rates and modified for templates (templates use case)

Milestone target end date

Cost of crew

   

Remove milestone start / end date constraints

Calendar shifts for crews

   

Optimize for milestone priorities (advanced use case)

Daily workforce limit

   

To change the logic in the underlying plan, the user needs to jump back to the plan page before running the scenarios in the Explore page.

The output is in a graphical format, with time (calendar days) on the x-axis and cost on the y-axis. We call this the Solution Graph. Each output is represented by a colored dot. Each colored dot can be selected and opens into a fully resource and cost loaded schedule with its own Gantt, analytics, and critical path.

The power of ALICE lies within its ability to run multiple scenarios at the same time. Without clicking into each solution to review the Gantt chart, the user is able to quickly compare durations, costs, milestones, and resource usage parameters to make data-driven decisions.Explore.svg

B. How ALICE Uses AI Behind the Scenes

ALICE uses artificial intelligence to search through millions of possibilities to resolve all the constraints for the project. It will then showcase the best solutions in a graphical plot on the Explore page.

In the graphical depiction of the search algorithm below, you can see the robot at Cell A-1 (starting point of the search). Its destination is Cell E-5 (best possible schedule). From Cell A-1, the robot will try going to Cells A-2, B-1, and B-2 and decide which of the 3 paths are the best. The robot will continue trying millions of iterations to resolve all constraints and to find the optimal schedule within 10 minutes. By default, ALICE will prioritize the solutions as follows:

  • Priority #1: optimize for duration (earliest completion date)
  • Priority #2: optimize for lowest required availability of crews (resource leveling)

    Advanced users: Default priorities can be changed and addedExplore__1_.svg

Another good analogy to depict what ALICE is doing behind the scenes is through the image below. If your project is a scrambled up Rubik’s Cube (loaded with various planning parameters, constraints, and objectives), then ALICE’s AI engine is working behind the scenes to unscramble them all. The output is a set of solutions that best satisfies the project’s planning parameters, constraints, and objectives.Explore__2_.svg

C. Explore Page Interface

C.1 Scenario List and Solution Graph

In the Explore page, users can run different project scenarios (schedules) and compare cost, time, and other metrics. On the left hand side module is the Scenario List. On the right hand side module is the Solution Graph, and each dot that appears represents a fully resource and cost loaded schedule with its own 4D view and analytics.Explore__3_.svg

  1. Click on the ALICE logo  to go back to the Project List
  2. Click on to open the Plan List
  3. Click on the Project Name to go back to the Plan Page
  4. The number of total Scenarios ran for this plan
  5. Filter scenarios by Name / Keywords
  6. Create a new scenario
  7. Show all hidden scenarios 
  8. Scenario List: The list of all scenarios
  9. Solution Graph: Graph of all solutions (dots), where the y-axis is the total cost (direct + idle costs) and the x-axis is time in calendar days
  10. Solutions Legend
  11. Click on Help to search articles in the ALICE Knowledge Library
  12. Click to Compare Solutions

C.2 Solution Card Interface

Click on any of the dots and the Solution Card will appear. The user is able to see summary level information, including the following:Explore__4_.svg

  1. Scenario Name
  2. Scenario Description
  3. Calendar Days
  4. Working Days
  5. Total Cost: includes both direct and idle costs
  6. Milestones: includes a list of key date milestones (see Resources Page - Section F.2) for the difference between key date milestones and non-key date milestones)
  7. Analyze Solution: Select to open up the Analyze page for that solution

D. Creating Scenarios

All scenarios in ALICE are generated based on the rules and constraints from the Plan page. ALICE takes into account all the information in the plan setup, and the AI search algorithm will look for feasible solutions for 10 minutes (default run time). 

D.1 Base Parameters Run (Automatic)

Once you enter the Explore page, ALICE will automatically run the first “Base Parameters” scenario. This run will be based on all the parameters that are set by the user in the Plan page.Explore__5_.svgALICE will complete the scenario generation in 10 minutes (default run time). However, the first solutions will be available in a couple of minutes.

D.2 Number of Scenarios 

  • ALICE will always try to generate more than one solution from each scenario. The number of solutions depends on the constraints, construction sequence, resource assignment, and availability of resources that the user defines on the Plan page
  • It will be challenging for ALICE to generate more than one solution if assigned supports are too linear or the recipes are not parametric (not based on formulas). This is because the user is not giving ALICE enough variability to find multiple solutions. The project is too constrained
  • If the project is too constrained without any flexibility, then ALICE will generate only one solution. Explore__6_.svg

Example: After 10 minutes (default run time), the final results are ready. As you can see in the image above, ALICE generated three solutions. They are different from each other in cost, time, and resource requirements. 

 

D.3 Creating a New Scenario 

ALICE allows users to run multiple scenarios simultaneously. With the “Create a Scenario” functionality, users can control the following parameters: Labor, Equipment, Material, Production Rates, Calendars, and Milestones for each scenario. The user can adjust one or more of these parameters for each scenario run. There is no limit to the number of parameters that can be adjusted each time.

To generate a new scenario:

Click on the button to open the scenario settings 

In the settings, users can review and edit:Explore__7_.svg

  1. Scenario Name
  2. Scenario Description
  3. Select “Run Scenario” when you’re ready to see the results
  4. Toggle through and change the scenario color 
  5. Resource Tab: includes a list of all settings for Labor, Equipment, Materials, Rates, and Milestones
  6. Maximize all resources: This functionally sets the resource availability to infinite
  7. Workforce Limit: This functionality controls the maximum number of persons (operatives) allowed in this scenario
  8. Resource Settings: settings are different for each resource type

Note: The Crane availability can be changed only on the Plan page.

 

Labor Settings 

In the Labor tab, users can review or change the following settings:Explore__8_.svg

  1. Subcontractor Name: review only; can only be changed on the Plan page
  2. #Avail (# Available): Available number of crews; maximum number of crews available 
  3. #Prs/Crew(# of Persons per Crew): Number of persons (operatives) in each crew
  4. $/Crew/Hr (Cost per Crew per Hour)
  5. Calendar: The calendar selected is the one that the crew type must follow 

To maximize the crew availability, click on the number and delete the value. You can think of this as telling ALICE to plan as if there were no limits on how many crews are available. Explore__9_.svg

Note: The crew availability cannot be equal to zero. The persons per crew cannot be defined as zero

Maximize all resources:

  • The “Maximize all resources” function will set all crew types to have an infinite number of crews available. This can also be referred to as resource saturation. When resources are maximized, ALICE adjusts the “# Avail” field.

    Note: Resource Saturation helps to identify the critical resources of the project. It does not necessarily generate the best possible scenario. See examples in E.2 Resource Parameters Comparison

Minimum number of crews:

  • By clicking on the crew value, ALICE will show the minimum number of required crews. This lists out the recipes and operations requiring that crew type.
  • Example: a situation when the # of crews must be greater than 1 is when the user has assigned the Strip Crew to strip formwork at the columns and the Strip Crew to strip formwork at the deck at the same time through a SS relationship (start-to-start relationship). This means there must be 2 Strip Crews working at the same time. Therefore, the minimum number of crews in order to run a feasible schedule is 2Explore__10_.svg

Calendar Selection:

  • In each scenario, users can assign new calendars to each of the crew types. This functionality allows the user to explore many scenarios with different seasonal or overtime calendars in minutes. Each crew type can have different calendar types selectedExplore__11_.svg

Workforce Limit:

  • With “Workforce limit,” users can set up a limit of allowed persons (operatives) in that scenario. This means the solutions generated would have a maximum number of people per day based on this limitExplore__12_.svg

Equipment Settings

In the Equipment tab, users can review or change the following settings:

  1. Maximize all resources: Allow ALICE to use unlimited equipment resources
  2. Quantity: Change the available number of equipment
  3. $/Hr (cost per hour): Change the equipment cost per hourExplore__13_.svg

Note: Delete the value in “Quantity” to set it as infinite

Note: See Labor Settings for more in depth descriptions of similar settings

Material Settings

In the Material tab, users can review or change the following settings:

  1. Maximize all resources: Allow ALICE to use unlimited material resources
  2. Type: Change the material to Consumable or Reusable: See Resources Page Section E  for a refresher on the difference between these two settings
  3. Qty Avail. (Quantity Available): Change the available number of materials
  4. $/Unit (Cost per Unit): Change material cost per unitExplore__14_.svg

Note: Delete the value in “Qty Avail.” to set it as infinite.

Note: See Labor Settings for more in depth descriptions of similar settings 

 

Rates Settings 

In the Rates tab, users can review or change the following settings:

  1. Qty/Hr (Quantity per Hour): Production rate: See Resources Page Section G for a refresher on using production rates to represent unit of measures other than qty per hour Explore__15_.svg

Note: Production rate values cannot be infinite or removed.

 

Milestone Settings

In the Milestone tab, users can review or change the following settings:

  1. Type: Start or End Milestone: review only; can only be changed on the Plan page
  2. Constraint Date: Set the milestone start or end date. If left blank, then there is no constraint set for that milestoneExplore__16_.svg

Note: Leave the “Constraint Date” as No Constraint to make milestones work as a way of tracking important dates.

Info Settings

In the Info tab, users can review or change the following settings:

  1. Name: Edit the name of new or existing scenarios
  2. Color: Change the color of new or existing color
  3. Description (Describe What’s Different): Edit the description of new or existing scenarios
  4. Date Created: review only; shows the date that the scenario was createdExplore__17_.svg

Run Scenario  

After finalizing the settings for the scenario, click the “Run Scenario” button to run a solution set.Explore__18_.svg

New dots will appear in minutes. The user can start reviewing these dots as the solution set is still being run, but it is recommended to wait until the scenario run is fully completed to 100% to analyze the best options.Explore__19_.svg

D.4 Extend, Isolate, Copy, Delete, and Filter Scenarios

ALICE allows users to control the visibility of the scenarios, copy the resource settings, extend the runs, and delete the scenarios from the Explore page.

Extend 

ALICE allows users to extend the existing scenario to continue finding more and potentially better solutions. It will extend the existing simulation for another 10 minutes. 

To extend the scenario: 

  • Click on the three dot symbol and click “ExtendExplore__20_.svg

Note: It’s recommended to use the extend functionality on complex projects.

 

Isolate, Hide, and Show all

The “Isolateand “Hidefunctions help users create a clean view in the Solution Graph and to easily analyze a subset of dots (solutions).

To Isolate the scenarios: 

  • Click on the three dot symbol and click “IsolateExplore__21_.svg
  • This will isolate all dots (solutions) of that scenario in the Solution Graph Explore__22_.svg

To unhide the other solutions:

There are two options two unhide the other solutions: 

Option #1: Show all

  • Click on the “Show all” button to unhide all solutionsExplore__23_.svg

Option #2: Show one by one

  • Click on the colored dot next to the scenario name in the Solutions List to hide or unhide it from Solutions GraphExplore__24_.svg

Note: Users cannot use option #2 for in progress scenarios. 

Copy 

The “Copy” function allows users to duplicate the resource settings of the selected scenarios.

To “Copy” the scenario: 

  • Click on the three dot symbol and click “CopyExplore__25_.svg
  • ALICE will open a new scenario window with all the settings duplicated from the previous scenario 
  • Users need to rename, continue to make changes to the parameters (if desired), and  run the new scenarioExplore__26_.svg

Note: Users can copy and run an unlimited number of scenarios simultaneously.

Delete

To “Delete” the scenario: 

  • Click on the three dot symbol and click “DeleteExplore__27_.svg

Note: Deleted scenarios cannot be recovered.

 

Filter Scenarios

Users can use the “Filter Scenarios” tool to quickly find and isolate the required scenarios by name

To “Filter” the scenario: 

  • Click on the “Filter Scenarioand type keywords in the scenario nameExplore__28_.svg

Note: Users do not need to type the full name of the scenario. It is recommended for users to have an organized scenario naming structure to help quickly find the scenarios of interest.

 

E. Compare Solutions

ALICE allows users to compare the solutions to get a better understanding of their main differences. With “Compare Solutions,” users can compare:

  • Solution Metrics
  • Solution Resource Parameters: including resource cost and utilization
  • Detailed Comparison of two or more solutions

To activate the “Compare Solution” function:

  • Select a dot and check the box on the upper left corner of the Solution Card
  • Select another dot you want to compare to and check the box

    Note: It is possible to compare more than 2 solutions at the same timeExplore__29_.svg

On the Solution Graph, the solutions that are being compared have different symbols. The legend at the bottom of the Solution Graph should be referenced.Explore__30_.svg

After checking the boxes, click on the “Compare Solutions” button on the upper right Explore__31_.svg

 

E.1 Metrics Comparison

Compare Solutions” opens a separate window with access to Metrics, Parameters, and Detailed Comparison.

In the Metrics tab, users can review and compare: 

  1. Duration (Days): Calendar and Working Days 
  2. Milestones: Hover over the diamond shape to see the milestone date
  3. Project Cost: Total, Labor, Equipment, and Material costs 
  4. Avg. Utilization: Average Crew UtilizationExplore__32_.svg

Note: Users can compare more than two solutions concurrently. 

E.2 Resource Parameters Comparison

In the Parameters tab, users can review and compare: 

  1. Resource tab: Labor, Equipment, Materials, Rates, and Cranes
  2. Resource Name
  3. Scenario Name 
  4. Price
  5. Available: Available number of resources defined in Resource Pool
  6. Used: Actual number of resources used Explore__33_.svg

The Parameters tab helps users to identify the critical resources required for each scenario. 

Example # 1: Critical Resource (see image above):

  • In scenario “Saturate All Resources,” the Carpenter Crew availability is unlimited and ALICE decides to use 6.
  • In scenario “Increase all crews by 1,”  we have only 2 available crews and ALICE decides to use all of them (use all 2).
  • This comparison shows that Carpenter Crew is a critical resource for both scenarios and can have a significant impact on project cost and time. When ALICE was unconstrained for the number of crews for this resource, it decided to use 6. Therefore, it is not surprising that when only 2 is available, ALICE decides to use all 2 available crews. Remember that one of ALICE’s priorities when providing solutions is to optimize for the lowest required availability of crews (resource leveling) (see C. Explore Page Interface).


Example # 2: Non-Critical Resource (see image below):

  • In scenario “Increase all crews by 1,” we have 2 Concrete Crews available, but ALICE decides to only use 1.
  • In the scenario “Base Parameter,” we have only 1 available crew and ALICE uses 1.
  • This comparison shows that Concrete Crew is a non-critical resource for both scenarios because even with two available crews, ALICE still uses one only.
  • It is crucial to understand that in ALICE, all resources are directly connected to each other. Increasing or decreasing certain resources can have a downstream impact and can change a resource from non-critical to critical.Explore__35_.svg

E.3 Detailed Comparison

Detailed Comparison” allows users to compare the Gantt Charts of two and more solutions. 

Click “Detailed Comparison” to open the Compare Page:Explore__36_.svg

 

In the Detailed Comparison (Compare Page),users can review and or control: 

  1. Primary Solution: Represents the solution that is being compared against. The Primary Solution is represented by the colored bars on the Gantt chart
  2. Switch Primary and Secondary Solutions: selecting this button can toggle and switch between which solution is the primary versus the secondary solution
  3. Secondary Solution: Represents the solution that is being compared. The Secondary Solution is represented by the yellow bars on the Gantt chart
  4. Start & End Dates: The date range can be filtered out to focus on a specific duration for comparison purposes
  5. Filter: see more in Analyze Page Section C.5 for filtering options
  6. WBS: see more in Analyze Page Section C.3 for how to organize the WBS (work breakdown structure)
  7. Zoom In & Out: flexibility in reviewing the levels of detail in the Gantt chartExplore__37_.svg

Note: The reason forwhy certain activities start earlier or are delayed can be found on the Analyze page by reviewing the drivers, predecessors, and successors.

Exercise #6: Run Scenarios

Several of the ALICE Support Pages detail information on key ALICE topics. This learning can be solidified by completing an exercise on a trial project. To put your learning into practice, follow this link:

Exercise #6: Run Scenarios

Further Resources

 

 

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