A while back I participated in a demonstration of a software product called Synchro. Synchro is a lot like Navisworks, but built from a scheduling perspective rather than an approach of bringing together different models. From my initial impressions of the product this makes it much more powerful then Navisworks.
By having the schedule be the driver, rather then the models, it makes it easier to assign the objects to the schedule. The product is able to import the most common scheduling formats as well as provide a direct link between them. From talking to the representatives they are actively adding the scheduling formats they don’t have. The schedule items then can be assigned to the objects in the model. For different tasks such as placing forms, rebar, pouring, etc. different colors may be assigned to the objects as they are done. You can even split up the objects to schedule your pours.
From a modeling perspective they are focusing on using solids to bring the models together. Since Civil 3D doesn’t really have a solid model to share, you are able to use their modeling tools inside the product to create a model that would represent the design. While not a perfect solution, it does provide a method to schedule the work. Synchro also provides the ability to split up the model for scheduling purposes. So if you only want to do 250 feet of lane 2 in the first phase you can split it out for scheduling purposes.
If you are worried about the costs of the project, you can assign the costs of the project to the schedule. This would enable you to see what your costs are going to be across the project lifespan. You can determine how much money is expected to be needed. This way you can optimize the schedule to reduce carrying costs.
The product is more focused on the construction industry rather than the design industry, I could see a use for it for designers involved in design-build projects. By using this tool in the proposal process it could be possible to provide savings for the owner by scheduling the project in an efficient manner for cash flow purposes.
If you want to learn more about the product and how it’s being used, Synchro is having an Inaugural User Conference in Orlando, Florida on January 25, 2012. Unfortunately I probably won’t be able to attend, but if you want to see what forward thinking contractor’s are doing I’d check it out.