Axalta Coating Systems Ltd are a leading global coatings provider dedicated to the development, manufacturing, delivery, and service of liquid and powder coatings, with their headquarters in Philadelphia, USA. With over 150 years of experience in the coatings industry, they provide their customers with innovative, colourful and sustainable solutions.
Predominantly developing and manufacturing coatings for light and commercial vehicles, industrial and refinish applications; Axalta embraces the latest trends alongside emerging technology and systems to deliver the finest coatings to more than 100,000 customers across the globe. With 46 manufacturing centres across the world, 28 laboratories and a presence in over 130 countries, the team at Axalta are constantly looking at news ways to push boundaries.
Marco Schuh, BIM Manager at Axalta, has worked in the architecture, engineering and construction industry for the last 20 years. In his various roles, Marco has witnessed the vast expansion of computer-aided design first-hand and has seen Business Information Modelling (BIM) use and demand rapidly increase. “For the last five years, I have been focusing on cloud-based project management practices in a BIM environment, so I have seen the application and the technology grow too,” says Marco.
In 2019, Axalta’s plant engineering subsidiary business based in Wuppertal, Germany began exploring how they could move some of their local project data from a local server into the cloud. The team wanted to be able to host and store project documentation centrally in a secure environment but also to learn more about how they could improve, implement, and embed digital workflows for this business unit to aid communication and collaboration.
Standardising ways of working
With many different document management practices happening on the ground for the plant engineering team, ensuring standardised document management processes were implemented smoothly was very important. Alongside this, the team also needed to find a solution that allowed everyone to access the documents they needed wherever, and whenever they needed them.
Working in a plant environment with tight timescales means that the team at Axalta cannot afford to lose project time due to poor communication because of missing project data. The team were already using a server solution for internal documentation, but it limited their ability to successfully access, track and collaborate on documents in a transparent way.
After a period of exploration, Axalta concluded that Autodesk Construction Cloud’s BIM 360 solution was the right technology for Axalta’s needs with a focus on improving communication. To implement the solution successfully and smoothly, Marco partnered with Autodesk’s customer success team and their local reseller partner, Mensch und Maschine Deutschland. It was crucial that the team at Axalta were able to move their interdisciplinary project data into the cloud environment in a seamless way, minimising any disruption to ongoing live projects.
“Our projects are time-critical, so we need smooth, transparent, clear communication and filing to know where project data was stored as we transitioned from our previous system to BIM 360,” Marco reflects.
Creating a comprehensive transition plan
The team at Axalta were aware of the long-term negative impacts that could arise from disruption to ongoing projects, so they created a comprehensive transition plan. The plan, which spanned a 12-month period, involved an elaborated transition process which included a testing and a migration phase. This happened in parallel with Axalta’s ongoing day-to-day regular processes, so the team were managing two ways of working at once. Working in this way helped to minimise any interruptions or delays to ongoing work and allowed the team plenty of time to understand and prepare employees for new ways of working within the team.
To get started, the team at Axalta began their journey with BIM 360 on a large collaborative project which involved several stakeholders – many of which were not directly located on site at Axalta’s plant facility. To ensure all the external collaborators and partners were safely and comprehensively introduced to the solution and the new ways of working, Marco conducted introductory sessions on site. As well as this, Marco and the team created an internal handbook for project team members to use with a complete overview of the BIM 360 project workflows that would be rolled out.
“We worked closely with the team at Autodesk to ensure we transitioned successfully, and this included bi-monthly calls with tech champions, mentorship on workflows for these champions, feedback sessions with Autodesk’s product team as well as ongoing communication on outcome-focused goals,” says Marco.
Internal plant maintenance projects and construction projects for new plants began using BIM 360 for document management and digital workflows. The team began with a focus on document management practices but soon expanded into using other capabilities BIM 360 had to offer. Naming conventions and folder structures were the first areas the team focused on as well as supporting the Computer Aided Design (CAD) teams with how they could digitalise and integrate their processes with BIM 360. This involved training sessions and one-to-one support by Marco as a BIM 360 expert.
“We began exploring the functionality that allowed our teams to make notes and annotations onto our models in BIM 360 which increased accountability, transparency and communication immensely,” says Marco. “Annotating directly on the model meant that we minimised the chance of anything being missed when moving between different platforms and systems.” The team have also looked at what other digital workflows they could expand to use such as issues tracking.
For the team at Axalta, using BIM 360 as their common data environment meant internal communication on projects improved significantly. Marco says: “BIM 360 gives us a single source of truth, transparency between all project stakeholders, and accessibility from anywhere meaning we’re all much better informed during a live project than we were before we started using BIM 360.” For the team, quality has increased dramatically as all project team members can be sure they are accessing one single source of truth. As well as this, standardising the team’s approach to document control and modelling has meant that all project collaborators can be sure they have the most up-to-date and accurate information they need when making important project decisions related to their tasks and activities.
Scaling for success
After a year of testing and using BIM 360 in the plant engineering subsidiary business, the use of BIM 360 is being explored by some of Axalta’s manufacturing, construction, and engineering departments in their locations in Germany.
“Looking to the future, we plan on expanding our use of BIM 360 in plant and engineering even more,” affirms Marco. “We’ve also began integrating further technology into BIM 360 such as our laser scanning workflows and we’re looking to use the BIM 360 Coordinate feature to improve our model coordination processes,” remarks Marco.
For the team at Axalta, implementing BIM 360 to create robust document management processes, digitalising workflows and capturing project progress information in a BIM environment has not only improved team collaboration but delivered better project outcomes. “The most popular features in BIM 360 that our teams are using are the, project management, model coordination and issues management workflows as well as the powerful approval workflows for reviews within document management capabilities which reflects how the quality of our projects are improving through the use of BIM 360,” says Marco. Looking to the future, implementing the use of BIM 360 on more and more projects is the focus for the team as well as harnessing data for better project insights to drive decision-making across the business.