BN Electrical, a commercial electrical contractor, specialises in the delivery of leading healthcare, science, and educational facilities across Australia. Their mission is to exceed expectations by embracing innovation and harnessing the full potential of their people.
With leaner budgets, compacted construction programs, and an increasing expectation to offer higher-quality services, BN Electrical took action and underwent a digital transformation in 2018. The goal was to go completely paperless by 2019 to ensure better document management to improve communication and reduce project risk.
“We simply took the paper away,” says Matthew Bien-Izowski, Managing Director at BN Electrical. “Our goal in the future is to operate a completely digital environment that will not only change the future, but enhance the functionality and productivity of staff by measurable degrees.”
With today’s digital tools, it really can be that straightforward. Here’s how, and why, BN Electrical chose to take their business off of paper and into digital with PlanGrid.
Why They Chose Digital
“We’re smart people living in a smart society,” says Bien-Izowski. “We, as individuals, were already personally using software daily for tracking what we do and what we think and what we eat, snapping pictures of all these things, and sending them off to connect socially. Why not use the same methodology of data management and communication for business purposes?”
Aside from the obvious advantage of not having stacks of papers and filing cabinets everywhere, Bien-Izowski cites several key reasons they decided to make the leap:
- Better connectivity. With plans in the cloud, collaborators can reach each other faster, and never have to wait for data to arrive before moving forward or responding. This leads to less rework as teams have access to up-to-date model information.
- Automated reports. Automated reporting frees teams to focus on high pay-off activities, making everyone more productive.
- Lower risk of misinterpretation. Because all collaborators can see mark-ups, issues, changes, drawings, and models in real-time, this streamlines communications and minimises misinterpretations.
- Client satisfaction. Although some clients initially resist a paperless delivery, most are happy to get on board once they understand how digitisation affords a new level of real-time reporting, transparency, quality, and accountability.
- Greater sustainability. Digital files are easy to manage, organise, access, and store, making the process more efficient and sustainable.
“The advantages of a paperless environment far outweigh the disadvantages,” says Bien-Izowski.
“The adaptation of innovative construction software and technology in our business means we are getting where we need to be, faster and be better informed.”
How They Made the Transition to Digital
When talking about the transition, Bien-Izowski says they “simply took the paper away” and provided tablets to the entire BN Electrical team. In rolling out new technology, BN Electrical took a calculated approach.
First: They began with PlanGrid to set up and track tasks in real-time. This enabled them to streamline the task tracking process, and make their team familiar with the technology.
Second: They began using layers on plans, and attaching photos and schedules to the plans for ease of reference. This step added efficiency of communication and collaboration, and soon everyone on the team was eager to use the technology.
Over time, they continued to increase their use of PlanGrid. Today, they use it for a substantial part of their communications, tracking, and planning, including to:
- Create requisition orders directly from PlanGrid to the supplier
- Oversee quality control to minimise rework and material waste
- Track deliveries and delivery dockets
- Coordinate in real-time how to move goods around the site
“This kind of transparency helps keep us accountable, and gives the client a look behind the curtains to feel more a part of the process than ever before,” says Bien-Izowski.
Although the process was completed in steps, Bien-Izowski emphasises that they accomplished the digital transition very quickly.
“Time is precious, and we make the most of ours,” he says. “So a slow rollout of ‘paperless’ wouldn’t work. The research had been done, practicality trials had been successful, so then, site by site, paper was ditched, and mobile tablets were circulated.”
The initial migration required several dedicated hours from head office staff, but after that, it delivered ongoing time savings. They removed paper altogether to eliminate the possibility of team members using it as a crutch, and have been entirely paperless ever since.
Recently BN Electrical was engaged to deliver the redevelopment of the iconic Capitol Theatre on Swanston Street in Melbourne – an architecturally renowned, six-level theatre built in the 1920s.
“It was quite the maze trying to navigate your way around the site, says Bien-Izowski. “When we started on site and began running through the design, we noticed many discrepancies with the onsite conditions compared with what had been documented.” Throughout 12 months of the construction period, the team captured, tracked, and managed over 100 architectural and service changes.
The Benefits of Going Digital
Transitioning to digital has benefited BN Electrical in all of the ways they expected, plus more. They estimate that they save $800 a month in paper, ink, and printing costs alone, not to mention the efficiencies and greater productivity, less rework, and increased client satisfaction.
“Managing documentation on large-scale projects can sometimes be a hurdle as there’s so much of it,” says Bien-Izowski.
“Being able to open an app, mark up a document, and assign a task to a colleague –all from the same device–clearly takes less time than calling in a request, printing a document, writing on it, scanning and saving it back to your document library, and generating an email.”
On the Capitol Theater project, the team used PlanGrid to prepare editable task reports that were digitally embedded onto the drawings at installation locations which contained the required cables technical data, cable schedules, labeling requirements as well as wiring regulations to complete each cable run. By doing this, they were able to overcome problems they had faced in the past;
- Each cable was clearly identified and allocated as a task to an individual to install, including a due date resulting in no miscommunication about the task at hand.
- Client changes in cable locations or cable types, were updated instantly in real-time by merely editing the task information and clicking save.
- Cable pathways investigated earlier were clearly mapped out and provided with photos and drawing references, resulting in cables being run quicker with no material waste; all project stakeholders were updated in real-time as the process unfolded.
- Transparent progress tracking and reporting meant more accuracy in pinpointing tasks completed and tasks remaining.
- Quality control was better; they took great comfort in knowing the correct cables were being installed in the right locations in the safest possible manner. All tasks were attached with signed off inspection test plans with the inclusion of photographs.
Through digitisation, BN Electrical completed the project 12% under the allocated budgeted hours, including zero rework, which is one of the biggest costs and frustrations in the field.
Going paperless has given everyone in their organisation more flexibility to achieve desired results, and freed them from their desks and the necessity to sift through paperwork or visit locations to get information.
By implementing cloud-based document control software and simply refusing to submit to paper systems, BN Electrical has revolutionised the way they think about, and therefore manage, project documentation. This further streamlines operations, improves communication, and reduces project risk.
Continuing Their Digital Journey
Looking to the future, BN Electrical is continuing to embrace change and identify ways to advance and innovate their practises to provide high-quality service to their clients. To achieve this, BN Electrical introduced their 25by21 goal, which plans to automate digital operations by 25% and prefabricate projects by 25%. Through the power and value of technology, BN Electrical understands how to collaborate and deliver on complex and advanced projects without compromising on quality.