Founded in 1935, Khansaheb is one of the leading construction and facilities management companies in the United Arab Emirates. Over its 85-year journey, the company has played a key role in the development of the UAE and delivered a number of the country’s iconic projects.
Today Khansaheb provides a comprehensive range of construction services for building and infrastructure projects from the initial business case and design to ongoing operations and aftercare. The company’s aim is to deliver the best value to customers and ensure their joint success.
Given its heritage and longevity, Khansaheb had a traditional approach to construction processes, but was keen to embrace the benefits of digitalisation for the business and for clients.
In 2018, Eoin Nield joined as the company’s first BIM Manager, with the remit of supporting the transition from traditional CAD design to integrated delivery methods. “My focus is championing digital processes that will improve efficiency in time management,” Eoin explains
The company had relied extensively on paper-based processes for the site. People would carry around huge rolls of drawings, which would be stored in site offices. It was difficult to ensure that everyone had the correct up-to-date documentation for the current works.
The issues management process in particular represented an opportunity to introduce efficiencies. For example, “Snags would be logged onto an individual sheet, either on paper or as a PDF with any photos attached. It was then up to the document controller to log the issue into a register, then disseminate the information by email and track the responses. It could take a long time to try to decipher handwritten annotations and ensure the correct action would be taken.”
Site managers and engineers would spend a large proportion of their time chasing subcontractors for updates by phone. From a project management perspective, it was challenging to get accurate information on the status of individual issues.
When the Covid-19 pandemic escalated in March 2020, Khansaheb responded quickly. The operations and the IT teams worked together to get as much connectivity to the project teams as possible, equipping people with laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Some teams were already using BIM 360 Docs to share key information. However, Eoin and the management team were eager to go one step further and establish a common data environment that would connect the business and support site-based processes. “We wanted the reliability of a unified platform – and the confidence that our information was in one place.”
In June 2020, the Khansaheb team decided to introduce Autodesk BIM 360 Build, a unified construction management software platform for connecting teams, workflows and data.
Khansaheb decided to work with Autodesk partner Accienta to support the implementation of Autodesk Build. At the beginning of the process, Accienta’s Digital Engineering Manager, Carolina Fong, brought together key stakeholders from across the business, including IT, QA/QC and the BIM team, to map out Khansaheb’s critical workflows and identify the best way to use the platform.
“There were so many options in Autodesk Build; it was like going to a car dealership. We think of Accienta as helping us to work out the model, package, parts and upgrades that we needed, then setting up the license for us to drive it out of the showroom!” recalls Eoin.
Collaborating with an Autodesk partner gave the team support with both the technical elements and the cultural shift at Khansaheb. “Having an independent person come in to map our workflows and lead the initial discussions was invaluable; it was like we were working with a clean slate, and people could set aside any old preconceptions about their relative roles and re-evaluate everything with fresh eyes,” Eoin explains.
“Carolina at Accienta really helped us to avoid the inertia to change – and we were able to focus on establishing the right team mentality across Khansaheb.”
Khansaheb ran an initial proof of concept programme over six months to implement Autodesk Build. Although the team was introducing the software on a particularly difficult construction project with a tight deadline, working with Accienta helped to fast-track the process – even amidst the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Champions in the Khansaheb team have also helped to embed Autodesk Build quickly and encourage colleagues to realise the benefits on offer.
Autodesk Build helps to connect design, engineering and site teams at Khansaheb, as well as supporting communication with subcontractors on-site. There are now around 100 individual users and 30 companies on the platform, encompassing stakeholders from senior engineering staff to Quality Assurance (QA) / Quality Control (QC). Everyone can access the information they need, when they need it, and be confident that the data is accurate and timely. As one champion highlights, one of the key advantages is that “no paper or hard copy is required.”
The issues management function has been particularly valuable for Khansaheb. “It’s extremely useful for tracking workflows,” explains Eoin. “You can see at a glance who is responsible for a task at any given time, while project managers can view all the outstanding issues on a task and how quickly they are being resolved. We’ve found it especially helpful for addressing queries from subcontractors and the supply chain, to get issues fixed more quickly.”
The team is benefitting from greater certainty that follow up actions will be taken. “Once it’s been assigned, you can ensure that the inspection has reached the correct person,” notes one of the Khansaheb champions. “Document controllers are not required to chase up actions.”
As well as snagging, Khansaheb can use the issues management module to track inspection points, non-conformance reports (NCRs) and site observation report (SORs). This has provided useful operational data, as well as enabling “instant reporting” - a key benefit for the champions in Khansaheb.
Employees have found Autodesk Build intuitive and easy to use after training, so engagement with the platform has been very positive. “Our aim has been to push the capabilities and energy around digital solutions out into the field, where people are often more used to handling concrete or steel than a tablet or phone. It has been a really rewarding journey so far,” Eoin explains.
For Eoin, the biggest benefit of introducing Autodesk Build at Khansaheb has been the reliability. “Having a unified platform means we can be confident that everyone has the most up to date, trustworthy information. It reduces stress – and means that we can all focus on our actual priorities.” Similarly, one of the Khansaheb champions highlights that “with less admin time in the office, you get more time on site!”
Importantly, the right person is now handling the right information. “Rather than asking a document controller to interpret handwritten annotations from PDFs, you have the relevant QA/QC engineer inputting notes directly onto models on the platform in real time,” notes Eoin. “The person inputting the data really understands what needs to be done.”
Autodesk Build also enables Khansaheb to create a clear record of what has been completed. One champion notes that the system is “instant and transparent, offering accountability for everyone – including consultants, subcontractors and within the Khansaheb teams.” The business can in turn give confidence to project stakeholders and clients about the progress of the overall project.
The platform has delivered tangible time-savings. Eoin estimates that the time spent on snagging administration has been reduced by up to 60%. Engineers spend less time following up on issues; previously, around 10-15% of engineers’ time would be spent following up with subcontractors for updates, whereas with Autodesk Build it’s possible to assign responsibility and due dates for individual fixes. The faster response times from partners and consultants also enables the team to realise programme benefits.
Using a digital platform has also improved project sustainability by reducing the use of paper. “We’ve saved at least a 500-page cartridge of A3 paper a week in the civil engineering division alone – and there’s at least one more being saved by the supply chain on snags each week,” Eoin estimates. “When you take into account drawings and other paperwork, we’re probably saving much more.”
Importantly, introducing Autodesk Build has helped to change people’s attitudes to technology. Whereas once members of the site team might have been apprehensive about digital tools, now they are much more open to change.
“Employees with forty years’ experience who once ran around the site with A3 drawings are now enthusiastic about using tablets for discussions with everyone,” Eoin explains. “People are also much more receptive to other technological advances, like using laser scanning on site. Seeing the energy, acceptance and enthusiasm about technology from the site team: that’s the pinnacle of what we’re trying to achieve right now.”
Working with Accienta has played an important role in supporting this adoption. “Having a partner that is expert in the construction industry, as well as the technology, meant that the process was very accessible for our team. Because Carolina was independent from the contract, people could embrace the benefits of Autodesk Build, without feeling like they were being corrected. It has been a tremendous performance.”
Looking forward, the Khansaheb team is excited by the prospect of further improving access to common data by team members spread across the region on multiple projects. Eoin says, "We are exploring the broader functionality of the Autodesk cloud platforms to drive further efficiencies for not just our direct site operational staff but for design, commercial and administrative teams as well."
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