Osborne Delivers Rigorous, Efficient Quality Control to Keep a Busy Stretch of Motorway Safe and Operational

As a leading construction and solutions provider for the built environment, Osborne recognises that to deliver the best service to customers and end users, the company must continually innovate, finding new ways of working and increasing productivity.

In 2016, Osborne undertook a project for Connect Plus, the company awarded the contract to operate and manage the M25 and its key arterial routes on behalf of Highways England, for the maintenance of the Gade Valley Viaduct on the M25, to keep this busy stretch of motorway safe and operational. The 11-span, 8 box girder viaduct carries the M25 motorway over a river, canal, railway, and public road, forming a critical part of the road infrastructure.

The five-year project involved assessing the structure with strain gauging and carrying out fatigue strengthening and latent weld defect repairs for the viaduct. Osborne was the principal contractor on the project, working alongside collaborators including specialist steel contractor BS Steels, non-destructive testing specialists MISTRAS Group, specialist blasting and coating contractor Shutdown Maintenance Services (SMS), confined spaces rescue specialists Civil Safety and scaffolding specialists Alltask.

Implementing Rigorous Quality and Safety Controls

Individual safety records were required for 2,500 strengthening plates, 48,000 bolts, and 750 weld dressings, as well as covering 1,000 paint sections. Rigorous quality control was crucial, to keep the asset safe and operational – and provide Connect Plus with the data to support future maintenance. As a company that recognises the value of innovation, the Osborne team was keen to ensure that they were using technology to support reliable and efficient quality control throughout the project. Safety on-site was also paramount, as the team would be relying on traffic management and night shifts to complete the work while the motorway remained open.

The project began in 2016 when the team created a 3D model of the bridge using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology to map the structure for Phase 1 of the project. The survey was imported into Building Information Modelling (BIM) data, which was used as a visualisation tool. Specification drawings and check sheets were then attached to each of the individual elements on the model.

The team was using BIM 360 within within Autodesk Construction Cloud™, a unified platform that connects project teams and data in realtime, as the common data environment (CDE) for the project. However, Hugo Blanco Alvarez, Civil Engineer at Osborne, wanted to ensure that the team was getting the most from the technology and avoiding any duplication. “After using BIM 360 for Phase 1, we identified a few inefficiencies that we wanted to address for Phase 2 as part of our drive to continually learn and improve our processes. For example, subcontractors would spend lots of time looking for the relevant checklist for each asset – which adds up over thousands of records,” says Hugo.

For Patrick Bourke, Manager at Osborne, there were safety procedures that needed to be addressed. “We were also wasting a lot of time looking for safety equipment that wasn’t being returned, like hard hats, safety radio, and gas monitors. We were keen to explore the other features available on BIM 360,” says Patrick. Osborne decided to work with Autodesk to optimise the set-up of BIM 360 – and maximise collaboration and productivity across the partners.

Health Checking The Project’s Use of BIM 360

In January 2020, Autodesk partnered with Osborne to carry out a health check on the project’s use of BIM 360. Customer Success Deployment Specialist Caroline Shaw worked with Hugo and his team to first define the key requirements for the project. Caroline then shared new ideas and best practice with the team to gain the greatest value from the platform.

2D pins proved to be a particularly useful feature, enabling collaborators to tag as-built quality checklists, photographs, and test results to the model as work progressed. All of the information relating to any element could be found in one place. As Hugo explains, “If you identify a weld defect in a particular component of the structure, an issue is created immediately for that element with its associated checklist. This allows us to effectively record, track and monitor the defect over time, minimising the chance for errors, increasing efficiency and improving data quality. The information recorded is well-defined and structured which helps standardise our processes on site.”

Technology Champions to Help Embed New Ways of Working

Hugo and his team rolled out the changes by recruiting technology champions, such as the project manager Martin Parsons and senior site manager Mark Averill, as well as providing internal training. The feedback from the many collaborators using the software on-site was very positive.

“I use BIM 360 out on-site on a daily basis and I think it’s a huge benefit,” reports Ian Clark, Paint Inspector at specialist blasting and coating contractor SMS. “It allows me to carry out inspections and capture pictures which are automatically attached to my inspection reports. It also means I have the criteria for the specification to hand at all times, whether I’m in the office or out on-site.”

“BIM 360 is very efficient for managing imperfections by recording and tracking any issues,” explains Luke Sword, Advanced NDT Technician at non-destructive testing specialists MISTRAS. “Being able to filter the defects helps us to categorise the issues by their criticality and risk,” adds Muhammad Abdullah, a fellow Advanced NDT technician at MISTRAS.

Seamless Collaboration Leads to Better Ways of Working

BIM 360 enables information to be transferred seamlessly between the businesses. Technical queries can be raised and answered through BIM 360, supporting collaboration between designers and the site – reducing the need for one-to-one conversations. Kyriakos Antoniou, Senior Structural Engineer at principal design firm COWI, notes; “The biggest benefit is the fact that we are able to track the progress of a repair for each of the defects identified on the bridge. Each issue also comes with attachments of images and reports, which makes it easy for us as designers to have a closer look and effectively identify the remedial actions required. In addition, the interface makes it very useable for our collaborators, as specialist software is not required.”

The platform has also supported transparency over the progress of work on-site. With daily diaries, Osborne has been able to track the people on-site and the progress of the work. “The daily reports act as a record of work, which helps with man hours, payments, and generally record keeping of progress,” reports Patrick Bourke, Manager at Osborne. The reporting features also helped Osborne to communicate effectively with the client and other collaborators, as Patrick notes: “At any one time, we know what’s going on at a location and if work can be carried out, without even going there. We don’t have to track down and speak to other companies; it’s just all almost live on BIM all the time, which we believe has avoided a lot of the mistakes that can be caused by companies not communicating correctly.”

The team has also introduced barcodes for locating safety equipment, replacing the old paper-based system. With BIM 360, workers on-site can quickly scan equipment and provide details of their name, date, and work location. This has helped to minimise the time wasted finding lost equipment.

Gaining Efficiencies Through Better Use of Technology

Given the complexity of the structure and the extensive monitoring regime required, Hugo has been delighted by the impact of using BIM 360 on the project. “We have found more than 2,000 weld defects on-site since 2017. Without BIM 360, this process would have been almost impossible to manage – both time consuming and really complex to handle. The time saved, assurance in the quality control process and the quality of the information captured have been significant benefits.”

The team has saved 3,000 work hours by using the platform for quality control and has further increased efficiency by 10% since implementing new features. By eliminating paper-based processes throughout the project, the team has avoided printing around 150,000 sheets of paper, amounting to approximately 1 ton of carbon emissions saved and supporting Osborne’s wider sustainability objectives.

Thanks in part to the technology, the Gade Valley Viaduct team was also able to minimise the disruption caused by Covid-19 during 2020. With BIM 360, remote collaboration between contractors was already possible. The team set up safety checklists to support social distancing on-site, enabling operations to continue while protecting employees’ wellbeing.

Technology Informing Decision-making in the Future

Using BIM 360 has also supported better communication with Connect Plus through regular reports and rich data. Going forward, the owner has access to a 3D model record that can be used to support future maintenance and asset decisions. The Gade Valley Viaduct project has helped to underline the benefits of BIM 360 – and now other teams at Osborne are considering using the technology. Implementing a BIM methodology and other technologies is a key focus for Osborne in the months ahead. As an organisation, Osborne will continue to innovate and find new ways to deliver the best services for its customers and end users, including crucial road projects like the Gade Valley Viaduct.

Mark Robson

Construction Customer Success Manager at Autodesk