Strengthening Public Infrastructure in Scotland
Whether it’s transport links, healthcare facilities or commercial centres, civil infrastructure frequently plays a key role in people’s prosperity and wellbeing. Infrastructure investment can also create economic opportunities, reinvigorating areas and supporting local businesses.
Public sector infrastructure is often built to last for decades. Therefore, it’s critical that investments not only meet the needs of an area today but can be adapted to future needs. From a construction perspective, that means assets must be delivered to the highest quality, along with a rich as-built record so that the owner can maintain them effectively into the future.
However, sharing and accurately recording information across project teams can be difficult. Infrastructure projects are often complex in nature, involving large numbers of collaborators from multiple disciplines. Transport projects in particular can take place on challenging sites, covering a large distance without distinguishing landmarks.
In 2019, Wills Bros was appointed as the main contractor for the two civil infrastructure projects in Scotland, with a combined project worth of over £50 million. One project involved expanding an airport, to promote economic growth in the area, while the other focused on creating a bypass around a historic town.
On these multidisciplinary projects, technology was key for creating a single source of truth for collaborators, improving the quality and efficiency of the builds and ultimately delivering good value outcomes for the public.
Improving Information-sharing and Accuracy
Founded in 1972, Wills Bros is a civil engineering contracting company. As a family-run business, Wills Bros focuses on delivering projects to the highest quality, to build long-standing relationships with clients in the private and public sector.
With its near 50-year history, Wills Bros had a heritage of employing paper-based or manual processes in the business, which in turn could lead to inefficiencies on projects. Paper-based field inspections could also create a lack of visibility over inspections. Ultimately the processes were limiting the usefulness of information during the project lifecycle – and preventing Wills Bros and its clients from getting the most value from the data.
Wills Bros had started adopting technology and transitioning to digital processes over a number of years. But the two civil infrastructure projects required BIM Level 2, as well as seamless information-sharing and communication. This accelerated Wills Bros’ need to have the right tools in place to centralise information for project stakeholders to ensure project success.
Several complex assets would be delivered for the airport project. Muhammad Salman Misri, BIM Coordinator at Wills Bros, explains, “The project would involve developing infrastructure including two bridges, airport roadworks and drainage works over two years. Given the scope of the site, having the right quality control processes in place would be vital.”
Meanwhile, information-sharing was key for the bypass project. Muhammad Ziyad Rasheed, BIM Coordinator at Wills Bros, notes, “We would be working within a number of environmental and historical constraints, alongside many public sector stakeholders involved. It was really important that we could communicate effectively throughout the project.”
To deliver each project, Wills Bros needed a common data environment to centralise all information in one place, where it could be accessed by designers, the site team, clients and all relevant stakeholders. For this, they implemented BIM 360 within Autodesk Construction Cloud™.
The Value of Creating Common Data Environments
On civil engineering projects, it’s valuable to have digital platforms that not only facilitate information-sharing, but ensure that critical data can be accessed in real-time out in the field. To connect their project teams and data in real-time, Wills Bros implemented Autodesk BIM 360 as the common data environment for the two civil infrastructure projects in May 2019.
The platform was used by the projects’ designers, engineers, site teams and clients, supporting more efficient processes throughout the projects. For example, during the design review process, models were updated in real-time, ensuring the whole team was working from a single source of truth. Everyone in the process would be notified of changes and feedback, for productive collaboration.
The solution has also made a significant difference in the field. “With BIM 360, 3D models – as well as drawings – can be accessed on-site, without an Internet connection or any other specialist software or viewers,” explains Ziyad. This provides the teams with easy access to the information they need, supporting communication and helping to avoid mistakes and rework.
Issues management is also much more efficient and reliable with BIM 360. Issues can be created on-site and linked directly to locations on models or drawings, with photos and supporting notation attached. The parties responsible for the issues are notified immediately of the action needed, saving the inspectors, Wills Bros, the subcontractors and clients a significant amount of time.
Using BIM 360 for issues management has provided Wills Bros with greater visibility over the progress of inspections. Inspections are recorded in real-time, with clear data on when the check has been completed and by whom.
The team can easily identify if any reports are missing and take action. This ensures that the projects are completed to the highest quality, and the clients will receive comprehensive, as-built handovers, that can support asset management long into the future.
Built to Last
Using BIM 360 has significantly improved the quality of data on the two civil infrastructure projects. The whole construction team can access a single source of truth, minimising errors and miscommunication. This ensures that owners will benefit from comprehensive, as-built records, as well as efficiently managed projects.
Importantly for Wills Bros, there is a data footprint, including the time and date when changes were made, that can be accessed at any time. This has improved visibility, ensuring that each collaborator takes ownership of their part of the process. As a result, Wills Bros and its partners can ensure the highest level of quality on these critical infrastructure projects.
The team has achieved significant efficiencies by digitalising processes throughout the projects. For field inspections, Ziyad calculates that typical action and closure times have been reduced by 75%. Because information is uploaded in real-time, the teams save effort consolidating information at the end of the projects for the client handovers.
By implementing BIM 360 Wills Bros has also been able to better support the safety and wellbeing of employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. The technology allows the team to minimise physical contact on site, with document controllers working remotely from home – helping to keep the projects operational during the pandemic.
Using Technology to Support Continued Growth and Development
For Wills Bros, digital technology will play a key role in future talent management, according to Ziyad: “New employees, such as our graduate apprentices, find BIM 360 fascinating. Platforms like this will be really important for attracting and engaging the best talent in the years ahead.”
Marcin Sokolowski, Company BIM Manager at Wills Bros reflects, “As a professional Civil Engineering Company we are constantly looking for improvement and digitalisation of our processes is one of the main activities we focus on. Implementation of BIM is as example of here and now – how we utilise new technology to deliver more challenging projects moving forward. From my perspective, as a company we will continue to develop BIM processes and tie up technology, software and construction tools through the whole project life cycle which will also enable our partners and subcontractors to play more important role in our projects.”
Meanwhile, in Scotland people in the local areas will benefit from assets that are built to the highest quality and can be adapted to meet their needs for many years to come.