Suppose you’re a contractor and the client wants you to reduce the completion time of a project by 2.5 years; what do you do? This is the challenge that Combinatie Ommelanderdiek (Boskalis Nederland and KWS Infra) is tackling in the project Dijkverbetering Eemshaven – Delfzijl. The Noorderzijlvest Water Board wants 12 kilometres of dyke to be made higher, wider, stronger and earthquake-resistant – and wants it done fast. Martin van Leusden, Systems Engineer at Boskalis, explains how he intends to preserve the gains in time that have been made, in collaboration with the client.
Project based on a Design & Construct contract
As the contractor, the consortium is responsible for the design and execution of the project based on a Design & Construct (D&C) contract. “In order to save time, the water board has completed the preparation phase in shorter time, thanks in part to the Crisis and Recovery Act. Without compromising on quality or the safety of the people living and working behind the dyke, of course. The technical elaboration, details and implementation of coupled projects will be worked out during the design phase. This places higher demands on the speed and efficiency of communication and information management within the project.”
“We manage all information in Relatics. This approach shortens the information throughput time and, as a result, the completion time for the designs.”
Martin van Leusden | Systems Engineer | Boskalis
In order to work as efficiently as possible, the Combinatie Ommelanderdiek has split the 12-kilometer dyke project into four sub-projects that will be carried out simultaneously. “In practice, sub-project 1 is already being executed while 2, 3 and 4 are still in the design phase,” Van Leusden says. “That way, we ensure that no time is wasted at any point or place in the project.” The consortium has to preserve maximum time gains in other areas, as well. In order to realise this, the focus during the preparation for the execution of the project was – aside from the normal work involved in a D&C contract – on the validation and the reduction of the lead time for questions and contract adjustments.
Focus on validation
Van Leusden explains: “In order to prevent changes or discussion during the execution, we devote much attention to the validation of the requirements early on in the project. In a regular project, the planning phase is followed first by a check by the main stakeholders. This step is now carried out during the design phase. If it turns out that a certain requirement is not feasible in the design, we demonstrate this and agree the changes with the client. By coordinating the draft design with our client and the stakeholders during the design phase and implementing any changes in the D&C contract as early as possible, we prevent having discussions and time loss upon completion.”
Short information throughput
Another point requiring attention is the information throughput time. It is important to facilitate the design process with exceptional efficiency in order to prevent unnecessary delays or uncertainties. “To keep the project up to speed, we compiled a large team,” Van Leusden explains. “On the client’s side as well, there are various stakeholders. With such a large group of involved parties partially working in parallel, information management is crucial. Everyone needs to have access to the same up-to-date information, and the exchange of information has to be fluent. In a regular project, we submit questions to the client by email, and an answer then follows after a technical or construction meeting has been held for internal consultation and discussion. Once that has been done, we can enter the answers into Relatics and adjust the design. That takes two or three weeks on average – time we simply do not have in this project.”
In order to enable rapid action, the client can track developments live in the Combinatie Ommelanderdiek’s Relatics environment during the design phase. “We manage all information in Relatics. Within our information environment, we can directly ask the client questions about the set of requirements, without data export. The client’s people are always tracking developments, meaning that they can react rapidly. On top of that, there are weekly consultations to discuss and handle issues directly. When we have a question on Monday, we often have the answer by Tuesday. We then discuss this on Thursday, enabling us to include any alterations in the design. This approach shortens the information throughput time and, as a result, the completion time for the designs.”
Real-time overview with GIS
The digital exchange of information also takes place via the GIS model built by the consortium. “Using a viewer, we offer the involved parties an almost real-time overview of the project progress. The viewer shows the contours of the dyke, including the various objects. When you click an object, a link to Relatics offers access to the object specifications. This model offers the opportunity to see the realisation of the project in real time. Furthermore, the client can closely follow the verification process during the execution. We visualise the status of assessments in the GIS model based on the data in Relatics.”
Good information and communication structure
Combinatie Ommelanderdiek’s client has set the consortium a major challenge with the Eemshaven – Delfzijl dyke improvement. “At the same time, it has forced us to take a good look and see where in the project we can preserve the time gains we have made. By recording and managing all relevant data in a central manner, we prevent fragmentation and misunderstandings. Everyone is always on the same page, and everyone always has insight into the current status of the process steps. Together with the client, we have established a good information and communication structure that offers a solid foundation for everyone. Although we are still in the middle of the project, this is a necessary step to maintain pace and to achieve the ambitious goal.”
“Within our information environment, we can directly ask the client questions about the set of requirements, without data export. The client’s people are permanently tracking developments, and they react rapidly. This approach shortens the information throughput time and, as a result, the completion time for the designs.”