The Paperless Construction App Builds Bridges While BAM Nuttall Builds Walls!

The project featured in this case study was completed by BAM Nuttall for their client, Network Rail, in Mulben, a small hamlet outside Keith in the Moray council area of Northeast Scotland.

It involved maintenance and replacement of two retaining walls on either side of a small stream about fourteen metres from the railway track itself. The stream, which previously fed a mill on the site, was dammed up, the works undertaken, and the dammed-up water released on completion.

The existing walls were over a century old and had been used to direct water into the mill race, and the mill itself dated back to the mid-nineteenth century; it was unclear how old the walls were. Over many years, the watercourse had eroded the wall's foundations on the railway side, and the first couple of courses of stonework were coming away. There was no real structural foundation remaining, and the opposite side of the wall was in a bad state of repair or even collapsed. This required a complete replacement of the foundations and wall on the railway side.

A big root system had taken the wall down on the mill side, and a brand-new wall had to be built. The project team was keen to deploy a digital solution that could be run in a poor mobile coverage area, and on an iPad, to control the project compliance records. This was fully in line with BAM's drive to migrate to a digital-first approach. However, there was some apprehension as other applications they tried in the past had only been partially successful.

An independent consultancy interviewed several team members, and their input forms the basis of this case study.


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The Problem

The team looked for a cloud-based system that could be run efficiently from an iPad or smartphone. Several other applications were evaluated before the deployment of the Paperless Construction app. However, none delivered on the promise of an easy-to-use, intuitive solution that covered all the bases and actually saved time.

Existing paper-based systems used by BAM Nuttall presented several problems. Here are ten of the most common in no particular order:

  • PRINTING - Paperwork had to be printed out, completed and/or signed and scanned back in again, which was a waste of time.
  • VOLUME OF PAPERWORK - huge amounts of physical paperwork built up in folders, including sign-in sheets, work package plans, task briefings, safety briefings, timesheets, KPI records and more. On large jobs, the paperwork generated could run into "container loads".
  • KPIs - The team needed to submit monthly KPI reports to management and compiling them manually by relying on memory, diaries and pieces of paper was hit and miss.
  • COMPLETE SOLUTION - Other systems had been tried before the Paperless Construction app, and, without fail, they had only delivered a partial solution. Although some did offer reasonable functionality in a few areas, they didn't actually eliminate the need to sign physical pieces of paper.
  • BRIEFINGS - early morning briefings were an issue. You would have all the workers sitting around, and often the necessary paperwork had not been printed off. This would cause delays in getting briefings completed and getting workers on-site timeously. Often paper-based task briefs based on the "task of the day" would go missing on site, with a return rate at the end of the working day of as little as 50%.
  • TRACEABILITY - Traceability of paperwork in general, was a major problem. You would have to leaf through folders to find if a piece of paper was filed away correctly, a massive waste of time.
  • TIMESHEETS - Timesheets and recording hours worked was an issue with a paper-based system that relied on physical forms, diaries, and bits of paper. You could waste hours compiling the numbers, you could forget things, and the temptation to put in a "best guess" to save time when you were under pressure was always a factor.
  • ADOPTION – a major stumbling block to the widespread adoption of previous digital solutions was that they were not easy to use, were not intuitive, and did not offer the right level of authority allowing users to make changes at a granular level e.g., administrator.
  • COMPLIANCE (GDPR) – paper copies of inductions that included personal information (for example) had to be stored in lockable, fire-proof containers to be compliant with the provisions of GDPR. Data retention and compiling audit information from physical records were extremely challenging in a paper-based world.
  • COST – previous solutions tested were perceived to be 3-5 times more expensive, with limited functionality. Harris Om, Project Manager, summed up the team’s experience prior to Paperless: "Historically, we had to print all the documents, everyone had to sign onto briefings, and then we scanned the completed records (ending up with 2 copies of the same record). This required significant manual effort.”

"We were looking for a solution to digitise timekeeping and safety briefings, and to eliminate the buildup of paperwork and storage - paperless did just that"

- Gerry Duncan, Agent

The Solution

Harris Om again, "We've been looking for a solution over the last 2 to 3 years, and nothing has worked as fluently and efficiently as Paperless." The Paperless Construction app was cloud-based and addressed all of BAM Nuttall's problems above, while supporting their drive to digital transformation.

In more detail:

  • The need to print out paperwork, complete it manually and scan it back into the system was eliminated, saving time, resources, and improving efficiencies
  • The requirement to store physical paper in folders was reduced to almost zero. There were some exceptions where paper was still used such as large drawings. The Mulben retaining walls job was completed with only one and a half folders of paperwork being generated in total.
  • KPI reporting was greatly simplified, and accuracy was increased as figures were immediately available on the system and easily collated and reported to management. Gerry Duncan, Agent, commented, "Extracting data for KPI reporting took minutes not hours, leaving you free to do things you should be concentrating on."
  • It was no longer necessary to print off briefing documents, so delays in getting workers on site were reduced. Using the Paperless Construction app, permits, work package plans, and task briefs were stored in the cloud. They were instantly available (on-line or offline), and were no longer lost on site.
  • Traceability issues presented by paper-based solutions were eliminated entirely, with an instant audit trail now being available. Gerry Duncan, "Receiving returned briefing records from the site has always been a problem, but with Paperless we can guarantee a 100% return rate - ensuring we have all our compliance records in place."
  • Traceability issues presented by paper-based solutions were eliminated entirely, with an instant audit trail now being available. Gerry Duncan, "Receiving returned briefing records from the site has always been a problem, but with Paperless we can guarantee a 100% return rate - ensuring we have all our compliance records in place."
  • Timesheets were clear, unambiguous, and immediately available from the cloud. No more buddy punching, fudged figures or "guestimates."
  • The app's ease of use and intuitive user interface encouraged widespread adoption of the Paperless Construction app. It was even commented that the app became an "enabler" that encouraged previously technology resistant personnel to put a toe in the water of the new digital age. Phil Pree, General Foreman commented, "The older supervisors liked it, and subsequent buy-in from the project team was easy; that made our jobs as management much easier."
  • All necessary compliance information was immediately on hand at just the touch of a button. As William Robertson, Senior Safety Advisor pointed out, "I had the ability to walk up to anyone on-site, scan their QR code and immediately see what tasks they had been briefed on. It linked to their inductions, timekeeping, and everything was accessible instantaneously."
  • Traceability issues presented by paper-based solutions were eliminated entirely, with an instant audit trail now being available. Gerry Duncan, "Receiving returned briefing records from the site has always been a problem, but with Paperless we can guarantee a 100% return rate - ensuring we have all our compliance records in place.
  • Previous systems evaluated by the project team only provided parts of the puzzle and cost in the region of 3-5 times more than the Paperless Construction app – with less functionality. The Paperless solution was extremely cost-effective, and you were only charged for what active users on site every month.

Results

The Paperless Construction app delivered BAM Nuttall the easy to use, comprehensive digital solution they needed to deploy on the Mulben retaining walls project. The app was readily adopted by the team who appreciated the benefits it had to offer and that it just “made their lives easier”. – William Robertson.

The amount of physical paperwork required on site was drastically reduced (almost to zero) and therefore the odious task of securely storing masses of paper was eliminated. "There was time and efficiency savings everywhere, from a few minutes per sign-in per user, 5-10 minutes per briefings, elimination of time spent on doc control and filing; and a few hours was saved every month for KPI's and reporting" - Gerry Duncan

Other benefits delivered by the Paperless Construction app included greatly simplified KPI reporting, a reduction in the time needed to get workers on site, enhanced traceability, and more accurate time sheets - all at a cost that was significantly lower than competitive solutions with less functionality.
The Paperless Construction app fully supported BAM Nuttall’s digital transformation ambitions as they “strive to become the market leader in digital technology”.

"Paperless was a great enabler to get people onto our digital journey and to move away from outdated and paper-based systems - we even had bricklayers using the app, and that would not happen with any other solution." – William Robertson

Wullie Robertson summed up the Mulben team’s experience with the Paperless Construction app nicely:

"Reflecting on using Paperless, I realised that if you give the people the right tools, digital transformation is painless."

"There was time and efficiency savings everywhere, from a few minutes per sign-in per user, 5-10 minutes per briefings, elimination of time spent on doc control and filing; and a few hours was saved every month for KPI's and reporting"


Gerry Duncan - Site Agent

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