Wierts BV are a construction partner specialising in conversions, maintenance and renovation projects operating in the Limburg region of the Netherlands. Supporting housing developers to manage, maintain and upgrade their housing stock, Wierts support all aspects of asset management.
Frank Bijsmans, Project Planner at Wierts BV supports the projects division of the company to undertake energy upgrades and renovations. Delivering over 12,000 repairs a year and working with a network of more than 85 employees and 50 regular external supply chain partners, Wierts BV understands the important role collaboration plays when it comes to delivering efficiently. And for Frank, managing several collaborators across a variety of different trades – from roofing, plumbing and plasterers to painters and tilers – can be complex.
A digital journey
Over the last few years, the projects division in Wierts BV have been improving their ways of working through implementing digital workflows. “My projects range in size and scale so using digital technology to improve the way we plan and manage our activity has been a fundamental change to our previous ways of working,” says Frank. The team recently completed upgrades on 172 homes and used PlanGrid, an Autodesk Construction Cloud solution to access project drawings and capture key project information such as photos.
“We look after housing stock that was built mostly in the 1900s – 1970s. Often when we start an upgrade project, I am working on units where I have no previous project data or very out of date drawings, so we start by creating brand new drawings of the asset,” reflects Frank.
“From here, I used PlanGrid to mark an issue on all of the major items in the asset and then carry out my inspection of the property using the PlanGrid application on my phone.” Frank marks asset items alongside any repairs that are needed and takes photos at the property – uploading them directly into the solution. Photos are instantly accessible, and Frank doesn’t need to waste time emailing and uploading images when he returns to the office.
Investing for the future
In April 2021, Frank and the team at Wierts BV decided to invest in Autodesk Construction Cloud’s newest offering, Autodesk Build. With additional functionality to PlanGrid, the solution provides Wierts BV with a comprehensive site and project management platform.
“Using PlanGrid helped us to improve collaboration and increase efficiencies as we were able to reduce manual ways of working that were time consuming and lengthy,” says Frank. “Capturing information for repairs and maintenance directly from the property reduced the number of emails sent as well as the number of photos we shared via non-secure methods such as Whatsapp and WeTransfer,” reflects Frank.
One step at a time
For Wierts BV, digitalising their processes is an iterative journey. “We are concentrating on one workflow at a time,” says Frank. But transitioning to using Autodesk Build meant Frank and the team could introduce new digital workflows to their project teams. The team are on a mission to go completely paper free with the project team using phones and an iPad pro for this.
“We began using Autodesk Build on an upgrade project consisting of 84 homes for our client that we started in November 2021,” says Frank. “Our client, the site-managers, sub-contractors and other stakeholders are working in Autodesk Build. We use the issues functionality in the solution to track the progress of the project.” During an initial property inspection, Frank marks up issues on the drawings stored in Autodesk Build. The project will have approximately 2000 issues, 10,000 pictures and 450 forms when done. From here, he assigns the issues which need resolving to the relevant construction contractor in addition to the dedicated site manager. For example, if a window panel needs replacing Frank assigns this to the carpenter and the project members can track the progress of this issue directly in the solution.
Handling large quantities of data is the norm for Wierts BV and they use Autodesk Build as their common data environment for storing data which also enables their clients to make decisions based on this data. Frank reflects: “We also did a project with almost 2,400 drawings, 12,000 issues and 25,000 pictures. We collaborated with our client and a co-maker to gather and process the different data. Alongside our co-maker mechanics, we visit the homes, places smoke-alarms and take pictures of the bathroom, kitchen, toilet and technical installations. The client reviews the pictures and decides what parts are eligible for renovation.”
Overseeing project progress
For Frank, tracking progress is much easier as up-to-date information on the status of a task is available directly in Autodesk Build. “For our site managers, they can communicate directly in Autodesk Build with our supply chain subcontractors and resolve queries that previously would have been managed over emails and phone calls,” says Frank.
“There is an added layer of transparency and traceability working in this way, as anyone with access to Autodesk Build can see the information and a record of communication.” Project members can filter issues in a number of different ways – from the individual property’s address to the owner of the issue. As well as this, subcontractors can close out their assigned issues directly in the platform meaning Frank and the site managers can oversee the overall project progress easily.
Preparing for change
In the Netherlands, a new construction law is due to come into effect in January 2023 which focuses on quality assurance practices. For Wierts BV and their project partners, preparing for this law earlier means they have more time to embed new practices that support them to comply with the new changes. “The new law focuses on information management and the golden thread of data,” says Frank. “Our clients need to be able to access and own information about their assets to report on the quality of their buildings.”
The RFI functionality has been one of the most beneficial workflows for Wierts BV as they prepare for these new ways of working under the new government legislation. “We used to manage our RFI process over email,” says Frank. “Using Autodesk Build to complete this activity is much better because not only does it ensure all project collaborators have the information they need but it also allows us to capture data better when closing a project.”
Accountability and transparency
Having access to vital project information allows Wierts BV to make decisions quicker as well as track the decision-making process. For their clients, capturing and storing data in a richer way allows them to develop proactive maintenance and repairs schedules for the future. Submittals and change requests happen in Autodesk Build helping Wierts BV to document decision-making and site activity providing an added layer of accountability to their clients.
“Sometimes the renters living in the homes we’re upgrading do not want us to complete certain activity so being able to document this provides our clients with a layer of transparency and allows our team to share details on why variances to the project schedule have occurred,” comments Frank.
Frank has found that colleagues who have been working in the industry for a long time have taken more time to embrace using digital construction technologies such as Autodesk Build. Frank spends time reminding these collaborators to use the solution for project communication rather than reverting to old ways of working. “Guiding our team members to implement our new processes has been the most time-consuming element to rolling out Autodesk Build,” affirms Frank. “I tell colleagues, if you can use Whatsapp to send a photo then you can use Autodesk Build!”
“The next generation of construction professionals expect us to be working with digital workflows these days,” affirms Frank. Before implementing a single source of truth to collaborate on, Wierts BV used paper-based processes where they marked up drawings by hand which were then scanned and emailed to project team members. “Not only is this way of working time intense, but it also left us open to risk as we could not guarantee all project collaborators were working from the same information,” comments Frank.
For Wierts BV, rolling out more and more of the features and functionality that Autodesk Build supports is their priority. “We want to integrate AutoCAD to Autodesk Build as we have an in-house architect who is responsible for our drawings and we can see the benefits of integrating more of our plan and design data with our construct and operate data,” says Frank.
For Frank, embedding the new ways of working across the team is vital. “Autodesk is constantly evolving their technology and listening to the feedback we as users provide,” comments Frank.
“Being able to use one platform for the whole project lifecycle is something I haven’t seen elsewhere in the market,” – Frank Bijsmans, Project Planner at Wierts BV
And for Wierts BV, this allows them to develop their use alongside the development of the solution. Frank reflects: “Digitalising is a lengthy process for any company, change doesn’t happen overnight, but I am confident we are now seeing the benefits of our transition and I’m certain these positives will continue long into the future.”