VolkerFitzpatrick is one of the UK’s leading engineering and construction companies, providing specialist building, rail, civil engineering and industry focussed skills to a range of market sectors including commercial, industrial, education, rail, aviation, waste and energy through its six different businesses in the UK. In particular, the Rail Division covers the development and maintenance of rail depots and infrastructure. LetsBuild’s product GenieBelt is currently being used in the West Anglia Main Line (WAML) Capacity Improvement Project.
The WAML project is part of Network Rail’s Lee Valley Rail Programme to deliver £170m of improvements across the Upper Lee Valley from 2017 to 2019. VolkerFitzpatrick, as principal contractor is building 5.5km of new track which will reduce congestion for passengers and support regeneration across the Upper Lee Valley area.
Throughout the project multiple teams undertake large volumes of work in time-controlled periods. Work is done on the weekends because there is a requirement to keep the areas operational during peak time periods.
Multiple applications, scattered information and laborious processes
Before implementing LetsBuild’s GenieBelt product, progress reports, key milestones and/or problems arisen on the project were communicated using a combination of hour-by-hour programmes, text messages, WhatsApp groups, emails, formal reports, Excel forms, and phone calls.
“The teams on site were already reporting through WhatsApp messages and emails. They were handwriting answers as well. We just told them to do it in one platform. And they just picked it up,” says Matt Ghinn, Project Director at VolkerFitzpatrick.
The traditional methods were laborious and it required enormous effort to issue consistent messages out to teams, to capture accurate programme data, and provide reliable updates on on-site progress. With so many different sources of data collection, the risk of vital information being missed or incorrectly actioned between teams was high.
“Traditionally, photos were taken, site diaries were updated, progress was being updated, dashboards were being produced but they were all individual tasks. This required a lot of effort in terms of admin work,” says Matt Ghinn.
Moreover, VolkerFitzpatrick was working with static programmes that were not easily updated to reflect actual progress.
Timely sharing of critical information
Previously, there was a formal report update every four to 12 hours. This meant managers would receive updates too late or have to make multiple calls / emails. These delays would inevitably disrupt site activities. The GenieBelt product has changed that, providing live real-time reporting that can be accessed at any time that suits.
“We’re not phoning out, we are not using WhatsApp groups, we’re not sending emails. The programme is just live, it’s there and all data from the site is captured,” says Matt Ghinn.
LetsBuild’s product Geniebelt is also able to generate a report instantly from the collated data, including progress updates, photos, messages and problems that have been reported and/or communicated by teams, as well as information on where delays may have occurred.
“Our programme is updated at site level. That means that the operative supervisor provides us the information from site. So we get photos; we get updates. This allows the team to take more ownership and provides us with visibility across the whole site team,” says Matt Ghinn.
An easy tool that connects site to office
Geniebelt has been proven to be an extremely easy tool for construction teams on site to use. On the WAML project, it only took VolkerFitzpatrick three days to get GenieBelt up and running.
“I was introduced to the platform on Wednesday and decided it was great. We got it set up on Thursday. I briefed the team on Friday. We were using it that weekend and we got great returns.”
Matt Ghinn further elaborates on the importance of user interface and how teams need to be able to work with simple reporting tools.
“It’s all about the user interface because if it’s difficult to use, people just throw it away. If it’s easy to use they’ll pick it up and run with it and we jointly benefit with better data delivering a better project outcome,”
Effective collaboration with subcontractors
With the help of LetsBuild’s on-site planning and progress reporting product GenieBelt, VolkerFitzpatrick has full visibility of the project, which has led them to work effectively with their subcontractors.
“We often had subcontractors arriving on site and not getting any work done because the previous tasks haven’t been completed. With LetsBuild and their product GenieBelt, we have visibility of project progress. So if there is going to be a delay, we let them know a week beforehand,” says Matt Ghinn.