Based in Oslo, Norway, NCC is a leader in Northern European construction. With many subgroups under their umbrella, NCC works on everything from property development to infrastructure. One of those subgroups is NCC Infrastructure, a subsidiary dedicated to civil framework projects like new highway and railway builds.
With a company focus on research and development, NCC is always looking for new tech to evolve their workflows. So when NCC Infrastructure started on a nine-kilometer railway project that included four large bridges and moving a million cubic meters of earth, they started searching for a better way to share site data.
For that, they turned to Trimble Stratus, powered by Propeller, a site visualization and analysis platform. Trimble, the global leader in positioning technologies, was an early partner of Propeller. Our teams work closely together to deliver Trimble Stratus survey-grade drone data solutions for the heavy civil industries.
Planning Manager Mats Nyland championed the adoption of Propeller. We spoke to him about using the platform on projects, how it’s helped the NCC team communicate easier, and why it’s all but eliminated subcontractor disputes.
NCC saves at least six hours every time they process with Propeller
Nyland has a long history in site surveying and is no stranger to aerial data capture. He explained how NCC was using Agisoft before they made the switch. “We used it primarily just to process data, and then we took it on to some other CAD software,” he said. “We still keep that process, but we have taken out Agisoft, and we use Propeller for processing.”
Surveying via drone has saved time, but it’s processing the data where Nyland sees the most time savings. “We can just send the data and forget, and just get a notification that they’re ready,” he said. “We have saved around six to eight hours of work where we can do something else.”
Removing specialists from the data-gathering phase has allowed them to spend their time more effectively over all. It’s this kind of task-sharing that has enabled NCC’s 60 users to share data seamlessly and work smarter.
Continuous data sharing keeps all teams on the same page
With Propeller serving as a single source of truth for everyone on the railway project, “we can share the task and cycle the task between people in our production line,” said Nyland. Everyone, from foremen to product managers, is trained on Propeller, so they can get the information they need themselves, instead of waiting on a specialist.
“It’s the surveyors and the survey managers who set up volume calculations, stuff like that,” Nyland continued. “All the other people have view-only access.” This transparency into site happenings enables NCC to better track progress, gauge productivity, and mitigate risk.
“We use [Propeller] every week in our planning. We plan, we sit down with foremen and site managers, and we see what we have done,” explained Nyland. For example, “we can see where to put a construction road if we need an extra construction road on our site.”
Before Propeller, even straightforward planning meetings would have been complicated. Since NCC used Agisoft and CAD, they’d need to pull in survey people for those meetings every time. Now, the survey team can focus on their main duties instead of walking someone through the data.
For Nyland, Propeller has made his job easier when it comes to visualizing and conveying progress to his team and clients. “Every 14 days, when I sit down with the clients, I put [Propeller] on the big screen and talk my way through the project,” he said. “If you have 10 people sitting in a room [imagining what I’m saying], then you probably have 10 different stories afterwards. But if you can visualize it and they can see it, then they can understand it.”
Reducing risk with up-to-date data
Another element of having everyone reference a single up-to-date source of truth is risk reduction.
Nyland explained it this way: Before Propeller, “when we move that cubic meter of soil, we have [the data tailing behind] three or four weeks. Now that tail has shortened, so we’re a week or half a week behind. When you can shorten the tail, the easier it is to make good decisions in your production.”
And it’s making those good decisions as soon as possible that, in turn, lessens risk factors. It’s piecemeal, but making small adjustments to a project over time can have a big impact.
“In construction, small adjustments don’t cost much, but big adjustments cost a lot,” said Nyland. “If you can constantly tip your project right or left according to where your heading, where you should be, where your baseline is, [the] easier it is to manage a project.”
The two-fold effect: building customer trust and documenting progress
Capturing data every two weeks, as NCC does, means there is a whole lot of documentation on site. With accurate snapshots over the life of a project, there’s much less ambiguity around when or if things happened and why.
This has a two-fold effect. First, it builds customer trust. For NCC’s clients, they know everything is documented.
Nyland frequently uses Propeller’s timeline to show change over time. “If you have a sit-down and we have an issue, we can see that on the 17th of July it looked like this, and on the 14th it looked like that, and we can see what happened,” he said. “Nobody can argue with the photo.”
Which brings us to the second point: a rock-solid timeline of data really does make it difficult, if not impossible, for disputes to arise. In fact, NCC has seen a huge reduction in disputes across the board on this project for this very reason.
“The reason why there hasn’t been a dispute is because they knew we had these [site] photos,” said Nyland. “There was no discussion because there was nothing to discuss. You can’t say that it didn’t happen, we had the photos every 14 days and we see what happens in between.”
In the end, better documentation equals less arguing on the claim. And a project without conflict, is a project completed on time.
NCC uses Trimble Stratus powered by Propeller. For more information on how to bring Trimble Stratus to your site to help create machine surfaces and process data faster, please contact your local SITECH dealer.