Looking for a way to truly digitise the business and its everyday processes, by using a central information management system to help efficiently control, track and deliver jobs, Wareing Buildings, the UK fabricator of structural steelwork, once again turned to Trimble and its trusted Tekla software portfolio for help.
Based in Lancashire, Wareing Buildings offers a complete steel service to its clients, designing, fabricating and installing structural steelwork, in addition to cladding, external façades and timber work. Despite already employing digital technology and BIM within the company at the design stage of a project, including Tekla Structures, Tekla Structural Designer and the cloud-based Trimble Connect, the way Wareing Buildings actually managed its everyday activity, including the processing, tracking and delivery of steel fabrication jobs, remained a largely manual process.
Talking about the decision to digitise the business, Matt Hastwell, Senior Draughtsman at Wareing Buildings, said:
It was clear that a change was needed; in fact, it was something that had been brewing for a number of years. While some areas of the business were already technologically advanced, such as our use of BIM modelling software, the practical, daily running of the business had various inefficiencies, with our teams relying predominantly on a disjointed and traditional paper-based system. We knew that we needed an information management system, through which all of our daily activity, including material ordering, fabrication schedules and deliveries, could be easily processed, managed and accessed.
It was around this point that we heard about Trimble’s launch of Tekla PowerFab. One of the key appeals for us was the software’s usability and simplicity. Unlike Tekla Structures and Tekla Structural Designer, which are only used by the relevant teams, PowerFab, by its very nature, was intended for business-wide use. We have a real mix of people at Wareing Buildings, with some not even owning a smartphone or tablet, and so we needed a software that was user-friendly.
Eight months after installing Tekla PowerFab as an information management system, the benefits have been clear to see. From the moment an order has been placed, everything after that point is now processed and tracked through PowerFab. We use it to manage material ordering and production control, with fabrication and work schedules also then generated using the software.
Matt Hastwell, Senior Draughtsman at Wareing Buildings
Now, eight months after installing Tekla PowerFab as an information management system, the benefits have been clear to see. From the moment an order has been placed, everything after that point is now processed and tracked through PowerFab. We use it to manage material ordering and production control, with fabrication and work schedules also then generated using the software. All jobs are issued through the central system and sent to the correct division in our fabrication facility, whether that be steelwork, welding, painting or woodwork. It’s essentially a new central business hub, helping to bring all of our processes, data and information together in one place.
In addition to material ordering and fabrication sequences, Wareing Buildings also applies PowerFab to the transport and logistics stage of its workflow, providing real-time information on what load are going on, to where and when. With such a high volume of steel passing through any fabricator’s production facility, there is the real potential for materials to be ‘lost’ along the way, especially if businesses are relying purely on an out-dated paper system.
Component tracking and traceability is a really important feature to us, for it offers complete and comprehensive levels of visibility - both internally and externally. As a business, it aids improved levels of communication and coordination between teams, for everyone in the company can access the system and immediately see at what stage a particular job is at or view a department’s work schedule for the week. Through the direct link with Tekla Structures, we can even move around a project’s 3D BIM model, click on any steel section and be provided with an up-to-date job status. All of our teams have access to PowerFab through a smart device, meaning that they can simply log once they have completed a job and the component’s status is then automatically updated.
By comparison, before we introduced PowerFab into the business, if we needed to know the current status of a job, it would involve us having to physically walk around our site and speak to each team individually. Understandably, this could take up a significant portion of our day – time that could be better spent elsewhere.
As well as enhanced visibility internally, Wareing Buildings is also able to pass this benefit on to its customers and clients, helping to build stronger relationships and deliver an added value service, as Matt explained further:
Through Trimble Connect, a cloud-based platform that acts as a central BIM hub, our customers can log in and access the relevant PowerFab data for their project. Providing complete transparency, customers are able to see the current status of their fabrication job, receive updates and know when they can expect to receive the finished steel on site. In turn, this helps to build trust, providing them with added confidence in us as a business and also the assurance that the job will be fulfilled as promised.
Wareing Buildings has also pushed PowerFab’s capabilities further, demonstrating the software’s flexibility and ability to adapt to a company’s individual requirements. One example is the use of PowerFab as a reporting tool.
Again, this is a real time saver for us, explained Matt.
It enables us to use the data already stored within the central system to automatically generate reports or information that would otherwise take up a significant portion of our time to produce manually. For example, we have an automatic accountancy report scheduled weekly, which details every item that’s come in that week, what it cost, the status of the job and what needs to be paid, meaning that our accounts department no longer have to manually sort through invoices and material order lists.
We also have a weekly forecast report, which automatically provides us with a status of every current job and even generates a view of the following week’s production schedule, enabling us to plan accordingly and ensure continued high levels of efficiency.
Talking about the benefits that Wareing Buildings has experienced since digitising its workflow with PowerFab, Matt said:
Even going beyond the improved visibility, traceability and efficiency levels, which are definitely the main advantages, there has also been other, more unexpected, benefits. For us, it has opened up lots of doors for small improvements within the business, areas that we may not have noticed or even been aware of previously. For example, we have recently added various quality control and inspection points within our welding, loading and painting departments, where team members will use PowerFab to monitor and record certain conditions throughout their workflow and a report will then be generated. Through this, we have been able to identify various areas needing improvement, make slight modifications to our processes, such as changing the way we dry our painted steel and even the paint product we use, and then monitor the results.
Eight months on from Wareing Buildings’ installation of the software and the reaction of its staff to PowerFab and the new insight it enables has been overwhelmingly positive.
We knew that this was going to be a big challenge for us, with around 70 employees to get on board with this new, digital way of working, continued Matt.
However, after a phased introduction, the whole business has reacted really positively, enjoying the enhanced visibility, team coordination and the immediate access to productivity, wastage and cost figures that having such a central information management system provides. Through the trackability and monitoring, they have been able to really see their productivity levels and quality of work improve, providing added motivation.
Tekla PowerFab forms part of Trimble’s Tekla software portfolio, offering a truly connected and streamlined workflow from initial project planning and design through to fabrication and on-site assembly.
As well as Tekla PowerFab, Trimble Connect, Tekla Structures and Tekla Structural Designer, we’ve also recently purchased a Microsoft HoloLens for Trimble Connect, which we’re really excited about. We plan to use the HoloLens both in our fab shop as a means of quality control, enabling us to overlay the 3D model on the fabricated steel component to ensure it matches the original specification, and also on site, helping to solve potential design issues or clashes. This sort of technology really is limitless.