'Our digital future' was the theme of the third and final session at Engineers Ireland's recent national conference, and where members listened to presentations from Brian Martin,Cormac Lyons and Vivian Farrell; and here, in Section B, we consider the content provided by Procad's Cormac Lyons.

Part I on 'Supporting the National Recovery' can be viewed here, while Part II can be viewed here. Part II: 'Sustainable solutions in practice' can be viewed here. Part III: 'Our digital future', Section A can be viewed here; and Part III, Section C here.

Cormac Lyons, managing director, Procad

Cormac Lyons of Procad presented on 'digitalisation' and the process of digital transformation in the manufacturing context. He gave an overview of digitalisation within a customer base and the industry outcomes for those customers; rates of change; and a view of the traditional product lifecycle versus more agile product development. 

Brian Martin, Integrity360 head of product, strategy and innovation

In Section A, Brian Martin, of Integrity360, gave an address on 'Defence for today’s cyber threats'. He provided an overview of the cyber-security threat landscape; wider trends in cyber security, and providing actions that we can all put in to force in order to protect ourselves. Martin also shared slides on benchmarking, resilience and how an organisation can evolve to be more security-focused.

Vivian Farrell, Modular Automation CEO

In Section C, Vivian Farrell of Modular Automation presented on 'Leveraging digital technologies to deliver automated factories of the future'. She gave an overview of Modular's work as a leading medtech automation partner. Case studies presentations were provided by Gerard Kennedy, mechanical design department manager, on digital technology enabling sustainable and flexible automation, while Alan O’Brien, production team manager, spoke on automation enhanced with digital simulation technologies. 

Procad: Digitalisation and transformation in manufacturing

Procad managing director Lyons started off his presentation with two key slides, listed below. Following that, three case studies will be examined.

Case study A: How a digital partnership with Procad helped Kirby achieve design efficiencies

From humble beginnings as a family-run business Kirby Group has grown rapidly to become a leading mechanical and electrical engineering contractor with seven offices in Ireland, UK and continental Europe.

Founded in Ireland in 1964, the company provides services to clients across a range of sectors including data centres, life sciences, industrial manufacturing and petrochemicals. Today, the Kirby Group employs over 1,000 highly skilled staff with a turnover of about €200 million.

The ‘Kirby Way’ involves early engagement, understanding client needs, building high-performing teams and supporting clients through every stage of a project. A forward-thinking focus on and investment in innovation has also helped fuel the company’s growth in recent years.

Kirby’s long standing partnership with Procad, a provider of 3D design and engineering software solutions, has been key to its success in this area. As a leading specialist reseller and a gold partner of Autodesk, Procad helped Kirby adapt the benefits of the latest Autodesk 3D design and modelling software, initially with Autodesk AutoCAD®; Autodesk Revit® for 3D model-based design; and Autodesk Navisworks® project review software to improve BIM coordination.

In recent years, the Kirby Group has worked on several large projects where Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been a key requirement and Autodesk software and the support from Procad has been instrumental in helping the Kirby team get up to speed quickly.  In addition to the Autodesk software, Procad also supplied desktop machines and highly-focused training.

Mark Danaher, technical services manager, Kirby Group, said: “From the start of our partnership, Procad has been proactive in helping us to identify issues and challenges in our existing workflows and how we could best use Autodesk software to resolve them. We started with three engineers in this space and now have 48 engineers working all over Europe. They all need technical assistance from time to time and Procad are always quick to respond with a solution.”

“Whenever we have a problem, Procad drop everything and dedicates staff to resolving it straightway. There’s a great synergy between our businesses. We have given them full IT privileges which shows the level of trust we have in them.”

Revit to the fore

Autodesk Revit was the primary product supported by Procad at Kirby Group. The choice of Revit was a straightforward one. Revit is more functionally rich than competitor’s tools in this space. It is also the dominant tool in the industry for coordination of mechanical and electrical services and architectural design; supports fast modelling speeds, and is widely used by architects and main contractors on construction projects. As Danaher explains: “We jumped to Revit because the modelling on Revit is much quicker than on competitive models. It is more dynamic software. You can automate a lot more. Also, with Revit the drawings are directly linked to your modelling.”

While the use of Autodesk Revit is key to Kirby, it also makes extensive use of the other Autodesk software. According to Danaher: “We use Autodesk Navisworks to review models; for clash detection, 4D scheduling and quantification; Autodesk Vault is our internal common data environment (CDE) which we use to store all of our files and project associated data. Autodesk BIM 360 is used to share approved designs and communications with other contractors while also simultaneously capturing site data.”

The Autodesk BIM 360 software is used across all divisions of the business from design, quality and health and safety to commissioning and handover. Kirby understands that data analysis and insight captured through Autodesk’s BIM 360 module is key to a leaner business and more efficient project delivery.

Reaping the rewards

One of the key benefits for Kirby of the Autodesk software is operational agility. Combining the different software solutions enabled Kirby to digitise their day-to-day design workflows leading to significant time and cost savings.

Previously, engineers would have had to print out 2D drawings and bring them to site but upgrading to 3D versions allows Kirby to visualise much more accurately where pipes and services are going to be running, for example. Site markups have also been digitised and implemented into their paperless workflows.

Having the right information at the touch of a button is key. The software enables Kirby to see potential clashes and risks that might hold up or derail the project, resulting in costly rework. Over and above the design benefits, the Procad solutions make it easy and painless to seamlessly and efficiently coordinate and collaborate with other stakeholders.

Moving forward, Procad is committed to building on the digital partnership with Kirby and Autodesk to drive its ongoing growth.

As Lyons says: “Kirby’s business is evolving all the time. They are updating their processes every day and the software they have has to accommodate and support the changes and improvements to the business. The software and systems they use has to adapt to their needs rather than the other way around. That is one of the things we pride ourselves on at Procad – delivering solutions that make our clients’ lives easier. Thanks to the versatility of the Autodesk solutions and our own internal experience and expertise, we look forward to what the future holds for the Kirby Group and supporting them every step of the way.” 

Case study B: How Procad and Autodesk Vault enabled Logstrup to function during lockdown

“Incredibly fortunate timing,” is how Rory O’Connell, design manager at Logstrup in Tuam, describes the migration of the company’s document management software to Autodesk Vault on February 27, 2020, the same day the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Ireland.

“We wouldn’t have been able to function during lockdown if the system hadn’t gone live. We were so lucky everything was finished and ready to go.”

Logstrup Ireland is a division of Logstrup-Steel, Denmark which provides low voltage power supply solutions to clients around the world. The company was founded in 1958 and opened a factory in Tuam, Co Galway, in 1982 with a focus on Design and Engineering, Manufacturing, Assembly and Testing.

Using the latest 3D design software, the team in Tuam develops complete models incorporating electrical components and customised requirements of the client. Project design, manufacture and assembly are all completed onsite, which allows control of design and quality of the final product.

Making the move

Logstrup were early adopters of Autodesk Inventor but they also used an engineering document management solution that didn’t integrate with Autodesk as well as it could have done. It meant the system couldn’t run the latest updates and the outdated software was holding them back and slowing them down.

“We wanted to use one vendor as opposed to working with multiple vendors and we’ve always been happy with the service and support from Procad,” says O'Connell. “The big leap for us was the decision to migrate from our old document management system to Autodesk Vault. There was a reluctance to make the move because we had so much tied up with the old product. We’ve a huge number of documents, somewhere in the region of 800,000, so it was a massive call to make.”

Vault enables engineering and design teams to create and manage their data effectively and efficiently, making it easier to access, share and update information.

“Logstrup needed a more integrated solution and we’ve been talking to them for years about the benefits of Vault,” says Ray O’Mahony, Procad’s technical manager.

After some initial discovery meetings and testing, Logstrup made the decision to migrate to Vault and the project kicked off in September 2018.

“Procad committed to doing research and testing with us even though at that stage they weren’t making any money off us,” says O'Connell. “Ray and his team looked at our old system and specifications and clarified the issues they thought we might have. We documented each process and what was required and they came up with solutions. Often they came back with ideas that were much more efficient and saved us a lot of time.”

Customisation and challenges

Procad did some Vault training with the Logstrup design team to figure out what was the best fit for them and how they could customise the system to best suit their needs. The feedback was fed into the configuration plans to improve workflows and processes.

“A project like this has to be well planned and organised,” says O'Mahony. “Every step has to be captured. Everything must be documented. Everything must be tested. Then all the documents had to be moved when we were satisfied that everything was ready to go. It can be a daunting process but we got great support and guidance from Rory and the team at Logstrup, that relationship was crucial.”

The goal was to finish the project within 12 months and although it took a couple of months longer than anticipated, it was worth the wait.

“The main curveball was we weren’t able to stop production of documentation, drawings or design work,” says O'Connell. “We couldn’t shut down the old system to transfer everything across to the new system. We couldn’t take a week or a weekend off. Ray and the team from Procad had to work around that.”

“Another hurdle was getting our information from one database system into another and maintaining all the references. Every file is attached or linked in some way to other files so if you lose one, you lose a lot of information. When we went live, everything replicated itself so the files matched up exactly and we’ve had no problems since day one.”

Cross-country synchronisation

With Logstrup’s old system, working off-site wasn’t very efficient. It was extremely slow and tedious. Another major issue was the systems in Ireland and Denmark weren’t linked. The documents on the system in Denmark and Ireland were often out of date or it was a mission to track down the latest version. With Autodesk Vault, the instant a change is made to a document in Ireland or Denmark, it’s replicated in both sites.

“Up to now the design of standard components has been completed in Ireland for the group worldwide,” says O'Connell. “The team in Denmark does a lot of customisation and project-based work using the standard products designed here. In the past, they had to wait for us to send the latest files and then update them for their models. Now they can work on live files and there’s no duplication. We can log on to either Vault so if something happens with the system in Ireland, we can access the Vault in Denmark.”

The support from Procad is another benefit for Logstrup. “It made sense for us to work with a local provider,” says O'Connell. “It’s only an hour from Tuam to Limerick so it’s no bother for someone from Procad to jump in a car, or it was no bother at least, before lockdown. The remote support we get is great and there’s always someone available. I’ve phoned Procad at nine o’clock on a Saturday night when something has gone wrong and someone always answers the phone and gets on their computer to fix the problem. We don’t close here at Logstrup so we need someone available if we get stuck.”

“My only issue is we should have changed to Vault a lot earlier. It’s definitely much faster and more efficient. It’s better integrated with the Autodesk product range and anyone in the company that was skeptical about it beforehand, has come around to it.” 

Case study C: 'Industry embraces modern methods of construction as benefits are realised'

The ESS journey

From modest beginnings in Dublin in 1989, ESS Modular have grown to become an industry leader in the UK and Ireland in offsite modular construction. ESS Modular was traditionally a CAD and outsourcing company that has now transitioned to a BIM inhouse lean outfit, leveraging the best Autodesk technology over the last decade.

ESS Modular currently employs more than 250 people, which increased by 100 people in the last year alone. This was due in part to the increased demand for healthcare projects over the last 18 months, but more significantly has been driven by a big shift across the sector to adopt, embrace and actively pursue modern methods of construction.

The company is engaged in a significant number of public sector projects where there is a focus on maximising the premanufactured value (PMV) of the building which allows the government to see tangible benefits around how quickly buildings become operational. The company has recently secured over £80 million worth of new healthcare projects in the UK and Ireland as healthcare teams realise the benefits of modular construction for the sector.”

Customer challenge

ESS Modular joined forces with Procad three years ago to expand their knowledge and to utilise BIM360 in a more efficient way. “With thorough knowledge and understanding of the current construction trends and requirements, Procad, understood what way the BIM 360 and lean workflows could be tailored to suit ESS Modular,” says Keith Martin, design manager.

A major pain point for ESS Modular was their use of a non-Autodesk platform in the structural department, and their attempts to integrate this into their BIM workflows. This created specific SILOs where cross platform communication was inhibited and at times almost impossible. Also, with external designers and resources using different versions or even different platforms there was zero alignment and costly errors from both a time and quality perspective.

Having operators working from home due to the current climate has had its issues but with the use of Autodesk Cloud technology (Collaborate Pro), ESS were more effective in collaborating, resulting in time saving and improved collaboration.

Project goals

Originally used as just a function of design, the goal was to leverage the BIM360 Platform across the entire lifecycle of the project. The first challenge for ESS was to digitise all their data in the cloud. This was first established with the integration of BIM360 Docs. With this first set up, it generated ROIs from the new 'single source of truth' BIM360 Docs. It gave confidence to site operatives as to the latest version employed across the organisation.

The next challenge was to align the disciplines and remove the silos. With this BIM360 Design (Collaborate Pro) was trialled on a four-month basis. This was increased across the design department as the return was clearly visible once the digital tool was embedded within the lean workflow. Collaborate Pro licenses were implemented and assisted the working from home policy for all the design department.

Business outcomes

With the entire design and document management now transitioned to a digital environment, ESS decided to establish and implement the Quality Assurance/Quality Control and health, safety, and environment management controls into the BIM360 digital platform. To date this transition has been a success across all sectors with executives having visibility through live dashboards.

BIM Collaboration, where the syncing of the models previously was hugely time consuming, demonstrated its worth very quickly across the team. Within a short time frame, it was recognised that using the cloud-based model sharing feature saved as much as 1.5 hours per user per day. This was particularly apparent with the detailed heavy models on a typical project, which could often take up to 45 minutes to sync twice daily – with savings speaking for themselves.

BIM Coordination was hugely beneficial in terms of clash detection, with the ability to interact with live current models, ensured that the team had full visibility. This resulted in eliminating the number of clashes, with an overall reduction of errors on the factory floor – another huge time and cost saver.

“Working with ESS Modular has been a proactive and exciting one” says Sean O’Dwyer, AEC division manager at Procad. “Having the key executives and champions realise the ROIs and work required to digitally innovate an organisation like ESS is one of the biggest benefits to have.

"ESS Modular continue to push the boundaries of BIM and innovation with little if zero impact to their current workflows, be it in the design office, factory, or shop floor. Any changes to accommodate the transformation are met with little roadblocks as the team are very enthusiastic and looking to expand their own BIM knowledge and understanding.”

With ongoing workshops and upskilling sessions, all users both internally and externally are informed of platform benefits and usage. They can question reasoning behind the establishment of the system and workflows. Then the system is then tweaked, and the key BIM champions relay the enhancements to their respective divisions.

ESS are experts at leveraging the very best technology and systems, and this is what makes them market leaders in the Modular industry. Procad is excited to continue working with such an innovative company. 

(Part I on 'Supporting the National Recovery' can be viewed here, while Part II can be viewed here. Part II: 'Sustainable solutions in practice' can be viewed here. Part III: 'Our digital future', Section A can be viewed here; and Part III, Section C here.)