Transforming highways whilst protecting endangered wetlands at Banora Point, Australia
Story in 30 seconds: The Banora Point Upgrade Alliance is responsible for upgrading 2.5 kilometres of highway near the New South Wales/ Queensland border in Australia, part of a major programme to transform the Pacific Highway which runs along the New South Wales coast.
The Banora Point project will ultimately create a six-lane divided carriageway with numerous points of access, a land-bridge, and a 300-metre-long viaduct. It is being constructed near heritage wetlands, endangered ecological communities, protected snails and recreational lakes and local communities, under the scrutiny of local government, community, and environmental groups.
While construction is under way it must be ensured that traffic flow is not interrupted at any of the seven interchanges/ramps along this length. Such a complex project requires tight overall and daily programme management, and after early attempts with Primavera P6, Microsoft Project and other tools, this team turned to Powerproject to create a more consolidated and controllable way of working.
Steve Allan is Project Manager for Earthworks for the Banora Point project, formed between the Roads and Maritime Services, Abigroup Contractors, Seymour Whyte Constructions and SMEC. He explains the scope of the project:
“We have about a 7500-task programme broken down into approximately 70 work areas, with 12 earthworks and structural engineers needing to feed constant updates into the master programme. We used Primavera P6 for about a year for the master programme, with our earthwork engineers using MS Project and structural engineers utilising MS Excel. They would send in their updates to a programmer in Sydney to update the master plan. We switched about halfway through the programme – before that it was a nightmare.
This hybrid was used because each product had its own strength and each was required for various parts of the project, but when Seymour Whyte undertook extensive reviews and selected Powerproject as its preferred product, we realised that this one product could be used instead and we implemented it on the Alliance. We discovered that it was more user-friendly than P6 and it could perform with higher functionality if we needed it.”
The switch to Powerproject allowed them to maintain an up-to-date view of the programme for the first time ever, because it enables multiple users to keep the information absolutely fresh and current:
“We have 12 engineers using the application, and they can all update the programme at once. They are all working independently on different aspects within the same master programme, and our software now supports that. It has speeded up the process immensely – when we were using P6 there was a big time-lag. We never really had an up-to-date programme because the information was always based on engineer updates from a week or even up to a month before. Any issues arising could add a few days more delay. The information was never accurate – but now, the master programme effectively updates itself. I would never know what the status of the whole job was when I needed it, I would always be a few days behind waiting for multiple people to update – now, I have the right information at my fingertips.”
With disparate tools in use, inaccurate information about work schedules between different trades was a particular issue. Steve explains:
“There were clear interfacing risks between trades because the earthworks and structural engineers were using different programmes that never met in the middle. We were always having clashes between activities simply because they were not visible in the same programme. Having Powerproject eliminated the risk of conflicting and mutually exclusive activities being planned in for the same timeframe. This improved conflict planning and general site safety.
The team makes good use of all the features that enable them to test their planning and run ‘what if’ and risk management scenarios. Powerproject allows us to look at the critical path from a master point of view, focus in on critical tasks and ensure that the duration allowed for each is right, running risk/opportunity analysis on each and discussing with key people. We can run scenarios a lot quicker than before, and they are more accurate too. We review the current programme and find risks and opportunities with respect to the current programme. We baseline this then make changes to reflect the realisation of various risks and opportunities and compare to the baseline. If we like a scenario Powerproject allows us to select that option and convert it from a baseline back into the actual programme.
The acceptance of the tool has been strong, with particular appreciation from the earthworks engineers. The earthworks engineers simply love Powerproject, and could immediately see how the software worked when they switched over from MS Project.”
The appreciation of the earthworks team is perhaps understandable, when you consider just how complicated the earthworks challenge is for this project. The team must move half a million cubic metres of excavated material and place 350,000 cubic metres of material and soil in the process of creating the infrastructure – and at the same time, keep the traffic flowing.
“We need to do all the earthworks and construction while maintaining the ability for traffic to flow through seven entry and exit points along the length of the site. There are more than 70 individual work zones that we have defined, within which we have to coordinate work to happen at exactly the right time and move a lot of earth.”
Protecting both the local environment and local community from the potential impact of earthworks is essential.
“Sediment control is our main concern because earthworks create a lot of dirty water. We must control the runoff from the works whenever there is rain and ensure that dirty water never reaches the public or protected wildlife areas. We must be careful as to how we organise sediment control, so that we do not flood either highways or homes and that no untreated water affects local flora and fauna. It involves a lot of temporary pipe work and drainage which must all be planned, constructed and managed with the help of our planning software.”
The team, evidently, has done an excellent job – it has been awarded the prestigious International Erosion Control Association (IECA) premier award. Managing a huge array of different types of activity would be complex without the right tools, especially when they touch on key control conditions which the local government has mandated about, like noise and vibration levels.
“We use the code library within Powerproject to classify and tag different activities by factors such as how noisy they are or the community impact they might have and create filters that let us focus on those activities. Each week we can meet with the community team and easily show on screen any community-sensitive activities like blasting, for instance. This has been a powerful tool for being able to easily communicate about all types of activity.”
The pinpoint accuracy of time planning and resource allocation within Powerproject adds a further level of clarity to their community and stakeholder communications – both in advance and in retrospect, since the solution allows for a clear audit trail as well as forward planning:
“We are limited on some activities in terms of timing, such as not working late and creating noise too late into the evening. At any point we can look at the plan and say that there will be blasting in a particular place, with a particular noise level, at a specific time. It also helps us to respond to questions – if a local resident complains about an activity and they want answers on our previous works programme, we can respond quickly, even though there are 7500 lines of activity. It is easy for us now to look back to the date of a complaint and know exactly what we were doing and what resources were involved. If someone enquires about when something is going to be completed, such as a noise-wall, we can look ahead in Powerproject and give them a clear date for exactly when it will be installed.”
The ability to tag, classify, colour code and report on activities feeds directly into resource planning:
“We use the code library to manage our hours, and tag all the nightshift activities carefully; we look at it every three weeks to ensure we have the right resources on at night, and tag and run reports for different trades and subcontractor types, such as drainage subcontractors. Because we can easily run a report filtered only to show drainage activities; they see exactly what’s relevant to them.”
There are many stakeholders in any government-backed project, and Steve values the reporting capability that Powerproject delivers.
“I roll all the application information up into summaries whenever I need to, such as a high-level program update for the Board of Directors. Now it reflects the detail of the program perfectly because it’s based on the actual information.”
The powerful navigation features of Powerproject are much appreciated:
“I love the way you can move around quickly. Whereas in MS Project you must create summary bars to group activities, in Powerproject it lifts them all into a single window so you can see exactly what you need. It makes it easy to break the job into different areas, and you never have to scroll through page after page of activities to find something. If you have two areas you want to compare and see how they interface, you just click ‘Control’ at the same time and they both appear side by side. The visual navigation capability of Powerproject is one of its very best features.”
The team has experienced a very smooth ride in getting up and running with Powerproject:
“I have only ever had to call on development to help me with one thing – and that was a feature that didn’t really exist involving a custom calculation around quantity and productivity. The support was brilliant – the support guy went away and figured it all out and sent me an email with every single step outlined and screen-grabs to show me what I should be seeing. He gave me exactly what I needed.
To have all this capability, enabling everyone to work concurrently, the investment was well worth it. They just asked me to renew my maintenance license – and I didn’t even have to think about it. A senior manager asked me what I thought of Powerproject, and whether I would take it on to future jobs. I replied ‘Absolutely!’.”
About Banora Point Upgrade Alliance
The Banora Point upgrade includes 2.5 km of the Pacific Highway near the NSW / Queensland border from the northern end of the Barneys Point bridge to the southern end of the completed Tweed Heads bypass. Roads and Maritime Services (formerly Roads and Traffic Authority) has formed an alliance with Abigroup Contractors, Seymour Whyte Constructions and SMEC. The alliance project team will design and construct the Banora Point upgrade. The Banora Point upgrade is jointly funded by the Australian and NSW governments.
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