Willmott Dixon strives to construct brilliant buildings, using state-of-the-art technology to deliver innovation.
Its industry-leading reputation for having some of the industry’s best project managers was confirmed at the 2020 UK Construction Manager of the Year Awards, where Willmott Dixon people secured seven out of 16 available medals – including a Gold Medal for the Construction Manager behind an ambitious project to mark The Mayflower’s 400th anniversary that was delivered with the assistance of the Southwest team.
Construction Manager, Kristian Cartwright, led team that built The Box, an interactive visitor centre that will attract thousands of tourists to Plymouth city centre, and this was his first Gold Medal at the Awards.
The Box is a powerful example of creative vision, precision planning and strategic execution working together. And it was executed with Powerproject software by Elecosoft.
Challenging existing approaches
Willmott Dixon prides itself on using innovative products to challenge existing approaches and improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness. A major part of this commitment is investing in cutting-edge technologies like Powerproject.
Five years ago, Willmott Dixon transitioned away from a generic project management solution towards technology with proven construction credentials. The company invested in Powerproject project management and scheduling software, rolling it out across all regions – including the relatively new Southwest team, based in Exeter.
“Our national planning team has worked closely with Elecosoft to customise templates for our business, planning and reporting needs,” says Kristian Cartwright, Construction Manager for Willmott Dixon’s Southwest team. “I get a lot of support with the software from our local and national planners, but if I have direct queries, the team at Powerproject are always really helpful.”
From ‘what if’ to ‘what works’
Powerproject proved critical when Kristian and his team were contracted for a £28m construction project marking 400 years since The Mayflower set sail for the New World. To celebrate this milestone, Plymouth City Council wanted to upgrade its local museum facilities. However, the scope quickly expanded into an ambitious project to transform the City Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library and local church buildings into an interactive visitor centre.
“We needed the ability to reschedule and analyse our critical path, exploring the ‘what ifs’ as labour and material needs changed,” Kristian explains. “Powerproject helped us quickly plan our logistics, drop lining the programme to make sure the site was never swamped with deliveries, and tradespeople weren’t subjected to tight working conditions.”
Continuous value engineering
While the project scope grew, the budget did not. This meant Kristian needed to be economical in his material choices and organised in his approach. Using Powerproject, he devised innovative ways to claw back time and hit financial targets, such as using 11-metre-high steelwork soffits with foam insulation to support 14 ships’ figureheads, which were suspended from a fire-rate slab.
“We used a continuous value engineering process with our customer and design team to substitute or omit materials and processes from the scope of work,” he shares. “Powerproject allowed us to realise the impact of these changes on resource levels, and run several baselines to track progress and benchmark ourselves against our original plans.”
With time and budget under pressure, Willmott Dixon needed reassurance that its standard of service could be maintained – and Powerproject delivered this peace of mind.
“We placed key quality milestones on the programme, which acted as hold points for us to check quality before proceeding,” Kristian assures. “We also allotted time for statutory authority visits to review the building as it was opened up.”
Working together to prioritise decisions
In addition to enabling critical site visits, Powerproject fostered close working relationships, as Kristian and his team kept both subcontractors and Plymouth City Council up-to-date as the scope of work increased.
“With Powerproject, we could present a simple list of completed works and upcoming works, along with an appraisal of our critical path,” Kristian advises. “This enabled us to set priorities for the client decision-making process.”
A new cultural icon for Plymouth
By using Powerproject to plan and manage construction, Willmott Dixon navigated hundreds of project variations without compromising budget or programme, delivering a new cultural icon for Plymouth city centre. The Box, Plymouth History Centre is already receiving rave reviews, with visitors commenting that “a lot of money has been well spent on this attraction”, “it is stunning” and “a must to visit when in Plymouth.” And a well-managed, technology-driven execution programme has meant Willmott Dixon’s Southwest team received equally glowing customer feedback.