Mercury is an Irish contractor that specializes in building and managing complex engineering projects across Europe. Its reach and scope enable the delivery of leading-edge construction projects across a diverse array of industries, including data centers, life science & technology, building services, healthcare, fire protection and technical support services (TSS). Mercury’s culture is also deeply rooted in a rigorous approach to health and safety practices across all industries. The firm employs more than 2,000 people and had an overall turnover of €770 million last year.
A key principle held by Mercury is to continuously invest in cultivating a culture of innovation and improvement. The company has a proven record of investing in the excellence of its people and using cutting-edge technology and construction software to improve processes. It employs a BIM department of approximately 130 BIM personnel located around Europe. In addition to its strong BIM offering, Mercury also has multiple digital transformation focus groups and champions across different regions and business units that drive the introduction and utilization of new technologies. This growing team is supported by multiple opportunities and investment provided by Mercury in continuing education and training.
That said, “you need more than great BIM teams and technology champions to be a leader in digital construction - to best serve clients, a variety of training programs, systems and procedures are required, and you need the best facilities and equipment,” says Group BIM Manager Sean Dowd.
Evolution of BIM 360 for Digitized Processes
Mercury started with the idea to digitize its processes, then identified key projects and tasks that would gain the most value from digitization.
In 2017 Mercury piloted Autodesk BIM 360, a cloud-based software for sharing information through real-time and mobile formats across the construction lifecycle. The company began testing implementation within its data center Business Unit on two projects, one in Frankfurt and one in Amsterdam, and has since rolled out a single standard of use across the whole firm.
Due to the rate of growth its business has experienced, more than doubling its revenue over the last two years, growing from €375m in 2016 to €770m in 2018, Mercury recognized an opportunity to change how it works to be more efficient.
The company started with the idea to digitize its processes, then identified key projects and tasks that would gain the most value from digitization. Specific goals set for Mercury’s digital transformation for construction were:
- Consistency on all projects and regions
- Ease of use of digitized processes
- Access to trained users
- Benchmark across projects using the data analytics to highlight areas of improvement
- Economies of scale.
Before implementing BIM 360, Mercury used multiple tools across different projects, some of which performed an overlap of functions. Mercury decided that by implementing a single software solution for all of these functions, the company could increase efficiency by recording consistent data and better benchmark projects against one another and lessen the time required to retrain staff on multiple software solutions.
Before selecting a singular software provider, Mercury laid out a thoughtful roadmap for how they wanted to operate differently. This roadmap would determine what a central solution should achieve and made the mission clear:
“To ensure that all Mercury projects use one standard field software and set of processes for the following engineering functions:
- Design Collaboration
- Document Control
- Engineering Management (RFIS & Submittals)
- Progress Tracking (daily Reporting)
- O&M Generation.”
The team then went through an intensive comparative analysis with multiple software providers, rating each on its ability to facilitate the company’s goals before selecting BIM 360.
“You need more than great BIM teams and technology champions to be a leader in digital construction - to best serve clients, a variety of training programs, systems and procedures are required, and you need the best facilities and equipment.”
- Sean Dowd, Group BIM Manager, Mercury
Challenges and Strategy in Driving Adoption
Even at a company like Mercury, with a culture built around innovation, change can be hard. Convincing their people, clients and partners to adopt a single solution and change their processes required a deliberate and thoughtful adoption strategy.
The company started conservatively, piloting the tool with just a few key stakeholders within the data center Business Unit.
Aisling Goff, Regional Quality Manager at Mercury, admits that she wasn’t convinced initially. “Change took time for the test team, myself included,” says Goff. “However, over the course of the last year I have done a complete turnaround and I’m now a key person in spearheading adoption and training...and I wasn’t alone in completely changing my mind.”
Construction teams are typically focused primarily on delivering high quality projects on-time, on-budget and without incident, however mandatory process documentation & reporting was consuming a lot of time. It can be difficult to convince busy employees to take time to learn new processes, however, when the pilot managers witnessed how BIM 360 automated the manual & mundane reporting chore, they also welcomed the new solution. Soon they too began advocating internally for BIM 360 to be rolled out on all projects in order to enable them to refocus on what they do best, construction!
For complete rollout, the team created a careful hierarchy of supportive training and defined stakeholder roles in the implementation process. The approach has multiple deliberate strategies:
1. A train-the-trainer hierarchy: This has commenced with in-house specialists training nominated account admins in a classroom environment and construction teams being trained in the field by project admins. All are supported by Autodesk technical support.
2. Properly defined user roles: Business Unit Leads were called upon to drive organizational adoption. Quality Leads and Document Controllers have been nominated as project admins and tasked with driving the ‘boots on the ground rollout’. Internal ‘BIM 360 Champions’ have been given responsibility for serving as admins, standardizing projects & processes between BIM, IT, Scheduling, Analytics, Quality, Safety and Engineering.
3. SOPs: Before training and inter-company communication began, the team of champions ensured 1 new standard operating procedure was defined and fully supported by updated internal SOPs documentation, checklists and project templates across all departments.
4. Internal Communications: Communication did not stop in training; an internal marketing campaign runs across all company communication templates advocating the new standard of operation for using BIM 360 as a single source of truth.
5. Metrics & KPIs: Lastly, with the help of Autodesk Customer Success, the team created measurable KPIs to track success against these three primary goals for implementation: increased adoption, project handover and transparency in the business.
From tracking onsite labor performance to changing how project data handoffs and internal communication occur in preconstruction, to methods for presenting scheduling information to clients, the list of tasks Mercury is digitizing is multi-faceted and continues to grow as they adopt BIM 360.
“We're receiving feedback from our EHS team that the system’s ease of use is making for ease of rollout. When our EHS Manager trains his teams on site and shows them how the system works, they wave him away saying, ‘It's grand, we have this.” says Ali Wallace, Digital Projects Lead.
A similar report comes from the company’s classes given by Goff. “It's such an intuitive system. Most of our guys can operate an iPad. From there the software is so easy. What we're training them on is our process...how we want them to manage different items. Once they go out on-site and start using it, if they have a question or two, they can go to the site champion who can address it there and then.”
In addition to ease-of-use, efficiency gains are winning-over adopters in the field.
“Now onsite managers aren’t trying to figure out if that email that they received weeks ago is still relevant, because we have a system that says, ‘yes, this issue is still open or no, it is now closed’. So, they can spend more time keeping labor working in the field, rather than doing paperwork. With one system showing real time information there is no need to go back through email chains or ensuring excel sheets are up to date, this frees our site management to continue with value added tasks,” says Aisling Goff.
All of Mercury's metrics have shown consistent improvement since the adoption of BIM 360.
Key Successes with BIM 360 Construction Software
Mercury has identified multiple benefits of using BIM 360 to digitize their workflows so far:
- Transparency, handoff and accountability in design review
- Transparency in tracking quality and punch out
- Ease of tracking and benchmarking subcontractor performance
All of their metrics have consistently shown improvement since the adoption of BIM 360. Currently, they have a whopping 169% increase in adoption for NextGen projects; a 36% increase in ‘Classic Projects’, and they report a total of 43 projects using BIM 360 currently.
They also have a detailed roadmap for continued use case adoption. Including a specific roadmap for digitizing processes in Health & Safety with 17 trial projects in flight, new targets for mobile usage and new database integrations for a push towards a true ‘single source of truth’ across all project data.
Mercury’s project team is not doing this alone. They have a set schedule of feedback and voice-of-the-customer sessions with Autodesk to ensure all users can articulate opportunities for improvement and use of the software. Autodesk is ready to support all its customers in shaping the future of digital construction. Mercury took full advantage of the partnership in allowing internal users to work directly with Autodesk support to drive the solution.
All is exemplary of a culture that does not assume a finite destination for continuous improvement. Rather, Mercury is applying the efficiency gains by taking time to be receptive to new project ideas that come in from its planners. With the consistency of information it's now gaining across regions and projects, they are collecting insights into best-performing subcontractors, employees and teams within the business and units. The team then analyzes to see what further learnings can be implemented in future projects.
Mercury’s strive for continuous improvement comes from their determination to be a leader in digital construction. This is summed up by Mercury’s Head of Communication & Change Gary Widger who states, “Embedding digital technology across our operations is essential to Mercury to ensure our employees, supply chain and clients can maximize their performance. We have continually invested in digital transformation initiatives to connect our people, share their insights and experience to help deliver better projects. The goal of our digital transformation is that we get the best technology to the people who deliver value for our clients – our Mercury people, it’s our commitment and promise.”