From Ten Hours to Five: Automating Manual Document Review Processes with JJ Rhatigan

Blog - Custom Review Workflows - 19250x1080-blog

Multiple teams are involved during the lifecycle of a construction project. And today vast amounts of data are generated throughout the lifecycle of a project. This means project collaborators must be able to access and easily share the data they need to complete their role.

For one collaborator, a document or plan may be considered as an essential piece of information but for another team, it may be something they never use. That’s why it is important to have a central repository for all project stakeholders to access ensuring employees across multiple teams can work efficiently and collaboratively.

As a tier one main contractor that operates in Ireland and the UK, JJ Rhatigan & Company have multiple offices across Ireland, including Galway, Dublin, Sligo, and Cork as well as an office in London, UK. Established in 1952, the company remains a family orientated operation which has been growing rapidly. 

In the last five years, they have delivered over 3,500 homes for both the public and private sector. And over this same period, JJ Rhatigan’s team have also delivered more than 12,000 school places; nine new third-level campus facilities; 2,000 student accommodation bedrooms; close to 1,300 hotel bedrooms and 16 healthcare facilities, in addition to 40,000 square metres of office and commercial spaces.

Developing Changes to Support Industry Compliance

As an early adopter of Autodesk Construction Cloud’s BIM 360 platform, the team began using this as their Common Data Environment (CDE) on construction projects as early as 2013.  But as their use of the solution evolved along with the functionality available – for example capturing and assigning issues directly from a construction site – they began to explore how they could work collaboratively with the Autodesk team to suggest improvements.

“We’ve been a customer of Autodesk for  almost 20 years now and when it comes to their construction technology, we’ve seen great strides in how they’re continually investing in developing the solution,” says Sonny McAnulty, BIM Manager for JJ Rhatigan. And as JJ Rhatigan’s project requirements developed alongside their rapid growth, they soon realised that having the ability to automate elements of their compliance to industry standards would not only be useful but save their teams – especially their document controller team, huge amounts of time.

Standardisation for Improved Accuracy

Document controllers — who must keep track of project plans, schedules, drawings, reports and models as well as data backup and security — need to enforce consistency and have the ability to make documents easy to share. For JJ Rhatigan, ensuring they use a construction software platform that supports collaboration was critical. But, more importantly they had been adhering to BIM standards for a number of years – mostly dictated by client requirements.

“Our projects either align with the PAS 1192 framework or ISO19650 series of standards” reflects Sonny. “Our document controllers are critical to ensuring compliance on our projects and prior to having workflows that supported compliance in Autodesk’s Construction Cloud, they would have to manually check the content of all documents submitted by subcontractors and supply chain partners.”

Jamie Monaghan and Hui Qi Lim are Document Controllers at JJ Rhatigan and are responsible for managing and maintaining project documents. They must ensure that accurate and compliant information is distributed throughout a project on time and work with several project collaborators.

The breadth and range of the supply chain contractors that support JJ Rhatigan’s projects is extremely varied – from large companies to sole traders. This means, Jamie and Hui Qi must ensure teams are able to upload their documents and files into JJ Rhatigan’s Common Data Environment using the correct naming convention system which aligns to ISO 19650 standards, and know how to navigate the system when changes are required.

“Prior to using Autodesk’s Construction Cloud as our Common Data Environment, I spent lots of time emailing and file sharing project data. It was time consuming and open to both error and risk but when I required changes to files to be made by supply chain partners, I could be waiting days and weeks for the information to be re-uploaded,” says Jamie.

Manual and Lengthy Ways of Working

For the last five years, JJ Rhatigan has been working using  file naming convention procedures, but the document control team needed to manually check that the files were named in the correct way and also captured the correct information.

“In the past, files shared with us from supply chain partners could differ greatly and it would be hard to know the data enclosed in a document from reading the file name alone,” reflects Hui Qi. “When a document was submitted to our Common Data Environment, I would need to assess whether the title complied to the standards set for the project, open the document and check the contents and if it was compliant, I’d then move the document manually to a folder to share it into our Common Data Environment.”

Identifying Improvements

The team at JJ Rhatigan suggested to their Autodesk Construction Cloud customer success team that having a feature that enabled document naming conventions to be enforced digitally by setting naming convention rules would be hugely beneficial to construction customers of all sizes. “We saw that our feedback was listened  to and we were soon invited to a user group to give more detailed input on what functionality such an enhancement would need,” shares Sonny.

Soon they joined a dedicated user group who tested and advised Autodesk which helped to develop this functionality. Workflows to support ISO 19650 compliance in Autodesk’s Construction Cloud were released in early 2021.

“Prior to having the ability to automatically enforce naming convention standards in our Common Data Environment, there could be a lag in project data being shared while we waited for information to be sent again by subcontractors,” says Hui Qi.

“This meant our project teams didn’t always have the information they needed whenever they needed it and this could cause delays. It was also difficult to plan my workload whilst I waited for information to be sent. Now, our supply chain contractors upload their documents directly in our Autodesk Construction Cloud Common Data Environment. They know instantly whether their file has complied to naming standards and if not, they know the reason why the document has not been accepted,” shares Hui Qi.

Slashing the Time it takes to Complete Document Checks in Half

Jamie estimates that prior to the naming convention workflows being made available, he could spend anywhere up to ten hours a week manually checking documents. This has now been halved. “Having greater certainty that the document is named correctly the first time creates standardisation across the project team, and this enables them to know what information is in a file before they even open it,” says Jamie.

“Time spent looking for information has reduced dramatically on our projects,” says Sonny. “Everyone in the project team has access from anywhere to the documents they need, and they know exactly where to go to find them.” 

Expanding Capacity and Variety for the Document Control Team

For Jamie and Hui Qi alongside the wider document control team at JJ Rhatigan, saving time on lengthy and manual workflows gives them capacity to take on more projects as well as helps add variety to their roles. It also supports them in planning their work better.

“The first thing I do every morning is open my emails alongside our Autodesk Construction Cloud Common Data Environment,” says Hui Qi. “From there I check documents pending any outstanding reviews and share them onto the wider team. I have the ability to plan my day better knowing that information I need to review as well as chase.  And, I have reduced the amount of checks I need to do because the naming convention feature does some for me.” 

Consistency and a Common BIM Language

Creating consistency in the way documents are stored and managed allows JJ Rhatigan to have a common language to talk about BIM. “Aligning our ways of working on site and in the office means our teams can move between projects easier,” says Sonny.

“It’s clearer to everyone how we work on projects and how we talk about information on projects, and we can upskill employees by facilitating learning and developing within project teams when it comes to  newer digital construction practices,” reflects Sonny.

Hui Qi says: “I’m able to work on different projects as well as different aspects of projects because time has been freed up from repetitive tasks,” says Hui Qi. “My skills and knowledge are constantly developing as I now support more than double the number of projects than I did previously, but it is more manageable because of the technology I have to support me to prioritise tasks and manage my time better.”

Features to Support Efficiency and Transparency

For Jamie, the data validation feature in the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform is the most beneficial for his day-to-day working; “It’s intuitive to use so other project stakeholders can easily access the platform and upload the information they need to – and I gain extra time to focus on resolving issues,” says Jamie.

For Hui Qi, the project admin activity log gives her the traceability she needs to see changes made to documents creating greater accountability and  compliance on projects.

Working in a more digital way not only fosters collaboration for JJ Rhatigan but eliminates time wasted searching for missing information. It also dramatically reduces time spent waiting for updated information as their supply chain partners can validate their documentation in real-time. For construction projects that JJ Rhatigan supports, storing and managing information which comply with BIM industry standards creates a golden thread of information for the entire project lifecycle too.

“For us,  standardisation of how we manage and share project information has improved the quality of what we deliver by reducing the number of errors through better information sharing and improved collaboration. But more importantly, working in this way has improved our relationship with our clients, our design team and supply chain resulting in true collaboration.” Sonny McAnulty, BIM Manager for JJ Rhatigan

Michael Goehler

Customer Success Manager, Autodesk