An Employee Centric Digital Transformation Journey with SBE

With a history spanning over 30 years, construction and engineering firm SBE has consistently embraced innovation to deliver exceptional projects. The firm's reached the latest milestone in its digital transformation journey: A Common Data Environment (CDE) for all projects established with the help of Autodesk Construction Cloud.  

Belgium-based SBE creates innovative civil engineering and electromechanical solutions for projects worldwide. The company focuses on five specialities:

  • port, river and hydraulic engineering
  • civil engineering and infrastructure
  • urbanism and landscaping design
  • industrial constructions
  • electro-mechanical installations.

A Journey to BIM

Over a decade ago, SBE started using 3D design solutions for their buildings, infrastructure and electromechanical projects and turned to Autodesk's Revit, Civil3D, and Inventor solutions. But the focus was primarily on creating drawings and extracting material quantities, with limited emphasis on information management and collaboration across disciplines. 

SBE transitioned their approach to focus on BIM, recognising the need for holistic information management. They standardised the exchange of information across disciplines to ensure data continuity throughout the design process. 

The award-winning Royers Lock project in Belgium was the catalyst for change. Royers lock is one of the gateways to the Port of Antwerp Bruges, Europe’s second-largest seaport, and this was SBE's biggest project at the time. With the increased levels of information needed, it was the turning point to showcase the importance of a Common Data Environment (CDE) to facilitate collaboration.

Royers lock was one of the first projects that SBE worked on entirely in BIM with the client. Discovering how much easier it was to coordinate a vast project team using a Common Data Environment (CDE) became the catalyst for change. 

"That project was key to the change we're undergoing now," says Kevin. "We really saw the added value of the CDE for setting up workflows, centralising mark-ups on drawings, communicating about approvals and so on. It was the turning point for us to make the step to Autodesk Construction Cloud."

Extending the benefits

As with any digital transformation journey, SBE needed to extend the benefits of BIM beyond their BIM department alone. For Kevin De Maesschalck, SBE's BIM manager, integrating BIM across the organisation meant transitioning project teams to new working methods.  

SBE's needs were two-fold: A platform to author 3D models instantly in a cloud-based solution and workflows to centralise and standardise the management of reviews and issues. 

 Autodesk Docs and BIM Collaborate Pro, Autodesk Construction Cloud products, were pivotal in creating a centralised platform for SBE. 

"Our real challenge was exchanging information and changing models without losing data," says Kevin. In the past, three or four colleagues could mark up plans but might do so by email or on different versions of a PDF, meaning they didn't see each other's mark-ups. Likewise, client mark-ups were separate. Confusion over conflicting notes on plans was almost inevitable." 

Kevin worked with cross-departmental teams to ensure the whole company was aligned with its digital ambitions. Before digitalising the complete operation, cross-company surveys quantified the pain points, and a multi-disciplinary team then mapped out the ideal workflows and solutions. 

"We estimated how much time we were losing because we didn't have a CDE. By applying our hourly rates, we could estimate an increased turnover by making everything more efficient and centralised. That was the key to showcasing the benefits of a CDE to our management," reflects Kevin. 

With the HR team, new roles were established, such as the role of BIM Engineer. The team established roles and responsibilities to develop streamlined new processes. And by integrating SBE's ERP system, the team could set up a complete Autodesk Construction Cloud project with one click, thanks to Autodesk Forge.

Getting buy-in from staff and clients

To ensure the entire team was ready to transition to Autodesk Construction Cloud, Kevin worked with SBE's marketing department on a roll-out plan. They created an 'Autodesk Construction Cloud is Coming' campaign, with information on SBE's internal comms platform, giving insights into Autodesk Construction Cloud and its benefits for the company.

An introduction event was organised and everyone received a handy guide and an invitation to book an internal Autodesk Construction Cloud training. While everyone did initial training on the live platform, Kevin also ran refresher training directly before teams began to work on their first project in Autodesk Construction Cloud.

Likewise, Kevin runs information sessions for SBE clients who haven't previously used Autodesk Construction Cloud. "We try to involve our clients as much as possible. We organise information sessions to show them how Autodesk Construction Cloud works and how to set it up. We can show them the insights they gain, the traceability of what we're doing and how we're evolving. It's a quality check but also about transparency and building a relationship with our clients.'

The result: gains in transparency, time and insights

By establishing a CDE in Autodesk Docs and a digitalised mark-up and revision workflow, SBE has improved quality through more rigorous quality checks, eliminating the risk of communication gaps. Internal teams and clients can easily communicate on a plan or drawing and the status of a project.

"It's really good to have that overview, to be able to hand over an up-to-date version, which we couldn't guarantee before," says Kevin, "and also to make sure that we handle everything clients give us. It's so important and a big benefit."

Standardising processes internally and externally means instant time-savings; all parties are now aware of the process and status of the design. 

"As a BIM coordinator or project manager, it was hard to get a complete overview of progress in the past, but now it's straightforward. You can see how many issues are still open, where there are pain points and what has been finalised. It means less frustration for everyone, including engineers, managers and clients."

To ensure SBE continues to gain maximum benefit from Autodesk Construction Cloud, Kevin says they plan to regularly review how it is used, understand any change in stakeholder needs and accommodate new functionality offered by the platform.

 "Our focus now is on establishing what's going well and what could be better. And that is how step by step, we improve our templates. That was one of our key takeaways. In practice, you need to review every time and then evolve. You cannot stop evolving."

The future of work

SBE's journey to standardisation has seen all projects established in Autodesk Construction Cloud. This data operability helps the team to reduce data fragmentation and promotes better collaboration. 

"As of 2022, every project is handled on Autodesk Construction Cloud, no matter its type or size. Without exception, everything goes on Autodesk Construction Cloud from the moment a project is ordered, and we're assembling a project team. We set up the complete Autodesk Construction Cloud project from our ERP system with one click." – Kevin De Maesschalck, BIM Manager, SBE.

Looking to the future, SBE has seen asset owners driving the market forward. For example, The Port of Antwerp Bruges – an Autodesk Construction Cloud user and SBE client – has been centralising project information to optimise handovers and maintenance processes. A construction management solution ensures a seamless transition from design to engineering, construction, and maintenance stages. And for SBE, using Autodesk Construction Cloud's Bridge feature, data flows seamlessly through the supply chain, enhancing collaboration and efficiency with this key client. 

"We've achieved internal efficiency and enhanced client satisfaction by embracing technology, standardising processes, and prioritising collaboration. Our focus on embracing emerging technologies means we remain committed to providing sustainable, high-quality solutions that meet our clients and the industry's evolving needs," concludes Kevin. 

Learn how to use Autodesk Construction Cloud to connect workflows, teams, and data at every stage of construction to reduce risk, maximise efficiency, and increase profits by visiting our Learn ACC centre.

Interested to learn more about the Royers Lock project by SBE? Click here to find out more

Guillaume Neyrinck

Customer Success Manager, Benelux