Construction of the £485M, 43km long M6 toll road is racing along, ahead of its January 2004 completion date. A major factor in its timely completion is set to be the decision of CAMBBA (a joint venture between Carillion, Alfred McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and AMEC) to use Causeway Collaboration.
The basic system specification was for a web-based collaboration tool for the sharing of 4,500 design documents. The system would have to be user-friendly and to serve up to 650 users in a dozen locations.
Causeway's system has two main functions.
First, it serves as a web-based repository for word documents, CAD drawings and specifications, with different levels of access provided for interested parties. Secondly, it provides document management for memos, requests for information (RFI), and submittal forms.
Design manager Richard Jones had a simple way of converting doubters to the project: 'I explained that it is an electronic filing cabinet at its core with the formalised submission of information for approval. We created a filing structure based on type of document, section of road, discipline and status.
This made it easy to find files from the thousands available at any time.'
To purists the system is a hybrid electronic filing system because all designs are scanned and converted to PDF files to which comments are added. When the designer receives comments changes are made to the original print design. The reason for this is the sheer size of design files when transported from the original design application (AutoCAD or MicroStation) and even more importantly, the need for one, and only one, master copy of any given design.
Halfway into construction Jones has little doubt that collaborative products like this are forging new ways of working: 'You can never go back to paper-based working practices, and with large projects like this the number of people gaining experience grows and the learning curve reduces as they move on to other projects.
'Causeway's solution makes the design process far faster. The old days of waiting for the post to arrive, or not, are over.'