How Barhale have transformed their team's short term planning behaviour with Aphex
"For me, the biggest impact was the behavioural change that Aphex is introducing, rather than the technological"
If you are building tunnels or water infrastructure in the UK, undoubtedly you will know or have worked with Barhale. As one of the largest privately-owned construction companies in the country, Barhale has a reputation as a high-quality partner for any large infrastructure projects. The company has around 900 direct employees and is bringing their expertise to some of the UK’s current megaprojects such as Thames Tideway.
“To take advantage of the experience of our teams, we take a unique approach to planning”, says Jose Lopes, Planning Manager at Barhale. “Our Project Managers hold the primary responsibility for planning. In fact, we have just 3 dedicated Planners in the southern region. If Project Managers can't plan, they’re not Project Managers”. By keeping planning responsibility with those that know each project best, this approach gives Barhale exceptional confidence in the quality of their overall master planning.
With tremendously reliable plans at the project level, Jose tried many ways to help their teams translate that information to the field. Like every good construction professional, he attempted to solve the problem himself by devising and deploying an intricate spreadsheet for company-wide short term planning. It didn’t take long to realise that spreadsheets were never going to be the answer. Site teams were wasting time with the process of inputting and updating data, and the complex template required serious spreadsheet skills to operate without breaking.
After seeing teams emailing the partially complete plans back and forth, the real challenge became clear. The business needed a way for their experienced teams to quickly and simply build their lookahead plans in a collaborative environment and allow their planners to have oversight of the process so that they could provide support wherever it was needed.
One platform, many benefits
“Aphex came just in time” notes Jose, who first saw a team at BAM using the software on Thames Tideway. With the acute lookahead planning problem at the forefront of his mind, Jose decided to run a trial on a Barhale site. “We immediately saw the benefits”, says Jose, who within 3 weeks implementation was telling the rest of the business to ditch his spreadsheet in favour of Aphex. “Each team that we deployed the software to were up and running in no time and really saw the benefits right away”.
After running an internal survey to assess the efficacy and impact of Aphex, Jose was able to identify what exactly teams thought of the change;
Engineers on site reported that the ability to work together in one live programme and have visibility over daily progress or changes drove much more reliable plans.
Planners love the comfort they have in knowing exactly the state of each team’s lookahead plans and the clarity they have on who to hold accountable.
With accurate performance data generated automatically and available whenever they need, Managers feel much less stressed and in control of project performance.
“Aphex makes you more aware of changes and how to capture them. You’re one step ahead planning wise”.
Changing the way our teams work together
What started as a potential solution to an inefficient and complex lookahead planning process surprisingly has delivered much more for Jose and the team at Barhale. They have now strengthened their lookahead planning process across the business and in doing so, brought the whole team into the detail and ownership of each site’s plan.
Whilst on the face of it, Aphex makes a clear financial impact, with teams saving around 5 hours per week on smaller projects and 15 hours per week on larger projects, it is the intangible benefits of visibility and control that make the biggest difference. As Jose says, “to have foremen looking at programme logic and understanding the detail, that’s a massive win... that’s impressive”.
“For me, the biggest impact was the behavioural change that Aphex is introducing, rather than the technological”
How Does Barhale Deploy Aphex Internally?
While Aphex offers a unique and one-on-one onboarding service, Barhale has its own way of doing things.
When a new project is won, Jose’s Planners get stuck in and help each project get set up onto Aphex by adding the team and importing their 12-week lookahead. The new team takes advantage of Aphex’s regular webinars or project training to become experts in lookahead planning.
Once they’re ready to roll, they have a tight process that everyone follows. That process looks something like this...
Daily, the foreman or construction manager (with engineering support) will update Aphex and make any necessary changes. In some projects, this task is with the engineers and the agents.
Weekly, the team will review their plans for their planning meeting, and then use Aphex’s printing functions to print and distribute their plan to the team after the meeting.
Monthly, the Planners will update the master programme and Aphex in line with each other, to make sure they are both in sync.
“Aphex is helping in the process of developing short term planning with its software. Being flexible, with a user-friendly interface, and allowing you to pretty much plan accordingly - it’s an ideal tool”