How Vestas keeps a vast wind farm team feeling small and connected
The Mutkalampi Wind Farm is Finland’s largest wind farm consisting of 69 wind turbines and 35km of transmission lines. With a capacity of 404MW it will account for 2% of the country’s annual energy production when commissioned in 2023.
The €478 million project is being developed by Neoen, a French renewable energy developer, and Prokon Wind Energy Finland (Prokon Finland), a subsidiary of Germany-based Prokon Group. Vestas Wind Systems (Vestas) was selected to deliver the full engineering, procurement and construction turnkey solution including civils and electrical works.
Joao Dias, Planning Manager for Vestas, was responsible for leading and implementing the project’s planning and scheduling processes and digital strategy. This included the project’s full planning and reporting stack, from site diaries through to short-term planning, works programme management and project reporting. Integrating the three major specialist subcontractors (Civils, Substations and Transmission Lines) into the project’s planning processes at BoP (Balance of Plant) stage was key to successful delivery.
How Vestas Implemented a new Short-Term Planning Approach
Like many other contractors, Vestas’ previous approach to short-term planning was managed at a project-level, designed to meet needs on a project-by-project basis using spreadsheets and meetings, a similar approach to how the project’s supply chain had previously planned their projects. From previous experience delivering construction projects outside of the UK, particularly those not being delivered to NEC contracts, Joao has seen varied planning practices and standards. He knew the typical spreadsheets and whiteboards approach would result in major coordination issues between teams and the supply chain.
Empowering Engineers and Planners from the three specialist subcontractors to own the short-term plan was a key part of the new planning approach, but there were notable differences between their previous approaches to planning and what was expected on the Mutkalampi project.
“I previously built simple plans using spreadsheets, areas of work were drawn up by the Site Manager using pen and paper.“ Kimmo Soini, Project Engineer at Destia
To successfully integrate the supply chain into the new planning approach Joao put together a comprehensive training plan that started with a 3-month period producing full works programmes to key project milestones (level 2/3 planning). This was followed by a pull-planning approach that involved breaking-down work into a detailed short-term plan in Aphex, with the team working together in a weekly project planning routine. Supported by the Aphex Customer Success team, teams were provided with training and drop-in sessions to familiarise themselves with Aphex, and the new planning process.
“I picked up Aphex in a couple of weeks. Compared to spreadsheets planning in Aphex is quicker and easier and there are fewer mistakes.” Kimmo Soini, Project Engineer at Destia
Co-Ordinating Site Work and the Supply Chain
The project spans a vast geographical area (approximately 40 km2) with teams spread out across various sites and work fronts in addition to many working remotely. Connecting a massively dispersed team was a major challenge and key to ensuring the on-time delivery of the project. Utilising digital tools connect the project team and stakeholders was a key part of Joao’s digital approach.
“Connecting the entire team to a single live plan to allow real-time collaboration and with an easy-to-use interface for the team, for me using Aphex for short-term planning was an easy decision.” Joao Dias, Planning Manager at Vestas
Destia, part of Colas Group, was selected as the project’s main Civils subcontractor. Destia had several subcontractors within their Civils scope and coordination of work on site between contractors was a challenge. Access roads needed to be constructed before Wind Turbine Generator (WTG) foundation works could begin, and the WTG builders needed 2-3 weeks lead time for material deliveries. It was key for contractors to coordinate the completion of access roads enabling access to key work fronts.
With Aphex, work in the short-term plan could be visually mapped on site location drawings, enabling the team to communicate around the plan in a visual format. This meant clearly understanding where work was happening, physical interfaces between work and easily identifying issues in the plan, such as clashes.
“We had many work areas at the same time and key dependencies between work, and also rescheduling based on delivery of reinforcement and concrete so it was important to have automatic clash detection.” Kimmo Soini, Site Engineer at Destia
Connecting the Team and Project Stakeholders
As Neoen’s largest wind power asset globally, on-time delivery of the flagship project was critical and the weekly submission of the short-term plan was a key contractual requirement and means of reporting progress to the client. With short-term plans being owned and built by the key specialist subcontractors, consolidating and reporting various spreadsheets would be a major time-consuming headache for the project’s planning team.
“With a client wanting to know what we were executing on a weekly or sometimes even daily basis, an online tool like Aphex was the only way to plan. Updating and exchanging spreadsheets on a daily basis would have been very difficult.” Joao Dias, Planning Manager
With the entire supply chain planning in a single Aphex project, everyone had visibility of the entire plan and changes in real-time. Joao and the Vestas planning team were now avoiding spending hours every week consolidating spreadsheets for client submissions. Instead, the client was given controlled access to a digital version of the project plan in the form of both a Gantt chart and visual Maps.
“Without Aphex I would spend half a day or a day a week reviewing and consolidating Subcontractor plans into a weekly project lookahead to submit to the client. The visual maps would have taken even more time.” Joao Dias, Planning Manager at Vestas