Leading the World through Infrastructure
Since its start in the early 1900s, Balfour Beatty has easily become one of the most recognizable names in the AEC industry. As a global leader in infrastructure operations, it is one of the few organizations that has the skills and resources to finance, develop, build, and maintain the complex projects needed to drive progress in the industry. A key component to this success is its breadth of services provided in the United States. Balfour Beatty Construction’s U.S. operations maintain 19 offices across three major regions (West, Central, and East) that manage numerous projects all over the nation. Through a vast ecosystem of partners, contractors, and small and large supply firms, it has grown to become the fourth largest general builder in the United States, while maintaining the company’s values of integrity, teamwork, excellence, and respect.
Focusing on IT Infrastructure
In order to stay a leading-edge powerhouse, Balfour Beatty continually looks for ways to improve its operations. Current software tools have shifted from server-based programs to browser based. This caused a shift in thinking as well.
Traditionally, the construction industry has relied on paper documents to execute construction projects. With the rise in reliability and confidence in cloud storage and digital file sharing, Balfour Beatty believed that the shift from paper files to electronic files would be a cost-effective solution that would improve project collaboration.
Breaking Ground on a New Era
In 2011, Balfour Beatty was awarded an $800 million contract to renovate two of the terminals at the Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport. The scale and details of this project necessitated a better electronic document-management solution than what was currently in use. Security, ease of management, and granular permissioning were all critical components identified for this project. The team evaluated several potential solutions, including Egnyte, based on a recommendation from a DFW Airport employee. After comparing the performance and features of the different products, Egnyte was determined to be the right solution. By deploying Egnyte, Balfour Beatty virtually eliminated the need for paper documents on the project.
Deploying the Egnyte Hybrid deployment with Storage Sync, project team members were able to upload all of the necessary project documents, including large drawing sets and specifications, bid sets for review, permit sets used by the DFW Airport inspectors, and safety protocols from the job site, even when Internet connection speeds were slow. All of the thousands of pages of project drawings and specifications were loaded locally onto an instance of Storage Sync running on a virtual machine (VM). The software handled the process of replicating the information to the cloud where it was then available for access by everyone associated with the project. With the device on a job site, project managers, project engineers, subcontractors, and anyone with the proper permissions could then quickly access those files onsite without concern for the potential speed limitations of the Internet connection, while the synchronization to the cloud made those same files available to others.
Due to airport security regulations, Balfour Beatty needed a way to tightly control access to all the information related to this project. Access permission to files and folders are set in the cloud, and those same permissions are enforced on the local Storage Sync device. This allowed the team to easily provision users, set notifications, and control security and privacy settings from a centralized interface. These settings included granular user permissions at the folder and subfolder level, and role-based administration to allow for administrative-right delegation.
"We needed a simple process for managing our project documentation. One single source of files for everyone involved is more efficient and reduces the issues of people working off of the wrong plan set. Updated documents are available almost immediately in the field,” said Pistor. “With Egnyte Storage Sync, project plans can be pulled up, modified and synced back to the cloud, providing project managers and engineers the most up-to-date versions."
Balfour Beatty estimates that the digital-document process using Egnyte reduced their drawing reprographics spend on their scope of work by over $1 million. DFW Airport’s estimates put that number closer to $5 million in cost reduction over the entirety of the projects, primarily due to the elimination of printing costs associated with thousands of pages of project drawings. Further benefits were realized as superintendents were able to stay in the project site and did not have to travel back to the field office to review drawings since their iPads, connected to the same drawing set on Egnyte, were used to access the files in the field.
As the successful implementation at the DFW Airport project continued, questions arose about the scalability of this process to other projects. Would the same benefits be realized on smaller projects? After piloting this solution on the nearly $1 billion DFW Airport project, the solution was implemented on much smaller interior renovation projects with similar results.
The success achieved on its early pilot projects led Balfour Beatty to use Egnyte on additional projects across the country. Whether it’s building a hospital, hotel, corporate office, government building, or retail center, Balfour Beatty has realized the benefits of having a hybrid deployment on multiple projects. Egnyte’s Hybrid deployment model reduced the impact of connectivity issues, while providing the necessary version control that satisfies their record-keeping requirements.
Balfour Beatty entered into an enterprise agreement, establishing Egnyte as the standard enterprise file service company-wide. Currently, Balfour Beatty has more than 30 large-scale projects and five times as many smaller projects using Egnyte Enterprise File Services. This platform, coupled with iPads for mobile access and project documentation, has been a tremendous success.