Oktra are a design and build contractor that delivers commercial interiors, specialising in office space. The company work across a wide range of clients – from small offices to large commercial spaces where they support a number of different projects with varying requirements and finishes. Their client-base is vast – ranging from banks and law firms to technology companies and gyms.
As a design and build contractor, Oktra often work on high-profile and high-speed projects with short timescales. Their delivery timelines can be as short as 14 weeks so their approach to methodology and delivery is crucial when executing projects. For the team, having the right software and processes to support high-speed, real-time collaboration is paramount.
Matthew Bidmead, BIM Manager for Oktra, is responsible for the design and delivery of the company’s Building Information Modelling (BIM) adoption strategy. This began with the implementation of Autodesk’s Revit – a design and documentation solution, supporting all phases and disciplines involved in a building project. Oktra initially used Revit to allow live collaboration with a client based overseas, but the team quickly saw the benefits that technology like this could bring to all projects. Matthew leads technological roll-outs across the business, including defining standards, templates, content, and training employees to use new systems.
As the world began to grapple with the effects of Covid-19 and the subsequent government lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, the team at Oktra shifted to working remotely. As the team got up-to-speed with collaborating in a virtual world, they decided to pilot using Autodesk’s BIM 360 platform on projects led by their team in the North of England. This helped to help remove any obstacles in accessing high-resolution project models remotely.
The pilot team quickly adopted BIM 360 to aid collaboration and help with sharing information, storing project documentation and providing a single source of truth for project data. Members of the team began exploring more and more of the functionality that BIM 360 offers such as the ability to mark-up drawings directly on the models and identifying how to apply changes to their projects in flight. To see the functionality in action, the team used BIM 360 for a virtual project review meeting with a client based in the USA. During the meeting, they used BIM 360 to host visuals and share drawings from their Autodesk Revit models. As they captured feedback on the drawings during the course of the session, the team were able to mark these up in real-time and, once the session finished, were able to re-submit a fresh set of drawings to the client which captured the comments and changes discussed.
“Our client was so impressed by how we were using technology to collaborate and capture feedback in real-time, and how this enabled the project to move quicker even though we were all working remotely,” says Matthew.
The success of this project collaboration led Oktra to review their end-to-end design and build processes and the software they used to support them. “We wanted to simplify and standardise our ways of working to add value to our operations – both internally and externally,” recalls Matthew. “We soon realised, to do this successfully, we would need to adopt software under the same umbrella which would scale with our needs.”
Matthew reflects: “The need for better collaborative processes is so much more when everyone is separated from each other, so technology plays an important role bringing the team together. When you have many people working from multiple platforms, there’s a risk that communication can breakdown and document control can go awry. Whilst we were well equipped to work remotely as a result of Covid-19, the effects of the prolonged period of remote work accelerated our need to adopt software that is more secure and stable, providing a central source of truth while enabling our teams to better manage change, version and document control.”
“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic our team has realised the importance of good document management. When working remotely as a team, you don’t want to be checking five different platforms and systems for the same thing – you want to go to one place and know that it will be there. For us, adopting Autodesk BIM 360 was fairly easy as it’s very intuitive to use,” says Matthew. “In fact, we’ve been able to replicate previous processes used on other platforms within the software which helps colleagues learn how to use the technology quickly. BIM 360 is a spectrum and there’s huge scope to use the different features and functionality more on many of our processes,” remarks Matthew.
Not only has BIM 360 enabled the team to work more seamlessly in a virtual world, but it has influenced other teams across Oktra to engage with digitising some of their traditional ways of working and also identified other areas that technology can support. “…BIM 360 has shown us how we can drive continuous improvement through better insight and data. We’re planning to use the approvals workflow on projects – it will help bring another layer of accountability to our projects so the team can understand why issues arise and then use this information to improve what we do in the future,” he adds.
The team are also looking to use the issues functionality to better capture live project data. Matthew says: “For me, this is all about iterative improvements… Our projects are very fast paced so we can take a flexible approach to the way we do things, and this will help us test new ways of working and provide us with data to support these discoveries.”
For Oktra, the next step in adopting the technology is focusing on how it can support external collaboration with supply chain partners and the company’s ambitions to be a digitally driven company. “From a sustainability angle, we’re committed to becoming a paper-free organisation, so this technology is another step towards that. BIM 360 will touch on all aspects of what we do – from the supply chain partners we choose to work with and the way we carry out our quality control processes, to how we approach recruitment,” says Matthew.