As an international multidisciplinary practice offering design consultancy services for the built environment for over 40 years, UK firm Hilson Moran has significantly increased their investment in digital solutions. A change in philosophy came with the successful implementation of Bluebeam Revu, as the firm embraced technology and customised its usage to open a new chapter in the industry-leading firm’s timeline. “We are now entering the fourth industrial revolution, not just in our industry – it's everywhere. And of course, we want to keep ahead of the curve,” explains Hilson Moran Director Vince Ugarow. The curve Ugarow is talking about is the rapid growth of technology in industry, and the firm has already taken another significant step forward to ensure a prime position in this rapidly developing era.
When Hilson Moran first rolled out Revu, the firm went from 10 licences to an enterprise-wide set of 229 licences within a calendar year. After seeing huge success using Revu in a peer review exercise, the company set up a test lab of innovators within the business to better grasp what could be done with the new software. Engineers quickly gravitated toward Revu’s sophisticated PDF markup technology, drawing review, batch overlay, and even custom tool sets, which “the lab” designed exclusively for use by Hilson Moran. Paper use also greatly declined, saving the firm money in the form of lower printing and shipping costs for drawing approvals. “We found real benefits, and I did some measuring looking at just paper use,” says Ugarow. “As a company we do measure how much paper we use across the business. We've done that for the last three or four years now, and it’s a fact that we are using less paper. Reducing that constantly about 30% over three to four years.” Although these business-critical savings and changes began only 18 months ago, they’ve opened the door for even greater collaboration with Hilson Moran and Bluebeam products.
After finding success with Revu, Hilson Moran began measuring the impact of digital solutions to get an idea of how important Revu and future products might be to the business. “We looked at various ways of how we can measure the progress of actually taking on new software like Bluebeam,” explains Ugarow. First off, we have run two surveys; one right at the beginning and we did one last year. We're going to be doing it every 12 months. The surveys we send out to all users with a range of questions asking them: Are they aware of certain functionalities? Are they using them? How often are they using them? And of course, we gather all that data together, and that starts giving us a really good picture to see, from the beginning, how far we’re progressing with people.”
While this may not seem groundbreaking, many firms find themselves in a swarm of technology with no means to measure its impact, fearing that taking time to do so would jeopardise future projects. Instead, Hilson Moran uses real projects to gauge real metrics in real time. “Our view always was, if we can get most of the early majority, followed by the late majority up and running, then that will be a success. We actually think we are way beyond that,” says Ugarow with a smile. “In fact, we're surprised that there are a number of engineers and designers who we thought may not be quite up to taking on this new technology. They're using it now! So, from our point of view, in the 18 months we’ve been using Revu, it's been a real success.” The quick results from the user-friendly platform motivated the Hilson Moran team to dive even deeper into Revu for project collaboration. “Our strategy was to first set up the Hilson Moran Profile, including standard tool sets so we could get all users familiar with using Bluebeam Revu to ensure a competent skill level. We then launched Revu’s Sessions feature. Introductory in-house training sessions were rolled out and further assistance was given on the first Sessions to get the users familiar with the set up.”
The Studio features of Revu pack the punch of Revu’s PDF-editing software with the added ability for multiple users to sign in to the same drawing review sessions, offering simultaneous, real-time editing for users who can be located hundreds of miles apart. These interactive chances for project review can be crucial to teams who are geographically spread out. “What this has given us the opportunity to do is to collaborate with our other offices,” explains Ugarow. “We have offices here in the UK in London, Farnborough, Cambridge and Manchester. We also have two offices in the Middle East; in Qatar and Abu Dhabi. We use two or three of our offices to coordinate the design, so again, Revu’s Studio feature is actually perfect for that.” Given the need for regular cross-office collaboration, the firm decided to add the cloud-based subscription for Studio Prime, which offers all the collaborative possibilities of Revu’s Studio, but with secure administrative controls and the ability to customise the product using an open API for cross-software collaboration. With Prime, Hilson Moran can grant and restrict access, control protocols and safely guard project information contained in the collaborative Studio Sessions through their own IT team and level of discretion. “I think adopting Studio Prime certainly gave us a bit more level of comfort because you know these days cyber security is a massive issue. A lot of our clients are very sensitive in terms of the projects they do but at the end of the day, you can't sort of push against the tide,” says Ugarow. “You know the way the whole IT industry is going to be working is moving towards the cloud, so rather than pushing against that, we'd much rather look at ways to still be in a secure environment but actually use those new technologies.” Hilson Moran’s forward thinking is rooted in 40 years of project experience and the ability to forecast issues and specific needs. “For us, really it was a case of making sure that we've got visibility and to some level sort of control over what's being done. [In Revu’s] Bluebeam Studio, of course anyone can use it once they've got an account can use it. But we thought ‘Well what happens if that person is away on holiday for example, and they are the actual person that set up the Studio session? There's no way of actually being able to retract that data.’ So, what we thought is that if we have Bluebeam Studio Prime, it means that our IT guys, particularly, can actually have visibility of which sessions are actually open or closed or whether we need to perhaps revert leadership of those sessions to another person.”
Hilson Moran’s focus on project efficiency played into the firm’s effort to measure the impact of incorporating Revu’s Studio Sessions feature into their process. “It's very important to try and gain some metrics so you can measure the success of newly introduced technologies,” reiterates Ugarow. “That's certainly something that we did early on in terms of adopting the Bluebeam Studio feature. We did have two projects very similar to one another for the same client. The first one, which was done a year earlier, was really designed using the traditional sort of methodologies, so engineers really had their thoughts together. They drew and sketched their own systems and then merged them together. We had workshops and discussions about how to coordinate those. With Revu’s Studio features, and the second project, we did all that work in the collaboration environment. What we found is that just the sheer number of hours we had recorded during the first version was a lot more compared to the hours spent using the Studio feature. We actually found that if you look at just the production process, [using Studio] was almost 60% more efficient, which was quite a positive surprise!”
The value of Revu’s Studio features and subscription-based Studio Prime within the organisation has opened the door for more intensive project standardisation. Hilson Moran can now focus on progress instead of process, empowering their employees to take advantage of the 60% increase in production efficiency so that they can focus on doing the work instead of on how they do the work. This also enables the firm to apply the workflow efficiency found in the Studio features of Revu, to the work done with specialist contractors and project stakeholders. “There’s going to be some real benefits once we start engaging with external partners, whether it's architects, or structural engineers on the project, or even clients as well. We see huge benefit in that, and I think we're pretty much there to do that on projects now,” elaborates Ugarow. Given the 60% efficiency increase in production, earned by using Revu’s Bluebeam Studio and Studio Prime on projects, working and communicating with project partners will only get easier, giving Hilson Moran a clear advantage within the highly competitive construction industry.