It is not very common in this industry, but for infra-specialist Leeuwenstein Group their choice was quite clear: they wanted an ICT-manager to be responsible for all of their ICT. In other words, hardware, software and support. A single-minded Tim Heiland, as ICT-manager, makes conscious decisions about this to maintain as much control as possible as a company. ‘But with the best possible resources for specific purposes’, says Heiland. ‘This is how we came across M-Files and their premium partner GeONE for optimization of our information management set up at project level. We have not regretted this for one moment…..’
The Leeuwenstein Group from Geldermalsen is an infra-specialist in the ‘mid-segment’ as they say. ‘Because of our compact and diverse composition, we can serve a broad spectrum of contractors’, says Tim Heiland to start his story. The Leeuwenstein Group is sub-divided into five companies, all affiliated with the family Van Doorn: Van Doorn Geldermalsen, Signa Terra Dover Verkeer, Ecoleon and IMS. Van Doorn provides a clean and secure infrastructure, Signa Terra for municipal and private green factors, Dover Verkeer for the deployment of traffic measures, Ecoleon for sustainable outer spaces and IMS for fast and adequate solutions for calamities, damages and failures. According to Heiland: ‘It is important for our companies to share knowledge and expertise and to strengthen each other in our work. We do this by being innovative. A total of about 325 employees work in our family company. All five companies stay in close contact with each other, on the one hand because they are all part of the family businesses of the Van Doorn family, on the other hand, because it is mostly ancillary work and services that are being provided. Family ties provide short lines. This makes working together very pleasant and also different from working with ‘normal’ business partners’.
Contractors at the Leeuwenstein Group are institutions related to the government, such as the Department of Water Management, provinces and city councils. All of their various work responsibilities demand maximum support and are all project oriented. Heiland: ‘This work demands great adaptability and flexibility of its people and equipment. If there is a disaster somewhere, for example a truck tips over on the road, we are called upon to deal with the case. This presents a sudden and dynamic situation. Traffic measures need to be taken, equipment needs to be provided to clean-up and remove material, the road surface may need to be repaired, people must be available, in short, few of these matters are readily predictable, but many do occur regularly, so you can still respond to these; especially given our experience’.
Providing structure to information flows, with a flexible product that can evolve with us
But this will not (always) be enough. Experience is good, sharing information and knowledge is even better. Heiland wanted to include more structure in the information flows between the different companies. And as is the case for many businesses, he wanted to organise this internally. ‘Since then, my approach has shown that this approach works. However, it is important to work with standards, with products and services that are flexible and capable of moving along with developments in the market. This applies to all of the ICT facilities that are used by the Leeuwenstein Group. Users keep expecting more these days and, in this situation, I feel more comfortable when I can pull the strings myself’.
They do need to be the correct strings. Strings that don’t break when you pull them. Heiland: ‘The construction and infrastructure worlds are quite traditional about some issues. ICT is such an issue. You always need to demonstrate that something really works before being authorized to take the next step. In recent years I have been able to demonstrate that with the developments and support of ICT within the Leeuwenstein Group, it is heading in the right direction. The ultimate goal is to line up the whole organisation as it were, to be able to take the next steps as a company with the correct support of ICT’.
Information management for the next level
Where there were still great opportunities was in information management of information accessibility around the many projects within the Leeuwenstein group. Heiland had the ambition to take this to a next, higher level. ‘We have grown because we have proven to be a reliable partner and to deliver a good cost/performance ratio. In addition, within civil projects, contractors are increasingly being asked after completion of a project to take on all of the related maintenance. Such a maintenance obligation is commonly for a duration of at least ten years. The (State) Government will then only take on the role of Principal/Director, and further does no (or increasingly less) executive tasks. For follow-ups, maintenance of the road or the outdoor area for example, we will then be asked to be involved. However, it is quite a big task to keep all of the information about such a project together, organised, and accessible, to maintain all of the relations and to manage all of that. There are many different references and different types of documents, including many technical documents, certifications, etc. that are often related to each other. This information was previously kept on network drives, and then eventually, the information as well as the relationship between documents, drawings, certificates etc. can no longer be found. In addition, ten years is quite a long time. During that period, there are many staff changes for specific projects and we regularly work with external employees. The management of and access to relevant information thus increasingly started to become problematic’.
M-Files fit in seamlessly
Heiland was after a solution that would be consistent with the wishes and requirements of Leeuwenstein related to access to, management of, and especially findability of information. ‘In doing this, we wanted the information to be secured from access by unauthorized persons. It is about important information that is not for ‘just’ for everyone to see or to be shared.’
M-Files turned out to be the solution that seamlessly connected to all of the above wishes and requirements, and premium partner GeONE fitted in well with the mindset and approach of the Leeuwenstein group. Heiland: ‘The intelligence in the software to be able to manage information easily without compromising safety and findability, really appealed to me’. The solution was actually found quite quickly. ‘A list of EIM solutions was short-listed, itemising the demands and wishes of Leeuwenstein and this quickly brought M-Files into the spotlight’, says Heiman. One of the reasons for this were the General Data Protection Regulations. When we conducted our search about one and a half to two years ago, it turned out that M-Files was already completely prepared for these. Add to this the approach taken by M-Files to how it deals with information, by distinguishing between what the information is and not where it is stored, plus access rights to specific information, and the decision to choose M-Files was made quickly’.
‘With M-Files, users are much better able to find all relevant information. Take the example of the overturned truck and its lost load: there will be established protocols on how to act, what information must be provided to other parties and who should become included in the process, what equipment is needed, what additional (technical) information about road/pavement/road spillages is required, which materials and machines are needed for any damage to the road, what is needed to remove the load etc. This means much, complex and often technical and related information. No-one wants to be searching for this on all kinds of network drives at the critical time, while wondering what someone may have named a specific document when they saved it. This information needs to be accessed quickly, completely, and in a current state by those who need to attend the location of the accident as quickly as possible. With M-Files, we are able to manage all of this information consistently and consequently relatively, so that our people can get to work straight away and can share it (safely) with others who are involved. Other relevant information that might be relevant to such an incident, will emerge immediately due to the intelligence in M-Files, even if it is stored in other references. Finally, with M-Files you always keep the journey to new developments open. It is a consistent way of operating and it is also very flexible’.
M-Files makes all information available quickly, completely and up to date
The first phase of the project consisted of deploying M-Files for about 50 people. ‘It is starting to take off well. Because we are transitioning at a steady rate, it is not such a drastic change for users. It is now obvious that those who are now familiar with M-Files, no longer want anything else. When users save information at the front in a smart and intelligent way, you can get maximum benefits from this at the back of the system. The M-Files software is so intelligent that it creates links between existing information itself. Information is now available (for those who have access rights) through all of our platforms; this integration is very good. As ICT Department, we only use M-Files now, also to be able to show others that it really works. We use the system for all of our documents, including our supplier contracts. As a result, we can follow supplier arrangements, manage, control and consult much more quickly and efficiently’.
M-Files completely fits in with the philosophy of how the user wants to work.
‘In the new future, we will be rolling out M-Files further to cover other job responsibilities within the Leeuwenstein Group, such as HR, fleet management, etc. and thus across the entire business in the long run. The intelligence and integration capabilities of M-Files have allowed us to take considerable steps forward in information management. M-Files fits in perfectly with our philosophy of doing work as the user wants to and not to make the user work as we as ICT or management want them to. It’s not about hard work but about smart work; by using M-Files.’