The City of Newcastle is a local government organisation in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. When forced to work remotely in early 2020, the council overcame traditional management obstacles to achieve a rapid digital transformation that propelled their engineering technology forward 20 years in just 4 weeks. A “generational change” enabled the effective transition to working from home “without losing a day’s work.” This set a course of evolution for the council that would far outlast the crisis.
Challenges solved by 12d Synergy
- Remote working with large complex datasets
- Collaboration with staff and external delivery partners
- Full project data management: emails, documents, drawings, and models
After six years at SKM, one of Australia’s largest tier one engineering consultancies, Richard Clarke (Senior Civil Project Officer) joined the City of Newcastle. He quickly realised that the council was “20 years behind in its technology and approach to engineering design.” Change was resisted, and budget for innovation was scarce. But this began to change…
A New Normal: Working from Home
In early 2020 when COVID-19 entered our vocabulary and communities, many businesses ground to a halt, spun out of control, or worse shut shop. City of Newcastle like many organisations pivoted to working from home. However, the engineering design team faced a challenge in doing so due to the large complex datasets they use. “Data integrity and speed was of prime concern for us,” Richard stated.
The council had three options:
Option 1: Connect to Server via VPN
Richard tested working over a VPN and was “instantly made nervous”. What normally took 30 seconds to download and open in the office took 10 minutes from home. This raised a number of concerns: “What if the connection dropped out? How would the data integrity be? Would models become corrupted?”
Option 2: Duplicate to Local Drive
Working from their local drive had “obvious problems” Richard explained. This workaround creates multiple copies of the project, triggering version control risks. Poor discipline would also cause files to become inaccessible on local drives – or worse, lost altogether.
Option 3: A Data Management System
The third option was a data management system that would provide industry “best practice” for data storage, management, and transmission. Richard was immediately drawn to 12d Synergy due to its integration with 12d Model, the department’s primary design package, its version control system, and the flexibility for hosting 12d Synergy.
Watch: Rapid Digital Transformation with 12d Synergy: City of Newcastle’s Story
Watch Richard Clarke (Senior Civil Project Officer) from the City of Newcastle share how the entire team seamlessly transitioned to working from home in a talk presented at the 2021 12d Tech Forum.
Rapid 4-Week Implementation
The rapidly evolving pandemic evoked an “emergency response mindset with management”, enabling business-as-usual processes to be bypassed. This allowed the lightning-fast deployment of 12d Synergy within just 4 weeks, a system that would transform how they work.
“That’s 4 weeks from through bubble to management approval, to installation on servers, to initial customisation, to user testing, to fully rolled out and operational with the design and survey teams,” Richard explains. “By local government standards that’s as good as it gets.”
Richard says that their rapid implementation was “an amazing example of what can be achieved when management, IT, the end user and the vendor all work together towards one goal.”
“Working from home provided a huge opportunity to rapidly deploy not only a new piece of software, but a new system that would ultimately transform the way we work.”
City of Newcastle’s Digital Transformation
Working Remotely with Large Datasets
12d Synergy’s Intelligent Data Transferring enabled City of Newcastle to work remotely with large engineering datasets. 12d Synergy only downloads and uploads the files that have changed, not the full project each time. This greatly reduces the amount of data transferred and minimises transfer time, enabling large data sets to be worked upon remotely.
‘Folder of File’ Management
12d Synergy’s Managed Folders provides a best-in-class solution to safely manage ‘folder of file’ software programs, such as 12d Model. This feature ensures all shared and referenced files are correctly downloaded, and all changes are safely captured, minimising the risk of data corruption. Moreover, only the file deltas (partial changes in files) between versions are stored on the server. This significantly reduces storage usage and eliminates the need to create an management milestone backups.
Version Control & Rollback
Another benefit for Richard and his team was 12d Synergy’s check-in check-out system. This ensures “there’s only one source of truth because local copies are locked unless checked out.” Additionally, 12d Synergy creates a full audit history of the project, automatically tracking the ‘who, what, and when’ for each version of the file. This “gives us the capability to rollback to previous versions if needed.”
Data Sovereignty for Council
The flexibility of hosting 12d Synergy was of prime importance. “There are legislative requirements that councils in NSW must physically store data within the state. Being able to manage 12d Synergy on our own server, or in a NSW-based data centre with 12d Synergy Cloud was appealing.”
“If you’re thinking why change, reflect on this… we don’t know what challenges lie ahead. City of Newcastle certainly didn’t when it embarked on its digital transformation. But doing so allowed us to transition to working from home effectively without losing a day’s work.”
Due to the popularity amongst staff and positive outcomes, City of Newcastle continues to offer the flexibility to work both in the office or from home.
Tip of the Iceberg: Engineering Common Data Environment
What started as a tool to survive a crisis has developed into a long-term data management solution, with many “unexpected and substantial benefits.”
“It was only when we implemented 12d Synergy that we released it can do so much more; that it was an integrated system for managing all project data – not just a tool for 12d Model.”
Richard moved all project data into 12d Synergy for all active and new projects. This includes all engineering models, CAD drawings, emails, reports, plants, and documentation.
Improved Collaboration with Contractors and Consultants
City of Newcastle draw on external contractors and consultants to delivery its design services. Previously external partners worked in isolation from the system and “just transmitted a predefined set of deliverables at a predefined date”. Whereas with 12d Synergy, external parties have been brought into the system with controlled access and permissions. This has significantly improved collaboration.
Simple & Easy Email Management
12d Synergy’s Outlook integration enables simple ad easy management of emails. Emails are stamped and then automatically stored with the project in a predefined folder. Attachments are also managed and associated with the email they originated from. “It’s very easy, just 10 seconds to store the email and attachment.” The result? “A simple, easy, clearly identifiable and consistent list of emails and associated attachments across all our projects.”
“12d Synergy is my preferred platform for managing MicroStation,” Richard shares. “You enjoy version control, file check-in, naming rules, faster data transmission, and smooth application functioning due to working from the local drive.” Drawing templates can also be created and managed in a central library, ensuring staff always work from the correct canvas.
“Just as XTree revolutionised file management in MS DOS, 12d Synergy is revolutionising data management in the era of remote working. 12d Synergy is simply the next step along our evolutionary path in data management. It’s not a matter of if, but when to take that step. Just don’t let yourself fall 20 years behind again.”
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