National Highways chose Skanska, a leading project development and construction company, to install two bridges as part of an improvement project on the United Kingdom’s busy M42 motorway, and they in turn chose Bentley Systems’ SYNCHRO 4D for digital delivery.
Installing new bridges on busy motorways is a complex, high-risk operation for even experienced construction companies like Skanska. Located to the east of Birmingham, the project was highlighted in the government’s 2014 Road Investment Strategy as an important junction lying in an area of dynamic growth. However, the junction did not have sufficient capacity to accommodate traffic growth beyond 2019, even without the new HS2 station.
Traffic congestion and poor journey reliability have constrained investment and economic growth around the M42 at Junction 6. Having almost reached capacity, the junction has become a bottleneck, causing delays across the network. The delivery of the project, therefore, was a priority to support economic growth, increase safety and reliability of the road network, increase capacity at Junction 6, and improve access to key business locations.
To ensure that the operation was carried out efficiently, safely, and with minimum disruption to road users, Skanska used Bentley Systems’ SYNCHRO 4D for a virtual construction rehearsal.
One important part of the project was to install two new bridges across the M42 motorway. In the past, bridges were constructed in position, meaning that the carriageway would need to be closed for an extended period. By leveraging self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs), which can carry the heaviest of bridge sections, that process has been compressed. Today, engineers and contractors do not have to fabricate all sections on site. Now, bridge sections are prefabricated in one location and when all the sections are ready for installation, SPMTs are used to move them into position. This ensures minimal disruption and a safer alternative to working over a live carriageway.
To execute this highly complex operation, Skanska knew that a carefully crafted digital delivery approach would be crucial to project success. Digital delivery means using models, information, and supporting tools to help deliver a digital project, so the team sought Bentley’s SYNCHRO 4D construction modeling software to help them.
Operation Simulations Using Digital Delivery
The operation would take place over a weekend, with the road closed from late Friday until the early hours of Monday morning. The two bridges were constructed in a field adjacent to the carriageway before being rolled into position and installed. It was crucial that the highly synchronized and complex operation proceeded without delaying the re-opening of the road – a particularly crucial point for project stakeholders.
To ensure that the operation ran smoothly, Skanska engineers performed digital rehearsals of the intricate operation, utilizing SYNCHRO 4D construction modeling technology for digital delivery. The software enabled the project team to digitally rehearse the construction sequence multiple times before building the asset. The process of creating the simulation began several months prior to construction. The digital model not only included the permanent works that were being installed, but also logistics information, existing environmental conditions, and temporary works.
The team then ran simulations based on the scheduled program, looking at where plant machinery was moving and assessing the overall logistics of the operation. Based on these virtual rehearsals, the program was adjusted.
What SYNCHRO 4D Enabled for Digital Delivery
By validating the construction plan early in a digital environment, Skanska could better refine the construction plan, while ensuring active involvement, real-time issue raising, and meticulous alignment of works. One of the potential problems that the simulation highlighted was that the bridge on the self-propelled modular transporters clashed with one of the CCTV cameras. That identification triggered the engineers to go onto the site and survey it in more detail. Confirming the clash, they altered the height of the bridge on the SPMTs ahead of the move rather than adjusting mid-operation.
By creating an hour-by-hour sequence of events that was visual and realistic, Skanska could better communicate what would be happening in an informative, straightforward manner. This practice drove stakeholder engagement and visibility, while the customer felt aligned and up to date with Skanska’s work schedule and commitment to deliver.
The development of the SYNCHRO 4D model was a structured team effort, bringing together expertise within the project to survey existing infrastructure, develop 3D models, and build a comprehensive program that represented the work accurately. The true value of the SYNCHRO 4D model comes from integrating operations, supply chain, customers, and designers all working as one team to create a virtual sequence of the solution.
Collaborating for Success
The project was successfully completed, as the construction simulation helped identify any significant issues. However impressive the technology, the real value comes from how it ensures that the project runs safely and smoothly. Skanska’s success relied on unifying the delivery team, supply chain, and external stakeholders around a single source of project truth. Everyone could clearly understand the construction methodology and how each individual role fits into the wider operation. With digital delivery, Skanska was able to drive a one-team approach, where all key project members could input, share, and learn around the SYNCHRO 4D digital model, driving better decision-making and a more cohesive, transparent, and collaborative environment. The team realized that new digital workflows were needed to meet infrastructure demands, making the digital leap to digital delivery.