“The ability to combine time and place in a single graphical time/distance chart introduces a new dimension in the planning”, explains senior planner Vilhelm Darius Nilsen at Norconsult. “As a result, you can explore alternatives very quickly and can make decisions much earlier in the process, providing an extraordinary insight into the project feasibility early on. This is of great value.”
It is not just Vilhelm Darius Nilsen with his career-long project experience that has become fascinated by TILOS. Also public builders Norwegian Rail Administration Bane NOR and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration have found it advantageous to use the tool in the planning of two very large projects, Ringeriksbanen and Rogfast – thanks to Nilsen's curiosity and conviction.
But what has 30 years of planning experience and TILOS in common?
“Well, linear programming is one”, claims Nilsen, who in fact retired several years ago. But he loves to work with planning, so he takes on project jobs all the time. The active pensioner (70) has more or less worked in projects his entire career, with planning, uncertainty analysis and studies etc.
Better Planning Method
“Linear programming is nothing new”, he explains. “The technique was in the textbooks already when I became an engineer. So when the discipline coordinator at the Ringeriksbane project and I were introduced to TILOS last summer we realized immediately the potential of the tool. We both thought that this had to be a better way of planning.”
“At the time, Nilsen & Co. had already started to build progress plans for the entire combined road and rail project.”
“We had in fact begun with MS Project to generate Gantt timing diagrams, but when we got the opportunity to import these unto TILOS we quickly changed to this”, he continues.
A long railway tunnel from Jong to Sundvolden was the sub-project they started up with.”
“The effort gave such good results that Bane NOR became very excited, even though we had little time to make the plan. In parallel I had to learn the program myself, as I just missed a training course and could not wait for the next one. Luckily I got very good help from Trimble when I was stuck”, adds Nilsen.
TILOS, which stands for Time Location System, is purpose-developed for linear construction projects, typically road and rail projects. The tool makes it possible to merge Gantt charts, construction plans, profiles, heights, earthworks, scales, histograms, etc. – and combine them into one time/distance super diagram where you get full overview of the project.
The time/distance chart creates a visual link between the plan and the construction site. You get everything in one screen view. You see task dependencies and constraints in the construction process, and you see if there are overlaps or conflicts between the activities.
Clarity Creates Trust
“The obvious benefit is that you can clearly see on the map where you work and where you go into adits”, illustrates Vilhelm Darius Nilsen, referring to the TILOS tunnel plan. “It is so much easier to optimize the schedule when you see the speed of the work done. You also get the new aspect of simultaneously seeing it in the terrain. When you go into different adits you see where and when they meet, and what can be done to increase the speed.”
“The visualization and clarity of the project; everything becomes much more clear and understandable. It makes it much easier to get a quick overview whilst at the same time providing greater security and confidence to the plan.”
“We tried to calculate the points where adits should meet in MS Project too”, he adds. “But this turned out much more complicated, and you easily lose overview. Here you get everything directly by entering it graphically. In addition you get the benefit of seeing where you are in the map, and seeing in the cross section profile where it is located in the terrain.”
“The profile also visualizes ground conditions very clearly: If you have difficult rock you see this in the colour red, if it is yellow the conditions are better, and if it is green they are good.”
“Even earth removal calculations are simple to visualize in TILOS. You get exact mass quantities and see them in the form of histograms per month. You can also filter and see where and how much is produced in the main tunnel, escape tunnels or adits”, Nilsen points out.
“There are probably none in the project who p.t. expects direct cost reductions because of TILOS. However, there are many ways to take on a development project. There is always a big time saving potential. Methodology and decision making documentation is key.”
“Here you can quickly visualize, document and assess alternatives against one another, hence getting the option to start up sooner. This can quickly lead to money saved. The decision-making process would for sure have been much heavier without this tool”, claims Nilsen.
“In TILOS the plan is documented and presented in a simple and confident way, implying that things can be done faster and more safely. During the process you can also consider the consequences better of doing things in one way or another.”
“In a Gantt chart you have trouble telling when to finish a job and when to start up the next one. In TILOS you see the relationship directly.”
Yes, both is OK
“MS Project will probably not be obsolete going forward, but will become complementary to TILOS”, thinks Nilsen. “TILOS is a superior analysis tool, but many people who are used to Gantt charts in the execution phase, may probably continue to use this. It depends on where you stand and how the tools are being used. They each have their strengths and can nicely cooperate.”
“I also believe contractors can use TILOS with great advantage”, says Nilsen. “They can fill in resources to a greater extent than we do. We only look at the physical feasibility; the contractor must provide the actual resources needed. For example, machines and workers to deal with the earth removal quantities we have visualized.”
A New Dimension in Planning
“Again, TILOS brings a new dimension into the plans and visualizes that you can work on multiple locations simultaneously, with some displacement. You see job collisions very quickly, and how to avoid them.”
“It could have lead to very different consequences for the project if we have not had TILOS to consider the alternatives. The tool is excellent to communicate plans and to control the progress”, concludes Norconsult´s Vilhelm Darius Nilsen.