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March 12th, 2008
Sweden: Managing the Northern Link Project

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image_northernlink_tunnelThe construction of the Northern link is one of the biggest road and tunnel projects in Sweden in terms of scope and budget with a cost of SEK11.6 billion. The procurement of contracts is also extensive. All in all, there will be about 40 contracts for the construction works.

Per Erik Björkman works on concurrent engineering [1] at the Northern link. I met up with him over a cup of coffee one day in February, 9 months after the start of the construction of the Northern link. The planning and design work, along with geotechnical investigations and other necessary preparatory works have been in progress since 2006.
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My task is to coordinate all the documents and all the information of this great project and one of the most important things is to keep all the documents in order” says Per Erik Björkman.

The Northern link will be a link in the peripheral route around the Stockholm inner city area and be part of the E20 European Highway. The part of the link that is now to be built will be 4 km long and will run between Norrtull and Värtan, with a connection to Roslagsvägen at Stockholm University. Most of the link will be housed in tunnels. The Northern link is designed to solve traffic problems in central Stockholm. This, in turn, will reduce air pollution and will make inner city streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
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The Northern link will take nine years to build (2007-2015) and is estimated to cost SEK11.6 billion. Bilfinger-Berger, Hochtief, Veidekke, Oden, NCC and Skanska, are just some of the Swedish, Nordic and European companies will take part in the project.

Nine years is a long time and imagine how many people who will be involved working with this vast project. We use the Chaos system to keep the documents in order” says Per Erik Björkman.

What is Chaos?
Chaos is a software system developed by Chaos systems AB for information management, which handles document as well as drawings. In the first place the system is used to enable a digital flow between different operators within one or several projects. The purpose of the system is to facilitate and support the users’ work in a cost-effective manner. Chaos is used by the Swedish Road Administration (SRA), as well as other companies working in relation to SRA.
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{sidebar id=91}Gunilla Sandström works as a project leader at Chaos systems AB, developers of Chaos. When I met her early in the morning, she was just about to time estimate another Chaos project. “I believe there are several advantages with a good document management system, both in the perspective of a larger business economy but also for the individual. For a company this means re-use of data, time efficiency, knowledge transfer and renders a guaranteed quality possible. For the individual it means knowing which document is the latest version, which drawings are delivered and also provides control of the tender documents and where to find them” says Gunilla Sandström.

The document management of the Chaos system was put forward in 1996 at the initialisation of VST Northern link. The software system was intended for delivery, distribution and archiving of projects for external consultants and contractors. It was also designed to support the project’s handling of information by the connection to the project model of SRA. The system was aimed to be used by advanced concurrent engineers.

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In the beginning the software contained only one database and 20 users operating over a local area network. Today, Chaos contains more than 1,000 databases, has about 3,000 users of which 2,000 are active, whilst the Internet has become an important part of the data communication. Chaos users work at various of levels and have different needs depending on which stage of the road process they operate in.

Today we are 350 people working with Chaos at the Northern link, and there are still just a few contractors getting started” says Per Erik Björkman.

How can Chaos help in large projects?
The system works with an event log, a version handler and Meta data, describing the content in the file. All this secures a quality, guaranteed product as well a quality guaranteed digital flow. Chaos handles all types of files but separates drawing models, drawing definitions and drawings, even though they sometimes have the same file type. The information and the type of handling can be different even if it is the same file type. External references and layer references in drawings and in drawing models are supported.

{sidebar id=93} “What takes a little more effort to learn is the name conventions of SRA. To know it by heart helps a lot – I must say it is necessary – when you are searching the databases of Chaos” says Per Erik Björkman. Drawings have their special convention as well as text documents. To get an old version of a document is as easy as getting the latest version.

A well expanded search function is built-in and searches for file name, type and content of Meta data as well as searching within the event log.

Therefore it is possible to see exactly when the user has entered the system and if he or she has read a document or look at a drawing” says Gunilla Sandström. Chaos uses a SQL database where all the data is stored. This makes an extensive search possible, of Meta data, files and actions. There is also a built-in function for ordering external plots of files.


The tree structure
Chaos software uses all types of documents and doesn’t have any demands of a special type of naming or structure. All types of projects can be included within Chaos.
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In the tree structure you are able to build structures of folders and documents” says Gunilla Sandström and continues: “You can control access by authorization settings in the tree and you can also search, handle version, and lock and so on”

With the Northern link project we mainly use the structure tree to look at tender documents, contracts or which documents that are current for certain contractor” says Per Erik Björkman. “The structure can be tied to a certain version or if you like – the latest version. The files are linked to the tree. This work is created by me or by a consultant/contractor. It depends on what you have decided.”

Among all the companies involved in the Northern link, there are always a number of people who receive and deliver files to Chaos. These links also exist as files in the tree structure. The reason why not everyone gets and delivers files to Chaos is not because it is too advanced but because it is a practical issue. Deliveries are made by drag and drop to a so called Job.

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Jobs in the Northern link
For an easier handle of a large amount of document there is something called Job. Job helps you to add documents to the tree structure or to get a quantity of documents from the tree” says Gunilla Sandström.

Per Erik Björkman uses Chaos’ Job in his daily work. A normal course of events is that a contractor puts a document in Chaos for a review. The documents are uploaded – a job is created – and an order of paper copies of the job is made. The review is either made at the paper copy stage or digitally in Chaos, as you prefer. After the review the contractor adjust the document and puts it back into Chaos. Paper copies are ordered for the construction area, and if required, the documents are linked to a tree structure in Chaos – one for the reviewed version and another tree branch for the final version.

Per Erik Björkman and Gunilla Sandström both agree about the importance of document management and order, especially in large projects like the Northern link.

The Northern link will improve the infrastructure and competitiveness of the Stockholm region. It will create opportunities for housing developments and places of employment as well as provide better connection to Värtahamnen, which is one of Sweden’s most important ports. I’m glad to be a part of this project and see that is all works so well” says Per Erik Björkman and finishes his coffee.

Anja Jonasson is employed at Chaos Systems AB, Solna, Sweden
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[1] Concurrent engineering is a business strategy which replaces the traditional product development process with one in which tasks are done in parallel and there is an early consideration for every aspect of a product’s development process. This strategy focuses on the optimization and distribution of a firm’s resources in the design and development process to ensure effective and efficient product development process.

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