Success Story HZI with Roland Gassmann

Basis for Success StoryRoland-Gassmann

Basis for our Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) success story is an interview held with Roland Gassmann, Senior Project Engineering Manager at HZI, as well as information provided by HZI and our responsible internal project manager.

Within HZI Mr. Gassmann is responsible for managing the entire engineering activities and processes of turnkey EPC projects. Starting with the pre-basic and basic engineering to the final handover to the customer, he is responsible for all technical specifications, the document management and handling as well as monitoring of contractual agreements and compliance with contracts towards the customer and the suppliers.

Introduction Company / Background


HZI is a global leader in energy from waste (EfW), acting as an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor delivering complete turnkey plants and system solutions for energy recovery from waste. Their solutions are based on efficient and environmentally sound technology, are thoroughly tested, can be flexibly adapted to user requirements, and cover the entire plant life cycle.

HZI employs about 600 experts with over 25 different national backgrounds. About 450 employees are working from HZI head office in Zürich and travel to teams at the constructions sites if required. The company is currently managing projects located mainly in Europe (e.g. England and Poland) as well as in the Middle East.

HZI has been our customer since 2006.

SOBIS products in use:

  • PIRS – used for project based document and correspondence management since 2006
  • PIRS:Claim – used for project based management of changes, variations, claims, risks and opportunities since 2011
  • PIRS:Sourcing – used for cross-project as well as project based supplier and resource management since 2016

Challenge HZI faces during execution of large EPC projects

The main challenge HZI is confronted with especially when executing large turnkey projects is based on the large distances that lie between their head office in Zürich and the individual site locations. It is essential for an efficient project execution that HZI team members are able to quickly and securely exchange documents regardless of their location and this is not possible using any common form of correspondence such as e-mail or a postal service.

Also, the correct document handling is very important. Besides having a core-team of about 20 people at the project site and another 100-120 team members working from Zürich, HZI is also confronted with high fluctuations of team members during project execution. At times new engineers join the team 5 or 6 months after project start and the project manager needs to ensure that all team members regardless of location as well as the time they have entered the project, will work with the newest revisions, have an overview of the status of all documents they are responsible for, and work according to HZI standards.

At all times the document workflow must be traceable without any gaps and time frames must be upheld according to the agreed and contractually settled schedule.Here it is nessecary to be able to include all important correspondence, especially the correspondence that relates to the various document revisions such as customer comments or submitted information and documents received from suppliers. A gapless documentation therefore, is not only essential for HZI internally but also a requirement in terms of the final document handover to the client who also requires a complete documentation.

General Challenges for HZI:

  • Quick & secure document exchange between various locations
  • High level of document transparency and traceability to ensure on-time delivery and cost control
  • Implementing cross-project standards for processes, consistent workflows and project correspondence to compensate for high fluctuation of project members

Prior to introducing PIRS, HZI stored all documents on the main drive of their internal file server, all team members copied documents to their local client and worked with their copy. Therefore, it was hardly traceable which copy was the latest version.

The sending of documents to the customer or supplier was also done locally from within the personal mail box of various team members. It was difficult to track which document version had been sent to the customer or supplier and especially if and when a document had been sent exactly. If the respective team member was not available, his correspondence could not easily be accessed. Therefore, each team member and even the project manager was only able to access correspondence they were involved in directly as sender or recipient or that had been filed manually in a central folder.

In addition, internal approval processes were not as transparent and required a lot of manual work as well as paper printing. In order to approve a document, it was first printed and reviewed, then comments were made on the print-out which was then scanned in and forwarded to the next in line to give his approval. Each person required to approve a document would therefore print, then scan in each document he needed to review.

Roland Gassmann summarized the situation prior of introducing PIRS as follows:

“In general, there was a lack of transparency. […] It was difficult to keep track of currently valid document revisions and the status of the latest documents, whether or not they had been sent to a third party and if HZI was working according to schedule. […] Also document related correspondence including a complete record of the correspondence history could not be traced. […]

Therefore, we were looking for a system that would allow us to centrally manage all documents and revisions. At the same time we wanted to introduce a central document handling standard and controlled document workflows while also enabling us to include all our project correspondence.”

Challenges prior to introducing PIRS:

  • Significant manual labor for document management and handling required
  • Large amount of printed documents – multiple copies per document revision
  • Lack of cross project consistency for the management of documents and correspondence
  • Lack of transparency especially in terms of document status, current revision and correspondence history
  • Missing overview of current project status
  • Loss of important information included in project e-mails
  • Lack of easy reporting


  • In 2006 PIRS was first introduced within HZI. The document and correspondence management solution was first tested in a pilot project then launched to support the execution of all on-going and future projects.

With the introduction of PIRS three key elements of project information management were adjusted and centralized. First of all, documents including a well defined set pf meta-information was now managed with PIRS. To reduce the manual labor required to upload and update documents an interface to the CAD system HZI is using, COMOS, was implemented allowing the automatic transfer and update of technical documents created within the CAD system. Secondly, the various HZI approval workflows were integrated directly within PIRS enabling the automatic implementation of the correct workflow based on the document meta information. Once the workflow is started, each responsible is then notified when his approval is required, he can include his comments directly in PIRS and at the same time approve or reject the document revision. Based on the provided information the document status is set automatically, and next actions as well as notifications are send out automatically as well.

The third area that was improved was the project correspondence and general information management. By including a direct interface to the personal mailbox of each involved team member as well as the integration of project mailboxes, all project related correspondence was sent and received in PIRS. Correspondence threads and the entire correspondence history could be trace. Especially correspondence related to documents such as the sending of documents to the customer and supplier as well as the receiving of comments was not only supported by the system but directly linked to the respective document(s).

Mr. Gassmann describes the improvement of access to meta information, the guided approval process and communication with externals using PIRS:

“For each document the current valid revision is apparent to all team members. Also, for each revision all important meta information such as the the expected submission date to the customer or from the supplier is available in PIRS. When a new document revision is created, either manually or in Comos, there will also be a new revision in PIRS and the previous one is set to invalid.

For the new revision the internal approval process can then be initialized and traced within the system. After the internal approval process the document is sent to the customer or supplier directly from PIRS and by sending the document the required response dates are set automatically. These dates are not only set within PIRS, but also automatically communicated to the recipient(s). We are able to follow up on our submission deadline and the deadline for our customer or supplier for replies or comments on documents. This allows HZI to remind the third party before the due date and this in turn allows us to keep the agreed time-schedule. 

Key factors for introducing PIRS

  • High level of transparency
  • Improved time efficiency supports realization of on-time delivery
  • Vast offerings of reports
  • Cost savings especially due to less manual work
  • Easy cross-project introduction and implementation of HZI standards regarding processes and approval workflows
  • Able to handle easy and secure exchange of several thousand documents per month and project
  • Global approach allows integration of all team members regardless of location

Current turnkey project managed with PIRS

Ferrybridge Multifuel 2” project in England:

  • HZI has the role of EPCM
  • Expected project duration – three years
  • Expected number of documents that need to be exchanged with the client and various suppliers – 100.000 technical documents
  • Number of involved suppliers – between 80 and 100 suppliers


The benefits HZI is profiting from are mostly measured in time and cost savings. Mr. Gassmann sums up the main reasons for these time and cost savings as follows:

“Especially within projects that require the management, sending and follow-up of over 100.000 documents and revisions, we are able to save time as well as costs. Using the provided PIRS filter and search options, we are able to quickly find and retrieve exactly the information and the documents that are currently needed, and with the elaborate reporting section it is possible to get an overview of the status of documents as well as a current project update with just one click. In the past we had to manually maintain separate Excel lists that included the key information of each document, whether or not it had been sent yet and if the customer or supplier had answered on time. Here we save a lot of time just because there is no more manual labor involved for administering those lists.

Of course, based on the extensive offer of report options we also invest more time into reporting in general. However, the PIRS reporting also allows us to keep much better track of our time schedule because we are able to continuously match and compare our current document deadlines with the general time schedule. In the past, we spend about two weeks manually comparing the time schedule with current document dates and deadlines, and once we completed the analogy we had to start all over again in order to include the latest updates and newest revisions. And all these time savings correlate directly with cost savings since they represent money we do no longer have to spend. Previously occupied team members are free to concentrate on their core competence.”

HZI key benefits in using PIRS

  • Same basis of information regardless of location
    • since all information and documents are stored in one globally available system
  • Higher level of transparency
    • support teamwork and prevent redundant, time consuming work
  • Retrieve information and required documents quickly and easily
    • using vast search and filter functions offered by PIRS
  • Documentation of entire decision-making processes
    • due to the complete inclusion of project related correspondence and correspondence threads
  • Efficient and effective project execution
    • supported by automated processes and cross-project standards
  • Time and cost savings
    • based on reduced manual labor, less requirement to print out documents and easy project overview
  • Consistent data quality and security
    • made possible by clearly defined access rights and internal responsibilities as well as data encryption
  • Improved controlling
    • implemented by immediately available reports, statistics and current project status as well as progress