The Rambøll Group Deploys PTC Mathcad To Manage Calculations For 1,000 Engineers

Preserving and sharing intellectual capital, including engineering calculations at the core of every project, are pillars of the company's success


The Rambøll Group, headquartered in Copenhagen, is the Nordic region's leading engineering company, offering full-service consultancy services in infrastructure, telecommunications, building, health, industry, oil/gas, energy, environment, IT and management. Rambøll nearly doubled in size recently to 4,200 employees by acquiring Scandiaconsult, another leading Nordic consulting firm, resulting in a combined company with 70 offices covering the Nordic region and much of the globe. The Rambøll Group has a turnover/revenue of more than €380 million annually and maintains a strong commitment to sustainable development in more than 100 countries. Recent projects include a natural gas pipeline connecting Algeria to Spain and towers for Sweden's new 3G network.

Although engineering drives many companies' success, it is Rambøll's core business. As such, preserving and sharing intellectual capital — including the engineering calculations at the core of every project — are pillars of the company's success. The company is trying to minimize the practice of managing calculations the traditional way — by hand, on calculators, in spreadsheets, in word processing programs or on stand-alone mathematical software. Avoiding the traditional approach spares Rambøll from having to manage calculations that end up scattered on desks, personal hard drives, document management systems and in file cabinets. Enterprises that do their engineering that way risk unnecessary redesign and disastrous errors while squandering intellectual capital.

Instead, Rambøll has deployed PTC Mathcad, an intranet-based solution for calculation management. Calculation management is the process of applying principles and technologies of information management ― combined with old-fashioned housekeeping ― to engineering so as to reduce risk, minimize rework, preserve knowledge and assemble reliable audit trials. Available to 1,000 employees in Rambøll's 20 Danish offices, PTC Mathcad enables engineers to create, capture, protect, share, track and manage calculations to streamline engineering processes, minimize risk and, ultimately, accelerate better services to clients. PTC Mathcad records calculations as engineers create them, then stores approved calculations in a central repository.

PTC Mathcad presents calculations precisely as if they were written down on paper. The software is based on a patented "live document interface" where symbols have meaning when users type their formulas into PTC Mathcad flexible worksheets. The software automatically calculates and displays results directly in the document. Engineers can include as much text as needed to explain the methods and assumptions that went into the calculations.

"Without PTC Mathcad, calculations would be concealed in unreadable Pascal programming code or hidden behind cells in spreadsheets," said Bent Feddersen, Rambøll's chief of expertise development. "That approach wastes time for engineers who could simply reuse a calculation rather than recreating a new one from scratch. It presents problems for quality assurance managers who need to see how calculations are derived, not just the results. Without PTC Mathcad, engineers would also need to re-create calculations and context after the fact to report to building authorities who sometimes double-check our engineering. So PTC Mathcad delivers quality, safety, productivity and savings of time and money."

Sharing standard calculations simply

PTC Mathcad lets Rambøll provide its engineers with standard calculations for their most important engineering functions. These standard calculations are accessible through the PTC Mathcad Repository and PTC Mathcad Application Server. An engineer who needs to calculate the reinforcement requirements for a concrete beam, for example, simply visits the "concrete" home page on the company intranet and accesses the reinforcement calculation. Since the calculation is locked — i.e., protected from unauthorized changes — the engineer can be confident the formula and data outputs are reliable. By using the standard calculation on the Web page, the engineer saves time and contributes to the quick completion of Rambøll projects. Using the standard calculation also eliminates any worry that it needs to be verified and makes quality assurance a simple. Rather than gathering scattered files, revising calculations and assembling reports for building authorities, Rambøll can simply print out the calculation, which provides all the information and context regulators need to ensure the integrity of the Rambøll project.

"We save time and money and raise productivity," said Bent Feddersen. "Our customers are happy because their projects get done more quickly than they otherwise might. The benefits are clear: when you need a standard formula, it's there — there for the engineer, there for the quality assurance manager and there for the regulator to verify."

Engineers, eager to contribute and showcase their work across the company, enthusiastically offer up new calculations to management as proposed standards. "When an engineer devises a valuable calculation, it's simple to make it a standard," said Feddersen. "It's very clear how data goes into the equation and how the results come out." The value of the standardized calculation increases with each employee's engineering experience.

Rambøll is simplifying its use of PTC Mathcad by using Mathsoft's FLEXlm electronic licensing technology to control, monitor and maintain software license use and distribution from a centralized location, simplifying network administrative tasks.

When a new version is available, Jens-Erik Nielsen, a Rambøll civil engineer, simply notifies colleagues by a Mathcad News group, and they download the new version from the intranet.

"The FLEXlm option saves us time installing the program at the user end because installation is controlled from the server," said Nielsen. "All offices in our company throughout Denmark can access the PTC Mathcad server. All PTC Mathcad updates are installed centrally from our PTC Mathcad server. And we can maximize use of our licenses because they are floating licenses."

So why did Rambøll select PTC Mathcad over other mathematics software? One reason is no other product matches its capabilities. Another is that PTC Mathcad has been helping Rambøll engineers work efficiently for over two decades. It was 1986 that Nielsen loaded PTC Mathcad 1.5 into his computer drive for the first time. Since then he's introduced it around the company and taught two levels of courses to help engineers harness the power of PTC Mathcad.

"Within the next year," Feddersen said, "we'll extend our implementation to cover all of our countries and geographies and make PTC Mathcad the Rambøll standard for more than 2,000 engineers."