|The mission of encouraging
and disseminating knowledge
|The twelfth Highlight Awards, an annual in-house
initiative organized by Construtora Norberto Odebrecht
to recognize its members’ best projects, has broken yet
another record: 83 entries vied for the awards in 2004
|written by ◦ Valber Carvalho
photos by ◦ Almir Bindilatti
There were six winners: three for Productivity category, two in the Young Partner category and one for Social Responsibility.
The authors of the winning entries received their awards at the Group’s Annual Meeting at Costa do Sauípe, Bahia, in December. A new category was introduced into the latest version of the awards to bolster the practice of education through work: the Young Partner – Partnering with Supervisors Highlight.
The officer responsible for the Knowledge and Information Support for Business Development program (Ciaden), Olindina Dominguez, is the organizer of the Highlight Awards. She observes that in 2004 the authors of the entries competing for the awards published their work directly on the Internet in the MyWebDay portal, which made it easier to disseminate their subject matter. More than 600 company members voted on them, using a virtual polling station in the same portal. A jury of 16 people, including members of the Management Line, the team working directly with the Entrepreneurial Leader (CEO) for Engineering & Construction, Marcelo Odebrecht, and Board Members, devoted themselves to reading and analyzing the projects in depth before voting for those which, from their point of view, had the greatest impact on the results and the best possibilities of being replicated within the organization.
The projects honored with the Highlight Awards in 2004 were selected on the basis of the opinions of the “public and critics,” obtained by adding up the jury’s scores and the nearly 600 votes from members who registered to use the virtual polling station.
“Our objective,” says Olindina, referring to the slogan of Odebrecht’s knowledge network, “is to transform islands of competence into archipelagos of excellence by archiving and sharing the knowledge generated within the company.” During the award ceremony, Entrepreneurial Leader Marcelo Odebrecht underscored that the people in the company “grow, get involved and are highly satisfied” with this initiative.
Renato Baiardi, a Member of the Board of Directors of Odebrecht S.A., was a juror for the competition. He pointed out that new methods have always been developed at the company’s construction sites, but the dissemination of knowledge has become much easier in recent years. “Thanks to new advances in the technology for transmitting information electronically, there is no reason not to reutilize the new ideas that are springing up at each jobsite on a daily basis.”
Carrizal-Chone: productivity highlight
“Fiberglass-Reinforced Plastic Pipe Factory – Transferring Technology” is the title of the entry that won the 2004 Highlight Award for Productivity. Submitted by Juvenalito Gusmão, Ricardo Vieira and Nilton Teti, the solution it describes is being implemented on the Carrizal-Chone project in Ecuador. The Contract Director is Eleuberto Martorelli.
The challenge that Juvenalito, Ricardo and Nilton faced in the farming region of Manabí, situated between the Andes Mountains and the coast of Ecuador, was also that area’s biggest problem: an acute water shortage. The basic design called for the construction of a 30-km open channel to irrigate the Carrizal and Chone river valley, which would have been none-too competitive economically and involved environmental and safety risks because it would be built in an earthquake-prone area.
Instead of digging a channel, the company proposed an alternate solution to the client, the state-owned Ecuadorian company Corporación Reguladora del Manejo Hídrico de Manabí (CRM): installing a pipeline that would follow the rugged terrain of the mountain region and use the hydraulic charge pressure of the nearby dam. The advantages included a significant reduction in maintenance costs compared to the original design and a 25% increase in the irrigated area, which would expand from 5,800 to 7,250 hectares (roughly 14,330 to 17,900 acres). Furthermore, the pipeline would ensure that the water reached its destination with guaranteed quality, affording the client the possibility of selling water-use rights.
Once the contract had been won, the next challenge was choosing the best materials to build the pipeline. Cast-iron and steel pipe were too heavy and expensive, and PVC was rejected because there was no extrusion equipment available to make the 2,200-mm pipes the new design required. “Nilton Teti, the officer Responsible for the Commercial program at the time, came up with the solution of using fiberglass pipe. It was the first time the company had used it for this type of project,” says Ricardo Vieira, who has replaced the experienced Teti on the Carrizal-Chone project.
Other challenges arose as a result of that decision. Because there are only three fiberglass factories in South America, one in Colombia and two in Brazil, and they had no interest in disclosing their fiber-production methods, some questions had to be answered: Was it feasible to transport 30 km of pipe to a project situated 350 km from Guayaquil and 600 km from Quito? How could the management team calculate the number of meters needed for each diameter of pipe to be used?
The strategy devised was to set up a fiberglass pipe production plant at the jobsite. To do so, the team rented a Swedish-made 25-tonne Drolsthom machine from a Brazilian company, Polyplaster, and hired people from another Brazilian company called Tecniplas to produce the pipe.
Odebrecht also brought in consultants from around the world to optimize fabrication quality. Since the equipment had been set up at the jobsite, the pipe could be designed with the best technical characteristics for each stretch of terrain and adjust production to the “just-in-time” system, keeping pace with every stage of the project. Since the area to be excavated had been drastically reduced, the solution devised by the officer Responsible for Production, Juvenalito Gusmão, Nilton Teti and Ricardo Vieira speeded up construction of the Carrizal-Chone project, which was delivered to the client in 20 months instead of 21. This solution not only ensured the client’s satisfaction but will also help the company win more contracts in the future.
Productivity – Reusing Knowledge
San Francisco: Productivity - Reusing Knowledge Highlight
Changes made to the basic design for the Excavation of the Powerhouse Cavern for the San Francisco Hydroelectric Plant project in central Ecuador garnered the Productivity – Reusing Knowledge Highlight Award for Gustavo Belitardo, the project’s officer Responsible for Engineering, and Clóvis Danúbio, the officer Responsible for Production.
Built entirely underground inside a mass of rock in the Pastaza River Valley, a mountainous region with major tourist potential, the San Francisco Hydroelectric Plant will generate 220 MW of energy. This will ease the load on the area’s existing power system and reduce Ecuador’s dependence on imported electricity (the country currently obtains 8% of the electric power it consumes from Colombia). Another hydroelectric plant called Agoyán is already operating in the area where the San Francisco project is being built – 220 km from Quito, the nation’s capital. Agoyán generates 156 MW using the dam of the same name.
The San Francisco Hydroelectric Plant construction project, whose Contract Director is José Conceição, includes intercepting the Agoyán Hydroelectric Plant’s discharge tunnel with a connecting tunnel that will divert the flow of water to a connecting chamber which, in its turn, leads to a 12-km conduit with a 200-meter slope which conveys the water to the powerhouse.
According to the original design, the powerhouse roof would be reached through the escape tunnel, near the drainage culvert. However, following the team’s technical assessment and the designer’s approval, it was decided that a different excavation plan would be used for the powerhouse. Part of the grade of the drainage tunnel was changed and the cavern where the powerhouse was to be built would be used to build part of an access ramp. That way, the team was able to reach the roof area ahead of schedule, coming in from the hydraulic wall on the right-hand side. The inclusion of the new access ramp in the design reduced the total length of the tunnels by 134 meters, which made it possible to start excavating 30 days early. Thanks to these optimization measures, the project gained an added advantage: reducing the average distance for conveying all the materials excavated at benches 1 and 2, a total of 18,000 cubic meters of earth and granite.
The application of this method for excavating the powerhouse roof, which has been used on other Odebrecht projects such as the Miel Hydroelectric Plant in Colombia, did not restrict the creativity of the people responsible for the San Francisco project and was decisive for speeding up construction of the new facility.
During the San Francisco project, the third contract Gustavo Belitardo has worked on and about the thirtieth for Clóvis Danúbio, the team made improvements that helped improve the methods utilized on other Odebrecht projects. One was eliminating interferences and aggravating factors resulting from the excavation of the tunnel and cable shaft due to a simple solution: using the access gallery leading to the powerhouse roof as part of the cable shaft. As a result, the excavation of the tunnel and cable shaft could be done from the drainage gallery, thereby eliminating any interference by excavation in benches below the powerhouse.
The client, Hidropastaza, a public/private Ecuadorian company, stipulated that the project has to be delivered in 48 months. However, due to the modifications the San Francisco team introduced to optimize the design, the civil construction of the project will have been completed by June 2005, seven months ahead of schedule. In addition to saving time, the team is also reducing costs for its client.
Encouraging the reuse of solutions the company has already developed and placed at its teams’ disposal due to the improvement or reapplication of methods used on other projects is crucial for achieving increasingly significant results.
Productivity – Knowledge Generation
Bridge over The Orinoco: Productivity - Knowledge Generation Highlight
The construction of a road/rail bridge across the Orinoco River and 164 kilometers of connecting roads is a project considered strategic for Venezuela, as well as for Brazil. In Venezuela, the span will make it possible to integrate the regions of Bolívar, in the southeast, and Guayana, in the central area, with the rest of the country. For the northern region of Brazil, it will provide access to deepwater Caribbean ports on the Venezuelan coast.
Led by Contract Director Estevão Timponi, the project involves technical difficulties that are extremely difficult to overcome, such as the oblique angle between the axis of the Matanzas-Macapaima railway and the westbound side of the Guarampo Highway. Additional complicating factors include the extremely sandy and erodible soil in the area. The construction team could not use conventional methods to surmount these challenges without running serious safety risks and requiring expensive special construction services in order to maintain the stability of the slope.
The solution was reached by carrying out a thorough analysis of the problem. Described in the entry titled “La Búsqueda a uma Solución de Ingenieria de Proyecto em Sitio de Elevada Complejidad Geológica” (The Pursuit of an Engineering Solution for a Site of High Geological Complexity), it won Mauro Martins and Saul Pereda the 2004 Productivity – Knowledge Generation Highlight Award.
The first step was mapping the area and carrying out detailed geological and geotechnical investigations. Afterwards, exhaustive searches and tests were conducted to devise a technically safe and economically sound solution that would satisfy the client’s needs. “We had to prospect for ideas that did not involve large slopes that would be subject to erosion. To find the right solution, we studied as many as 16 different construction alternatives in the space of just two years,” says Mauro Martins, the officer Responsible for Engineering.
Construction of the contractor’s temporary facilities at the jobsite began in February 2001. In October of that year, the team began building the first viaduct. However, the second viaduct had complex characteristics that required special attention.
One of the problems that the engineering team and IT technicians solved was determining the best oblique angle at the southern crossing of the Matanzas-Guarampo Railway - the first stage of the rail link to deepwater ports on the Caribbean Sea - with the route of the highway and the bridge, considering the limited amount of space available for that intersection.
The basic design called for an 18-degree angle. Then, the first solution the design firm Seprovial devised established a route with a 19-degree angle. Finally, it was decided that the route of the road would be changed slightly in order to reduce the oblique angle between the axes to 5 degrees, thereby minimizing the use of containment walls between the railway line and the highway.
Another exhaustively studied problem involved determining the type of containment to be used. One of the solutions presented to the client suggested using pre-cast culverts in beams and containment windows using reinforced earth, which were suitable in areas where there was little useful construction space. The client is currently analyzing the design and all aspects of its technical feasibility.
“The integration of northern Brazil and southeastern Venezuela is a long-held dream for Venezuelans, who are finally seeing it come true. It will result in development for both countries,” exults Venezuelan Saul Pereda, a computer technician with an IT degree. “This project is showing us just how much engineering must pursue knowledge tirelessly in order to achieve technical excellence,” says Mauro Martins.
In his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony held at Costa do Sauípe, Mauro Martins called on all generations of the Odebrecht community to continue “the constant pursuit of knowledge and encourage the transfer of that knowledge to new contracts in a disciplined fashion.” In his view, “This remarkable and multiplying technical and human legacy is the only way to ensure that we have laid the foundations for our future.”
Cidade Jardim vehicle underpass: Young Partner Highlight
For two young engineering students from the University of São Paulo (USP), 2004 was a year they will never forget. In February, after undergoing a tough selection process, Cleber Moita, 26, and Vinicius Travagin, 21, realized their dream of interning at Construtora Norberto Odebrecht. Eleven months later, the two young partners were in the spotlight at the Odebrecht Group’s Annual Meeting, where they received the 2004 Highlight Award in the Young Partner Category.
They won the award for their part in the discovery of a unique solution for the company: “Using Secant Helical Piles as a Containment System.” The Contract Director for the project involved, the Cidade Jardim vehicle underpass in Itaim, a district in the heart of São Paulo, was Sérgio Bezerra.
The project included the construction of two tunnels with a total length of 625 meters, and 525-m access ramps. The construction team decided to use the New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) to excavate the underpass. The NATM is the best way to dig tunnels through densely populated areas because it reduces noise levels and does not require digging open trenches.
Because this tunneling method was being used, the only parts of the project needing containment were manholes and open-pit ditch ramps. The timetable for building the project was very short, so the team decided against using the containment method known as diaphragm walls.
The team then opted to go with a method that is little used in Brazil: containment with secant helical piles. This system, which involves secantially arranging intersecting concrete piles, not only reduces the amount of concrete required but ensures that the soil is watertight. Helical piles eliminate the possibility of slippages and cave-ins during excavation.
An added advantage was saving time, which was one of the critical factors for this project. The adoption of the secant pile system ensured productivity of 45 square meters per day, which was a 20% improvement over the diaphragm wall method. In light of all these factors, the decision to use this containment method for the first time in the company’s history was approved after the construction team had thoroughly analyzed and questioned every technical and financial aspect of that solution.
When Cleber, a Production Intern, and Vinicius, an Engineering Intern, arrived at the project’s jobsite in February 2004, the innovation was already being implemented in one of the manholes. For five months, they attentively followed and recorded the advantages and results of the technique being used. When the people responsible for the project perceived the interns’ interest and involvement in that process, the management team members encouraged them to compile their records and retrieve data on what had already been done before they arrived.
In their acceptance speech, Cleber and Vinicius thanked engineers Rafael Lacerda, Sérgio Martins, Danilo Hoffmann, Lucas Prado and others for giving them unrestricted access to the project’s photo archives and, above all, for the opportunity they had given the two interns to improve on the knowledge they had acquired, which was key to structuring their project. Flush with success so early in his career, young partner Vinicius Travagin explained: “I gained two things from this project: one was personal and the other was collective, which encourages you to do more and work harder for the company.” Cleber Moita observed: “We were able to combine field data and engineering data, producing a documentary legacy for the Odebrecht Group.”
Young Partner – Partnering with Supervisors
Cidade Jardim: Young Partner - Partnering with Supervisors Highlight
When Valdenei Nogueira, a supervisor in charge of technological control, combined his practical experience with the rationality and perfectionism of a young engineer, Camila Arcenio, who was Responsible for Quality on the Cidade Jardim vehicle underpass project in São Paulo, the result was the creation of a unique solution: “Wet Shotcrete Production in Large Urban Centers.” Their partnership also garnered the two of them a brand-new award, the newly created Young Partner – Partnering with Supervisors Highlight, presented for the first time in 2004, as well as the rewards of learning from the experience of teamwork.
The jobsite was located on Cidade Jardim Avenue in the Itaim district, a heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic area. Because there was no room to produce concrete at the construction site, the materials were supplied by a batching plant set up in the southern part of the Santo Amaro district, about two hours’ drive from Cidade Jardim. Due to constant traffic jams, excavation was often completed before the concrete had reached the construction site. Ensuring that concrete arrived right on time so it could be used on schedule was a key factor when excavating the tunnels, because it ensured the stability of the tunneled earth and the safety of the project.
The only way to make up for the constant delays was to put together a “cocktail” of additives with a view to making the concrete more workable and meeting the technical specifications for the project.
The first attempt to solve the problem involved setting up a mini-plant to mix in the right amounts of additives and water at the jobsite. Trucks came from Santo Amaro carrying cement and aggregate, and water and additives were mixed in at the site.
However, it soon became clear that this solution was not working out. “The concrete’s resistance was inconsistent because during the trip between the batching plant and the jobsite, the cement would react to the water in the aggregate and the additive was less effective,” explains Camila.
The almost daily changes in concrete resistance presented an obstacle that had to be overcome. “Each shift, we only managed to carry out a maximum of two excavation cycles per work front,” recalls supervisor Valdenei. These setbacks began to cost money and compromise the team’s ability to meet the deadline agreed with the City of São Paulo, which planned to open the underpass to the public by September 2004.
“What if we set up a mini-batching plant at the jobsite?” That was the question that eventually led to a unique solution. Because there was not enough room at the site to set up a plant, the solution – a first for the company – was installing the cement silo there. Trucks still arrived bearing aggregate, which would be mixed with cement, water and additives at the jobsite. This solution resulted in a saving of BRL 50 per cubic meter (a total of BRL 650,000).
Camila the engineer and Valdenei the supervisor (who is currently taking the Master’s in Concrete Technology course as a guest student at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina) are still celebrating the successful exchange of experiences that enabled the construction team to make up for lost time. The project was delivered to the client 15 days ahead of schedule. “This solution also allowed us to produce concrete with higher standards of durability compared to similar projects being built in São Paulo during the same period,” observes Camila.
At the award ceremony, Camila expressed her thanks for the opportunity to work with Valdenei. “Teaming up with him was the most important part of this project for me. I’ve learned a great deal as an engineer.” She explained that, by sharing information, they were able to achieve all their objectives in terms of quality, schedules and the cost of the project.
Valdenei also had words of thanks to say during the award ceremony. “This partnership with Camila was very important. We combined all the book learning she brought from the university with my practical experience at the jobsite. This award belongs to everyone on the project, because you can’t do anything without the support of the contract managers and synergy between people.”
Dom Bosco School - Angola: Social Responsability Highlight
August 2002. Shortly after he arrived in Angola, the new Contract Director for the Luanda and South Luanda Sanitation Projects received an invitation from Father Luiz Piccolli, the superior of the Salesian Order in that country, to learn about the social work that institution was doing. When he accepted that modest invitation, engineer André Vital could never have dreamed that it marked the beginning of the successful partnership described in the case study “Education Builds the Future,” the winner of the 2004 Social Responsibility Highlight award.
The Sambizanga District, on the outskirts of the Angolan capital. An area that is home to 650,000 needy people did not have one official secondary school. The Salesian missionaries ran a primary school with 1,630 students, and dreamed of a major expansion that would enable them to multiply the number of openings for new students and consequently provide more opportunities for social inclusion. However, the estimates they had received from construction firms were far beyond the Order’s means, which depended on foreign donations. All they would able to do was renovate the Dom Bosco School, the most important educational institution in Sambizanga; at most, they could attempt a modest expansion.
André Vital had taken part in similar partnerships in the area of social action in Bahia. When he saw the preliminary plans for the project, he also saw the possibility of establishing a rich and strategic partnership between Odebrecht and the Salesian missionaries that could help boost the local community’s development through education.
The first half of the entrepreneurial task (planning) was carried out through the mobilization and volunteer work of teams from the Luanda and South Luanda Sanitation projects. Responsibility for entrepreneuring the program was delegated to young Frederico Matos. Then the Prado Valladares architecture firm, invited to take part in this voluntary effort, produced the architectural blueprints and additional plans. Following the new concept for the project, the school building would have four stories, and that vertical expansion would make it possible to create an ample area for sports and leisure that was not included in the original plans.
Once the partnership had been made viable and the community was involved, the new project took off, bringing other advantages. The biggest one was the availability of 3,950 new places for children and adolescents to get a formal education in primary and secondary school, in addition to the 1,630 students the school originally taught. Furthermore, the new plans for the school included the creation of a construction school. Fully integrated into the Salesian philosophy of professional education and Education through Work – one of the main tenets of the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology – this school will make it possible to educate, train and groom 82 professionals, four supervisors and a general supervisor. All the students are youths from the local community.
To ensure that the school is sustainable and self-supporting, the new plans also include construction of an auditorium for parties and events and multipurpose rooms for classes and training courses that will be paid for by the community. All of these plans were donated to the Salesians, who accepted them immediately and enthusiastically.
Once the conditions for embarking on the second half of the entrepreneurial task (execution) had been created, Odebrecht began playing an institutional role in the project. All the technical support required was made available to motivate more partners to get involved. “When Luis Mameri, the recently appointed Odebrecht Managing Director for Angola, arrived, we had all the institutional support we needed,” recalls Vital.
For their part, the Salesians were responsible for raising the funds needed to build the new unit and mobilizing the community to build it, which made it possible to educate, train and groom artisans and foremen who were needed to build the Order’s projects and meet the demand in the local market.
The cornerstone for the project was laid in May 2003, and when the school was completed 20 months later, 5,580 children and adolescents were able to study in its modern, spacious classrooms. The project cost a total of USD 2 million, which was approximately USD 1.7 million less than the original estimate. The amount saved enabled the Salesians to invest in other community service projects.
In addition to strengthening Odebrecht’s image as an outstanding partner for the Angolan nation in the eyes of the community and opinion shapers, particularly the national press, the company fulfilled its role of social responsibility in a sustainable fashion, thereby helping the Angolan Government achieve its goal of wiping out illiteracy.
In return, the Salesians are sharing their educational technology with the Angolan workers at Odebrecht, thereby enabling the company to introduce literacy programs at its construction sites. Carried out through daily lessons held from 7 am to 9 am, the program ranges from literacy classes to the fifth grade of primary school. Participants are paid for one out of every two class hours attended. The first batch of literacy class students to graduate included 25 company members. This initiative is particularly important because, until recently, Angolan adults had little or no opportunity to get an education, particularly because of the armed conflict in their country, which ended in April 2002.
Frederico Matos, the person responsible for liaising between Odebrecht and the Salesian missionaries during both stages of the project, observes: “Being able to help our workers through education has been a tremendous source of fulfillment. At the same time, I am building up more experience in my education as a future entrepreneur.”
Odebrecht and the Salesians are also working together to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS by training multiplier agents. The Group has sponsored the publication of 50,000 educational leaflets that help teach AIDS prevention. According to André Vital: “It is very gratifying to see this project produce social returns. For us, as engineers, technicians and construction workers, it was an opportunity to share our knowledge, putting it at the service of the Salesians and the local community and seeing how much each person’s individual knowledge is valuable when it is coordinated and integrated, because then it can make dreams come true.”
The construction of the new Dom Bosco School is an example of sustainable social contributions in which expenses are incurred on behalf and under the responsibility of the Salesians, except for some services provided by Odebrecht, such as supplying concrete and materials imported from Brazil, the cost of which is reimbursed in monthly installments.
Initiatives like these increase the satisfaction of communities living near the company’s construction sites and get better results in terms of image, because they can see first-hand that Odebrecht fulfills its commitments to society.