Dutch company Climate for Life is in the business of residential heating, cooling, and ventilation systems it sells as a subscription model off the typical energy grid. With demand increasing, the business wanted to streamline processes, minimize manual tasks, and find a project management tool flexible enough to manage changes and tackle resource planning and scheduling. Today, Climate for Life is using Microsoft Project to help automate work and meet demand. The business is handling 25 percent more projects and onsite standstill days have decreased 20 percent, leading to 15 percent overall growth.
Microsoft Project helps Dutch indoor climate system provider streamline its processes, increase overall business
Ronald Jense is proud to work at an organization with a sustainability focus.
“We’re an innovative company with a mission to make the home indoor climate healthier and more comfortable and energy efficient, ” says Jense
We’ve been able to take on 25 percent more projects because of increased productivity. With Microsoft Project’s user friendliness, we can bring together diverse groups from across the company to work and focus on delivering results.
Ronald Jense – Group Information Manager, Information and Communications Technology
With more than 140 years of history in the Netherlands, Climate for Life is made up of two groups. Itho Daalderop is the producer of heat pumps, ventilation systems, and other products for warming, cooling, and heating homes. Klimaatgarant is the leasing body that ensures that the Itho Daalderop products are properly installed and serviced, and then sells its up-to-25-year climate subscription service that takes the homeowner off the typical energy grid. Its commitment to sustainability values led the company to stop selling gas heaters in 2021, decades ahead of the government’s deadline for businesses to go carbon neutral by 2050.
The company works smarter using Microsoft Project for resource and project management to complete more in an environmentally friendly fashion.
Sluishuis in Amsterdam is a residential housing project Climate for Life outfitted with heating/cooling and ventilation systems. When complete, the building will be energy neutral—it will produce energy instead of consuming it.
Pursuing efficiencies to stay ahead of demand
The most important external resource used by Climate for Life is a specialized drill that bores 300-meter-deep holes at residential build sites. Tubes are then inserted and filled with water from which energy is generated to heat the residence in the winter and cool it in the summer. This setup serves as the foundation for home heat pump systems.
Large in size and limited in number, the drills are shared worldwide. Climate for Life leases them a year at a time and requires a staff of four per drill per year. At this scale, accuracy is critical when resource planning across all projects many months in advance to source products and equipment needed onsite; ensuring contracts, permits, and drilling specs are correct; and archiving all documentation for easy access for any project whenever needed.
To track these tasks, the company used Microsoft Excel, exported the data into Microsoft Access, and used email to communicate updates. When one deadline or task changed, project managers, planners, and other teams manually revised and re-exported between Excel and Access to ensure timelines and dependencies reflected accurately and were communicated to all team members. Any error was expensive.
Changing a start date was easy but calculating whether there was enough time to complete the task wasn’t straightforward and could result in costly onsite delays.
“ If on Friday we realized we wouldn’t have work for a team on Monday, we still had to pay them, ” says Jense.
Why Microsoft Project?
In 2018, Climate for Life had 24 employees across approximately 80 projects. When the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2016 to limit global warming and achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century, Climate for Life was already ahead of its own Dutch government’s goal by almost three decades. The company marketed its sustainable energy concept and those efforts attracted new business. Demand was on the rise.
Eager to gain a broad view over its projects and streamline processes, Climate for Life turned to Microsoft Gold Partner JSR for its expertise in project and portfolio management.
“ We saw an enthusiastic team working hard but also fighting fires. We identified the need for the right tools to support Climate for Life in running its projects, ” says Ruud Peltzer, Sales and Marketing Manager at JSR.
JSR helped set up a more automated approach for the rapidly growing organization. With a refined Project Management Office (PMO) process, smart planning templates, and up-to-date dashboards to monitor progress in place, its projects could be managed more effectively.
“ The biggest challenge was keeping the solution simple, especially considering different stakeholders with varying interests in the projects,” says Peltzer.
Today, Climate for Life uses Project and other Microsoft products across its eight project teams on more than 472 projects across the Netherlands and Belgium. The business is handling 25 percent more projects, the number of days when machinery and operators are at a standstill is reduced 20 percent, and overall business growth is up 15 percent.
Running Power BI from within Project
Planner at Climate for Life Giel Vink says scheduling for drilling requires communicating and arranging many details—including technical specs, drawings, and permitting—to ensure timelines are accurate.
The previous method of reimporting back and forth between Excel and Access was time consuming—very different from working in Project. Project data can be surfaced in Microsoft Power BI.
“ Power BI helps visualize the complete overview of 400-plus projects at once and highlights the priorities to all stakeholders, ” says Vink.
Climate for Life uses Power BI embedded in Project to manage tickets, gain an overall view across all projects, and review energy usage by customers.
“ The data science you get with Power BI helps us create the right dashboard for the reporting we need, ” says Jense.
Project Manager Ron van Straaten manages 40 to 50 new-build projects at a time and uses Project to stay current on status across his many projects.
Van Straaten appreciates the additional details gained using Project.
” Excel has its purposes, but not as an intuitive project management tool,” van Straaten says.
“ With Project, I can search a common task for a resource to see if it’s complete—is my drawings’ modeler ready? How much work does he have in the coming week? How many tasks does my overall team have this week and next? “
We start a project by drilling holes into the ground, but before that we must have all the proper documentation to request permits. I can follow that progress using the data from Microsoft Project in the Power BI dashboards
Ron van Straaten – Project Manager
Accessing multiple applications from within one tool for ease of use
At Climate for Life, Microsoft Teams has become the ultimate collaboration tool, serving as the central core where customers, employees, and teams communicate and work together. All documentation is stored in Teams, including project plans and roadmaps.
“ From Teams, we can access SharePoint, Project, and Power BI, and manage our document repository. You can do everything in one place from within Teams, ” says Jense.
The digitized process starts onsite, where engineers capture the requirements to complete the checklist using a Power Apps application for standardization and to ensure accuracy. The data is pushed to the Climate for Life offices using Power Automate, which means onsite employees no longer deal with the possibility of losing paper with important details, trying to read illegible notes, and driving back to the office to share information. All data is then searchable in Teams, which benefits the support team, as all information is quickly available to see what was installed where, and when it was serviced.
“ Project and other Microsoft technologies help us meet our sustainability goals. Our engineers onsite no longer use paper. If you don’t need paper, you save trees; if you don’t need to drive the car back to the office to share notes, it saves a lot of CO2, ” says Jense.
The use of Project spreading to other teams
It’s not just the project managers and planners using Project at Climate for Life. Other teams, including sales, project support, engineering, and marketing, have adopted the application.
The marketing team tracks status in Project. When a project is approaching completion—the house is built and the owners are moving in—marketing tracks tasks to know it’s time to congratulate the owners on their new residence and share information about their system, including how it works and how to control the climate in their home.
With new projects increasing at Climate for Life, accurate planning and project management remain key priorities. As new features in Project are released, the company has ambitions to integrate them into resource planning and project management and continuing to meet its sustainability goals while still creating comfortable, energy-efficient climates in people’s homes.
“ We’ve realized huge growth since 2018, and Microsoft Project helped us with that achievement, ” says Jense.