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How Going Digital Can Reverse Your Engineering Challenges

Connected data environments not only talk about it, they also walk the road on your construction projects.

 Almost all engineering, architectural, and construction (AEC) professionals focus on finding new ways to increase margins and reduce accountability in their businesses. Because technology moves so fast, it can be difficult because there are so many sources of information available. It becomes a case of making time to use it.

But how does it relate to our daily market? One of my colleagues received a very interesting email from an owner-operator client saying:

“The biggest challenge we have is that the contractors seem to talk at the time of contract award, but their implementation then stops as it is not a priority for the project teams. As an owner developer, we want to be an innovator and partner with contractors who will truly be early adopters and have the ability to deliver.”

It's hard to determine what construction innovation offers these days. Is it a terabyte of data, which has been delivered to the client without historical data or metadata attached? an original equipment manufacturer's manual with the images; or drawings and data that may not comply with the supplied asset as built / final?

 A united system, like ProjectWise and AssetWise, is a must for an asset owner of any type of project. As I discussed in Articles 3 and 4 of this series (How a Single Source of Truth Can Transform the Infrastructure Design Industry and Why You Need to Correct the Design Process, respectively), it is best to involve a system before it is too late.

There are numerous systems on the market, and there is no one that fits all. For example, if you have large infrastructure projects, you need to consider stability. You don't want to keep the problem moving from design to construction to operations. Several of the clients I work with are approaching this problem from a completely different angle. They call it “reverse engineering of the problem”.

If you're only looking for short-term victory, you'll end up with a lot of dark data silos, which is another set of problems. As a customer, you want your project to be fully BIM compliant.

Owner-operators ask themselves these three questions:

    1.  What do I need to manage the asset, especially since it is the longest part of the project life cycle?
    2.  What do I need for construction, and that ties in with asset management?
    3. What do I need for the design and feasibility period, and that ties in with project management software?

To get there, you need a CDE: a connected data environment,

It is not a common data environment.

Both systems exchange data in a project, but the Connected Data Environment (CDE) is the only compatible truth source. The CDE will manage, disperse, collect and store the data throughout the life of the project. This useful life could be much longer than people think, especially when you consider the number of renovations an asset could go through over a 30-year period. Basically, BIM ensures that all the right information is available in the right format, allowing the team to make the right choice throughout the life of an asset. The misconception, especially in the early days, was that BIM was about creating an independent 3D model. This is not true. Instead, BIM is essentially the way a project is set up and run.

At the BIM center there is a key obligation: the employer information requirements. These requirements define the information that the employer wants to develop to execute the asset. The employer establishes the contractual document at the beginning, ensuring that the appropriate information is created and that the systems are used throughout the project.

 When we talk about CDE, the next term we need to define is a digital twin, which is a digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system, as well as the engineering information that enables us to understand and model its performance. Typically, a digital twin can be continuously updated from multiple sources, including sensors and continuous surveying, to represent its status, working condition, or position in near real time. A digital twin allows users to view the asset, check status, perform analysis, and brainstorm to predict and optimize asset performance.

A digital twin is used as a means to optimize the operation and maintenance of physical assets, including their systems and processes. As information from a digital twin is analyzed, numerous lessons can be learned, giving the team opportunities to return the maximum value of the real-life asset.

Lessons can be learned through digital simulations to see when is the optimal time to repair equipment without affecting the operation of the asset. When you add the addition of sensors and artificial intelligence, you get real-time data analysis and comparison of this data with historical data.

According to the Gemini Principles published by the Center for Digital Built Britain in December 2018, a digital twin is “a realistic digital representation of something physical”. What sets a digital twin apart from any other digital model is its connection to the physical twin.” The National Digital Twin is defined as "an ecosystem of digital twins that are connected by securely shared data."

 Looking back at the email my colleague received from the owner-operator client, it is clear that organizations want to consolidate as much as possible on a single cloud-based platform.

Not only are local silos of duplicate information removed, they also create the ability to open information to a new dynamic level of performance.

CDEs play a leading role in communicating best practices and contractual workflows in the construction industry. These are the basis of digital cufflinks.

Why poorly communicated design information is costing your projects

 Construction projects are becoming more complex and the solution is a connected data environment.

After spending a family weekend with a developer friend who had a major problem with a recent project in the city center, the situation made me think about how the contracts have changed and will change due to the influx and availability of data. My friend and I spent the weekend talking about design and construction projects. To set the scene, the parameters of this private rented sector (PRS) scheme were fairly straightforward.

The problems in my friend's project in general, were due to the amount of re-work necessary and the responsibility, since there were a series of design changes. With this project in mind, I began to investigate how much re-work cost the industry.

If you read some of the international studies, these reports suggest that the direct costs from avoidable errors are about 5% of the project value. Working that figure in the overall market, this percentage adds up to approximately GBP 5 billion (USD 6,1 billion) per year across the UK. After taking into account the number of profit warnings that are issued, this value is greater than the average profit levels of most contractors working in the premier market.

Research by the Get It Right Initiative (GIRI) in 2015 shows surprisingly higher value. The GIRI came out of the discussions in the Best Practices Panel of the Institution of Civil Engineers. When including unmeasured and indirect costs, GIRI estimated the value to be between 10% and 25% of the cost of the project, approximately 10-25 billion GBP (12-30 billion USD) per year.

GIRI's investigation identified the top 10 causes of error, which were:

  1.     Inadequate planning
  2.     Late design changes
  3.     Poorly communicated design information
  4.     Bad culture in relation to quality.
  5.     Poorly coordinated design information
  6.     Inadequate care in construction design.
  7.     Excessive commercial pressure (financial and time)
  8.     Bad management and interface design
  9.     Ineffective communication between team members.
  10. Inadequate supervisory skills

I found the subject of design management fascinating. GIRI's investigation showed that there was a lack of coordinated design, resulting in clashes between the design office and the supply chain at the site, leading to rework, delay, and increased costs.

However, there is a simple solution to many of the problems highlighted in the GIRI report: cloud-based technology. Systems like ProjectWise and SYNCHRO can reduce several of these problems by providing:

  • A safe and secure collaborative climate where documents, designs, and models can be reviewed on-site using mobile devices, such as cell phones.
  • The ability to track and seamlessly ensure that the right materials will arrive on site directly from the factory.
  • Systems that can provide checklists and crystallization to ensure that the project is going in the right direction.

However, as we saw in Bentley's latest research (discussed in my previous article Unlock the Benefits of Going Digital in Construction), however, most contractors don't use this technology to their advantage. Bentley's survey found that almost half of companies (44.3%) had limited or no view of company or project performance. Although half of the respondents understood the importance of collecting project data, they were not able to make the most of it with digitization. Companies that don't use the ProjectWise system are missing out:

Accelerating workflows and design

Engineers are estimated to spend up to 40% of their day searching for information or waiting for file downloads. Imagine giving everyone quick access to the right data when and where they need it.

Collaborating without chaos

Align your teams in a connected data environment to reduce communication interruptions. Gain a holistic view of all data and dependencies so everyone has the latest information at their fingertips.

 Gain confidence and control in the cloud

Connect your project team and supply chain through cloud services. Reduce IT hurdles, slow WAN performance issues, scalability, and data security.

In the end, my friend and I agreed, through a fantastic bottle of porto, that the best way to avoid costly reprocessing is by digitizing ourselves. Without digitized technology, projects will waste valuable time (and therefore incur costs) coming and going with design changes.

Why do you need to get a correct design process

A single source of truth can optimize your design process for a better delivery of the project.

Like many travelers, I travel to London through Euston. With plans to build 330 miles of newly established trails, the project has caused very little disruption to my journey thus far. Since the project uses Bentley's ProjectWise, I've wondered what has been going on behind the construction walls.

It turns out that there is a large cemetery with more than 40,000 sets of human remains where HS2's Euston platforms will one day settle. What was once St James' Gardens Cemetery will soon be the gateway to where trains leave London and passengers can travel up to 225 mph.

Keeping track of 40,000 sets of human remains seems like an easy task for this epic project compared to building the London gateway to HS2. As the delivery team progresses, they will slowly develop an understanding of the design requirements established by the customer and the design team to meet the original design draft, including the form and function of the project.

Having been a traveler standing at the current Euston station, wanting to look at the information panel and longing for a delayed train to be given a platform, I know first hand how much change is required for the station to function properly.

At this time, the delivery team will be collaborating with the design team to evolve and expand what is required to become a deep interpretation of design and build drawings.

As both teams move forward, it is calm before the storm, before choppy waves of change and design variation. Design redesign, issues and liability can cause a faction between any design and delivery team.

These reviews take a long time for the team to create and record, plus frustration to review, approve, and instruct the supply chain for delivery.

If we go back to the start of any project, not just a major infrastructure project, the customer will engage with the design team and establish a summary of what the project needs to deliver. Within that summary, the customer will establish several key performance and requirements, which the design must meet.

 This interaction with the client will follow these four steps:

  1. Programming / pre-design phase
  2. Schematic design
  3. Design development.
  4.  Construction drawings / graphics

 I still remember when I started in the construction business. Back then, these customer interactions would have happened through paper, the ammonia smell from the copiers filling the room as they prepared the packages and broke them down into the required disciplines. Today, it is data and 3D models that can make things more complicated.

However, there is a solution to avoid these complications. Software like ProjectWise and SYNCHRO allow the design team to build in 3D before building and distributing that data in a controlled and collaborative way. This practice not only improves communication between stakeholders and the entire design team, but can also reduce the stress of variations present in each project. We know from our studies, as well as those carried out by companies like McKinsey, that 20% of the largest projects are overflowing and 80% exceed the budget.

 The need to control and reduce these variations is critical.

If design errors are made, current systems make it easy to repair that error. The important criterion is that changes and information are shared quickly, allowing the delivery team and its supply chain to react in a way that causes the least impact on the site.

If we take a look at the latest report from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), construction waste remains incredibly high and most comes from reworking. This practice will ultimately save money, time, and materials.

Mott MacDonald saw these benefits when he implemented a single source of truth for his work at the Thames Tideway East Project. As lead designer, the organization aimed to improve London's dangerous old sewage system. In addition to managing the complex £ 4.000bn ($ 4.900bn) project, Mott MacDonald was challenged to deliver it two years ahead of schedule. However, if the organization could not allow seamless collaboration across its entire extended project team, it ran the risk of falling behind and failing to meet critical milestones.

To be successful, Mott MacDonald had to ensure that his entire project team, which included members from a wide variety of organizations, design disciplines, and geographic locations, could easily access and exchange up-to-date information in a managed environment. Mott MacDonald accomplished this solution by bringing together his team members and designing content in a connected data environment. Team members across the 12 design disciplines could now create, modify and store thousands of deliveries in one place, easily accessible by participating organizations across Europe, including customers for reviews and approvals.

By streamlining project collaboration, Mott MacDonald delivered better quality to the customer ahead of schedule and realized that there were:

  • 32% savings in design production time
  • 80% faster access to documents and trust by all project participants
  • 76% approval of customer's package for the first time.

As computers take the stress out of design systems, applications like ProjectWise and SYNCHRO can help you better manage project information by establishing a single source of truth to save time and reduce risk by ensuring that up-to-date information is Tracked, managed and accessible through your project. Accelerating team collaboration with software helps align your team in a connected data environment. It will improve productivity and ensure that information is tracked and managed through collaborative workflows.

Better project management can lead to better insights for more timely and informed decisions. It will allow you to overcome possible obstacles to the project while increasing its overall transparency. After the latest Crossrail report from the Commons Committee on Public Accounts criticized the contractor's management on the project, it's clear there is a greater need for clarity on all projects, including at the new Euston and HS2 train station .

How a single source of truth can transform the infrastructure design industry

With so many data inputs and sensors, it has never been so important for designers and contractors to use a single source of truth.

Recently in New York City, we learned that the construction of glass skyscrapers could be banned as part of a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. Mayor Bill de Blasio said glass-fronted skyscrapers are "incredibly inefficient" because too much energy escapes through the glass.

de Blasio plans to introduce a bill that would ban the construction of new glass skyscrapers and require existing glass buildings to be modernized to meet new and stricter carbon emission guidelines.

The pressure on the design community is now even greater. We have seen many times that today's design projects are more complex and demanding than ever. However, with the city's mayors increasingly vocal about design and performance, including London Mayor Sadiq Kan rejecting plans for the newest of the skyscrapers designed by Foster + Partners, designers must return to the table. design to design what is not only aesthetically required but also socially and environmentally

With de Blasio's possible bill, we could see a global increase in sensors in our projects, which is fantastic news for digital twins and performance twins. However, the knowledge required by the design and delivery team has moved quite firmly to monitor new technologies. As these projects grow in size and complexity, so does the size of the delivery team. By tracking all the drawings, the information packages can be more complex than the project itself.

There is a great need for project design management from the earliest stage of the project, allowing the team to control the issuance of information workflows. With the large amount of data now attached to a project, the need for a single source of optimized truth is required. You can learn more about these topics by reading my previous articles on data silos (Why you should avoid data silos for truer project monitoring) and big data. This single source of truth must manage all project workflows while aligning with contractual procedures. These workflows can be related to a change request or simple variations. Each of these documents will have its own route to follow and its closure completed.

The construction industry is already being asked to create a single repository of information, a single source of truth. In the UK, the government is pushing for the industry to provide a 'golden thread of data', meaning every building must have a digital record of all assets. As more people from the design and delivery team are asked to collect data, the best way to control this amount of data is through contractual controls using very clear and well-defined workflows.

Using an open and connected data environment is a must as it will give the team a single sign-on to manage all data. This is where the ProjectWise-based Bentley Connected Data Environment can help control the data and then provide a single source of truth, while being extremely flexible for everyday use.

A connected data environment is key to any project. It reduces stress and gives the team access to all the required information, be it design issues, RFIs, change requests or contractual documents. This information can be viewed as a simple PDF sheet or as a 3D model.

Using established workflows, team members will automatically see the design changes required in the decision process, allowing them to make that decision quickly.

Using a cloud-based system means the team has full access to all documentation, either through a mobile device on site or from a desktop computer in the office. This ability keeps everyone fully aware of the progress of the project.

Using a single source of truth reduces the number of errors when moving data from one system to another. This feature also reduces the time spent searching for the correct information, reducing the amount of rework caused by errors on the site.

The required workflow will be different from project to project, due to contractual requirements and customer communication requests. Therefore, the creation of these workflows should be simple and flexible so that, as a company, you can maintain your responsibility in a logical format. Using a system like ProjectWise will give better visibility and controlled workflows. Therefore, by providing key and critical data, the guesswork and conflicts will be eliminated

An example of an organization that used ProjectWise for better visibility and controlled workflows is the collaboration between Dragados SA and London Underground Limited.

The organizations were in charge of supervising a project of 6.07 billion GBP ($ 7.42 billion) for Bank-Monument Station, one of the UK's most complex underground rail systems.

To be successful, Dragados and London Underground needed to manage an expansive network of project partners, included 425 users individual 30 different companies, to ensure that thousands of design products were created, reviewed and approved without incident.

6.07 BIL GBP (7.42 BIL USD)




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Author | Mark Coates

Director of Industrial Marketing and Project Delivery

 About Bentley Systems

Bentley Systems is the world's leading provider of software solutions for engineers, architects, geospatial professionals, builders, and owner-operators for infrastructure design, construction, and operations. Bentley's MicroStation-based engineering and BIM applications, and its Twin Cloud services, advance project delivery (ProjectWise) and asset performance (AssetWise) of transportation and other public works, utilities, industrial and power plants resources, and commercial and institutional facilities.

Bentley Systems employs more than 3,500 colleagues, generates annual revenue of $ 700 million in 170 countries, and has invested more than $ 1 billion in research, development, and acquisitions since 2014. Since its inception in 1984, the company has remained majority-owned by five founding brothers of Bentley. Bentley shares are held by invitation on the NASDAQ private market.

Golgi Alvarez

Writer, researcher, specialist in Land Management Models. He has participated in the conceptualization and implementation of models such as: National Property Administration System SINAP in Honduras, Management Model of Joint Municipalities in Honduras, Integrated Cadastre-Registry Management Model in Nicaragua, Territory Administration System SAT in Colombia . Editor of the Geofumadas knowledge blog since 2007 and creator of the AulaGEO Academy that includes more than 100 courses on GIS - CAD - BIM - Digital Twins topics.

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