New methods of sharing project responsibility between the owners and contractors looks set to accelerate the ongoing digital journey to combat late delivery, budget excesses and poor visibility into performance.
Two years ago, the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company published an industry-defining paper titled Imagining Construction's Digital Future. It challenged the construction industry head-on by suggesting that it was time for a change. It pointed out to poor productivity, delayed projects, low margins, increased competition and poor business processes as the driving forces for the change.
McKinsey suggested that the construction productivity has actually declined in some markets since the 1990s; the financial returns for contractors are often relatively low and volatile. As a result, according to McKinsey, the world will need to spend USD 57 trillion on infrastructure by 2030 to keep up with the global GDP growth. This amount of capital is staggering and shows that it is time for a considerable change. When it comes to technology and business processes, the construction industry has been slow to adopt innovationsû lagging far behind other industries like ICT- or advanced manufacturing, faring only slightly better than agriculture. McKinsey prescribed five ways that the construction industry can embrace the change to modernise.
One of the major challenges faced by the industry and primarily project delivery firms is the geographically dispersed nature of project teams. Poor productivity and inefficient processes are unsurprising consequences that impact project performance, as access to the same information can be a challenge as well as a disconnect between the office, the job site and the field. The handover process is often not satisfactory to the owner-operator as information is incomplete, lost or unconnected. The headwind for the industry is its slow methodical adoption of innovations, implying that it has not completely invested in re-skilling its workforce or nurturing the next generation of digital natives.
However, progress has been made in some areas. New methods of sharing project responsibility between the owners and contractors looks set to accelerate the ongoing digital journey to combat late delivery, budget excesses and poor visibility into performance. Digital project delivery helps improve visibility for owners, as contractual integration across design, build and construction processes enables better alignment and collaboration. Collaboration is further galvanised through digital workflow as project performance can be managed better at different phases of the life cycle and in construction. The use of a Building Information Modeling (BIM) process is not limited to a professional's specific discipline or phase of the project. To maximise the benefits of a professional's contribution to a project, a connected data environment offers not only digital workflows to share work packages but also provides automation and insight by improving collaboration across the supply chain and throughout the life cycle phases.
Industrial-strength cloud services can also be enabled by a connected data environment as contractors and owners look for best practice approaches and better information mobility. McKinsey's five prescriptions are realistic for construction firms to adopt today. They are not futuristic, unachievable or even expensive outlays, but are practical and relevant.
McKinsey's prescriptions are:
1. Higher-definition surveying and geolocation- Rapid digital mapping and estimating.
2. Next-generation 5D building information modeling- Design platform for the future.
3. Digital collaboration and mobility- Moving to paperless projects, from the office to the worksite.
4. The Internet of Things and advanced analytics- Intelligent asset management and decision-making.
5. Future-proof design and construction- Designing materials and methods for the future.
Higher-definition surveying and geolocation
The Leighton-Chun Wo joint venture was responsible for USD 1.08 billion, 90,000 square metre passenger bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao. With BIM review technology, more than 3,000 clashes were solved before and during construction. Reality modeling technology was employed to continuously monitor and survey ongoing progress. To avoid discrepancies, the survey team compared the 3D design models with point cloud models on a continuous basis, creating accurate as built models.
Next-generation 5D building information modeling
The Sabah State Administrative Centre in Malaysia commissioned a complex comprising of one 33-story office tower and a 9-story office building in this MYR 388.7 million project. Bin Puri Sdn. Bhd implemented BIM advancements to visualise and coordinate the buildings' elements through an integrated design and construction effort.
Digital collaboration and mobility
The Thames Tideway Tunnel is a GBP 4 billion design-build project to resolve the problem of overflow from London's Victorian-era sewers. The team used a connected data environment to connect more than 15 locations throughout Europe to manage better design work packages. Digital workflows enabled better design and document delivery.
The Internet of Things and advanced analytics
Danish-based Danfoss introduced its Smart Store Solution to allow customers to remotely monitor and control operations at over 5,000 locations. The solution would ensure a 24/7 system running mode, without asset failure, unplanned downtime or escalating energy costs. The operational analytics platform provided real-time data for proactive operations and maintenance, which included temperature reporting to ensure refrigeration units operate within the set parameters, saving energy without compromising food safety.
Future-proof design and construction
Shell's pioneering floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) facility Prelude FLNG has been deployed hundreds of kilometres off Australia's coast. With decks measuring 488-by-74 m, the facility is comprised of sections fabricated at multiple yards and brought to Geoje, South Korea for the final assembly. Construction management tools were employed to visually plan and execute work safely by delivering work packages through early pre-fabricated processes.
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Authored by Aidan Mercer, Industry Marketing Director, Project Delivery.