The construction industry – one of the least-digitalised industries globally – can improve its efficiency and productivity, and regain its competitiveness, if it digitalises, says construction and engineering software solutions firm RIB CCS CEO Andrew Skudder.
“The Covid-19 crisis is leading to a mindset shift in terms of digitalisation, but we are still only working on the fringes of true digital transformation; collaboration and communication tools are present in every company.
“The industry must recognise the potential of using digital technologies, and the Covid-19 crisis has shown construction companies how much data goes unused and is lost. Having a platform that integrates and makes information accessible to all roles and parts of processes anywhere and at any time will not only help to capture data, but also ensure that data is used to improve all processes and decision-making,” he adds.
RIB Software, RIB CCS’s parent company, has created a platform that provides fit-for-purpose tools for the entire built environment asset, industrial facilities and the infrastructure value chain, including design, build and operate.
The objective of RIB CCS is to enable clients to gather and structure data, analyse it to provide real-time information and enable the use of new analytical tools, including deep learning and predictive analytics.
“A digital platform approach enables the sector to leverage the increasingly important asset that is data to make better decisions and ensure that projects are delivered more efficiently, on time and [within] budget.”
RIB CCS’s solutions rely on data from the whole range of construction activities to improve the performance of each component, as well as the entire value chain, from estimating to construction and operation of the built environment asset.
“By having a digital solution at the estimating stage, companies can plan all related and subsequent activities accurately, and have an understanding of the costs and resources required.
“Specifically, this type of digital twin solution allows design changes requested during construction to be modelled, costs and the impact on delivery determined and the full scope of work planned,” he explains.
RIB CCS calls its platform a five-dimensional building information modelling (5D BIM) construction cloud management solution that connects all project contributors along with their processes and data on one platform, which is founded on the principle of integrating the virtual and physical worlds. This digital twin platform helps to collate data – providing a single source of information – and companies to plan out in detail according to their own practices and processes, the schedule of work, equipment, tools and skills required.
Further, construction companies can model the impacts of any changes or interruptions accurately, as well as model and test different design concepts using accurate data derived from past and current projects.
“5D simulation is a powerful tool to understand the costs and constructability of a project and, even on site, professionals can use it to make decisions on sequencing to optimise and shorten construction time before construction starts.”
Similarly, identifying a design flaw and fixing it without impacting on construction makes the process more efficient.
“Data is the key to improving the construction sector, and one of the main reasons to digitally transform. Having information to better manage pain points and improve outcomes will enable companies to improve their competitiveness without sacrificing profitability and the long-term sustainability of the industry.”
More efficient construction projects and infrastructure development provide a holistic benefit to society, and ensures that societies can achieve greater development with the available resources, he adds.
Case studies of the impact of 5D modelling have shown a 30% improvement on collective project costs, procurement efficiency and productivity, while also reducing waste.
“Being able to design and virtually construct a project before you go to site helps to eliminate a lot of waste, avoid additional costs, and leads to cost and time savings. We can also then start to bring in other technologies to add data, such as the Internet of Things and sensors on equipment, to monitor the productivity of each equipment piece and of the whole project.”
Similarly, new technologies, such as drone-based inspections of sites and structures, can be deployed and integrated into a company’s database to provide information to all relevant systems.
“This makes the company’s entire suite of digital tools more powerful, and there is a need to bring all the data into one platform and use it. The industry often has disparate tools, with the data kept in separate silos. The ability to integrate data and link it to digital twin models is particularly powerful,” says Skudder.
Additionally, construction companies can link their suppliers and information into the business partner management solution of the platform.
“The core aspect in a construction platform environment is workflow management, which means enabling the flow of information to and from stakeholders in the project, whether suppliers, contractors or clients.”
Further, the construction platform solution is customised to suit each company’s practices and processes.
“A digital construction platform can readily be adopted and used with existing mobile device and collaboration solutions deployed in the industry. The key differentiator is that it enables construction-sector companies to progress with their digital transformation,” concludes Skudder.