Infrastructure projects typically involve budgets in the billions of dollars and have large populations relying on their timely completion. While building new transit lines, bridges or ports has always been a major technical challenge, companies that make effective use of data are better able to deliver new projects on time and within budget.
Here are just some of the reasons we need to start working more collaboratively and the benefits that data-sharing can offer us:
- The amount of project data we need to manage is growing every day
Major projects generate terabytes of data, not to mention multiple models with associated databases. For example, our MTR Corporation Tung Chung Line Extension project in Hong Kong has generated approximately 2.5TB of data and over 60 Working In Progress Building Information Modelling (BIM) models to date, not including the multiples of shared, published and archived models in the process. In order to keep on top of this data deluge, we must use shared data environments to store, sort and interact with it effectively — while maintaining strict security access. This approach also allows designers and engineers to make informed decisions using a global ecosystem of data, as opposed to that which is only available within and across a single project.
- Data helps provide a joined-up approach from contract to design to execution
Key stakeholders, right across a project, should be sharing their data and insight, starting with those working on the contract, so that everyone has a clear understanding of the full scope of work and the plan for delivering it. Engaging all players — from design to delivery teams — upfront and ensuring a steady flow of information will help to fully integrate teams and ensure there are no gaps, so projects run more smoothly and produce better outcomes.
- We are behind other industries when it comes to digital transformation
There’s a lot that infrastructure can learn from industries that are further along in their digital journeys — automotive manufacturing and aviation being just two examples. By understanding more about how these sectors are using data and technology to optimise processes and adopting some of these ideas into our own design transformation, we can improve overall industry productivity and stay competitive.
- It’s time-consuming to reinvent the wheel on every project
We’ve already seen greater efficiencies across infrastructure projects in recent years, thanks to reusing or standardising designs, but there’s even greater potential here. By changing our mindsets to automate by default, we can free up valuable time for designers to focus on the more creative elements of their work.
- It reduces the amount of time spent looking for the right information
Employees can reportedly spend anywhere between 1.8 and 2.5 hours a day searching for information. However, Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) can take away the frustration of having to hunt for the most up-to-date design files, instead empowering people with the right information, to make the right decisions, at the right time. Better data storage and distribution, according to access rights, not only saves time but improves communication with clients too. And with real-time design data available at their fingertips, engineers can ensure their simulations always run true to life.
- Clients are hosting design data on their own platforms
Clients are increasingly hosting project data on platforms addressing key concerns important to their needs. One of our clients from the rail and infrastructure industry is merging multiple stand-alone management systems into a single EDMS to organise data and provide a review space in both 2D and 3D. Colleagues can discuss virtually and make decisions and provide feedback. As clients become more sophisticated in their data management and their expectations increase, we must have the right technology in place to meet their needs.
- Global projects demand a more connected approach
Atkins’s current Tung Chung Line Extension project in Hong Kong is a two-year endeavour during the pandemic, forcing adaptation to connect discipline teams and stakeholders digitally through online communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams for design reviews where traditional face-to-face meetings were no longer feasible. The collaborative design approach through digital platforms allowed our design teams to author online with teams locally in Hong Kong while at the same time allowing our Global Technology Centre access to the same information models. Spanning different time zones, it was critical that the common data environment (CDE) was maintained to ensure that access rights were correctly provided with a security-minded approach and assuring that the information was available to the right people all the time.
- Embracing the digital future
Organising our data and ourselves in a consistent way allows us to take on exciting projects and approach briefs in new ways, giving us a wealth of inventive options when it comes to how we deliver work. The best part is that the technology already exists — we just need to start using it.
As the construction and engineering industry becomes more data-driven, project teams more dispersed, technology more advanced and our clients more sophisticated, the time is ripe for us to transform the design process. By capitalising on the digital tools we have available, adopting a more collaborative approach and learning where we can from other industries, we can ensure that future projects are fully optimised to achieve better outcomes.
This sponsored feature was provided by Atkins and was originally published by Digital Connect Hub.