Successfully delivering Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (“EPC”) projects is an inherently complex task. Experts from diverse fields such as architecture, engineering and construction (“AEC”) work in close collaboration. The AEC sector is poised for significant growth because the developing world requires new infrastructure, and the developed world needs to renew/upgrade its infrastructure.
Traditionally successful players cannot take future success for granted due to two major forces. The first is the vital role the AEC sector is expected to play in fighting climate change by using new materials, adopting innovative designs and embracing advanced construction techniques. AEC players need to elevate their “sustainability game” in their respective areas of expertise.
The second force results from the fact that constituent members of AEC consortia will be at different stages of technological maturity. Individual firms may use bespoke or COTS (common off-the-shelf) software hosted “on-premise” or “on-cloud”. Project management teams need the right data drawn from diverse source systems in order to support timely planning, decision-making and execution across project lifecycles.
AEC players need the right digital capabilities to effectively address customer needs
Customers see quality, cost, adherence to specifications, deadlines and regulatory compliance as important building blocks of value. They also expect higher operational efficiencies and tighter risk management. Members of AEC consortia use disparate systems that store data in different formats. These systems cannot talk to one another, thus leading to data silos. Every AEC consortium must be equipped to quickly, accurately, and reliably bridge these data silos in order to deliver on customer expectations. With increasing digitalisation, the success of AEC players will depend on how well their information systems support four specific priorities.
1. Enhancing timely and secure collaboration
Consortia are often made up of AEC/EPC players based out of different jurisdictions. Relevant teams must work together to make decisions around designs, plans, specifications, Bills of Material (BoM), schedules, milestones, payments etc. Workflows must provide a high degree of traceability in order to achieve the high levels of accountability and transparency that such projects demand.
Steering committees and project management teams must be able to view/review the work of individual teams and assess in near real-time the impact of changes. Sometimes, such stakeholder discussions may need to be held virtually. Members may need to enter/exit the consortium at different stages of the project. At all times, confidential information and intellectual property (IP) must be protected. Robust cybersecurity, too, is necessary. This level of secure workflow and collaboration is possible only with a “next-generation” digital platform.
2. Tracking and monitoring projects
All through a project’s lifecycle, stakeholders will need to review progress, remove bottlenecks, address emerging risks, and sign-off on revisions. To enable remedial actions, automated alerts triggered by specific events must be sent to key stakeholders in the consortium. Project management teams must be equipped to view/trace data at the desired levels of aggregation/detail in order to anticipate and manage risks effectively. Such capabilities, too, require robust platforms that span individual systems and function as a ”wraparound”.
3. Finding new ways to differentiate
Depending on the project, many contracts include more than a performance clause. To enhance sustainability, some customers require the AEC consortium to manage specific aspects of the infrastructure for a certain period of time. This can include energy management, water consumption (including recycling, rainwater harvesting etc.), solid waste management, etc. IoT-based sensors and other embedded devices can help monitor these parameters, but AEC members need the digital wherewithal to capture, process, store and access these datasets.
Some buildings/campuses seek help from their AEC partners to achieve goals such as energy self-sufficiency (by using renewable energy) or achieving carbon neutrality. AEC players/consortia with the right technological capabilities can offer such elements in their services, thereby enabling clear differentiation.
4. Harnessing AI
AEC firms that adopt AI will be able to compress the time and cost associated with key tasks, thus giving them a competitive edge. For example, despite working on similar projects in the past, most AEC players start new projects on a clean slate. While every project has unique features, AI can quickly generate design options based on data from past projects. Human experts can then refine these designs in the context of the current project (soil/environmental conditions, usage patterns etc.). AI can also quickly generate BoM tied to the suggested designs, saving significant effort.
With Generative AI, climate data can be integrated to create what-if scenarios that can then improve design quality. It can also be used to more efficiently allocate human resources to projects so that revenues are optimized.
The time is ripe for AEC players to embrace digital transformation
Customers of AEC consortia, too place a premium on transparency, speed, quality, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility. Delivering on these attributes consistently requires AEC players to adopt new technologies. Some of these pertain to the domain of architectural design and civil engineering (e.g. pre-fabricated construction, self-healing concrete, modular construction, 3D printing, etc). Others relate to how construction projects are envisioned, designed, executed and managed. For example, Building Information Management (BIM) platforms provide the ability to virtually simulate a construction project from beginning to end.
A BIM platform aggregates data from various AEC teams and saves the information centrally. All stakeholders can thus work off one version of the truth in real-time- a critical need given that projects involve multiple moving parts at any given time. Only when all stakeholders have real-time access to the same accurate datasets can projects be managed efficiently and the risk of conflicts, delays and blame games reduced. The right level of data integration between the BIM platform and the various systems that feed data into it is necessary to extract value.
An API-first approach to data integration offers multiple benefits to AEC players
Bespoke solutions can help achieve data integration across multiple systems belonging to different AEC players. Building these solutions can take time and can be expensive. Each consortium/project may need new solutions or tweaks because the mix of proprietary tools, legacy systems, and COTS will change as AEC partners change. Open API-based integration with commonly used design and engineering software is a proven approach to overcome these challenges.
An API-first approach can help create a common data environment that makes collaboration, visualization, and reporting easier, faster and more accurate. Adopting a quickly implementable, open API-based data integration solution significantly increases the level of automation that can be achieved in data input processes, thus reducing risks of human error. Such an approach extends the life of legacy systems. In addition to saving money, this reduces the need for employees to be trained on the new system, which can cause disruptions and delays during the transition.
One of our solutions in action
For a tunnel/bridge project, our solution automated the input process so that information from Civil 3D was directly transferred to Revit. It also provided interfaces between piping, electrical, topography etc. and integration with BIM 360 to allow stakeholders live interactions. Our API-based solution helped the customer reap benefits in project management, engineering design, procurement & logistics, construction & commissioning, safety, sustainability, and cross-team collaboration.
To know more about how your AEC firm can benefit from our broad and deep experience, please write to: [email protected].
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