Graeme Forbes, Managing Director, Clearbox discusses the challenges in the digital construction sector and the cost of compliance
How is this new world of digital construction going for you? Are your levels of work reducing as promised or are you drowning in all the additional information that you have to manage?
Why are so many struggling to achieve the promised land of easier to manage processes, collaborative working and reduced time and costs?
A good starting point is to take a look at how people are trying to achieve it.
Existing tools are predominately model and file-based and often poorly manage the collation of data to create one integrated outcome. This makes it complex to access the data, with tools that require specialists to use them. Then there’s often poor interoperability between the tools even when they come from one supplier, so everyone ends up working in silos, double handling information and with hardly any engagement from commercial teams to see the struggles and wastage that’s happening, so there is less appreciation of the time and effort being wasted.
To demonstrate the scale of the challenge and the demands on resources, we had a look at the output on a £100m residential project. In its 25 models, there have been over 600,000 design data attribute changes and over 8m data transactions to complete COBie drop 4.
If you’re trying to handle all that data with the tools traditionally available, just think about the additional headcount it will take for you to manage it. What about the delays when things go wrong? Or the fact that instead of collaborating and showing the outcome in real time, the process turns into a periodic end of phase drop of information that can easily overwhelm. Who’s got access and who owns the data? The laborious manual processes, duplications and single-user access – the bottlenecks and the going round in circles that just add so many delays. We’ve all been there.
The iPhone generation
Often it is these issues that prevent the take-up – the effort is seen as much greater than the reward. Our expectations for the way technology should work were set by Apple nine years ago, and anything that doesn’t match up is seen as cumbersome and unnecessary – users demand contextualised interfaces that connect them to the right information, the first time.
We approach things a bit differently here because we’ve faced the challenges of managing large projects and we understand the potential that well-managed data in an easy-to-use system can deliver. We believe in one solution to manage not only your projects but your whole asset lifecycle, from end to end. A solution that everyone who needs to can access, but when doing so, only see what they need to / should see.
To do this, we keep the data at the heart of everything we do – this starts right from import, where we regularise it to ensure it is used efficiently and can drive increased value throughout all processes. For example, this means that teams don’t need specialist CAD skills to update models. They work on the data, federated as a single source of information and connected to the viewer to allow visual access. This prevents the delays that occur sending models back to the consultants to update.
But what to do with all that data?
So we think we’re well on the way to solving the ease of management of projects and it’s all well and good collecting all this information. However, at the moment, most businesses don’t really know what to do with it. Another barrier to achieving that promised land.
We keep hearing the phrase ‘data is king’, and we’re all well aware that the potential to drive efficiency from assets is huge if managed correctly. So, then the debate moves on to skills. Construction is changing beyond recognition. We still need the traditional skills (with a more modern approach to the processes), but now we also need the data scientists to help us move forward and effectively work out what to do with all this data we are creating. They need to help us to analyse it and enable us to be able to predict costs, allocate resources effectively, manage the ongoing maintenance of assets to achieve that pinnacle of smart digital construction.
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Please note: this is a commercial profile