As building and infrastructure projects become more complex, and the business environment ever-more competitive, embracing innovation will be essential to increasing efficiency, reducing cost and adapting to change, says Robert Plana of international engineering firm Assystem
For a long time, innovation has predominately been dedicated to product manufacturing and technological developments as facilities and engineering were not occupying a large part of the value proposition.
However, this trend is being reversed due to our very competitive market and the increase in the complexity of infrastructures associated with new environmental policies and tighter safety and security regulations. Engineering and infrastructure are gaining more and more importance in the global value chain, which is driving the need to incorporate innovation as a business enabler.
It’s even more critical for the UK, facing unprecedented micro and macroeconomic challenges, to remain competitive in an increasingly uncertain and saturated economic climate. Industrial infrastructures will become more complex with new requirements in terms of modularity to accommodate the economic fluctuations of the environment and of availability and productivity. This will impact the strict deadlines of all industrial projects, as well as the expected costs that will be achieved by a vibrant innovation strategy. With that in mind, as an industry, we need to shift our attention to innovation. In doing so, we will drive further growth and revenue, while operating with increased productivity.
The importance of innovation
The field of engineering and infrastructure is significantly impacted by workforce and the ability to rapidly incorporate new technologies, new methodologies and uses. Being attractive to young talent is becoming strategic. This is done by embarking young engineers on complex projects with difficult, stimulating tasks and through new, more collaborative ways of working using agile and creative methodologies, such as hackathons. This will pave a new route, allowing businesses to become more dynamic and sustainable.
In addition, innovation enables businesses to coordinate themselves with changes in the environment, market and consumer demands. Competing in a crowded market is a real challenge for businesses in the engineering and construction sector. However, by embracing innovation, organisations can find an alternative method of entering the sector and remaining competitive, while enabling them to increase their global and domestic outreach.
Yet there is a surprising number of businesses within the sector who are yet to prioritise innovation. In an uncertain market, the challenge for UK businesses to compete globally with our European neighbours is a true cause for innovation. Maintaining growth, reputation and quality will all be dependent on innovation, and will all be essential for the future of the UK’s engineering industry.
The benefits of innovating
Innovation offers an abundance of opportunities for organisations who choose to embrace it. The most profound being:
Increased efficiency: Innovation increases efficiency. To be successful in the engineering and construction industry, it’s imperative businesses operate efficiently. For instance, using the most advanced artificial intelligence technologies will enable an organisation to better predict the delivery model of a project, as well as to improve the availability of the infrastructure under operation.
Cost: Innovative and emerging technologies, such as BIM and Digital Twin, can reduce costs and maximise revenue.
Market: Innovation enables businesses to be agile and employ more flexible strategies to changing market demands.
Adapt: Innovation permits businesses to adapt to technological change and engage with the digital economy and the Internet of Things.
Workforce: Innovation allows businesses to develop and retain a skilled workforce through new positions like data scientist and BIM manager. The industry will be able to offer new positions in different areas and proposing new ways to conduct system engineering.
Innovation in practice
As project owners are being asked to construct buildings that are increasingly complex and with higher performance levels, it’s imperative organisations innovate and look to new technologies. One of the innovative digital solutions that is currently revolutionising the engineering industry is BIM.
By implementing BIM efficiently, organisations can witness cost and time reductions of 10%, a 90% reduction in time for project information handover and 20% efficiency savings across the asset lifecycle through the digital twin paradigm.
As engineering projects are becoming more complex and expensive, innovation is essential. It improves costs, timelines and efficiency and offers unapparelled opportunities for business who embrace it.
As a result, innovation needs to remain at the core of the engineering sector if the UK is to remain a key global player. Industries that do not embrace innovation run the risk of lagging behind. It’s therefore imperative, as an industry, that we recognise the potential of innovation. In doing so, we will propel our industry forward.
Chief Technology Officer
Tel: +44 (0)1772 645000