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Technology Enabling Digital Transformation

SPONSORED: Part 2. Can Digital Transformation Really Transform Your Business? Discover the technologies that enable digital transformation.

In our first article, we explored some key benefits of digital transformation, and how it can lead to improved efficiency, increased profitability, and improved quality. In this article, we’ll look closer at some of the technologies involved in digital transformation.

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Image source:  spainter_vfxstock.adobe.com.

 

Applying Digital Transformation

To achieve tangible benefits with digital transformation, organizations need a plan to implement and apply the concept. This requires recognizing the importance of people in all processes, as well as reviewing current workflows and technology for potential improvement.

Because people are the most valuable asset of any successful organization, staff at all levels should be actively involved in implementing digital technology. This includes management, engineering, IT, and support personnel. By keeping workers informed and involved in implementing new technology, workers are more likely to take ownership of new concepts and help drive successful outcomes.

 

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When asked to name the top challenges facing their companies, respondents cited cost control and the difficulty of attracting and retaining talent. Image source: Autodesk.

Improved collaboration can be a direct benefit of staff involvement in digital transformation. As professionals of different disciplines work more closely together, silos disappear and team members see more clearly how their work fits into a larger picture. The age-old concept of “throwing work over the wall” for someone else to handle is replaced by multi-disciplined teams of designers and builders sharing data more freely and collaborating throughout project lifecycles.

By involving people in all stages of digital transformation, orga-nizations can also address the challenge of attracting and retaining talent. In a “2024 State of Design & Make” report prepared by Autodesk, surveyed experts cited attracting and retaining talent as their second-most prominent challenge, behind cost control and management. The two issues were also the top challenges identified in Autodesk’s 2023 survey, though in reverse order.

A digitally transformed company makes an organization a more attractive place to work, helping improve employee retention. Today’s workers value forward-looking organizations that employ technology accompanied by training. In a PwC report, “Talent Trends 2019: Upskilling for a Digital World,” Carol Stubbings, Joint Leader, Global People & Organisation, PwC UK, said: “Employers need to satisfy the growing desire for ‘good work’—a fulfilling, rewarding experience that meets a set of high-quality values. Technology brings opportunities for efficiencies and cost management, but it also brings the opportunity to make working lives more productive and fulfilling.”

When contemplating a digital transformation, organizations should be willing to review workflows for potential improvement. Lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing — two similar concepts adopted in manufacturing settings — serve as valuable models in multiple industries. By focusing on only supplying necessary products and services at optimal times, firms can reduce cycle, flow, and throughput times by eliminating activities that do not add value.

 

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Productivity was cited in the Autodesk report as the top advantage of digital transformation. Image source: Autodesk.

 

As digital transformation helps companies become leaner, it can also help address cost control challenges, as companies become more productive and are able to perform more work with the same number of people. In the Autodesk report, productivity ranked as the top advantage of digital transformation.

Software also plays a key role in digital transformation. To achieve success, firms need the right tools optimized for specific situations. This may mean re-evaluating tools currently in use and incorporating upgrades or new products, as well as customized tools for unique applications.

Along with software optimization, data standardization should be a primary objective for organizations seeking to improve operations. By using common data standards, data is more easily shared throughout project lifecycles, without having to be translated, reformatted, or recreated.

 

Key Technologies Driving Innovation

Technologies that transform organizations are numerous, but a few have risen to the top in recent years. Reality capture — the process of generating accurate point clouds for measuring spaces, creating as-built models, and various other tasks — has proven invaluable to a wide range of organizations, including those designing and building large facilities and those manufacturing small products. By capturing the physical world and transforming it into digital data, reality capture empowers you to make more informed decisions, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.

 

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Reality capture enables accurate generation of 3D point clouds based on photographs or laser scans, so design activities can happen in context with existing conditions. Image source: IMAGINiT Technologies.

 

Before the advent of this technology, designers spent countless hours gathering data through manual measurements and monotonous drafting.

Digital twins and building information modeling (BIM) — two related but unique technologies — offer numerous benefits. By building digital replicas of physical projects, design professionals help owners and construction teams make more informed decisions and experience their projects through virtual reality before construction. This helps to identify potential problems earlier in the process. For example, 3D modeling and BIM tools identify spatial conflicts between structural and mechanical systems during design, rather than during construction, when rework is often more expensive and time-consuming. Reduction of rework can help designers, builders, and owners become more profitable.

Ernest Bock & Sons (EBS), a family-owned construction firm, found BIM highly effective in managing project data. The firm implemented an Autodesk BIM 360 solution that improved access to project documentation, connected field and office personnel through a mobile application, and provided a common space to detect clashes in project models. “Because the engineers, contractors, and others easily collaborated through every phase, issues were identified and addressed early, options were evaluated quickly, and we never had a problem with version control,” said EBS superintendent Matt Carey.

In manufacturing settings, digital technology improves efficiency and reduces waste, again improving bottom lines. As processes are automated through digital technology, key personnel are able to focus on strategic thinking and getting products to market faster.

Expanding on the concept of 3D modeling, BIM integrates additional data beyond just geometric data to help owners manage assets across their lifecycles, from planning and design to construction and operations. For example, specifications and other information about mechanical and electrical systems can be contained in the BIM, helping AECO professionals make real-time updates and drive operations and maintenance (O&M) decisions.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been capturing worldwide attention recently in many aspects of daily life. In the Autodesk report, 76% of respondents said they trust the technology for their industry; however, survey respondents also expressed skepticism that companies will trust the technology enough to sign off on critical deliverables. While still an evolving technology, AI can potentially help industry professionals design and build projects more quickly, efficiently, and safely. As it gains traction, it may find more uses in compiling data from multiple projects and applying lessons learned to design and build new projects.

As noted in the Autodesk survey, resilience and sustainability have become crucial to the success of many businesses. For AECO professionals, this means designing and building projects with reduced carbon footprints, both during and after construction. Software tools aid evaluation of designs for carbon, energy, and other factors. In the manufacturing world, companies face increasing pressure to reduce their environmental impact and conserve natural resources. Technologies such as product lifecycle management (PLM) can help with this effort.

In conjunction with implementing new technology, training is key to equipping staff to use new tools. As technology advances, closing the gap between skills-based learning and on-the-job training is crucial to your team’s efficiency and achieving intended business benefits. eLearning tools such as ProductivityNOW from IMAGINiT can provide BIM and CAD teams with reliable and consistent answers to urgent questions and enhance their software skills. This enables continuous learning, consistent use of design standards, knowledge capturing and sharing, and increased productivity.

 

Next Steps

If your organization is contemplating a digital transformation, here are some questions to ask in identifying areas for improvement:

  • Is there a need for manual data re-entry between systems during any stage of our processes?
  • Have we encountered errors due to discrepancies in multiple versions of the same document?
  • To what extent have our team members embraced new technologies?
  • Is there a robust training framework in place for newly integrated processes and/or technologies?
  • As you embark on a digital transformation, work with a qualified solutions provider to develop and implement a plan.

A partner with industry experience is essential to thoroughly evaluate your resources from both a technology and personnel standpoint, and assist with all areas of digital transformation. Reviewing current processes and workflows to identify areas of potential improvement and efficiency gains is an important first step.

 

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eLearning tools such as ProductivityNOW enable continuous learning, consistent use of design standards, knowledge capturing and sharing, and increased productivity. Image source: IMAGINiT Technologies.

 

IMAGINiT Technologies' Mike Hagedorn, Vice President of Professional Services, summarizes the company’s distinctive capabilities as a technology partner: “What makes us unique is that we have the capability and the history of solving problems at a solution level that involve consulting, software technology, people, and strategic advice. Our consulting team is 175 people strong, and they’re all industry experts. They know engineering, construction, building management, facilities management, manufacturing, and PLM as they relate to what our customers do and what they want to do in the future.”

As noted in these first two articles, digital transformation offers numerous benefits, and different technologies can be employed for each situation. Regardless of the technology, a holistic approach to technology enhancement is key, leveraging staff expertise, technology partners, and appropriate tools to propel your success in the ever-evolving landscape of engineering and design. In our next article, we will explore paths to success when implementing digital transformation.

 

ARTICLE SPONSORED BY IMAGINiT Technologies.

 

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Cadalyst Staff

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