CT: How important has adoption of BIM, ERP, virtual reality and IoT been in the way the construction and infrastructure industries operate today?
Kalyan Vaidyanathan: Technology adoption in construction has had a big upswing, recently, driven by a number of factors. One is the awareness that is being created by technology solution providers, as well as domain and management consultants. Two is the change in business economics driven by shrinking margins and increased competition. Three is the more recent effect of the pandemic, which has created the need to deploy digitalization technologies to run projects effectively and efficiently. Industry players are also getting larger and with that comes a need for better governance and control. All of this has meant that ERP systems are expected to be in place. Most companies are exploring the adoption of collaboration systems and document control systems. When it comes to deploying a BIM methodology, there is a lot that has to be explored. Most companies are creating 3D models and exploring design clash detection as an ROI from 3D models. However, owners and contractors have to realize that a BIM methodology does not equate to using 3D models.
A BIM methodology is about organizing information, standardizing processes, and putting a roadmap in place wherein the information in the model can be effectively used from design to procurement to construction. Creating those connections or bridges from design systems to procurement systems (ERP) and scheduling systems, as well as connecting those data sources to field data collection systems using mobile applications, is the current wave in the industry. In summary, the industry is looking for integrated project control solutions to connect their data silos, collaborate across various stakeholders, and help them gain forward-looking KPIs so that they can complete their projects on time and on budget.
Augmented reality, virtual reality, and Internet of Things (IoT) technology is still evolving, and we think that these technologies and their adoption will mature over the next two to three years.
CT: Can you please elaborate on the benefits of such technology in the process of the creating robust infrastructure from designing to execution and even in the post completion period?
Kalyan Vaidyanathan: The benefits of technology adoption during the design and construction phase, as well as the operations phase, is well established. During the design and construction phase, the most immediate benefit is the productivity improvement. Our clients have reported that sites can be managed with leaner teams by adopting project control solutions. Post digitalization, the planning engineers are able to spend more time analysing and course correcting the plans, rather than simply doing data entry and keeping multiple systems in sync. Another owner is using the predictive scheduling capabilities in the nPulse solution to reduce project delivery times by up to 10%. A third one has improved the cashflow of their contractors by significantly reducing the invoicing to cash collection cycle that in turn has led to improved collaboration between the owner and contractor.
For example, one of our users has completely eliminated Excel and paper from sites to manage their project planning and execution. The saving in paper alone is estimated to be the equivalent of 100 trees, a positive environmental impact. In their case, the quality inspection process has been fully digitalized. They plan to use the information for the next 10 to 15 years while operating the facility to understand what kind of quality issues are leading to rework and costs during the operations phase. What they learn is expected to improve the methodology of construction in their future projects – all leading to increased ROI from deploying technology solutions.
CT: To what extent has India embraced newer technologies in this space when compared with other developed and/or developing nations?
Kalyan Vaidyanathan: The Indian market is diverse enough that it is safe to assume that most newer technologies in the space are in some stage of adoption. ERP systems to handle accounting and finance, and procurement is a given and is in a mature stage of adoption. Similarly, adoption of scheduling solutions is also maturing. In certain sectors of construction, the maturity levels in creating good quality schedules are high while they are still maturing in others. But, practically in all projects, schedules are being created to drive project plans. 3D models and BIM methodologies is in the early adoption phase. We are seeing an increasing trend wherein owners are asking for 3D models to be submitted. But, construction is still largely happening using 2D drawings. 3D models with rich information annotation are still not yet a requirement. When that happens, BIM solutions will also reach a higher degree of maturity in adoption. As mentioned, drones, 360 cameras, and IoT-based solutions are in their nascent stages.
If there is one reason for a low penetration of technology adoption in India, it is because technology is still viewed as a cost-driven exercise and not a value-based one. Productivity improvement as ROI is not valued as much in India as it is in western markets. However, as the construction and infrastructure markets grow, and the pressure to deliver projects within time and cost and with shrinking human resources and margins continue, clients in India will be forced to adopt digitalization. At Bentley, we strongly believe that these market dynamics will drive an upswing in the adoption of digitalization in construction and construction technology solutions in India.
The construction industry is a high-touch industry, and solution providers cannot simply provide a product, do some training, provide manuals, and walk away. We believe in delivering solutions rather than products. We believe in delivering solutions that will complement the existing technology footprint of our users and integrate and interoperate with them so that their stakeholders working on projects can avoid data entry duplication in their existing technology solutions. And, in that regard, we prefer to directly partner with users or through partners for the long term in driving the process changes necessary to drive the adoption of technology for clients to realize the value and ROI from digitalization.
CT: Do you feel some initiatives have to be taken at the government level to promote adoption of technology?
Kalyan Vaidyanathan: The government, being one of the largest owner-operators of public infrastructure facilities, should drive digital adoption in construction. There are examples in history wherein large-scale change in adoption of technology in construction has come through government initiatives in countries abroad. Such examples have driven the adoption of scheduling technologies, earned value methodologies, and, more recently, the adoption of 3D modelling technologies. Very recently, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) moved to deploy an integrated project management system (IPMS) for managing the Phase IV construction of DMRC. This is being done on the developed solution – nPulse – that recently became a part of the Bentley portfolio. This move by DMRC, in our opinion, will be the harbinger for other metros, rapid rail, road, rail, as well as other public infrastructure projects to adopt digital construction technology solutions for integrated project controls.
CT: Tell us about the future technologies that you are excited about.
Kalyan Vaidyanathan: Bentley, as the infrastructure engineering software company, offers full lifecycle asset information management solutions. Bentley’s solutions cover the capex phase of a project, from conceptual design through execution. We also have solutions that handle the opex phase of the asset through our AssetWise solution. Within Bentley, the construction solutions group ConstructHelix, of which I am a part of, offers an integrated project controls solution—Bentley nPulse—as the flagship offering. The solution digitalizes all project processes in the design phase to procure to the project’s construction phase. This solution has multi-organization, multi-process collaboration workflows that allow for all project stakeholders to share information during the project lifecycle from design to execution. It also has a controls module that allows for all project information from schedule, BOQ, materials, labour, quality, safety, 3D BIM models, issues, hindrances, and documents to be connected to each other for decision makers to get forward indicators into time and cost overruns. We believe the industry is moving towards immersive virtual design and controls, and Bentley would like to be at the forefront, delivering solutions to the market as the market is ready to absorb them.