Digital engineering saves time, improves safety and reduces costs

February 20, 2023
  • Engineering design

Max Godley, CPB Contractors Group Manager Digital Engineering & Innovation, has been working in the digital design and construction field for more than 15 years. He has responsibility for overseeing the take-up and standardisation of digital engineering across CPB Contractors. He ensures the implementation of innovative methods of project delivery to continually improve business performance.

Lots of people talk about digital engineering, but what do you understand by the term?

Digital engineering is about designing, capturing, integrating, managing and accessing construction information through the use of digital tools and information management processes. We want to ensure our people have all the technology, tools and integrated processes to deliver their projects effectively. For the construction industry, digital engineering is at the forefront of innovation, so we spend a fair amount of time evaluating new software and applications.  Creating 3D models is what many will associate with digital engineering but it is much more than that. The true value of digital engineering is data and how we integrate data across the whole project lifecycle.

What does your job as CPB Contractors’ Group Manager Digital Engineering & Innovation involve?

CPB Contractors has dozens of people working exclusively in digital engineering and my role is to ensure that the function is making an effective contribution across all our projects. We have a Digital Engineering Working Group which collaborates on best in industry digital methods of project delivery. It also develops innovative workflows and integrated ways of working which I ensure are deployed across all our projects.

Our focus is on supporting our people to improve the way they design, build and operate.  My role is to challenge and advance how we operate by ensuring our people can leverage our existing methods and technologies, or radically change how we work by introducing new technologies, methods and solutions.

What are the advantages of digital engineering compared to traditional engineering?

I’ll use a taxi metaphor to make the comparison. If you needed to go from point A to point B, you used to call a taxi. You waited to see if it turned up, you didn’t know how much it would cost or the route it would take. Now, to get to point B, you use an app on your phone that gives upfront pricing, shows the route to be taken, tracks the vehicle in real time and provides a history to be analysed, as well as a collaboration and feedback mechanism.

In construction, we still need to build roads, railways and infrastructure (getting from point A to Point B), but digital engineering means we can use much smarter methods to do so.

With advances in technology we can now design and construct a project virtually using complex 3D models and construction visualisation software before we even get to site and build the physical project. This means we can eliminate risks while offering improved predictability of building performance, cost and programme. During construction we have instant access to real time data which provides our project teams with valuable insights on how a project is performing. Our collaborative approach to project delivery, integrated systems and technology with real time insights, enables us to build a construction digital twin which we then hand over to our clients.

What lessons have you learnt while rolling out digital engineering?

The use of digital engineering keeps expanding because clients and project teams can see the benefits it generates. The rate at which technology is advancing also provides us with the opportunity to continually improve our methods of delivery.

At CPB we have developed an Integrated Digital Delivery Framework which outlines our strategic approach to transforming the way we work. This framework articulates our business objectives in streamlining work processes and connecting stakeholders through digital data, innovation and technology across the project lifecycle. Ultimately, we will deliver better outcomes for our people, clients and communities.

How do you support this process of change?   

I don’t think being a digital preacher works. It is better to get the improvement realised on a live project and then people see it for themselves and want it. 

What works is demonstrating the benefits. You can’t just tell people that things are going to be better. You have to show them.

We aren’t delivering our projects digitally because it is the latest trend. We are investing in digital to save time, improve safety, reduce costs and de-risk projects. When people see that, they want to be part of it.

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