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Virtual-led method riding innovation and high quality in consulting engineering


The use of Building Information Modelling – or “BIM” – in the consulting engineering space continues to evolve. Thought of simply as “a way to create drawings” not too long ago, the way engineers and project teams use the software has advanced through creating information rich models to now forming an integral part of project and construction management.

“Modelling building designs is only a small part of what the software can do,” explains Carel van Niekerk, Technologist: Engineering Management, WSP in Africa. “It’s also a completely paperless, cloud-based project management system that includes design, making it an extremely powerful tool to improve site management and the construction process overall.”

Roelie Oelofse, BIM Manager, WSP in Africa, agrees. “It’s the information available in BIM that’s so incredibly valuable, allowing us to use the software to keep track of exactly what’s happening on a project, from easier peer review and sign-off of designs to easy access to information about progress and challenges on a project.”

Effectively using the technology available ensures a complete audit trail of any engineering project, decreases cybersecurity risks and protects client information and projects teams’ intellectual property. This is particularly valuable with the rise of hybrid working. Whether working from home, in the office, or on site – sometimes in remote or underserviced parts of the African continent – projects teams can access and add to projects in the cloud, so that the whole team is always working with up-to-date project designs and data.

WSP’s digital transformation journey has been one of adopting AutoDesk Construction Cloud (formerly known as BIM 360) to its fullest extent so that it’s benefits can be delivered to the engineering team, the construction team and, most importantly, the client.

“It’s through this shift in how we use the software that capabilities like Digital Twins become possible,” van Niekerk says. “Mapping an information-rich digital model against the project under construction as well as each step of the construction process – from ordering correct material quantities to monitoring progress and quality on site – is what using a Digital Twin effectively is all about.”

“Digital twins” are all the buzz in the engineering and construction space and taking the approach van Niekerk describes releases the value digital twins should deliver – greater insight into the project lifecycle, the ability to optimise and improve workflows, manage the supply chain from end-to-end, and manage quality and spot any errors before they happen.

“Digitally transforming our approach to engineering design and project management enables better collaboration, better communication, better document management, better version control and better project management,” Oelofse adds. “It means our engineering teams and modellers have to do a lot less rework and are able to provide feedback to each other and to clients more quickly. Site inspections and progress reports become a lot more efficient, too. Our engineers can ‘snag’ using their phones during site visits, and by the time they get back to the office snags are already being addressed.”

Adopting digitally-led design and project management approaches has put WSP at the forefront of digital transformation in the industry. Oelofse and van Niekerk continue to encourage adoption so that engineering and project teams are working ever more efficiently and effectively.

“It’s not just engineers that have to approach their work a little differently these days,” Oelofse says. “As the digital skills required of engineers change and develop to respond to a digitally-led way of doing things, the role of modellers in the design process is changing as well. The ability to perform detailed design annotation and tagging is required of modellers if these two roles are to continue to support one another in the design process.”

As WSP continues to evolve the way it uses design software, it’s clear that technology has the power to enable engineers to deliver quality, accurate designs and manage the construction process so that projects are delivered on time and on budget, every time.





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