AECCafe Voice

Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Bentley cites important market trends for 2013

 
March 4th, 2013 by Susan Smith

Huw Roberts, Bentley Systems vice president, core marketing, shared some predictions on important market trends for 2013:

There is a focus in construction on integrated projects, so my top-level prediction for the year is that the characteristic of projects and project teams will continue to become increasingly integrated. Infrastructure owners have been looking to integrate project delivery types for a number of years. There are many models, including IPD in the U.S., design-build-operate, joint ventures, and project alliancing. It’s really not important which model becomes the frontrunner; what matters is that the trend toward finding ways to integrate project teams and processes, and of eliminating silos of activity that only act sequentially, will continue to become the dominant way of delivering projects.

This is already creating some needs in the market and shaping what happens this year. To begin with, there is growing demand for information modeling for all aspects of infrastructure projects – for building design, site design, utilities, fabrication, construction, and so on – and this is fast becoming the norm. Information modeling deliverables are what owners want to receive and what designers and contractors want to produce. Design firms and construction firms see value in this approach and that perception is going to grow and accelerate demand for it.

This change in attitude is being driven by the realization that the best solution is not a “one size fits all.” What information modeling means to a building design team is different from what it means to the folks working on the roads and developing the land around that building, and also very different from what it means to the construction crews and the teams that will eventually be charged with operating and maintaining that building. So there’s a growing awareness in the market of the need for those different information modeling approaches to work together, and support for an iterative process is taking hold. Many project organizations and enterprises recognize that they have different tools, processes, and skillsets that have to work together in order to achieve an information modeling approach that serves their own purposes.

Here’s a case in point. A few years ago everyone was excited about the fact that architects and engineers were moving to smarter 3D models, and then that constructors were moving to 3D. Today, owners are soliciting projects that require the delivery team to not only design but also build and operate the building. These delivery teams quickly recognize the need to integrate multiple information modeling approaches to serve their various needs across the infrastructure lifecycle. And all of this awareness is driving growth at project and enterprise scales.

Some firms are working to apply various technologies in new areas, and many struggle by trying to “mash” information or processes into a tool or technology that’s not suited for their workflows or purpose. Increasingly, they are beginning to realize that multiple technologies need to be involved on every project. Why? Because some information is best suited to be in a CAD system, while other information can be better processed and managed in a BIM system, database system, operational control system, discipline-specific analysis system, machine control system, and so on. Anyone familiar with real-world projects knows that it makes no sense to put everything into a single system.

So, we are also seeing growth in demand for collaboration servers and services to bring these people and information together, both onsite and those controlled and managed by cloud-based services. This demand is increasing at a rapid pace, and we at Bentley offer the market-leading solution, ProjectWise. I attribute some of the growth in demand for this technology to an increased comfort level with and appreciation for the value of collaborative workflows, as well as to the positive consequence of people increasingly collaborating using social networks and the Internet. Combining this new attitude toward collaboration with a system that provides the rigor, security, versioning, audit trials, and work sharing value for project information has led to a steadily growing number of new deployments of ProjectWise in all phases of work and all types of infrastructure. As a result, we see collaboration servers and services as a big growth area again for 2013.

Yet another trend is increasing demand for information mobility, as project stakeholders across the infrastructure lifecycle recognize that in order for teams to successfully engage in information modeling for their specific purposes and then collaborate with each other, the information generated needs to be able to move from person to person, person to system, system to system, or one format to another – and be trusted and reliable. Users are increasingly demanding systems that not only enable information mobility, but that take advantage of it. AEC professionals realize that if they’re doing smarter modeling and are engaged in collaborative workflows, they truly care that the models and information being created are appropriately usable by all.

These three trends – information modeling, integrated projects utilizing collaboration services, and information mobility – reinforce each other. And the successful firms, projects, and owners are those that are taking advantage of all three in combination. Also helping to drive these trends are an industry shift to different procurement and funding models and to new risk and reward relationships.

Bentley has a long and strong track record of caring about integrating project teams, the information they require, and the work processes involved – and of offering solutions to accomplish this. We want information to be mobile among all project and operations participants across the lifecycle. It’s not just about integrating specific pieces of software – that’s old school thinking that doesn’t scale to today’s realities. The concept of making information mobile is a very different mindset, focused on integrating people and processes in the project, rather than on just integrating different pieces of software directly.

I think it’s fair to say that the difficult times and challenges of the recent economic downturn helped drive awareness of these needs as teams focused on increasing their efficiencies and effectiveness.

Global sourcing also continues to drive change in the industry. Project teams recognize that, with information mobility and collaboration services, projects can easily bring in the best skills and expertise – as project leads or additional supporting resources – from locations around the world.

My last observation is that point clouds in the design, construction, and operation of projects are now vital and pervasive in these workflows. Their importance has been growing for a few years, and the information management technology, tools, and hardware to facilitate their effective and efficient use have been advancing quickly. I think we’re arriving at the point where most projects of scale include point clouds in their processes. What’s particularly exciting about our MicroStation, AECOsim, and other information modeling applications is that point clouds are being incorporated directly into the design environment, with clash detection and change management really starting to take off. Just like 3D did awhile back, point clouds are sweeping through the AECO world and being treated by companies such as Bentley as a fundamental data type that can and should be incorporated in all applications used in the design, engineering, construction, and operations of infrastructure. I’m convinced their use will continue to grow at an accelerated pace throughout the year.

Here’s one specific example of work that may well further advance their use. Bentley and Trimble announced a strategic alliance in 2012 that, among other things, includes joint consideration of how Trimble scanners and systems for laser measuring and layout can tie into the information modeling environments from Bentley. Point clouds are being built into construction workflows (among others), for instance when scanning rebar before concrete is poured, or scanning materials within walls before the walls are closed up, or when doing daily scans to see what has changed and to help manage progress, or to refine designs or construction activities to reflect what has already been built.

All in all, these are very exciting times, and I think the key trends I just noted will help drive AECO technology decisions in 2013 and beyond.

 

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