Melanie Dawson, Director of Digital Construction, Graham Group
It is well noted that the construction industry is somewhat behind in the implementation of digital technologies– especially when compared to other industries. However, when I look back over the past five years, it is clear to see that the construction industry is finally stepping into the digital revolution. As an industry, we have witnessed the widespread application of digital technology, and with innovation at the forefront of everyone’s mind, we have seen the gradual shift from traditional to digital. With it, contractors and clients have enjoyed significant benefits, ranging from better productivity, to the increase of bright young talent drawn to the sector.
At GRAHAM, we pride ourselves on being a “digital by default” company and, in my role as Director of Digital Construction, I’m in a privileged position to drive the development and implementation of technologies that transform the way we plan, design, deliver and manage the built environment. We are constantly exploring opportunities to incorporate new technologies into our workflows. We understand that the digital world is a fast paced one with the emergence of new, better and bolder technologies, it can seem overwhelming. Our deep-seated commitment to adding value to every project we undertake, keeps us motivated, constantly researching the market, developing our ideas and as a result, we overcome the challenges new technologies present and instead reap the benefits.
Collaboration is a key factor to successful project delivery.
Successful project delivery comes from the ability to instantly access accurate information, which positively influences workflows on site
This was a consistent theme emanating from ‘Digital Construction Live 2019,’ a digital construction conference hosted by BIM Regions NI in Belfast, with a range of inspirational speakers highlighting the importance of effective collaboration and information sharing. I believe including all stakeholders in this digital journey will only enhance the results. Across every GRAHAM division, our strategy is to work together with our stakeholders while retaining controls over the proprietary information that drives project delivery. Without collaboration, there is no progression. With collaboration comes connection.
Connected information is powerful. By collaborating with each other and branching out to other industries we can deliver better results, more efficiently. Personally, for us here at GRAHAM, we take a lot of inspiration from the television industry. It is inspiring to see how they can mould new technologies to radically change their workflows– we apply that same mantra at GRAHAM. Our “digital by default” approach helps us to connect project information from concept to design, through preconstruction all the way to handover and beyond. The world of digital in construction means we are now collecting more information than ever, allowing us to make more informed decisions all the while eradicating unnecessary risk. Our strength comes from our data driven results.
Successful project delivery comes from the ability to instantly access accurate information, which positively influences workflows on site. Ultimately, given the volume of information collected, access to the right information, not too much or not too little, is more important than ever. I have found that collaboration with the client is of great benefit to any project.
We meet clients who have digital visions from the outset, and working with them and the project delivery team, hosting virtual reality workshops and training sessions in digital tools, means we are all on the same page– information is clear, consistent and connected.
We believe that a connected approach allows us to deliver whole lifecycle information on each of our projects. Connecting with many different sources ensures connected data, and in turn provides much greater analysis and simulation of energy consumption, lighting and solar studies. True digital longevity is what we aim for. Successful connection cannot happen without access. We provide our site teams with the equipment they need to access the information they require remotely, and this saves valuable time while streamlining workflows. This enhanced access to information also increases quality, health and safety and helps to reduce the risk of errors on site. Enhanced access makes a real difference, and as a result of this understanding, all new GRAHAM projects are automatically set up digitally helping build strong working relationships along the way. How we collaborate, connect and assess information is constantly evolving, and in my opinion, artificial intelligence will drastically change the way we work– and it will happen imminently.
Furthermore, I believe speech recognition will play a major role, especially in how we connect and assess information. We already have Alexa, Siri and Google all within our homes, and the next step is to introduce this type of technology across construction projects. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. The successful implementation of the digital tools we use at GRAHAM is down to the people. At GRAHAM, we believe in our people who in turn believe in our digital by default ethos. It’s so exciting to be part of such an ambitious, rewarding movement. All of us, collectively, are changing the construction industry for the better, and GRAHAM is determined to remain at the forefront of this transformation.