A “Perfect Storm” for AEC Industry Transformation

By Akio


Click to TweetClick to Tweet: A “Perfect Storm”
for #AEC Industry Transformation

It’s no secret that the AEC industry is suffering from a surplus of waste: wasted materials, wasted time spent on rework and change orders, waste from highly fragmented processes.

However, what the industry is beginning to realize is that it’s not the first group to think, There must be a better way.

The aerospace industry is one recent example; in the 1990s, companies such as Boeing began to look at technologies and processes used in other industries to tighten their supply chain and manufacturing processes. A switch to all-digital modeling made this possible.

Also necessary was a switch in mindset. Aerospace professionals had to switch their thinking from “project” to “product,” and adopt product lifecycle management tools that would deliver increased value to the end-user.

With these 2 steps, AEC professionals can likewise optimize their processes:

Step 1. Adopting Revised Business Models

According to Hector Lorenzo Camps, founder of PHI Cubed Inc., the industry is looking for ways to improve, but to truly move forward will first have to revise its compensation and business models.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “To move forward, #AEC industry
1st must revise its comp & business models” @HectorCamps

Although design-build contracts are increasingly popular, there remains too little true partnership among all parties involved in the design, construction and operations processes.

Today’s typical contracts emphasize distinct roles for all players in order to help control liability.

“Many relationships in the industry are strained because of the adversarial nature of the industry standard contracts that pin professionals against each other to divide risk,” Camps says.

New collaborative forms of agreement—namely, Integrated Project Delivery—remain slow to take off as AEC professionals explore new liability rules and shift from a “best for me” to a “best for project” mentality.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: #AEC is shifting (slowly) from
“best for me” to “best for project” mentality.

Tied to this need to collaborate is another necessary step for AEC professionals: the need to shake their reliance on a 2D, paper-based management process.

Step 2. Adopting Tools for Better Integration

Until all industry players make the switch to 3D processes, there will be a problem with what Camps calls “two versions of the truth with documentation, one in 2D and the other in 3D.”

Many firms are working with a mix of 2D CAD and 3D BIM to accommodate all parties’ preferences.

“Contractually, firms go with the 2D documents, which often are obsolete and predate the model. Builders under pressure, wanting to build from the best available data, are asking to build from the model and produce 2D documents after,” Camps says. “The coordinated model needs to drive the dimensional and informational control of the project and the field implementation documents. The contractual language needs to reflect this.”

Camps believes owners—who ultimately stand to gain the most from collaborative projects—will drive this evolution to 3D.

“All they need to do is write into their contracts the information management strategy. As long as the roles, responsibilities and use case for information are defined, and intellectual property is dealt with, they should have no problem getting professionals to deliver digital documents,” he says.

Why Now Is The Time For Change

The good news? The AEC industry is already beginning to adopt the tools and processes that will make transformation possible.

“We have the perfect storm for real industry transformation as significant as the industrial revolution,” Camps predicts.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: .@HectorCamps predicts a “perfect storm
for #AEC transformation as significant as #IndustrialRevolution”

First, AEC professionals are beginning to borrow concepts from manufacturing. To further reduce waste and improve quality, the industry is looking to close the gap between design and fabrication. Lean construction is one such effort, as the industry attacks waste by taking lessons learned from Lean Manufacturing and Just in Time delivery models.

Second, Camps points to a number of technology solutions becoming available that may further speed improvement.

For example, the advent of cloud computing is making it easier than ever for all players to work together in a more tightly connected process.

As Camps points out, AEC companies generally have far fewer employees than manufacturing industries, making it potentially more difficult to invest in an expensive data management system. Cloud computing can allow even small firms to participate in building lifecycle management without having to invest in prohibitively expensive data management systems.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: Cloud computing allows small firms to
participate in #BLM without investing in expensive systems

By putting data on the cloud, it’s also typically easier for various parties to share data and resources related to a project.

“This ad hoc approach to PLM makes it very easy for the AEC industry to adopt the benefits of integration and collaboration without all the forward structuring that would happen if they had to form a unique corporation in order to integrate their processes,” Camps says.

In addition, the Internet of Things is making it easier to move digital models from the drawing table to the field, giving contractors and designers rapid insight into potential problems. And Camps even points to rapid manufacturing, such as 3D printing, as a potentially promising technology for optimization, as these tools could someday make it possible to produce one off building components while maintaining the economies of scale of standard offsite production facilities.

Beyond technology, however, today’s growing engagement from public owners looking to spend more wisely is invigorating further innovation in connectedness.

The most carefully watched case in point is the UK’s Level 2 BIM requirement for federal buildings, set to become effective in 2016.

“It’s expected that by 2019, BIM Level 3 will be required. Level 3 in essence is ‘full collaboration between all disciplines by means of using a single, shared project model which is held in a centralized repository,’” Camps says.

He adds, “By that definition, they just described the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.”

Related Resources

Collaborative, Industrialized Construction Solutions from Dassault Systèmes

Spotlight on PHI Cubed: Guiding the AEC Industry Toward Greater Levels of Integration

Spotlight on MEMKO: Pushing Collaboration Across the Project Life Cycle to Revolutionize Design and Construction

Spotlight on Impararia: Reducing the Gap Between Aerospace Optimization and AEC Inefficiency

3D Printing Takes Off

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar


Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, has evolved beyond its plastic beginnings. The medical industry uses the technique with living cells to create tissues and, perhaps one day, organs. In aerospace, AM produces stronger and lighter components, while reducing waste of costly high-tech metal alloys. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in April certified the first 3D-printed jet engine part, a house for a compressor inlet temperature sensor called T25, made by GE Aviation.

Conventional manufacturing involves casting a solid part, then milling, boring, sawing, drilling or planing it into shape or hollowing it out, like a sculptor with a block of marble—but using precision machines.

By contrast, AM deposits the raw material—such as aluminum, nickel alloys, titanium or stainless steel—in powder form, 20 to 40 microns thick, which is then melted with a laser according to a 3D computer model. AM then uses several binding techniques, including selective laser melting, direct metal laser sintering and laser deposition technology.

This process has three major advantages over traditional manufacturing: speed, cost and design.

Speed: Time is saved from the moment the design leaves the drawing board.
“To come up with a prototype for any component may take a year: to make castings, get molds in place, then manufacturing, then the assembles required,” says Joseph Markiewicz, plant manager at General Electric Aviation’s $50 million additive manufacturing plant in Auburn, Ala.

With additive, you go from designing a prototype in a 3D model, then test it out and redesign almost on the fly. It’s rapid design validation.”

The supply chain also is shorter. Raw material procurement for conventional manufacturing requires six to 12 months lead time, says Thomas Dautl, head of production technologies at MTU Aero Engines AG in Munich. Then machining of the components takes time, but “if you build your part directly out of powder, you have much shorter lead times.”

iStock_000041686948_SmallFinally, the manufacturing process itself is faster. MTU uses AM to make borescope bosses, which form part of the turbine case on the PW1100G-JM engine for the Airbus 320neo aircraft. More than 10 borescope bosses can be made simultaneously, Mr. Dautl says, and with fewer workers than in conventional manufacturing where workers guide the casting or milling process for each piece produced.

Cost: “What’s really key about additive manufacturing is it’s really efficient from the perspective of materials consumption,” Mr. Markiewicz says. “In additive, you have less waste. Before, you had a piece of metal that you ground down. Now you build up.” With no pile of excess raw material at the end of the process, AM can generate significant savings.

Less wastage is vital, because “you have to have more than a 10%-15% cost reduction otherwise you can’t do it,” notes Mr. Dautl. “There are a lot of other costs if you change to another technique, so you must have a significant cost reduction overall” to justify the switch.

There are also savings to be gained from greater simplicity. GE Aviation uses AM to make fuel nozzles for the new LEAP jet engines manufactured by CFM, a joint venture between GE Aviation and Snecma. Whereas a traditional nozzle comprises 20 different, precision-made components, all produced by traditional methods, and then welded or brazed together, the AM fuel nozzle consists of a single piece.

“There’s significant simplification of the process,” Mr. Markiewicz says, “and better consistency because there are fewer points of variation thanks to having fewer pieces.”

In addition, the AM nozzles are not only more durable, they also weigh 25% less than traditionally produced versions. That is important because “weight reduction is significant for anything in the aviation world,” Mr. Markiewicz says, and each engine has 19 fuel nozzles. The new nozzles help aircraft cut fuel consumption 15%.

Design: As the new fuel nozzle illustrates, AM can produce designs that traditional methods cannot. AM allows “more organic design and organic structure,” Mr. Markiewicz says.

In nature, there are no right angles. Nature finds best the angles for tensile strength. Additive can do this. It has removed the handcuffs that design engineers have typically been held to. Now they can design for hollow internal passageways that are stronger and lighter weight. It opens up a new canvas for designers.”

iStock_000045466576_SmallIndeed, future design departments will need to integrate the complex geometries possible with AM, as well as adjust to new possibilities for lightweight design, MTU’s Mr. Dautl says. Evolving computer-aided design (CAD) software will be able to produce complex designs for 3D printed parts that are hollow for lighter weight yet stronger than what could be made traditionally. CAD programs also will be able to work out loads and constraints for new materials that can be 3D printed.

“It’s a new way of thinking for engineers and manufacturing organizations: producing a 3D model and printing it,” Mr. Markiewicz says. “You’re eliminating the middle steps and creating a seamless flow between design and manufacturing.”



Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

Photos courtesy of iStock

Spotlight on MEMKO: Pushing Collaboration Across the Project Life Cycle to Revolutionize Design and Construction

By Akio

When Miro Miletic began his career with Boeing in the 1990s, the aviation industry was at the precipice of tremendous change.

Although designers still produced paper drawings for each aircraft, 3DCAD was emerging as a drawing alternative.

Miro Miletic, Managing Director and founder of MEMKO PTY LTD

Miro Miletic, Managing Director and founder of MEMKO PTY LTD

With the 777, Miletic was part of the team to design and build an aircraft using 3D CAD as the master model.

The next step was the 787: the first aircraft designed without paper using Model Based Definition (MBD). Everyone, from supply to production, worked from digital models. The design process realized incredible new efficiencies with this move.

Today, from his position as founder of technology service provider MEMKO Pty Ltd. in Australia, Miletic is urging the AEC industry to recognize the efficiencies it, too, stands to gain from a digital transition.

Jumping Across Industries

His decades as a Boeing executive also gave Miletic an appreciation for the art of integrating solutions across industries. Since founding MEMKO in 2007, Miletic has been more focused than ever on that goal. MEMKO provides technology solutions, engineering and training for a variety of industries, including aerospace, defence, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and others.

However, Miletic has seen within the AEC sector a potentially crippling reluctance to learn from other industries.

Eagerness to adopt solutions from other sectors was one of Boeing’s greatest strengths, he notes. For example, when the company decided to switch to use of large-scale carbon fiber composites with the 787 aircraft, experts looked to other industries using those materials, from yacht manufacturing to sporting goods. “The learning is not directly transferable but you can adopt those ideas to suit your industry,” Miletic says.

“It’s very important to learn from other industries and then modify to suit your particular industry requirements — but I think it requires a certain person and organization that has an open mind.”

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “Learn from other industries & modify to suit
your particular requirements. Open minds required.” -MM #Memko

Miletic sees this transfer of knowledge across industries as a potential solution to a problem plaguing not only the Australian AEC sector, but the global industry as a whole: inefficiency and waste.

But it is the possibilities for creating solutions to this problem that attracts Miletic to the AEC field. “The opportunity for breakthrough changes in addressing these challenges is phenomenal,” he says.

Getting Buy-In

In many regards, Miletic finds, projects owners are ready for innovative new solutions for reducing inefficiency. Improving design and construction productivity is a particularly big concern for the Australian government, he finds, as they remain the major funding source for most of the country’s infrastructure projects.

“The Australian government realized quite early that the lack of productivity in the sector is costing it and, ultimately, the taxpayers money, so there was an inquiry into the productivity of the Australian AEC industry sector about five years ago,” Miletic explains.

While Australia has not gone so far as, for example, the United Kingdom with its mandate requiring use of BIM on government projects, the country is supporting research from industry associations, academia and others to improve productivity.

In addition, as traditional manufacturing sectors such as automotive decline, the Australian government is urging manufacturers across those supply chains to move into the AEC sector.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: Australian govt is urging manufacturers
across supply chains to move into #AEC sector

Miletic predicts that this will naturally lead to greater “cross-pollination” of ideas across industries.

Critics’ Dragging Feet

Many of the country’s AEC companies, however, seem reluctant to adopt this mindset of finding value outside of the traditional way of doing things.

But the aerospace industry once shared that reluctance. Miletic recalls arguments against adopting the automotive industry’s total quality management concept in the 1990s.

“In aerospace we were saying ‘we’re different, we don’t have the volume of production that automotive has.’ Now I’m hearing similar things from my AEC colleagues,” he says.

Critics who say that the investment in tools that simplify the design process is unjustifiable because “every building is unique” are not looking at the bigger picture. “It’s not true. Instead of focusing on products, you focus on process,” Miletic says.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “Every Building is Unique” argument
misses the big picture. Focus on process not product.

Integrated design tools such as BIM can allow designers and contractors to simplify common elements across their unique projects, speeding each project’s time to market while providing more successful projects.

Exploring New Solutions

Miletic sees big opportunities for improving AEC industry productivity in the project planning and execution phases primarily by taking modeling and simulation to a greater level of detail than is currently practiced.

In the BIM projects he sees, he finds architects, engineers and fabricators may do just enough modeling to create a detailed drawing for their own use, but rarely does he see these efforts integrated.

This lack of data integration leads to change orders and other slowdowns in the field.

“There’s a lot of problem solving onsite, and all of this is waste,” Miletic says.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “There’s a lot of problem solving
on the #construction site. All of this is waste.”

But there’s another area where greater use of integrated modeling tools can drive efficiency, and that’s in facility management and operations.

“The design and construction phase is really minimal compared to the 40 to 50 year lifecycle over which the building has to be maintained,” Miletic says. “Managing that information through the life of the effort is really the biggest opportunity.”

Tools for the Life of the Project

In that regard, MEMKO was able to use the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform to help one Australian Government Agency to digitally structure its building data from hand drawings dating to the 1890s to today’s CAD files.

“The challenge they were facing was to manage that information so it’s easy to retrieve for their maintenance and design providers,” Miletic explains.

MEMKO used the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to create an electronic drawing management system that stores and indexes building information, making it easier than ever for maintenance and future design teams to retrieve asset engineering data.

Should the building owner want to upgrade or modify one of their properties, the design team simply needs to search and retrieve the current information related to the asset, do their design work and then, once the design is finalized, the building owner can upload new information for future access by their maintenance provider.

Next Steps

For now, the evolution to more integrated design and construction teams is still at the beginning. There are great opportunities to improve efficiency in entire lifecycle. AEC customers need to consider how to connect architectural design to fabrication or construction phase by using sophisticated BIM solutions like 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.

Miletic points out that Australia is a country of growth, and as the growing population drives the need for more infrastructure and other construction, it will become increasingly necessary for AEC professionals to bring projects more quickly, affordably and successfully to market. To do so will require greater collaboration across companies and, perhaps, industries.

Click to TweetClick to Tweet: “Spotlight on MEMKO: Pushing Collaboration Across the Project Life Cycle to Revolutionize Design & Construction”

Related Resources:

Collaborative and Industrialized Construction

Optimized Construction

Learn more about MEMKO

Page 1 of 712345...Last »