As the UK government continues to announce further investments, and its ongoing commitment to developing current and new infrastructure, the construction industry faces multiple challenges in delivering some rather ambitious projects.
Following the recent launch of the UK’s industrial strategy, it was reported that 86% of people believe new large-scale infrastructure is a priority, and 94% want improvements to existing infrastructure. If the industry is to deliver projects in a timely and cost-effective way, the possibilities of a “digital construction” world need to be embraced.
RMD Kwikform divisional CAD manager John Watson says the industry faces a number of challenges, as a result.
“We’re faced with a projected multi-billion pound investment in UK infrastructure, and with the necessary requirements to reduce overall construction costs and reduce the carbon footprint, we must start to look at new ways of working,” he says.
“Despite the industry-wide adoption of BIM Level 2, and its successes in highlighting the importance of early engagement and collaboration, we’re still relying on ‘traditional’ methods. We must start to embrace a digital-led construction industry.”
The 2016 National Infrastructure Delivery Plan contains over £480bn worth of investment in over 600 infrastructure projects, with £300bn of the pipeline due to be delivered by 2020. For RMD Kwikform, it is not just about supplying formwork and shoring to contractors, but a service backed-up by technology, enabling a smarter way of working with regard to design, delivery and operations.
Watson continues: “At RMD Kwikform, our ongoing development in virtual reality was born out of our clients’, and by extension, main contractors’ requirements, for new, smarter ideas and solutions that ensured a more streamlined approached to handling projects. Particularly with regard to tackling health and safety, high-risk projects and collaboration.
“Through advancements in ‘visualisation technologies’, it ensures ongoing, and consistent communication across the supply chain,” he says.
“By placing all designs in ‘the cloud’, we’re able to communicate and share information in real-time with people across the globe, rather than relying on the physical delivery of information or email.
“The technology simplifies communications. Design is iterative by nature, and mistakes can be born out of misunderstandings – reduce the misunderstanding and you reduce mistakes, lost time, remedial work and cost. If the UK is to deliver on its promises for bigger and better infrastructure, technology will need to be the key driver behind this early engagement,” Watson adds..
“Another aspect of the advancements in virtual reality is the ability to see what a project will look like through each phase of the construction process. Despite the visual aids presented through the adoption of BIM Level 2, virtual reality allows for even further progression, as the contractor will physically be immersed in the virtual site. We’re removing an entire process consisting of delivering designs to site, answering queries and redesigning if necessary; as we see more and more complex structures presented by architects, in relation to dimensions and curvature of buildings, this ‘new’ process is formidable in delivering understanding for the customer and designers,” says Watson.
Augmented and virtual reality
RMD Kwikform is starting to see the adoption of augmented and virtual reality, particularly across high-profile projects like Crossrail. The technology allows solutions providers to add real value to the supply chain, and offers the opportunity to on site personnel to assess equipment suitability and even “search” for other components or equipment. This isn’t adopted technology for the sake of it, it is a tool that removes areas of miscommunication, improves health and safety and saves time; it helps ensure all collective efforts are put into more productive elements of the build.
Watson continues: “In relation to equipment: as costs and timeframes within construction get tighter, communication with regard to logistics and the delivery of kit is essential, particularly when it comes to time-sensitive and often restricted sites, such as rail and high-rise projects.
“Here concise coordination from the design office, delivery teams and on site personnel, is paramount. This is something contractors will need to consider when bidding for future projects, the technologies not only assist the site managers and senior team, they are an aid to on site operatives when determining the methodology of erecting and dismantling kit.”
In essence, if the construction industry is to embrace new technologies and processes, it must let go of “traditional ways of working”, especially if it is to deliver on infrastructure growth, says Watson.
Watson concludes: “Of course, the core drivers behind any new decision are: ‘will this save me time and money?’ Yes. It’s about thinking of some of the processes and procedures that will be removed, or made easier by new technologies. It’s time to take a step back and really think about the role of technology, and how it has changed our own lives personally. Why can it not change an entire industry?”
In association with RMD Kwikform