The manufacturing and construction industries are on collision courses. Back in 2019, I attended a TEC Talk session led by Jesse Devitte speaking about construction opportunities. This is where I first heard about construction smile and also the Construction = Manufacturing formula. If you missed my old article, check it out here.
The opportunity to use manufacturing technologies in the construction industry is growing and there is sound confirmation to that in the industry. Autodesk, which is one of the few companies focusing on both AEC and Manufacturing business is expanding the Autodesk Forge Platform to cover both industries. Earlier this week, I read about Dassault Systemes, which extended their contract with Bouygues Construction focused on how to use the Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE platform in construction.
My attention was caught by Arol Wolford’s article The Climate Opportunity which speaks about how reducing our buildings’ emissions will also make them more profitable. I found some observations and numbers made by Arol very insightful. Here is my favorite passage.
….ten percent of construction costs come from estimating alone, with only 8 percent attributed to the actual design. With new processes and tools, we can address this discrepancy to drastically reduce estimating costs, meaning timing and pricing are correct and accurate from the get-go.
In terms of environment and safety, architects, engineers, and designers can implement manufacturing principles to reduce waste and improve safety by using offsite construction which can be easily assembled on site. Offsite manufacturing reduces waste because materials that may normally be discarded onsite can be reused for other projects, ensuring they do not become debris. Also, industry professionals can select building materials and products that lower the expected carbon emissions of the space during the design and specification stages of construction.
The holistic approach combined with the estimation during the earlier stage of the development. It very much reminds me of the approach taken by many manufacturing firms using PLM technologies to improve product information management, to introduce digital models, and connect information into digital thread for better traceability and analytics.
Here is a picture from my earlier blog connecting multiple companies in the AEC value chain together. Using the same software to connect companies is not a big deal these days. The software vendors are working on multiple solutions. Here are few examples of specific construction software (eg. Procore, Autodesk Construction Cloud, eSUB), financial software (eg. Sage300), and also generic purpose software (eg. Dropbox, Docusign, etc.).
Currently, I can see this data set as extremely fragmented and represented in a different form and different ways. These are drawings, BIM models, specifications, estimations, RFIs, Change and Purchase Orders. All these data elements are used in the data handover today with a variety of software packages. To have them vertically integrated using a single source of truth and asset specifications can be the foundation to connect GC, trade contractors, and other companies involved in the construction projects.
The opportunity to connect the AEC project into a traceable and measurable digital thread is directly related to the opportunity Arol speaks of in his article. What is missed to organize this information is to have a model, which can provide a data foundation – a digital single source of truth. This digital twin will organize a digitized data source about the product (or project) and tools to support the handover between the companies. The core element of the entire system is the data that represents the construction objects. The opportunity of the system is to provide a holistic approach in managing product performance and impact.
Construction companies are on the trajectory to rethink the way they design, build and operate. Still, the process is at the very beginning, but many industry visionaries and experienced entrepreneurs and investors are in the agreement on how to approach this opportunity. A software capable of connecting data and providing support to multiple companies operating in the AEC space will be able to leverage many technologies that exist today in manufacturing, digital manufacturing, and PLM spaces. Data is a foundation of these systems and the right data organization will create a huge impact and provide a foundation to change the future industry impact on the climate. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.