On-Site Magazine

New Year’s resolutions

By David Bowcott   

Construction Risk Management

Use more technology to reduce risk and improve productivity

David Bowcott

The past three years have seen massive changes within the construction and infrastructure sectors of the economy. The net impacts have been substantial supply chain disruptions and inflation. We are also seeing strange disruptions to the labour marketplace that are leaving many wondering about the staffing of future project opportunities. The impact of these changes will be felt well into the future.

In a world where the scale of change seems to be accelerating, you need to find ways to harness the power of information flows to make better decisions. In many respects the answer is staring you right in your face – quite literally if you are likely looking at this article on a computer, smartphone or tablet. Whatever device you use, it represents a front-row seat to the emergence of what many consider to be the most powerful tool ever developed for the built environment: the digital twin.


The digital twin

The digital twin is the convergence of all data and technology from all phases of the built environment (design, construction, and operations) delivered through a unified and federated platform, and it can be used to manage risks.


Do you want to track how external events are disrupting your project’s access to material? Check the digital twin. Do you want to monitor activity on your jobsite remotely during semi-lockdown periods? Check the digital twin. Do you want to do more with less access to skilled labour? You guessed it: check the digital twin.

As the data converges under a common, unified and federated framework, you will be in a better position to reduce the many risks being brought forward from this age of massive change while allowing you to rely on data to also improve productivity.


What’s in the digital twin?

The more information that’s available, the more powerful a digital twin platform becomes, but it is still possible to choose what to incorporate. Here’s a primer on a few components to consider.

Pre-Construction Technologies: These are technologies like Building Information Modelling, specification technologies and budgeting technologies.

Scheduling Technologies: Initiated in the pre-construction phase, these technologies help schedule the project, confirm the schedule will work, and allow for optimal changes to the schedule.

Project Management Technologies: Originally document management platforms, this part of the digital twin represents the most likely vehicle to house all component parts of the digital twin.

Supply Chain Intelligence: This component part allows users to prequalify their partners, suppliers and subcontractors. It also provides real-time information on supply chain pricing and potential events that could disrupt the flow of supply chain.

Reality Capture: The digital capture of reality on a frequent basis can ensure that your project is being executed to plan. These solutions literally allow you to overlay the design onto the reality, which can highlight costly design or workmanship errors before they become substantial.

Construction Phase IoT Backbone: Devices are like nerves. When you join these nerves under a unified platform (the backbone), you have the ability to see events on a jobsite in real-time. It also unlocks the potential to see events before they happen via predictive analytics.

External Event Monitoring Technology: This component provides joined up monitoring of external events related to your jobsite, either through proximity or through connections to your jobsite’s supply chain. Events like weather, strikes, port shutdowns, and many others can be monitored, which will allow you to make better and faster decisions to avoid risks that could reduce productivity.

Operational Phase Categories: The digital twin’s true value is optimizing total cost of ownership throughout the lifecycle of the built asset. Several of the component parts in the construction phase can be married up with operational phase component parts to unify the digital twin throughout the life of the asset. This is a tremendous opportunity for the industry.


As these, and other, component parts of the digital twin converge, all stakeholders associated with a particular built asset will have greater awareness, transparency, predictive capabilities and, ultimately, better decision-making capabilities. Further, the digital twin can become an ideal playground to test options prior to implementation, aiding the rise of more collaborative procurement models. Quite simply, the digital twin will improve productivity, reduce risk and generate greater societal benefit.


David Bowcott is the managing director, construction, at NFP Corp. Please send comments to editor@on-sitemag.com.


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