Lyons O'Neill

Digital Technology in Engineering

Embracing new technology and more efficient ways of working is central to engineering success – both at an individual company level and within the wider industry. Digital construction techniques have the potential to transform our sector and help us reach our growth and sustainability goals, but change can be hard to precipitate. However, industry case studies can be a great way to inspire confidence and share knowledge of new techniques. Read on to find out how the use of pioneering digital technology helped us with one of our most recent projects, the Nexus Training and Production Facility.

In the construction industry every project, no matter the size and scale, is a complex undertaking due to the number of parties necessarily involved. The idiom about cooks doesn’t work in this context because a large number of people are required to bring a client’s brief through to completion, with each bringing essential knowledge to the table. Architects, engineers, contractors and onsite workers all need to have an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the project so that the work continues smoothly and efficiently and no errors are made. Mistakes aren’t an option in our sector not only due to cost concerns, but because of the safety implications of a miscalculation. It’s vital everyone is on the same page.

However, our work at the Nexus Facility was particularly ambitious. The project posed a number of challenges in terms of size and scale, in addition to the short programme time, as it involved creating two large, steel frame buildings of 60,000 square feet combined. This ambitious size and time frame meant, at peak, there were 150 people operating onsite as the two buildings took shape. All these factors increased the potential for miscommunication and it was clear a digital solution was needed to facilitate easy and accurate collaboration across the supply chain.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) was clearly the answer yet it was essential to use a system which didn’t require costly training so everyone could quickly and easily access the information. We chose to pioneer the new application Kubity: the first mixed-reality multiplex designed for the construction industry. Kubity combines AI and VR technology to accurately allow a visual representation of the structure, foundations and drainage of the project, allowing the design team to ‘walk through’ the 3D models together and flag any issues before the structure is built. These models are also designed to be easily and instantly shared: the programme embeds QR codes on each drawing, which can be scanned by phones and tablets, meaning operatives onsite can quickly bring up the latest versions and clarify points.

Kubity wasn’t the only digital tool we used on the Nexus project, however, as we also chose to use Viewpoint for Projects, a cloud-based document and information management solution which allowed all the project teams to share project documents. Collating all the technical information in one place was vital as issues often arise through different groups working from different document versions (as in many industries!) but this was something we avoided.

Our pioneering use of the latest digital technologies at Nexus was a resounding success. The project was handed over to a very happy clien,t without any delays, and the technology also dramatically reduced the number of Requests for Information (RFIs). We recorded only one RFI for the below ground services – as opposed to the double figures generally expected on such projects – demonstrating the accuracy of our modelled designs and speed with which their information could be shared. Our use of new technology also had a wider, ripple-effect in the industry, with our contractor following the practice of putting 3D model QR codes on 2D drawings, as well as implementing the use of Kubity in all our future joint projects.

It was bold to pioneer new technology on such a large-scale project as Nexus but our decision more than paid off! It’s only by investigating new techniques and ways of working that progress can be made and the industry move forward together. As technology continues to develop rapidly and enhance processes across every sector, we look forward to embracing the newest ways of working for the highest quality results.