The Problem with Digital Engineering for Asset Owners

Digital Engineering

Digital engineering has revolutionized the planning, design, and construction of complex projects. A virtual Building Information Model (BIM), also known as a Project Information Model (PIM) provides real-time data to facilitate better decision-making and collaboration between project stakeholders – driving efficiency, reducing costs and errors, and ultimately increasing the quality and value of the asset over its lifetime.

However, while Digital Engineering is presented to deliver significant benefits to asset owners , most have not seen it materialize, leaving them asking what is the problem with Digital Engineering? Why does the PIM not plug into my asset management environment? Why are the data formats inaccurate or unusable? Why do I have to recreate these project data sets?

Many projects and their underlying digital approach suffer from lack of a wholistic and managed delivery, spanning the design, construction, and handover phases of a project. This also considers how projects are transitioned from one team to another, if managed at all? This is not to say that the design and construction teams don’t have the best of intentions as they create models and data sets for owners and asset management teams, they generally do. 

So how can a holistic, fit for purpose, integrated approach to digital delivery of the lifecycle of the asset and its Asset Information Model (AIM) create ongoing value for asset owners?

The Limitations of BIM for Asset Owners

While the use of Digital Engineering is rapidly growing across the construction industry, misaligned and disparate teams often take a siloed approach to digital engineering standards  ̶  with each focused exclusively on their own area of specialization (Eg. Architecture, Engineering, Construction). Non-existent or very high-level requirements set by the asset owner unintentionally support a soloed delivery model which is further compounded by a lack of application of appropriate standards (E.g. ISO19650).

If modelling during the planning process doesn’t take construction, operations and maintenance into consideration, the result is a PIM created for design not construction.  Without a centralized or coordinated model, the data is often incomplete, inconsistent, inaccurate, or otherwise unable to be used by the next contracted party. Exacerbated by no managed handover of the PIM, the construction team may even revert to traditional 2D ways of working because the digital model fails to provide the information they need, nor meet their expectations. 

So after passing through design and construction and getting to the handover phase, the asset owner will be relying on a model that has been continually updated and improved during the construction phase  ̶  if this has not occurred it makes it impossible to ensure model data accurately reflects the on-site structure and assets.

A Holistic, Integrated Approach

To overcome the limitations of poorly planned digital delivery, asset owners need to adopt a holistic approach to managing Digital Engineering requirements across the project lifecycle from initial scoping and 3D visualization right through to ongoing operation and management. This means more than simply creating a virtual model: data must be integrated from multiple information sources to drive better decision-making and collaboration, streamlining project delivery.

A digital engineering manager is responsible for implementing and managing the complete digital environment – creating a comprehensive plan for delivering all digital requirements for the project. This also considers the owners incumbent enterprise asset management systems (E.g. IBM Maximo) to ensure model and data structures are set for this pre-defined and existing environment. Ideally, this plan should be software agnostic, enabling integration of the different tools and software used by individual teams for data delivery.

Digital Engineering

At project inception, the digital engineering manager sets consistent model deliverables and specifications aligned with the overarching project goals. Data capture can then be coordinated, controlled, and managed according to these specifications, with frequency and location of model sharing defined.

The digital engineering manager customizes processes and workflows to streamline data capture and enable a seamless model handover and data transfer to the asset owner at building completion  ̶  maintaining the virtual model as a single point of truth throughout the project. This ensures that data collected during the design phase can be leveraged for construction needs, and that construction data is consistently updated to support long-term asset operation and management.

In Conclusion: Successful Digital Delivery Requires a Planned and Managed Approach

Digital engineering is a powerful tool for providing all project stakeholders with access to highly accurate virtual models and centralized, real-time information. But the creation of PIMs and AIM’s only has value to the asset owners, if it is collectively added to by project stakeholders and is structured for their asset management needs.

Where different teams have siloed ways of working, the model may even become unusable to asset owners at handover and is figuratively parked into that final skip bin leaving site as part of the construction teams’ cleanup. This is why it’s crucial to take a holistic, integrated approach to digital engineering management, adopting consistent standards and optimized workflows with an independent, fit for purpose asset management focused delivery plan.

Visit the COSOL Global team at MaximoWorld 2023, along with DBM Vircon’s  Alastair Brook, our Global General Manager-Digital Engineering, and Ciaran Doyle, Regional Lead-Digital Engineering, to witness live demonstrations of BIM and IBM Maximo integration in action across industrial, mining, and infrastructure sectors.