What is Digital Engineering and what does it mean for the Construction & Property Industry?
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Jenny Tseng, Principal - Digital Advisory at Mott Macdonald, long term DE panel specialist at TFNSW and advocate of WIDAC - Women in Design and Construction to talk through all things Digital Engineering. We hoped to clarify exactly what DE is, why everyone's talking about it and what impact it is having within construction and property.
CR: How would you define Digital Engineering?
JT: Digital engineering is a collaborative process of integrating and transforming all data and information through the use of digital technology to enable the creation of the digital twin and smart infrastructure.
CR: How would you classify the difference between Digital Engineering and BIM?
JT: “BIM - Building Information Modelling”, is an existing term, of which the industry has interpreted very literately as the digital presentation of the physical and functional aspect of the information itself. Digital Engineering is the modernized version and more appropriately used to describe the integration of tangible and intangible data information, extending beyond to incorporate elements such as risk & safety management, digital systems, IoT and smart data, etc. The two terms should correspond to each other rather than creating conflicts. The use of Digital Engineer and BIM could also be specific to meet different regional requirements
CR: Who is involved and whom does it affect?
JT: Because Digital Engineering deals with an asset (or digital asset) across their full lifecycle from business case, planning, design and construction phase through to operation and maintenance until they are disposed of. This in turn also means it will span further than the project lifecycle. As such, everyone engaged in the process and project delivery is involved and will be affected, for example, the design manager, cost estimator, commercial and procurement managers, safety manager and asset manager, etc.
CR: What are the benefits of ‘digital engineering’?
JT: Consistency in building and exchange of information; structured data that can be mapped across various asset management system; governance and quality assurance on data and information models; enabled predictive analysis and intelligence networks for optimised services
CR: What skills/software skills are the most in-demand/lacking in the industry?
DE managers that are capable of identifying requirements from both information and technical perspectives
Project stakeholders with a data analytic mindset with the ability to interpret and connect data
GIS Analysts to manage spatial data, provide GIS analysis and create new spatial content
Business analyst and Data scientists that can provide both quantitative and qualitative performance measures throughout digital asset’s lifecycle, project delivery phases and across various project modes.
CR: How do you see Digital Engineering changing in the next 5 years?
JT: I see that Digital Engineering will become business as usual as a standard way for project delivery in the construction industry. It will not be an ad-hoc, reactive or bolt-on process by businesses and shall act as a catalyst for projects to output consistent and structured data. Project handovers won’t be a painful challenge and most importantly, the open BIM and data standards will be further developed to lead the interoperability of technology platforms. The industry should see a much better integrated digital approach across the board in hosting, mapping and delivering reliable data to exchange information.
CR: What advice would you give to an engineer interested in going Digital?
JT: My advice will be to all the project roles involved in the project and not just to engineering. Ensure your understanding of concepts and principals of Digital Engineering is holistic. Identify the purposes of implementing DE from business cases to procurement, acquire knowledge on systems and engineering standards, recognise all project information and technical requirements, and finally allow for innovative workflow and processes that enable all deliverables are compliant and can be verified.
As ever, Jenny and I would be happy to answer any questions that you have regarding the article or the growth of the digital engineering arena!