An interview with ALLPLAN’s SVP of Product Management, Kevin Lea
Being an early adopter of emerging technologies has often resulted in a competitive advantage – and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is no exception. The digital disruption continues to revolutionize the way buildings and assets are designed, constructed, and operated, and any company that wishes to remain competitive needs to embrace these changes wholeheartedly.
However, the AEC industry can be reticent to adopt new ways of working, mainly due to perceived levels of risk versus potential returns. In addition, the constantly changing landscape of construction technology can make it difficult to discern which emerging technologies are the most important to implement. Yet, without making this investment, companies could risk falling behind their competitors and losing potential business. Kevin Lea, ALLPLAN’s Senior Vice President of Product Management, gives his view on the challenges that face the AEC industry and how technology can help solve them.
Based on your experience in the construction industry, what are the main challenges companies face when it comes to embracing new technologies?
Technology in the construction industry is evolving faster than ever before. Now that digitalization and digital processes are being increasingly adopted, significantly more data is being added to models to service the needs of the entire project lifecycle, including facilities management. In turn, this presents technical challenges for software vendors to provide solutions on how to manage such large sets of data for their customers.
This is combined with the challenge of balancing computing power and performance. Relatively speaking, computer power has not advanced at the same speed as we now expect. Even with modern 3D solutions, having to wait a few minutes between commands is not enjoyable! Even if the software is solving thousands of problems behind the scenes that traditionally would have taken many hours, if not days.
Advancements with emerging technologies such as digital twins and the use of artificial intelligence pushes the topic of how we practically handle large sets of data efficiently.
How are Allplan addressing these technology challenges in the industry?
At Allplan, we are addressing the topic of data handling and performance on two levels.
The first is focusing on both scalability and performance within the software. This is to improve the overall speed of how the software operates and how we intelligently handle data to provide an experience which is consistent for both small and large projects.
Scalability is not always fully understood. Often, a product can look and feel quick until you work on a real-life project. These days, models can include every finish, fixture, reinforcement, and bolt, at which point, the software can grind to a halt. We have anticipated that scalability is a fundamental requirement for our clients as we move into the future. Therefore, we have invested significantly into making Allplan operate as efficiently as possible – the results we are seeing in Allplan 2021 are quite amazing!
The second area we have focused on is the use of cloud technology. Cloud technology is really the only practical way to handle and process extremely large data sets. This is not just about storing data, but also about how the data is processed. There is no doubt certain tasks can be processed more efficiently using cloud technology, so our aim is to provide our clients with the right tools to process their project efficiently; either on local computers or the cloud. And of course, the flexibility to share data anywhere, anytime comes from access to the cloud and is extremely valuable. Whether staff are working from the office, on the site, or even collaborating on projects live from home offices.
ALLPLAN’s Bimplus is a cloud-based computational database that enables us to offer our clients just that. This year we are excited to announce that Allplan Bimplus Professional will now be included with valid Serviceplus and subscription licenses. This is the decisive step towards bringing a combined workflow to our clients, so they can use cloud technology to maximum effect.
Of course, we recognize that some customers may have concerns about the use of cloud technology. However, as an industry we must learn to embrace it, as there is no doubt in my mind, that this will be the only practical manner in which we handle a digital world in the future.
What do you feel are the most important upcoming trends?
For me, it is the adoption of cloud technology, and understanding how tools like Bimplus can benefit every project. As an example, this year, along with numerous enhancements, we are also bringing another exciting innovation to our clients with workflows through the new SCIA AutoConverter. This is a great example of how, using cloud technology, we can quickly and efficiently process an Allplan model into a structural analysis wire model. The benefit of this method is that it produces a model exactly the way a structural engineer wants to see it, without the modeler requiring structural skills and without compromising the coordination model.
With Allplan, Bimplus and SCIA AutoConverter we now provide intelligent workflows with a wide range of structural analysis programs, including our sister brands SCIA, Frilo and Risa. An added advantage is that there is no need to learn different workflows for each system. This is achieved through a new open file format which has been specifically developed by Nemetschek, called Structural Analysis Format (SAF). Any structural analysis system can now link intelligently with tools such as Allplan via a straightforward Microsoft Excel file. It is exciting to see so many prominent structural analysis solutions adopting this format, which bodes well for an even greater streamlined BIM solution for the AEC industry.
What advice would you give to engineering and architectural firms to help them be more comfortable in starting using new technologies to improve their business?
However hard we try to take the pain out of designing in a digital world, there is a certain amount of knowledge and skills required to maximize the return on any investments.
Software is naturally becoming more involved as we use computers, not only to create traditional drawings but also to build prototypes of our projects in the computer memory. Therefore, investing the time to understand both capabilities and limitations, is time well spent, and ensures the chosen solution addresses not just today’s requirements, but your future needs as well. Afterall the cost of change can be greater that the investment.
The best approach is to find a vendor you trust and who will support you on your technology journey, both in terms of software functionality and as an advisor as new technologies emerge.
Learn More About Emerging Technologies for Construction
ALLPLAN is committed to researching new technologies that can help the AEC industry work smarter. On our blog, we regularly feature articles about the latest innovations for construction, such as virtual reality, augmented reality and digital twins. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for the latest news and updates on a wide range of topics that affect the AEC industry.