Productivity gains, project simplification and reduced whole life costs are just a few reasons why digital construction and digital engineering are such hot topics. And within the digital debate, BIM gets particular attention. The advent of digital construction is shaking up the industry in several ways.
Given the benefits on offer, the question is probably when, not whether, Australia follows the lead of countries like the UK to mandate at least BIM Level 2 on publicly funded projects. To date, BIM has been slow to take hold. Different standards for terminology, data exchange and functionality have been a block on adoption, as has good old inertia. Lack of digital skills across the industry also hasn’t helped.
Standards such as PAS 1192 were seen as too UK centric and not robust enough to deliver collaboration across multiple contractors, projects and supply chains. Individual states have also started to develop their own BIM standards, which is inefficient for contractors working across state borders.
Harmonisation of Standards is Coming
The new ISO 19650 standard will change the landscape in many ways. It aims to make it simpler to harmonise data sharing and ways of working across customers, contractors and supply chains. When this happens there’s a better business case for smaller contractors to invest in systems and skills. It also creates an environment where mandating BIM becomes more achievable.
Around Melbourne we have been seeing digital skills including VDC, VR/AR, 3D modelling and BIM experience becoming more sought after across Engineering, Surveying, Architecture & Construction. Digital engineering is seen as the route to greater confidence in how long projects will take and what they will cost. Data-driven approaches can also improve safety and simplify future maintenance. Firms are finding some digital engineering posts hard to fill because the depth of experience just isn’t there.
If the practical application of BIM becomes consistent around the world it will be more viable to recruit internationally. Perhaps this will help in the short-term but it won’t completely solve the problem. And the flip side of this is that Australian designers and engineers with digital design skills may find opportunities elsewhere.
It’s pretty clear that contractors need to put digital construction skills high on their list of priorities for medium to long-term workforce planning. Within this there should be specific actions around recruitment, training and upskilling. There’s nothing easy about this, but think of the competitive advantage as more clients insist on BIM within project delivery and look for increasingly digital solutions.
The digital construction train is rolling and it’s picking up speed. The question is whether contractors want to be in the driver’s seat, along for the ride, or watching from the trackside as the train speeds past. Having a recruitment partner that is in tune with industry dynamics will help you plan and prepare for the growth of digital construction.