How to benefit most from digital co-creation in a rapidly changing world

Embracing the future today

Digitalisation, technology and innovation have advanced industries in ways that previously could not have been imagined. The world is in a perpetual state of change and flux and, as a result, the world of engineering faces a number of questions. These include: What is the biggest change in the engineering industry? How and with what tools can all stakeholders adapt and benefit? How will this impact co-creation with clients?

Royal HaskoningDHV’s Corporate Director Human Resources, Cindy Meervis had the following interview with me.

What is the biggest change for people working in the engineering industry?

“Being an engineer or working with an engineer has changed significantly in the past twenty, even ten years. The biggest change is that hierarchies that once existed both within companies, and between companies and the public, are becoming flatter – particularly in relation to clients. The internet provides a platform for immediate feedback where once there was none, creating a transparency which heightens the need for quality, consistency and innovation.”

“The future engineer will want to enhance society. I can see that Royal HaskoningDHV has this purpose driven workplace” (quote Aldert Kamp, Co-Director of the CDIO Initiative)

Do you see a change in how consultancy firms work with new technologies?

“In engineering, new technologies are constantly emerging. We can already see Royal HaskoningDHV have utilised virtual reality via Hololense technology to bring their designs to life. The tools we put in the hands of young engineers are far more advanced than many could have hoped. It’s for all to benefit from it and speed-up the go-to-market process.”

What do clients and engineers need to embrace to more efficiently co-create?

“Besides the fantastic tools already mentioned, all involved need to boost their knowledge too. Big Data is a vital part of the future of engineering. These vast swathes of data reveal patterns, trends and associations – giving us unparalleled insight into human behaviour”, says Aldert Kamp, adding:

“Increased knowledge of data allows us to predict patterns of behaviour. These detailed insights are already leading to a sort of hyper-tailored design that replaces designs traditionally informed by assumptions or past-experience. Good examples are intelligent machines, such as the Google self-driving cars that are networked in the cloud to machines of their own kind and learnb from each other. ”

Aldert explains more big impact trends that not only speed-up the go-to-market process, but more importantly result in more efficient and lasting impact on society. “Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation also offer us a great deal of potential. It will, I’m sure relieve the burden of the mundane, time-consuming aspects of engineering processes. But it will also require us to design differently to accommodate a growing shift from human labour to automation. And a challenge in terms of education: How do we ensure that engineers of the future are motivated to learn the basics of engineering, if the likelihood is that AI will make these skills redundant?”

“The human factor is increasingly crucial; students now are driven by purpose, not necessarily by profit. The future engineer will want to enhance society. We need to create the space for them to achieve their purpose. The tools and trends that are emerging could be huge stepping stones to more dynamic and effective engineering solutions! I can see that Royal HaskoningDHV has this purpose driven workplace.”

Virtual Design Construction

VDC offers a unique method of applying integrated design to construction related projects such as roads, buildings, and civil structures. (source: Virtual Design & Construction, RoyalHaskoningDHV)

To better understand how Royal HaskoningDHV works using the latest technology, Cindy asked Kees van IJselmuijden, Senior Bridge Consultant Royal HaskoningDHV, about some of the other innovative tools the company is using.

Kees: “A great example is our Virtual Design Construction (VDC) approach, which we created in partnership with TU Delft and Stanford University. VDC makes use of our iRooms (dedicated rooms built to provide a great design workspace) and our live and interactive 3D modelling – which brings a workflow of tools that communicate in a single programme.”

What is the main benefit for the client of using VDC?

“We are able to get the design project team into an iRoom and produce strong sketch designs in a fraction of the time, while also spotting clashes early. This is huge for our clients as they have working designs faster and it saves them time and money. We have already used the approach on the design of two viaducts in the Netherlands and are consulting on another project, scaling up to ten viaducts.”

Further reading

This interview was published in the November issue of Connect, the open online magazine of RoyalHaskoningDHV with the theme “Co-creating innovations in the era of change” available here.

RoyalHaskoningDHV is an independent, international, engineering, design and project management consultancy with over 130 years of experience. Their 7000 professionals deliver services in the fields of aviation, buildings, energy, industry, infrastructure, maritime, mining, transport, urban and rural development and water. They address the challenges that societies are facing: the growing world population and the consequences for towns and cities, the demand for clean drinking water, water security and water safety,  pressures on traffic and transport, resource availability and demand for energy and waste issues facing industry.

The international engineering and project management consultancy has strong ties with TU Delft in education as well as research. In my explorative research on the future of engineering and technology, its impact on education, the search for future professional engineering needs, including the discovery  of specific innovation competency needs, and the value of distinctive engineering roles for engineering graduates, I have consulted RoyalHaskoningDHV several times for input and reality checks, with inspirational discussions with their HR and technical directors, for the benefit of both parties.

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