Innovation within a company is driven by many things. It can be an organic process that happens as a company evolves, advancing its operations and technology usage. It can also be more purposeful and strategic, a focus area for a business that is empowering and educating its people. No matter what spurs innovation on, what is clear is that it takes effort; innovation happens with the hard work of many people like Edwin Bailey, Sr. Preconstruction Technologist for Skanska.
Skanska is one of the most innovative construction companies in the world and this reputation has been earned through a long-term commitment to always do better. Within the firm, Edwin is one of the many champions of technology and drivers of change.
On September 27-28, Edwin will join like-minded peers and innovators at Autodesk University 2022 in New Orleans. He will share how Skanska is driving collaboration in his session, Autodesk Model Coordination for Design and Construction Streamlines Process.
We recently had the opportunity to speak to Edwin about his career and how he drives coordination across design and construction. Here’s what he had to share.
Tell us about your career.
I’ve always loved learning new things and sharing new ideas with others. I started out studying fine art, engineering, and architecture, then business and technology. During my career, I’ve also worked in different roles within the AEC industry.
While working on my bachelor’s, I gravitated toward the emerging technologies of Building Information Modeling (BIM). I implemented the new tech at a small, but nimble architecture firm first, while finishing school, and then helped a large firm of 500 architects with their BIM implementation fresh out of college. I was committed to getting a master’s degree in architecture, but one of my professors suggested that since I had a desirable skill, I should first gain experience in the industry. I’m extremely glad I did because after a short time I decided to get a Master in Business Technology Commercialization instead, which was the closest thing to an innovation MBA available.
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many reputable projects with companies in architecture, subcontracting, general contracting, and real estate development. All my roles have revolved around technology and innovation across the country.
I really enjoy working at Skanska because I get to help drive change within our organization and our industry. For example, my interest in data started with BIM but has since expanded across business departments into more holistic business analytics. I like pushing current boundaries with data usage for actionable insights.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role? And how do you tackle these challenges?
Technology changes faster than people do. Also, new technology is only as good as the people who know how to use it effectively. Knowledge transfer is one of the biggest challenges. How do we combine key industry expertise and knowledge with the latest technology tools and innovations? Solutions need to be easy enough to use so that our most seasoned field personnel can apply their knowledge while using them. Training should also be simple and intuitive. When solutions are simple to use, it takes less motivation to get people to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.
One challenge that’s common across the industry is leveraging data for better business decisions. Data empowers people to make better decisions that can have a positive cumulative impact. It can inform decisions throughout the lifecycle of a project, from conceptual design and planning, throughout construction, to building occupancy and maintenance. The type of data we collect and the methods for collecting it constantly evolve. Currently, databases themselves are starting to capture industry knowledge and provide greater predictive insights. The latest business analytics tools are great for helping people better understand and leverage that data. Still, using data is an art form and science, and it’s important we become more familiar with data and analytics so we can realize all of its benefits.
“When solutions are simple to use, it takes less motivation to get people to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.”
Another challenge I’ve faced is getting others to see technology as more than just another tool. I see great things on the skyline for the industry as it continues to evolve and change. To me, technology is more than just a tool, it’s a medium. It is both the paint and the brush. In a way, we all get to use technology to create and share knowledge and insights. Innovation happens when people apply technology, data, and industry expertise to modify the way we do business. Innovation is effort.
How can attending in-person events like Autodesk University have an impact on you not only professionally, but personally as well?
No matter where you are in your career, there’s always room to grow and improve. Events like Autodesk University are an opportunity for people to collaborate and share their passion and knowledge with others. There is always the excitement of what new innovations you might see during a presentation or on the expo floor that inspire you. It’s also a terrific opportunity for getting hands-on with new hardware or software while seeing how others solve similar problems you might be working on.
Networking is another key aspect of AU. It’s an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in person rather than over another virtual meeting. You also get to meet many folks behind the scenes of your favorite Autodesk applications. AU attracts many strategic industry partners that we want to connect with. Connecting with peers and sharing experiences is so valuable. It is how knowledge transfer happens!
Everyone who attends AU will always take something back with them, whether that’s connections through networking, understanding new technology, ideas from knowledge sharing, or business innovations.
Can you tell us about what you will be presenting at Autodesk University?
In my case study session, Autodesk Model Coordination for Design and Construction Streamlines Process (September 29, 11:30 AM, CS501429), I will be presenting how to leverage Autodesk cloud-based tools for increased collaboration among all stakeholders of a building project. This will include best practices and lessons learned for design and construction model coordination.
I’ll talk about our beta experience in 2018, when we started using model coordination during the design phase on key projects. I’ll also share recent project examples where we used model coordination with subcontractors on some of our largest commercial projects in Texas. We did this without needing to use a desktop application like Navisworks to run clash detection, which is currently an industry standard.
From my perspective, each building is a functioning work of art that requires a team to build it. Each stakeholder contributes value to the overall outcome of the project, including the craftsperson, construction manager, engineer, architect, and owner. The better we all collaborate, the less roadblocks a project will have, and the higher quality project we will all provide to the owner and building occupants.
Can you give us an example of how cloud-based technology can be used to streamline coordination during both design and construction?
In general, people have a hard time visualizing a mental picture of 2D construction documents. To this day, you might see design meetings where each discipline sits around a table with hard copies of their drawings and marks them up as they all try to create and coordinate a mental picture of the combined project.
As great as it can be to all sit together around a table in person, with cloud-based technology you don’t have to be in the same room. Everyone has near real-time access to project information. You have digital 2D documents that can be marked up virtually. In addition, each document is linked to its corresponding 3D discipline model. The team can combine discipline models and run clash detection early on in design and during construction coordination. Stakeholders can generate and assign issues and run reports. Each issue has its own instant messaging built in for enhanced communication that can be used as follow-ups from group meetings.
Model coordination allows for easy visualization, navigation, and a better understanding of design intent between all stakeholders. Skanska’s preconstruction and operations experts take advantage of the 3D clash detection tool during design to provide constructability analysis and QC the models’ data. Through assigned issues, active messaging, and automated reports, communication and accountability are enhanced. We utilize a similar cloud-based workflow when coordinating shop drawing models with our subcontractors.
How does streamlining coordination impact the whole project team, from owners, designers, stakeholders, and construction managers?
Skanska leverages cloud-based tools to increase collaboration, communication, and transparency, building trust among owners, designers, stakeholders, and construction managers. Real-time access to information benefits all project stakeholders and helps ensure a more coordinated design, budget, and project quality.
The cloud streamlines coordination and the flow of information and ideas. Quicker and better design and construction decisions are made when everyone has access to the information they need. You don’t need to wait weeks for files to be updated, combined, and shared. You can zero in on key issues and their resolution quickly and review information without having to sift through old emails. Transparency is key to any project, and we’ve seen increased involvement from owners, better collaboration between design disciplines, and increased project understanding between construction and design.
For example, on a 28-story office tower development in Houston, the entire project team actively participated in 3D design model coordination to improve the quality of construction documents. There was also more interaction and feedback between subcontractors and all other stakeholders while coordinating the 3D construction models used for shop drawings. A simplified user experience meant that team members didn’t have to be gurus at 3D model navigation to apply their knowledge and expertise. In fact, none of our team members had previously used Autodesk’s model coordination, but they quickly picked it up and worked remotely across the country in the cloud.