In a groundbreaking announcement at the Year in Infrastructure Conference, Bentley Systems and Topcon Positioning Systems outlined the launch of a new joint venture to address the advancement gap in construction and engineering, particularly when it comes to adopting end-to-end digital workflows. The new global company, named Digital Construction Works, will bring on some of Bentley and Topcon’s top personnel to provide digital integration services for construction firms, helping them to set up processes custom-fit to their needs. The two companies are so invested in the benefits of the industry adopting digital workflows that Digital Construction Works’ consulting activities will even be somewhat technology “agnostic” – meaning that the solutions may include other non-Topcon and non-Bentley products.
Going beyond tool creation to institutionalize workflows
Digital Construction Works has a global staff made up of experts on digital construction, lead by CEO Ted Lamboo (formerly Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for Bentley Systems) and Jason Hallett, COO (former Vice President of Digital Construction and Business Development for Topcon).
In an interview with SPAR 3D, Lamboo mentioned that it is not enough to create the tools and hope that they are used. The marketplace struggles with adoption – having a guiding hand to help real-world projects develop workflows that will fit their needs is a key goal.
“It’s not just about giving people tools and saying, if you push this button that you do that and you turn it sideways, all of a sudden, you can do it yourself.”
“We think what it takes to go to the next stage is that that marketplace needs to be serviced in order to take the steps that needs to be put into practice in projects. And so we’ve said, let’s create a joint services organization, let’s put brains from both investors in there, and let’s help the marketplace to bridge that gap.”
Digital Construction Works plans to provide digital automation, integration and “twinning” services around a fit-for-purpose software and cloud services portfolio, from Topcon, Bentley and other software vendors. This agnostic approach to implementation is designed to make adoption easier to swallow for companies that may already have some pieces or processes in place.
According to Ewout Kopershoek, Executive Vice President of M&A and Partnerships at Topcon, this approach is customer-driven.
“A customer might get latest and greatest in technology will make his life much better. But, if the customer is going to have to figure out by himself how he effectively implement it, that’s a challenge.”
Through its digital integration services, Digital Construction Works aims to help companies to connect and automate existing processes, while helping to truly institutionalize these digital workflows throughout a constructor’s whole portfolio.
Continuing a history of partnership
Bentley Systems and Topcon have been publicly collaborating since 2016, when they announced that they were planning to develop enhanced integration between their respective cloud services so that engineering and construction workflows could be more integrated.
“We both [Topcon and Bentley] – independent from each other – saw the need to for our own products’ optimization sake to work together with the other party,” said Kopershoek, “It just makes sense that the products are very complimentary for a specific group of users.”
Since then, Topcon and Bentley have worked together on new innovations in surveying, reality modeling, work packaging and more to try and improve construction processes. In 2019, they opened the Constructioneering Academies that allow construction professionals to get hands-on experience with new digital tools and best practices. And in 2018, Bentley’s SYNCHRO and Topcon’s ClearEdge3D acquisitions into their construction/engineering offerings.
The new venture represents the next stage in evolution for the two companies’ efforts, especially when it comes to adoption, according to Lamboo.
“Until [the announcement], it was still two vendors, trying to integrate technology together and then hope that the marketplace gets it, and does something with that knowledge.”
Digital Construction Works was unveiled at the first day of the Year in Infrastructure Conference, at a press conference featuring Ray O’Connor, president and CEO of Topcon Positioning and Greg Bentley CEO of Bentley Systems. Both emphasized that the new effort would bring the industry closer to going digital.
“Our new software capabilities make possible construction digital twins – converging digital context, digital components and digital chronology. What remains, in going digital for infrastructure construction, is for constructors’ people and processes to take advantage of the technology,” says Greg Bentley, “We and Topcon have now in turn committed many of our best resources to serve shoulder-to-shoulder in virtual hardhats, to innovatively advance the required digital integration.”
Pursuing true digital transformation
The services offered by Digital Construction Works span every phase of a project, from the planning to construction and handoff to operations and asset management, creating a continuous connection via the technologies and workflows.
Contributing 13 percent of global GDP and an estimated $12.9 trillion market by 2022, construction is the largest industry in the world and is positioned to benefit from significant value through much-needed productivity improvements. The World Economic Forum estimates within ten years, full-scale digitization could lead to savings between $700 billion to $1.2 trillion USD (13% to 21%) in design, engineering, and construction efforts.
Construction organizations need capabilities to analyze historical data, forecast what might happen in the future to avoid operational issues before they occur, reduce waste and downtime, improve safety, and reduce risk and liability. Logistics and on-site materials can be managed using digital tools to reduce waste and optimize for just-in-time delivery, increasing productivity on the construction site – but the companies adopting these new technologies may need assistance in setting up these workflows.
Thus, Digital Construction Works is positioned to contribute the much-needed digitization of the construction process by providing customized services, consulting and assistance, designed to create workflows that will be adopted for more than one-off model creation.
Feeding back into Bentley and Topcon products
The joint venture does not mean that the insights gained by Digital Construction Works will stay within their bounds, however. By applying new workflows and developing a “toolkit” Lamboo says that they can continue to innovate both within Digital Construction Works and by feeding insights back to the parent companies.
“Bentley and Topcon motivate digital construction workers to be innovative. We do those innovations via labs, we have an integration lab, as well as a digital twin lab. We will keep on pushing the envelope of what you can do with third party technology or with new experiments… and will get a bit of a tool kit in how to apply techniques in certain industries or certain workflows.”
There may be instances where a particular solution becomes available and that information might be passed back to one or either of the companies for further development. But the team’s experience – which includes many years working actually in the construction industry – may be the key to bring Digital Construction Works closer to understanding their clients. According to Koprpershoek, this connection is key to being successful.
“We feel that a DCW type organization is the best to be close to the customer and understand, how can we as manufacturers can provide the tools or create new solutions. Being close to the customer is extremely valuable to us.”