Industry Insights -- Looking Ahead (Cadalyst’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, Part 4 of 5)1 Jun, 2008 By: Cadalyst Staff
As part of our 25th Anniversary issue, Cadalyst asked industry leaders and Cadalyst contributors to look into the future. We'd love to hear what you think about their remarks. We invite you to share you perspectives using the Post a Comment feature at the bottom of this page.
"What do you see as the biggest technological challenge facing AEC and/or manufacturing professionals in the coming decade?"
The primary challenge for manufacturing in the coming decades is to be lean, mean, and green. Finding well-trained workers in advanced technologies will continue to be difficult, requiring most-creative education and software solutions. The greatest challenge will be to increase the recycling of materials while leaving a minimal imprint on the planet in terms of emissions and waste. In terms of CAD/CAM, the software needs to better integrate with a variety of input devices beyond the pointer and keyboard. Hand-held computers with easy to link displays of varying size and type along with more ergonomic input systems built to the application environment will make CAD/CAM fun to use.
Brought up on Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia, budding engineers and architects favor spontaneous collaboration more than structured teamwork. Unlike their predecessors, they don't view intellectual property as something sacred. In the coming years, when they become decision makers, they'll demand CAD, PLM, and building information modeling (BIM) tools that are more accommodating and less controlling, more inclusive and less protective. This requires a fundamental change in attitude some might not yet be ready for.
The training and organizational change required to adopt the new wave of design tools coming our way will be the principal challenge. Purchasing software is simply a financial transaction, but implementing that software requires an overhaul of your company's processes, project management and staffing. Complicating matters is the requirement that your company must keep running while the overhaul takes place and that your clients and vendors are wrestling with the same problems. It won't be easy, but those companies that push their staffs to make the changes will do well, and those that don't may not be around long.
The biggest technological challenge facing AEC professionals in the coming decade is not strictly the technology itself, but the business process and professional practice changes that users and using organizations will have to make to most effectively take advantage of the benefits that new and emerging technologies will provide. These challenges extend from the role of technology and technologic understanding in the various disciplines of AEC education through the entire gamut of hiring, staffing, professional development, and team/project/firm organization. Legal, contractual, and economic issues also will need to be addressed to accommodate and benefit from our technologies. The opportunities and challenges of technologies such as BIM, project collaboration networks, and practice information management will alter all AEC participants' roles, rights, risks, and responsibilities in ways far more radical than previous generations of tools.
In my opinion, the challenge will be evolving work practices to take advantage of new technologies in a manner that is incrementally productive. For example, parallel computing will provide enormous performance gains that should not be taken for granted. It should be viewed as an opportunity to refine or redefine how work is performed to achieve smarter solutions rather than just the fastest result.
In the coming decade, manufacturers will feel the pressure of macroeconomic trends -- such as globalization, sustainable product design, and the need to manage complexity and technology innovation -- more keenly than ever before. Digital prototyping will be a necessity for manufacturers who wish to adapt and thrive in this new environment. From reducing costs to reducing the amount of material waste, digital prototyping is the key to successfully meeting the manufacturing challenges of the twenty-first century.
The building industry is now embracing change through technology, and its leaders should be open to process innovation that can improve results. The transition from manual drafting to CAD 25 years ago was momentous, but the move from CAD to BIM signals an even larger opportunity to incorporate the advantages of modern information technology long available to other industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and even financial services. Despite the fact that many AEC businesses are chronically short of resources necessary to innovate, the industry must seize the chance to improve itself through the opportunities for change made possible by BIM.
BIM is but a talisman of future advances in the role of technology in AEC process, the tip of the spear that will redefine the fundamental roles, tasks, and responsibilities of designers and constructors and the means by which projects are delivered. The number of AEC processes dependent on digital tools will multiply, driven in part by an explosion of more capable software and hardware, but primarily by the strong desire to improve the results of construction itself. Beautiful, sustainable projects built on time and budget will be created by a new generation of digitally enabled professionals who are unafraid to apply their skills without regard to old methodologies and constraints. It is both an challenge and an obligation for the older generation of architects, engineers, and contractors to empower them accordingly.
Making the move from 2D to 3D -- plain and simple. Technology has made the transition to 3D, and yet so many of us are content to stay in our 2D world of lines, arcs, and circles. I don't see too many of us designing 2D buildings or 2D parts! Manufacturing sees the writing on the wall as more and more engineering firms are embracing the 3D CAD systems and virtual prototyping, but architecture could really benefit from embracing the benefits that come with true 3D and BIM.
Globalization is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing both manufacturing and AEC professionals in the next 10 years. Just thinking about the number of capitalists in the world doubling with growth in China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many other countries, one realizes that entire new economies are emerging, new markets are being created, new competitors are coming online, and ruthless cost cutting and commoditization will occur. At an ever-increasing pace, engineers and designers are going to be under significant pressure to give their companies a competitive edge. Cost pressures, collaboration-based innovation, integration of engineering data, and customer reviews will require fundamental changes in the way people design. Technology and process changes will grow exponentially. Remote engineering, database sharing, cross-continent designing, multicompany and multicountry collaboration will be required. Design and manufacturing outsourcing will migrate from one country to the next, providing both advantages and challenges for today's engineering companies. At HP, we are working on significant paradigm shifts in the underlying engineering infrastructure to give companies an engineering edge in this rapidly changing globalization environment.
Manufacturers always face many challenges: production timeframes are continually compressed, customers demand higher quality and lower costs, and products must be highly customizable and resource efficient. The biggest technological challenge facing manufacturers in the next decade is to connect their processes and structure their businesses virtually so that they can collaborate effectively; simulate and validate products prior to manufacturing to compress cycles; deliver quality; integrate business knowledge and logic to reduce waste and create resource efficient products; and configure manufacturing facilities to meet special (customized) needs, optimize geographically, and rapidly adjust capacity. The evolving Internet will play a big role in this connectivity, allowing smaller organizations to take advantage of sophisticated (yet easy-to-use) systems that are currently very high cost and require large IT efforts. This will allow for connectivity within the enterprise as well as between suppliers, business partners, and customers.
The biggest technological challenge facing manufacturing professionals over the next 10 years will be their ability to accelerate innovation. This means being the first to market with the right product and the ability to respond quickly around the world. They will need to capture and enable innovation across the entire lifecycle. They will need to connect everyone in the product lifecycle, from designer to shop-floor personnel. With the vast amounts of data associated with the product to production lifecycle, they will need to leverage platform strategies to ramp up new product ideas more rapidly through better reuse. The most successful manufacturers in the coming decade will not only increase top-line revenue with more successful new products but also improve bottom-line profitability through a more efficient and cost-effective product lifecycle process. -- Chuck Grindstaff, executive vice-president, products, Siemens PLM Software
I believe the biggest challenge facing manufacturing professionals, those in the U.S., that is, is remaining competitive and relevant in an industry increasingly dominated by low-cost manufacturing in China and other emerging economies. Granted, we can't compete with the sheer human capital of China and India, and we definitely shouldn't be willing to lay waste to the environment as they are in these other countries, but we can lead in innovation. We need to rally, quit wringing our hands, and think long term. I think it all starts with a focus on the customer and an emphasis on quality. We also need to invest strategically to increase our supply of talented professionals in engineering, science, and math.
Infrastructure professionals are tasked with meeting burgeoning demand for basic infrastructure in developing regions and rehabilitating or replacing aging infrastructure in the developed world. The imperative of sustainability, compounded by technical resource bottlenecks, has created new work faster than project teams have increased their efficiency. Although project teams are relying on innovative and more efficient distribution of work, these productivity-enhancing strategies rely on the sharing of information across distributed enterprises -- throughout the lifecycle of not only the project but also the asset. The essential technological challenge is to achieve interoperations among all project software and, thus, information workflows, resulting in true collaboration. In the case of a new bridge project, for example, not only must the planners, engineers, designers, and constructors collaborate, but also the owners, operators, maintenance and repair teams, rating agencies, permit issuers, traffic managers and analysts, and all others who need to access bridge information over the useful life of this asset, including periods of reconstruction. Lifecycle interoperations will be the biggest continuing technical challenge, but surmounting it -- which we can do -- will yield the most significant opportunities for sustaining infrastructure.