Simon Keam-George, CEO at vehicle security and telematics specialist Enigma Telematics explains the role of digital engineer and the advantages of digitising fleet management.
Describe the “digital engineer” for our readers, what does that mean?
The term “digital Engineer” means many things, however we see it as someone using a variety of digital and analogue sources to aid building construction. Think of digital engineers as the ultimate Big Data warriors in construction.
The data pool at their disposal can include site location, road connections, how construction equipment is used, historical data, utilities, and telematics data from vehicles, plant machinery and construction equipment.
In a practical sense, this lets the engineer virtually construct a building before the physical structure is started, in turn assisting with health and safety assessments, reducing waste, and uncovering potential obstacles and errors in advance.
Are we entering an era where automation drives large-scale efficiency or is the industry still some way off from achieving that vision?
I think we are, as demonstrated by the mass digitisation of construction processes and machinery. This is happening in tandem with businesses becoming leaner and a focus on innovation to meet the sector’s modern expectations.
Automation is a crucial part of this and makes financial and environmental sense. As the Internet of Things matures, companies should start to see even greater efficiency, especially as integration with BIM occurs.
What benefits are possible if a construction company were to digitise its fleet management processes?
The benefits are many. The most significant include resource and time savings, less paperwork, improved back office efficiency, better site safety and lower administration costs.
Within the context of equipment and fleet management, positive outcomes range from gaining greater visibility into generator and fuel usage, to monitoring CO2 emissions for CSR compliance and tracking fleet performance.
What about regulatory and security benefits, are there any? What about threats?
Construction is heavily regulated (and for good reason) and digitising engineering processes strengthens site security, improves organisational governance and helps ensure regulatory compliance.
Equipping engineers with digital technologies enables businesses to monitor working hours, reduce wear and tear on equipment, improve the security of machinery via location tracking and even immobilise plant machinery to prevent unauthorised use or illegitimate usage following theft.
There is also the implication of GDPR – businesses need to ensure data is protected and digitising engineering processes helps enhance security as it centralises information management underpinned by robust information security measures.
Do you see engineering staff personally benefiting from solutions like telematics or could they be considered a threat to job security?
It’s certainly not a threat, in fact, more an enabler to make work more satisfying, efficient and effective for the company. Digital technologies offer new ways to improve current engineering processes and opens the door to workflow optimisation.
Overall, digital engineers save time, and a lot of it. Some argue that telematics is big brother watching people, however it’s about larger-scale improvements rather than management targeting individuals on a case-by-case basis.
How does a construction manager oversee these digital engineers if there are changes in workflows and processes?
There are two elements at play here. The first is having the ability to centralise how engineering resource is allocated – that is essentially dashboards and real-time visibility of engineers.
After that comes granular management. Take field engineers as an example, those moving between sites on a regular basis. Real-time tracking enables managers to route engineers to different projects and sites depending on active situations and requirements. As this is happening, managers can review data on fuel usage, hours worked and distance travelled to identify areas for improvement.
The workflows may be different, however a manager’s capabilities actually increase rather than being negatively impacted by changes.
What will the average construction site look like in 10 years?
We see an internet connection becoming as essential to sites as electricity – likely 4G or 5G hubs connecting devices to a LAN. Connectivity will become vital as everything will likely talk to each other in some way.
Expect to see a lot more data points being made available for additional optimisations with an effect of that change being better health and safety. Access control for equipment and vehicles will become the norm.
Image: The Skyline GPS advanced tracking and security system from Enigma Vehicle Systems has been installed on over 200 refuse and recycling vehicles operated by Sevenoaks-based Verdant Group. www.enigmavehicle.co.uk