Handing over costly and labor-intensive operations to smart software sounds like a no-brainer, but for EPC companies with extremely complex megaprojects, any operational changes cost time, money, and effort to implement. As a result, the EPC market has been slow to implement digital transformation. But these days, there’s new momentum behind engineering software initiatives. In fact, 76% of engineering and construction executives in a Deloitte postelection poll last year planned to invest in digital tech this year. So, what’s driving the new commitment to technology?
COVID-19 Accelerated Digital Transformation
For many EPC firms, the pandemic forced their hands. Suddenly, companies had to deal with a remote work force. And they needed to increase safety considerations for onsite jobs. The additional hurdles extended project timelines by up to 300%.
If firms wanted to stay in business, they had to implement digital tools that sped up processes while maintaining safety and quality. A remote workforce required adoption of collaboration, cloud, and cybersecurity applications. Labor shortages forced organizations to do more with fewer people, so they implemented labor-saving technology to make the most of experts’ time.
For many companies, the experience of deploying solutions as a response to COVID-19 motivated plans for continuing the digital transformation. Many will extend their collaborative and labor-saving tech to more project phases. They’ll start taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and smart security.
Some companies are also starting to benefit from more sophisticated labor-savers, such as autonomous vehicles to handle build tasks and monitor the project site, 3D printing for custom parts, and natural language processing (NLP) to parse vast amounts of paperwork and generate reports.
EPC Market Shifts Introduce Challenge and Opportunity
In the midst of dealing with the pandemic, EPC firms are grappling with other market trends that started well before COVID-19 and will continue to grow. In the energy market, for example, there are more projects for sustainable sources such as wind and solar. Along the same lines, in the U.S, any major construction project must comply with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies. The market players are changing as well. Non-traditional construction firms, backed by modern financing have entered the game, especially in new energy sectors like solar.
To meet these challenges EPC firms are looking for partners who can provide the skills and experience needed. Hydrocarbon Processing magazine predicts, “In 2030, owners and contractors will have evolved their approach to contracting toward fostering more open and collaborative relationships, with better alignment across parties toward a good outcome for the project overall, not just individual participants.”
But partnerships bring their own difficulties. As the size of the project team increases, it’s harder to manage communication and workflow, raising the risk of cost and schedule overruns. Plus, more players generate more documents, plans, and designs that need to be processed, stored, accessed, and shared to the right people at the right time.
EPC companies who successfully tackle today’s market will see not only hurdles but opportunities for digital transformation initiatives that manage a large partner eco-system while delivering greater efficiency and predictability. With the proliferation of documents, plans, designs, and project data, firms are implementing engineering software to centrally manage and analyze data and documents from disparate sources. And virtual models using the building information management (BIM) framework will help engineers across the team and the world coordinate the designs, plans, and status for complex builds.
Companies will also implement technology that enables leaner, faster project completion. For example, the technical bid evaluation process (TBE) has long required engineers to organize and assess dozens of vendor bids in a labor-intensive, time-sapping process. However, applications with NLP can read reams of documents, categorize the details and generate reports so engineers can focus on analysis. Technology such as NLP not only saves time and money, but improves the TBE outcomes, helping engineers find the optimal vendor selection.
In search of further time savings and risk mitigation, EPC providers will also look to AI-driven workflow to coordinate and manage all the roles on a diverse team, decreasing the likelihood of costly miscommunications. And as the digital data piles up, data analytics powered by machine learning will turn past experience into a guide for continued improvements.
Digital Success Encourages Further Digital Transformation
Once EPC teams dip their toes into the digital waters, the success of initial projects will propel them even further. According to Deloitte,
“Benefits [of engineering software] are expected to include as much as a potential 10% to 30% reduction in engineering hours, up to 10% reduction in build costs, and up to 20% reduction in operating costs, improving overall margins for E&C firms throughout the entire project life cycle.”
As more and more companies realize these gains, they’ll quickly move to extend them, which increases pressure on the market in general. Players who want to stay relevant will have to get digital.
In fact, technology adoption may be the key factor separating winners from also-rans in the upcoming EPC world. Those who get a jump start on the overall digital strategy will realize a first-mover advantage. Many customers even view digital savvy EPC companies as more reliable and less risky than others.
Companies who’ve digitized most of their processes and standardized data storage will be positioned to take advantage of data collection and analysis across the enterprise. Monitors on the job site will feed into AI-driven schedule optimizers who ensure the maximum efficient use of workers and equipment. 3D renderings will help designers from remote locations collaborate before and during the build. AI systems will identify safety risks, and augmented reality (AR) will help offsite experts consult with onsite engineers about problems or repairs.
Make Rudy for Engineers a Fundamental Element of Your Digital Transformation
EPC firms considering how to apply digital technology to traditional megaproject builds should get to know Rudy for Engineers. Rudy is an AI-powered application that handles the difficult and tedious TBE process. Because TBE eats up so much time and labor in a construction project, engineering software that handles the tedious tasks fast and frees engineer time will render immediate and significant cost and time savings.
Rudy uses NLP customized for construction engineering to read materials requisitions and requirements specifications, draft supplier bid packages, analyze vendor bid submissions, and generate a fully populated TBE template.
In addition, Rudy incorporates features that every digital transformation should include. Rudy’s workflow management ensures engineers from any company or location can coordinate with each other and with vendors seamlessly. Rudy keeps information secure and makes data accessible to the right people at the right time. Finally, the application analyzes and graphs collected data for status updates, trends, and future TBE planning.
To learn more about the role Rudy can play in your digital transformation, contact us for a demo.