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How Technology Will Drive Creativity and Productivity in Infrastructure

In anticipation of the 12th Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum we’re sitting down with infrastructure industry leaders and friends of CG/LA. For the second installment of our leadership series, we spoke with Senior Vice President of Trimble, Bryn Fosburgh about the advances of technology in construction and infrastructure.

 

Q: How does a technology company like Trimble view the construction industry?

A: Today, Trimble solutions enable contractors to manage hundreds of billions of dollars of construction projects worldwide. At Trimble, we look at the construction industry as a continuum. The development of all infrastructure, regardless of size, complexity or cost, follows a continuum that is serially defined as funding, feasibility, design, estimate, build, maintenance, and operate. The construction industry has traditionally been a laggard in utilizing technology to improve productivity. However, the use of technology-based tools (hardware and software) can improve task productivity which enables on-time delivery, while the integration of information along the continuum results in on budget delivery of the infrastructure project.

Our strategy is to integrate workflows and stakeholders across the construction continuum to deliver productivity. We have created a portfolio of solutions from planning, design, earthworks operations and maintenance through partnering, acquisition and organic development. These solutions are available to the various stakeholders including owners, contractors, architects, engineers, and surveyors and focus on both task and process productivity. A task-based solution would be a machine control system that uses either GPS or a servo driven total station which enables the efficient movement of material based on a specific design. Project management or collaboration applications are process-based solutions that manage content, schedules, or progress across the continuum of the project and enable the stakeholders on the project to manage the critical path, costs, and progress of a project.

Both task and process-based solutions provide the customer significant productivity advantages, but they also reduce costly rework, improve transparency and enable the stakeholder to take preemptive action to rectify an issue before a problem becomes a problem. We have found that task and process productivity-based solutions can improve the overall productivity by as much as 30 percent and reduce rework by as much as 50 percent. In addition, use of these digital construction technologies can further our customers’ ability to win projects by allowing for a more aggressive bid while still maintaining profitability and predictability throughout the construction process.

 
Q: You made a number of significant acquisitions in 2019, including E-Builder - how has that positioned you in the infrastructure market?

A: The eBuilder and Viewpoint acquisitions enable project delivery by linking the design to the contractor and the owner along the continuum by providing industry leading project management and enterprise resource planning solutions for both owner and contractor. The combination of these technologies provides construction professionals and owners the ability to make real-time data driven decisions to improve the performance and profitability of their respective business. These solutions provide our customers an unmatched visibility into the entire build process, which enables them to better manage costs and schedules for a project. We are very fortunate to have both companies as part of the Trimble team. The solutions and the people are world class and create solutions that transform the construction work process.

Q: As a sponsor of our 12th Global Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum, aside from the U.S, what do you see as the most promising geographies in 2019?  In which countries and sectors do you see the most potential for growth?

A: This an exciting time in construction because worldwide we are seeing significant activity in developing nations centered around transportation networks. Emerging economies—such as China, Brazil and Mexico—are “leap frogging” developed economies, creating state-of-the-art transportation networks that include airports, utilities, railways and highways. This transformation continues to accelerate and includes the rapid adoption of technology as the global labor market has tightened. This is challenging companies to look for increased productivity of the existing workforce to drive growth and profit. In the developed countries, we are now seeing a transformation from the transitional 1950s infrastructure to prepare for the future of ride sharing, electric vehicles and autonomy.


Q: We keep hearing about the increased pace of technology innovation - what's coming, fast, that nobody sees?

A: Technology trends enable process improvements along the construction continuum that can significantly improve productivity, quality and transparency. A few technology trends include connectivity, internet of things (IoT),  content, visualization, automation, constructible models and blockchain.

  • Connectivity: Connectivity has greatly improved over the last 20 years. The rollout of 5G will provide an even faster and more reliable backhaul for everything from streaming video that provides the technician or engineer real-time instructions, to the ability to modify and update the as-built in real time. These advancements in connectivity, coupled with the expanding real-time resources available in cloud computing, allow for rapid processing and transmission of massive amounts of data further expanding the capabilities of the field in ways never imagined before.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): During the last few years, the acronym of IoT has become more prevalent in the construction industry and IoT has formed the basis for smart cities, infrastructure, and buildings. However, the next phase will be edge computing where the device is able to do more computing and analysis on the device which will reduce latency and improve remote control and autonomy.
  • Content: The cloud has become part of our everyday life from banking, airline reservations, finance and now construction. There are millions of open source libraries and proprietary content from bridge abutments to electrical receptacles that enable the engineer or designer to rapidly develop designs that can immediately be transmitted to the field to  be built or installed. The cloud facilitates use in the management of this content and 3D modeling tools, such as SketchUp or Tekla structures, providing us the capability to create and distribute this content rapidly.
  • Visualization: Visualization tools such as mixed or virtual reality are enabling users to envision a structure prior to it being built and to detect issues prior to the construction process. This capability has significantly reduced rework on a project and has enabled double-digit productivity. In addition, users can perform scenario planning or “what if” planning to determine the optimum build process and sequencing. As these mixed and virtual reality tools improve and are coupled with precise positioning, you will see the industry transform from a design and visualize or build and visualize process, to a visualize and design or visualize and build process.
  • Automation: Autonomous vehicles, automated work processes, prefabrication and 3D printers will become more commonplace in the construction industry. These advancements are being accelerated by sensor fusion (satellite, inertial, imaging, etc), machine learning and augmented reality with new possibilities created every day as connectivity coverage and speeds increase.  
  • Constructible Model: A constructible model is geometry coupled with attributes. It consists of not only the geometry of the bridge or road, but it also defines the soil type, adjacent utilities, rebar requirements, drainage and right-of-way or setback requirements. It contains all data needed to build that Infrastructure. This constructible model is the result of being able to combine multiple technologies and manage the data across the continuum and varying stakeholders. And by bringing forward attributes previously unmaintained, such as testing results from placed concrete, the constructible model moves well beyond construction and becomes the key data source throughout the operations and maintenance lifecycle of an asset. A constructible model can be used by all stakeholders on the project to anticipate issues and proactively resolve them before costly mistakes are made, and becomes the single source of truth that all engineers, surveyors, estimators, and machine operators utilize throughout each phase of the continuum. As the infrastructure is built, the constructible model is updated in real time based on a real work activities and the updated model is used to predict the schedule and cost compared to plan. And if applied to vertical construction such as a building, this very same constructible model becomes the base data from which space usage can be managed and optimized.
  • Transparency: Capabilities like blockchain can provide significant security, efficiency, and transparency to the project controls and management phases and tasks of the construction continuum.  

Q: You have an interesting competitive advantage in Gehry Systems - how does this differentiate you from your competitors? Can you give us an example?

A: The Gehry Technologies acquisition has provided Trimble a technology and process consulting capability that enables our clients to concentrate on outcomes and has now become the “Trimble Consulting Group.”  A customer or owner cares about outcomes and not necessary how you get there in the process. Our Trimble Consulting team is a group of architects, IT professionals and professional engineers with significant domain and technology experience that enable the contractor and engineer to deliver to the owner projects that are on time and under budget. They accomplish this by developing a constructible model and asset registry that enables the contractor to build what was designed and maintain what was built in an efficient and productive manner by identifying and resolving problems early in the process, avoiding costly re-work and schedule overruns. Additionally, we are seeing a growing demand from our clients to provide common views (such as a dashboard) from multiple data sources, including non-Trimble products. Our Trimble Consulting team brings this unique capability to provide cross-platform integration within the many Trimble solutions as well as from other vendor products as well. This key consulting service leverages all of the key elements through integration - yielding a connected, content-rich, constructible model that provides transparency across the project continuum and leverages automation where appropriate. This outcome based consultancy has been employed on multiple infrastructure projects around the world from airports, high speed rails, commercial campuses, and high rises.


Q: What is the most important book that you read (or listened to) in 2018? Is there a podcast that you'd like for all of us to download?

A: David Goggins podcast. Set a goal, visualize it, remember you can always do more, embrace setbacks, and never give up. There is no reason we can’t have a multi-modal transportation network that becomes the artery of all digital and physical commerce within the nation. Let’s just do it and quit talking about it.

 

Thank you, Mr.Fosburgh. Learn more about Mr.Fosburgh and Trimble.

At Trimble, Bryn Fosburgh is the Senior Vice President, responsible for the Caterpillar, Hilti, and Nikon Joint Ventures, U.S. Federal government strategy and accounts, OEM construction machine business and professional services groups. Mr. Fosburgh joined Trimble in 1994 and has held numerous roles, including vice president and general manager for Trimble's geomatics and engineering division, and division vice president of survey and infrastructure. Mr. Fosburgh is a friend of CG/LA and BluePrint 2025 2x speaker.