Upping our design game to maximise value for clients

Mott MacDonald is adopting advanced design software for all project delivery to ensure that it provides clients with the best possible service, says Ann Woulfe.

It’s finally happened. Our move away from design work using basic 2D tools in favour of advanced design software to visualise data in the best way across all projects is complete – the first engineering consultancy to make this move. This is a crucial milestone on our journey to becoming ‘digital by default’ to realise greater efficiencies for ourselves, our clients and our ultimate customers.

However, ‘going fully 3D’ doesn’t quite capture the true value of the switch to advanced software. Yes, our staff and stakeholders will benefit from intuitive 3D visualisations of their assets, but sitting behind them are data-rich models that can be shared and updated in real time, providing a ‘virtual’ asset that reflects the physical asset all the way from conception to decommissioning.

Our Australasia team led the way last year, bringing greater efficiency to several of the projects we delivered in the region. Now we are making the same switch to advanced tools for our entire Europe and North Africa business, covering 7000 members of staff – about half of our global workforce. 

Many parts of Mott MacDonald are well advanced on this road already and several recent projects show the value of working with advanced models. Parts of the Ordsall Chord railway project were delivered with only the digital model, without traditional drawing deliverables. The efficiencies achieved included saving a month from the design programme, and a 10% reduction in total design cost. 

As we roll out the same advanced design methods across all our projects, we look forward to reaping several benefits:

Promoting whole-life benefits: While the industry has historically focused on capital efficiencies, virtual assets enable asset owners to maximise efficiencies throughout operation, maintenance and eventual decommissioning. Operational cost savings are far greater than those possible at the capital stage, and clients are increasingly investing to unlock these long-term efficiencies.

More efficient projects: It’s universally accepted that data-rich models embed vast efficiencies across the delivery process, from better collaboration across the delivery team and with all project stakeholders via a single, federated system with updates in real time, to value engineering for cost, time, carbon and health and safety. 

Upskilling our staff: The switch to advanced tools means all staff will be proficient in the most advanced design applications, putting them in the best position to adapt to other software tools as the industry increasingly focuses on information-centred deliverables. 

Enabling smart infrastructure: The rapidly developing field of smart infrastructure applications means many of the most innovative and exciting applications are yet to be seen. Data-rich models make assets ‘smart infrastructure-ready’, providing a modular fit with existing and emerging data-based solutions to improve performance.

As the digital revolution disrupts our industry, adapting to advances in technology is crucial. Saying goodbye to basic 2D tools and broad scale adoption of advanced design software for all project delivery is the inevitable next step in ensuring we provide our clients with the best possible service.

Ann Woulfe is a digital delivery principal at Mott MacDonald.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email awalker@infrastructure-intelligence.com.