Digital Landscape of the
AEC Industry

Abstract

Global Leaders in Construction Management team has been studying the impact and the implementation of digital transformation in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (A/E/C) industry. The focus is on the top 20 Engineering News-Record (ENR) engineering firms and the top 20 ENR construction companies across the United States. Each company is individually analyzed through the lenses of people, process, and technology for the innovations implemented with respect to the market trends, challenges faced, and solutions provided. Moreover, we are speaking with the innovation industry leaders and C-suite executives within each organization to understand business implications, strategies on employing the latest technologies from pilot projects to enterprise-wide adoption. Moreover, our research team has analyzed the data collected to see similarities, differences, and common trends and categorize unique perspectives and value propositions between companies. This work will serve as a valuable asset for the A/E/C industry in understanding the progress of digital transformation and in setting clear goals, recommendations, and milestones to move the industry forward in the upcoming years. This work was performed in collaboration with the leadership of WGI.

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Methodology

The best way to begin to study the market is to see how companies are marketing themselves on global platforms. With this on mind, extensive literature studies have been carried out. From companies' websites, blogs, social media posts, online interviews, seminars, and articles - every bit of information available was read and documented to answer six fundamental domains - companies' message, their technological trends, unique perspective, partnerships and collaboration with vendors, and unique case studies. After gathering enough information, company leadership was approached in order to record the real-view concerning the strategies of respective firms. During the course of the research, we interviewed several individuals - including C-suite executives, digital innovation leaders, and project managers. This was an iterative process, until a certain level of confidence was attained.

As we completed gathering data - we started using tools like Google forms, spreadsheets, and Power BI to put together all the information. At this stage, a lot of decluttering of data and data cleaning was done. Then trends, strategies, top vendors, and technologies were analyzed. As the discussion progressed and visualization iteration performed - a final Power BI dashboard was put together.

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Companies

The first findings towards our research involved for the top 20 construction and top 20 engineering firms were to know about their message around innovation and their key elements around innovation. It was observed that the most common and important message around innovation for these 40 companies is "Collaboration" and "Workflow Optimization". These are followed by "Sustainability & Real-Time Data Management. However, digging deeper into the study, it states that for the Engineering firms, the message around innovation is primarily about "Asset Performance" followed by "Smart Solutions for Data Analytics". Real-time data management and workflow optimization also fall second in line for the messaging around innovation for engineering firms. For the contracting firms, "Collaboration and Workflow Optimization" was the main objective for innovation.

The next part in the research was about the focus on the key elements around innovation that these 40 companies are implementing. The research shows that in-house training & technical support tops the list for key elements of innovation. Also, Collaboration with external startups, cloud-based and internal platforms are important key elements driving the innovation sector of these 40 companies.

Technology


Technology that brings us all here today drives the digital transformation. Throughout the research, two key questions were answered, what are the top technologies each company is focused on, and their highlighted business benefits revolving around these technologies both for the clients and their internal teams. The division of engineering and contracting companies into separate analysis provides much more clarity on this information, Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) which has become a new normal still hold first place in the number of firms actively participating and researching on it. 
But, contracting companies focus is on technologies like drones, AR/VR, and digital twins and highlights benefits like reducing cost and time, a collaboration between client and stakeholders, and safety risk management whereas engineering companies focus is on digital twins, construction reality capture, and AI and highlights collaboration and strategies to increase O&M efficiency of their projects. Perkins and Will focused on 16 technologies followed by Jacobs focusing on 14. Though the priority among these technologies are unknown at this point of time, it’s vibrant to see the spread of focus by these companies.

 

Perspectives


Understanding the perspective of the company around Digital Transformation becomes crucial to understand the company’s approach around Digital Transformation. What is the company’s unique perspective and point of view around each of these technologies and trends? Moreover, what is the company’s unique value proposition and differentiation around each of these technologies and trends? Finding answers to these questions tells us directly about the company's perspective as a whole and in general about Digital Transformation. 


One company’s perspective of looking at some technology can vary a lot from the other company. Understanding this difference of perspective of around 40 top companies from the ENR list gives us a clear understanding of the overall market and penetration around a particular technology, and also about the company’s perspective.


Case Studies


DPR constructions realized their potential of storing humongous amounts of data with respect to building construction, raised a new subsidiary called Vue Ops that focuses on Facility management and maintenance. The clients subscribe to this service similar to SaaS and could get real-time status of their facilities. DPR along with Vue Ops located and fixed a leak in a healthcare facility. Locating the leak in a matter of one hour saved the facility $20M in costs if conventional methods had been used.
AECOM partnered with SCALED to deliver a 3D-printed arch in the UK that streamlines the installation of railway data communication systems.


Vendors
 

In the A/E/C industry, most innovative construction companies rely on technology partners who provide tools that each team member can use to collaborate more effectively, allowing projects to stay on schedule and within budget. Moreover, while choosing these companies, it is important to keep in mind to focus on solving real business problems by using technology as a means and technology not being an end to itself. These partnerships can either be internal or external. For example, few companies are equipped to produce either an in-house team or a subsidiary that can be a resource not only to that company but can be an open-source for other companies to move towards digital transformation. However, few companies might have to rely on experts in the market such as gaming companies, data management companies, etc…, to partner with and reach the digital transformation objectives of the company. In this research, we have identified over 126 external and internal partnerships within the companies under study.
 

Conclusion


As the A/E/C industry is transitioning through a digital transformation revolution, our research team focused on the top 20 ENR engineering firms and top 20 ENR contractors to study the impact and penetration of digital transformation. After studying the technological trends and goals presented on each company’s website, we took it a step further by interviewing industry leaders within the companies. Moreover, our team did not stop at researching on the top 40 ENR companies but also researched on vendors that the companies partnered with to reach their digital transformation goals. 


All of the data collected was categorized, unified, and analyzed using PowerBI to present our findings. PowerBI is a powerful tool that serves as a live document that can be updated every year as new technologies are emerging. It is a valuable tool that can show technological trends over the years across different companies. To make our data more detailed, all the information was broken down into engineering firms, contractors, and both. We have had interesting findings by comparing the three categories and were able to pinpoint where the industry is going and what the top digital transformation goals are to this date. While all findings have been summarized in this report, below are some examples:

  • We found that collaboration enhancement was the top goal that all companies hope to achieve by using technology. However, engineering firms are specifically interested in tracking asset performance through the latest technologies.

 

  • Most companies are working on enhancing their in-house training facilities to gain as much subject matter experts as possible, and thus become ahead of the competition. Other key elements have been studied in our research.

 

  • As most companies have been using VDC technologies, newer technologies have emerged in the industry such as drones, digital twins, and virtual reality. All technologies are broken down in our PowerBI study.


Please reach out to our research team with any questions you may have on our project.

Team
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Asmita Wagh
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Nancy Agrawal
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Nahla Ali
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Pranav Balabadrinath
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Kaushal Pawar
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Shashanka Mallikarjuna