Technology a Crucial Facet of Modern Infrastructure

While enterprises across several sectors adapt to the digital world, the infrastructure industry is lagging, and needs to increase its adoption digital technology to enhance planning and delivery functions, said Kaushik Chakraborty, Vice President, Southeast Asia and India, with Bentley Systems.

Mr. Chakraborty expressed his opinions during an interview with SSMB at the Bentley Systems’ Going Digital event 2018

What is Bentley’s mission for the Indian Infrastructure segment?
Our tag line “Advancing Infrastructure” signifies everything Bentley Systems does! Our mission for the Indian infrastructure segment is to provide the best solutions in terms of technology; help users to adopt and learn these technologies so that they can build, operate, and maintain the lifecycle of their infrastructure in the simplest and most effective way. Bentley also helps users establish better workflows to ensure they are using the technology to enable faster delivery of projects, cost effectively.

One example of this technology in practice is the Nagpur Metro project, which used it to bring transparency to the project, and resulted in a savings of up to 12 to 15 percent of the cost, while delivering the project ahead of schedule.

Using technology to bring transparency, openness, and visibility into an entire project, and provide support to our users at the same time, has always been our mission.

We also look forward to bringing new users on board and incorporating the best processes in the workflow from what we have learned from our users across globe. We make and customize these workflows in consonance to the regional context with our team in India and facilitate that to the market.

What are the key challenges you feel working with government? Are you facing any resistance in terms of acceptance?
I don’t think its specific to India, but as human beings, we have always resisted change! When it comes to accepting change, India is unique in that it quickly adopts new technologies that enter the markets.

We see changes in technology nearly every day, and we must start incorporating new IT advancements in our infrastructure projects. For instance, when somebody wants to build a new airport, we don’t always look at how we can incorporate information technology in the beginning of the project. We construct the airport and incorporate IT later to operate it.

IT is often an afterthought, and it is not considered to be an important factor in the planning and delivery stage. So, one of the challenges we face is getting the industry to begin using technology at the beginning of a project.

Capital-intensive industries, like oil and gas and civil infrastructure, have been adopting BIM practices for many years now and are well ahead in implementing technology for better ROI. The Mumbai Metropolitan Authority for example uses technology to build its metro lines with the right quality and safety measures.

To what extent has Bentley’s software solution impacted the Indian infrastructure thus far?
The impact has been very positive, as we bring in new technologies with better applications. The focus is on better processes and enabling people to adopt these technologies with the right processes. To help organizations meet these goals, Bentley has established a BIM Academy in Pune so that we can teach our users about these processes and workflows, and the reception has been very positive. We have seen some key rail projects like Maha Metro Nagpur, Pune Metro Implementation, and the Dholera Delhi Mumbai industrial corridor, also known as the Dholera project, which is India’s first massive Green Field Infrastructure Development. With the government envisioning several mega projects, we will see an increase in the adoption of innovative technology.

Which new products have been the game changers for the infrastructure segment globally, and in India?
The game changers have been around the connected data environment, which involves sharing information among project participants from conception to project handover, whatever the asset might be, and then that same information is being used by those who will maintain it. Our aim is to give all project team members the ability to exchange information in a digital format from the very beginning.

The applications from our side that have the biggest impact are ProjectWise, and AssetWise. We have now introduced OpenRail and OpenRoads that look at the lifecycle of road and rail projects from conceptual design, operation, and maintenance to give a unified, harmonious workflow across the lifecycle.

What study or observations have been made by Bentley as far as Indian growth story is concerned?
The Indian growth story is a positive one. Adoption in civil infrastructure, especially in the past three years, has been encouraging. The speed of change in terms of adoption and breakdown of resistance has been very positive. Now, the discussions are not whether we should change, but how you can help us make the change. So, the engagements have gone from – I don’t think it is a good idea, to can you work with us, can you help us, can you upscale us, can you re-train our people and help us adapt. There is an understanding that we must do things differently, and, having crossed that hurdle, now it is about getting there.

And, our BIM Advancement Academy in Pune is a stepping stone to achieve that goal. Earlier we had one in Nagpur for the Metro Project, and it helped us learn and understand what works in India. We had successes with academies in the UK and Houston, and now we have two in India and are planning to establish academies in Dubai, China, Singapore, and Australia.

We are going to connect these centers so that there is a global sharing platform available for best practices. The academy will help advance the skills of the professionals in our industry, so that they can deliver better projects once they join the workforce.

What are the unparalleled aspects that Bentley brings to the table as far as the infrastructure segment is concerned?
Bentley’s uniqueness is that we don’t change file formats. We have maintained the same file format since we became a company. A Bentley user who has used a product 25 years ago, can now take that same model/drawing and use it with the latest software.

Also, there are three main aspects we keep in mind when developing our software: i. Information mobility across the product lifecycle ii. Flexible policies in terms of maintaining workflows and products for the users and iii. Interoperability.

Information mobility refers to the process of sharing the information, regardless of the design platform. So, whether one is using products from Autodesk, Intergraph, Aveva, or Bentley, we help our users amalgamate it as their project data.

Users don’t work with only one software, but might involve 10 to 15 software applications, and thus the role of interoperability is actioned. For instance, ProjectWise and iModels are Bentley applications, but they are usually integrated with most of the non-Bentley compatible software. Therefore, we are very agnostic and ready to help our users work effectively with designs and drawing implemented using other compatible software.

How do Bentley’s solutions provide smarter and cost-effective results?
There are two perspectives to this: a. technological perspective b. commercial model perspective.

In terms of a technology perspective, Bentley offers various options for industry professionals to start using our software. We have applications that span the complete workflow from conceptual design or planning for a project, to operations and maintenance of plants or rail systems. For Bentley, it is not just one aspect of the project, but the entire lifecycle of an asset, and thus we provide the whole gamut of solutions.

From a commercial perspective, different users want different methodologies to commercially engage with Bentley. Our commercial offering is moving more toward the pay as you use model.

We don’t want to be known as a company who sells applications to the market, but to enable a platform with solutions and knowledge, and help our customers be successful.

STAAD is a popular product and there are other related products that still need to get a hold in India. How do you see the adoption?
We have other products like MicroStation, which shares a common platform with our other discipline-specific applications for BIM workflows. Thus, it is the foundation platform for all industrial products. We also have users who have adopted MXROAD for road design in India. Now, MXROAD is available through OpenRoads Designer, providing a comprehensive detailed design application for surveying, drainage, subsurface utilities, and roadway design that supersedes the capabilities previously delivered through MXROAD. So, it’s not just STAAD, there are many applications that have gained popularity. While we have been fortunate enough to have a large user base with STAAD, the adoption of other brands has been quite successful.

As the rate of construction on civil infrastructure projects increases in India, we are seeing many companies applying BIM advancements. There are a lot of organizations educating industry professional and bringing thought leadership to them around the advantages of BIM, and we want to be a part of that. Our BIM Advancement Academy teaches participants about BIM workflows and BIM processes. We don’t concentrate on Bentley software, but talk about our part of workflow and how we can help advance the industry, so that people get more exposure of what is happening around the world, especially in the Indian market.