A roadmap to a New High – Tech Reality
‘You imagine it and we do it’
Interview: Otto Schepers, Manager business unit Digital technologies
It is fair to say that for a while now we are waiting for VR gaming to take off. And though there were a lot of new and interesting experiences, VR still hasn’t made a case that it’s here for the long haul. Or is this a premature conclusion? What we see is an unexpected side effect, VR is becoming an essential block within the engineering sector.
Witteveen + Bos, an international company that provides services across the entire width of civil engineering like waste water, roads, tunnels, renewable energy and so on, takes the lead to change the way we look at engineering and the tools in the process being used.
Otto Schepers, Manager business unit Digital technologies, completed a tailor-made innovation program that is now being deployed in all sectors of the organisation, aimed at the development and application of new solutions for contemporary challenges in deltas, infrastructure, cycles and cities. It outlines a big roadmap summing up the opportunities in the market, the future products and the conditions to be set up for the transformation.
At the moment the agency is mostly involved in civil projects commissioned and coordinated by the government. ‘We act as a consultant who generally meet the needs of clients and charges the costs: a design, an analysis and so on. We want to move in the direction of a service that the clients can buy cyclically, meaning that our ambition is to turn the process around and take over the control of the chain.’
The greatest challenge is to achieve this mental change, both within organisation and with the clients. ‘We need to charge for value instead of costs, explaining that if you digitize people the costs of projects can be reduced by 70 percent. This means that we can use the savings to finance the next project, that’s the whole thinking.’
The ultimate goal is to change the branch and make it superfluous; government simply making policy, being their core task, and Witteveen + Bos together with other chain partners developing solutions for the challenges that arise within that policy. The organisation strives to play a directing role as a dealmaker between on the one hand investors on the other side stakeholders and executor who carry out the project.
To close the gaps between different layers Witteveen + Bos is designing digital solutions, like the compliance tool to ensures that companies always comply with the latest legislation and regulation. Through project intelligence using data the organisation strives to predict on the basis of previous projects and intends to automate the design, components and objects.
‘We have already designed 30 viaducts, number 31 will probably be about the same.’ A resident in Groningen resembles for 80 percent a resident in Amsterdam. ‘If you can predict that 80 percent, you can then focus all energy on 20 percent that is really location specific.’
A simple example is a noise barrier. ‘Let’s say that the neighbourhood wants a meter higher than the government is financing. We want to be able to predict and digitalise this process and simply modify the design to the requested needs of the people living behind it. In the meantime, collecting needed investment within the community, where the government can simply put the signature to give a “Go”.’
Within the organisation ‘asset management’ is being transformed to ‘performance management’, monitoring the performance of the system, where you are digitally triggered by real-time data systems. The idea is to test the future reality: ‘Does the reality still comply with the services, when I designed it.’ This way features can be quickly adjusted to deliver the best solution possibly.
Today Witteveen + Bos is working on a large construction site in Singapore, that is being fully digitized. Lorries are driving the building parts with digital code tracks that are scanned, and the cranes know automatically where to go and where to put them. There is no one inside the crane anymore and it works 24 x 7. It does not stop here, Witteveen + Bos 3D printed a bicycle bridge in Gemert and a two-floor building in Dubai, always thinking about how a model can become a printed reality.
Innovations such as fire safety engineering with Virtual Reality already added value to their clients, which are used in the design of metro stations and trainings. ‘My ultimate goal is that we have a digital twin that is so realistic that you can imitate the tunnel. A fire fighter walks through the tunnel and tries out the buttons and tools before the construction starts. Furthermore, it gives us insights in how he is handling the fire more precise because of the VR setting.’
A driving force for all these innovations is the fact that there is no top-down management. Within Witteveen + Bos new ideas and projects are scaled and strengthen do to cells structures (PMC’s- Product Market Combinations). These business units are autonomous and flexible, consisting of 30 to 50 team members that are passionate about sustainable projects. ‘You can move to a different cell or do a project with another cell, broadening the scope of responsibilities and increasing knowledge in multiple fields.’ This makes the company very agile and adaptable to change. In this sense management facilitates the desired change that is requested from below.
It leads to a culture with the characteristics of medium-sized within a corporate company and stimulates the entrepreneurship within the teams. The cells write their own annual plan to come up with ideas to answer the questions of the future: ‘Where do we have to be in 2020 and what do we need to do for it?’
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