Leading multi-disciplinary construction company, Murray & Dickson Construction Group’s drive to digitalise processes is already yielding favourable results. This is especially noteworthy for the company’s technically complex projects for private sector clients operating in the energy and mining industries.

A case in point is the company’s use of 3D, 4D and 5D Building Information Management (BIM) modellingtechniques during the tendering phase, the basis of any successful construction project. The technology is also being deployed during the project construction phases to maintain high levels of productivity, efficiency, accuracy and safety throughout the duration of the contract. This has helped M&D to deliver its core values of “being safe”, “doing it right”, “finding the best way” and “doing what we say” on its projects.

“The implementation of BIM modelling has bolstered our tendering processes. Through providing enhanced 3D visualisations and 4D timeline simulation tools, we are able to visually present the envisaged infrastructure in a digital twin. This is highly beneficial as this enables us to leverage the BIM technologies to present our proposed construction sequence to our clients. Potential design and/or constructability issues can be identified early on in the project lifecycle. Misunderstandings and ambiguities can, therefore, be clarified before construction commences to avoid potential cost overruns and delays. By having a better understanding of the project in the very early phases of its lifecycle, we are also able to commence with and complete our proposal significantly quicker under tight deadlines and competitive tendering processes. Increased visibility of the proposed work scope enables us to eliminate the risk of missing components and errors in the engineering design. In these ways, the technology has greatly improved our ability to accurately cost, plan and schedule the scope of works, considering the depth of project information that we have on hand at this very early phase. Moreover, because we are better able to communicate our proposal to the client and the various members of the professional team, the technology improves collaboration and fosters trust between M&D, the client and other members of the professional team. However, one of the biggest advantages of this approach to tendering is that it has enhanced our ability to find and suggest alternatives that will improve the constructability of the project and add value wherever we can as a skilled and experienced multi-disciplinary contractor,” Marius Bierman, M&D’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) Manager, says.

Bierman is spearheading M&D’s digitalisation drive and ensuring the group’s seamless transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). M&D is one of only a few South African construction companies to have a full-time VDC Manager. This demonstrates the company’s commitment to continue being at the cutting-edge of industry by harnessing sophisticated 4IR technology.

The results of M&D’s digitalisation drive are also evident on the company’s many live projects. This is through improved collaboration, sharing and versioning that would not be possible using conventional paper drawing sets. Drawings and models are also being reviewed on site on mobile devices by members of the professional team to facilitate access to information whenever it is required. Moreover, design and documentation are undertaken simultaneously and modified efficiently to swiftly adapt to new information, including site conditions. The accurate scheduling and work sequences that were developed ahead of construction can also be communicated efficiently to the various team members on site using the technology. This has ensured that all members of the professional team and the client have a sound understanding of the project at any given point in time to avoid misunderstandings and costly mistakes, while also vastly improving the coordination of the large teams on M&D’s worksites.

These advantages are complemented by the depth of project knowledge that the company’s construction teams have already gained before mobilising to site to better prepare them for the scope of work. Using space-use simulations and 4D visualisations, M&D’s construction leaders visualise the entire project and make modifications and corrections wherever necessary before commencing with construction. They are also able to finely coordinate the various trades and subcontracting work to avoid potential clashes, while the technology also optimises prefabrication activities to avoid waste and delays.

Certainly, the technology has also enabled M&D to significantly improve its already-strong health and safety track-record on site. This is considering that potential health and safety risks can be identified early, and contingencies devised and incorporated into site planning and logistics ahead of actual construction.

BIM is one of the 4IR technologies that has the potential to transform the entire built-environment industry, spanning the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure through to the way in which it is being operated to optimise the use of assets. M&D has long identified the critical role that this technology is able to play in helping the company to hone its competitive edge.

Certainly, Bierman also sees immense potential to introduce this technology on some of the company’s many public-sector contracts. This is in the same manner that some of M&D’s international peers are doing to help deliver quality service delivery infrastructure on time and within budget. “In the United Kingdom, for example, it is mandatory for contractors to submit 3D, 4D and 5D BIM models when tendering for government work. This has ensured that contractors are able to develop accurate proposals that help to improve the delivery of quality infrastructure. Moreover, this approach encourages contractors and engineers to work more closely in the early phases of a project to facilitate value engineering and improve constructability of the planned infrastructure. Contractors, such M&D, have extensive contracting knowledge and experience that could be better harnessed to optimise engineering designs. In doing so, we also have the opportunity to position ourselves as the contractor of choice as early as the feasibility and detailed engineering design phases of a project because of our intricate understanding of the infrastructure that is going to be built,” he says.

3D BIM technology has successfully addressed the many limitations of 2D digital geometric modelling. A digital geometric model that constitutes an X, Y and Z axis associated with further information; this type of modelling enables 2D views of geometric information to be generated from a 3D model with various levels of detail. This is in addition to improving the ability to create schedules and report on objects of different types within the 3D model. Moreover, multiple 3D models can be combined to report on any geometric clashes.

4D BIM adds a dimension of time to facilitate improved visualisation of the construction sequence and 5D BIM includes project cost information to the modelling process.

However, M&D is in the process of taking this capability much further. As an example, the company is currently investigating the potential of point cloud technology to generate as-built designs of infrastructure before construction commences. Point cloud technology consists of a collection of data points in space that have been generated by 3D scanners or photogrammetry software. They capture an accurate as-built model of an area, which can then be used to create a drawing of an existing structure with the exact dimensions and specifications. Drone footage can also be incorporated to provide even more accurate as-built designs of the planned infrastructure.

Bierman is also exploring the possibility of integrating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into M&D’s processes. VR and AR enable the overlay of digital models on an actual site so that the client and all members of the professional team are able to better visualise the various elements of the project as they appear in the external world. These 3D blueprints will enable the contractor to further reduce errors and troubleshoot aspects of the project before mobilising to site. M&D’s teams will also be able to clearly visualise where all of the various project components, such as piping, will be installed and make modifications very early in the project lifecycle. By enabling all participants in the professional team and the client to view the virtual construction site, the technology also facilitates improved communication, organisation and planning.

Importantly, it will also enable M&D to improve its already strong health and safety track record on all of its projects. This is by enabling its teams to identify potential hazards before the project starts and to incorporate contingencies into the works programme.

M&D will continue to find ways of ensuring that we are always able to deliver on our core values, namely ‘being safe’, ‘doing it right’, ‘finding the best way’ and ‘doing what we say’ – no matter the complexity of the project. To continue raising the bar even higher for ourselves and the construction industry, we strive to be among the first to fully harness the best available technologies in the market. We take pride in being an industry disruptor, which is something we set out to do right from the outset to deliver unrivalled value to our clients,” Rukesh Raghubir, Chief Executive Officer of M&D, says.