TCE’s Executive Director & COO talks about emerging trends in engineering.

Creating a better tomorrow with digital engineering

Creating a better tomorrow is all about working closely with our clients, industry visionaries, policy makers, public and financial institutions.  It is about leveraging our past experiences, our partnerships and our key assets,  our employees, in the best possible manner. However to be able to do this, one must be aware of the ecosystem, environment, market and few trends that will shape our future.

Trends that are shaping the future

Key trends that are influencing the future with respect to Infrastructure, manufacturing, design, engineering and architecture fall under five categories.

1. Collaboration of Minds driving Innovation

 We are amidst a period of great change. Looking back at 300 ago,  the industrial revolution, made a real impact, the  effect of which were visible across the globe only in the last 100 years, such as mass manufacturing that allowed goods to be affordable. This was due to the collaboration of people, hands and machines and change in energy usage from wood to coal/bio-fuels . The impact could be seen in assembly lines in automotive to cotton mills to steel mills  and productivity increased multi-fold. It took almost 200 years for the real impact of the industrial revolution spread from one part of the world to others.

Today we are in the age of collaboration of minds.  This shift aided by technology, mobility, internet and global connectivity has had similar impact but in less than 25 years.

From assembly to automation, from hands to machines and physical to virtual -  collaboration of minds is the order of the day.  The impact on the world with internet and digital revolution is still in its early days. Yet, this is one of the big trends that will shape things to come. The way we work, create products, deliver, finance and execute projects will change due to this trend and it’s just the start.

2. Global Rebalancing

 For the first time in our history 80% of the world population is going through a growth leap. Emerging markets are driving the global GDP growth like never before. We are witnessing a rebalance of wealth distribution across the globe.  Disparities exist, but there is hope to have sustainable, balanced growth across all regions, and nations. While this will take time,  we can expect  growth across West, East, across Africa and Asia and across Tier two and Tier four cities in the country.  This growth is opening up interesting opportunities – the  experience from west and opportunities in East will create a new rebalance.  Markets are becoming global, projects across the globe are today financed by lenders across continents and decisions are based with a macro view of growth. The vision today has expanded to include the entire world.

3.  Work Culture Shift

With internet and digital technologies facilitating collaboration of minds and the trend towards global rebalancing , it is expected that our workplaces will  change. In less than 25 years, we have seen a shift in employee demographics in every organisation and country across the globe. This diversity is reshaping the work culture and environment. The age old system of hierarchies and organisational structure is being redefined; even the way we mentor, train and appraise our workforce is going through a change. The question is not of competency or loyalty but of competent loyalty. The key asset of any organisation is not just the tangibles such as assets and employees, but IP and knowledge and how companies manage these intangible assets, especially knowhow and years of knowledge of executing and delivering exciting work. The known futurist, Tofler has said – “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” .  Training and propensity to learn  will take a new focus and use of tools to train, learn, change, mentor and manage knowledge will be an essential part of any growth and sustenance strategy.

4. Integrated Ecosystem and Value Chains

In line with the trends discussed so far,  businesses today are becoming increasingly complex by way of inter-dependency and connects between value chains. This is evident more now than ever before. When we consult, we see our workshops and client stakeholders and policy makers discussing a wider aspects at every stage of a project execution, planning, financing, options and constraints. Along with  the complexities, there is  the aspect of risks and measures one must consider to mitigate them. Both vertical and horizontal specialisation and its integration is a must for strategies and plans to succeed in a rapidly changing, connected and volatile ecosystem today .

5.  Shorter Project/Product/Plant Lifecycles

And finally, in our world of engineering, design, contracts, or on projects, products and plant – the 5th trend is about Shorter Project/Product/Plant Lifecycles.” Due to the pace of innovation, volatility, preferences and change, we will design plants, products or projects to last only as much they are required – not for 50 years. With scarce capital and faster ROI expectations, focus will be more on the concept, ideation and development phases – before projects  are launched. Demand on viability and predictability will be higher than ever before. The various players in the lifecycle will either collaborate or integrate to remain meaningful, will have to reinvent themselves or will get consolidated.

Amongst these changes at the macro level ,  India as a nation is changing. We are in exciting times when the country is undergoing a transformation. We expect  a recharge to growth, with double digit growth rate  as per forecasts. From Smart cities, to Digital India, to Swachh Bharat and  Make in India – each of these relate to the five trends discussed above.

Tata Consulting Engineers Ltd, as engineers to the nation since last 50 years,  we are also predicting, analysing and responding to these dynamic situations. Offering solutions across six sectors ranging from Power, Chemical, Infrastructure, Transportations, Nuclear & Special Projects and Steel, Metal and Mining – we work with our clients in India and abroad offering our expertise in Design, Engineering, Construction Management, EPCM and Advanced Technologies.

Our evolution and response to these changes are broadly classified into two categories. What are we doing to differentiate ourselves in the market and how do we enable these differentiations? In other words, our differentiators and enablers that will ensure that we are relevant to the future and responding to the trends in a sustainable manner.

Enablers & Differentiators

To talk a little bit about our enablers, digital working, 3D-4D tools are an essential part of our strategy and growth imperatives. Embedded in this is our response to Trend 1 – Collaboration of Minds to drive innovation -  that is,  allowing our creative and passionate workforce to collaborate with our partners and customers to create value jointly, to drive innovation, to touch society and its development in a sustainable and meaningful manner. To be able to provide local solutions leveraging the experiences of our partners from the  West, the enabling 3D-4D tools allow easy knowledge and experience sharing. A combination of best in class toolsets from companies across the globe offering solutions that are best fit for each sector enables us to provide optimal solutions for each client and sector we focus on.

Tata Consulting Engineers have leveraged our talented workforce in combination with the creativity and vision of customers using digital CAD toolsets. Many of these projects we have worked closely with Autodesk and other such digital experts. It has been an enriching experience to continuously add value, innovate and ensure predictable outcomes to our client ecosystem.

On Water – aligned to Swachh Bharat mission – we are working across 5 states in India, providing drinking water and managing the sewage across these states. As an example at Gujarat we engineer and supervise almost 250 towns/cities, almost 4000 kms of sewage lines, more than 500 pumping stations, almost 200 engineers working full time – and all this being done by leveraging the power of GIS, CAD, Simulation tools.

On the  Infrastructure front – aligned to Smart Cities – we are part of various smart city projects, including GIFT and various nodes under the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor.  Most of the conceptualisation on these smart cities are done with use of 3D tools from Autodesk.

TCE has engineered more than 35% of the total power generated in India and we are executing projects across the globe. Such work leverages digital tools and analysis software to ensure safe and predictable outcomes.

TCE is present in most key sectors ear-marked for Make in India Mission. Steel & Iron process, research in coal beneficiation for greater efficiency,  in nuclear power generation., Special projects such as GSLV launch & LIGO-( Gravitational wave observatory – India being among the very few countries to build the special observatory.

Geo modelling and mine planning tools help tap resources efficiently – Mineral beneficiation techniques combined with material handling helps create wealth. Value engineering solutions for recycling, mine void management etc helps manage resources sustainably – and profitably.

We are also investing in emerging technologies. 3D printing helps to make our projects more visible, real and connected with stakeholders. To be able to see a master plan, discuss and debate options and alternatives, allows a more inclusive growth, a better utilisation of resources and involvement of people from all strata – we hope that master plans, urbanisation efforts, and workshops for consensuses building related to SMART cities or urbanisation will go through  a big change with 3D printing if utilised in the right manner.

To make our projects safe and sustainable, we are also embracing technology at the project site. Simulating site conditions, material logistics, construction sequencing and the ability to execute projects safely in hazardous locations such as Chemical and Nuclear , we  use  high end tools that will make these sites secure and safe during and post construction stage.

We are investing in the future – all our graduate trainees and workforce today are trained on digital tools and we are close to reaching 100% digital delivery platforms.

Responding to the nation’s call and we are driving our commitment to skill building. Several skill building programs were launched at TCE. Tech savvy youth from marginalised and underprivileged communities are ready to be ushered into the digital age. Several programs across TCE revealed the capabilities of youth in adopting digital applications which can make them more employable.

The new dawn of digital engineering

To summarise, here are the realities in today’s world of engineering -

  • Digital engineering is now to be seen in a new light with unending possibilities.
  • An engineer’s concept has moved from the drafting board to virtual screens.
  • A digitally engineered visual experience, so close to the real thing combined with value engineering  is revolutionising
  • How projects are conceived and commissioned is going through a paradigm shift
  • The advantage of huge data management technologies available brings possibilities to collaborate virtually
  • These help to share, track and trace project progress in real time.
  • While the need of the hour has become more demanding in terms of planning and management, the tools available to achieve this have also matured tremendously.
  • Today digital technologies are no longer the forte of high end corporates.

It has touched the common man in every which way, especially in developing economies such as India.

We as pioneers/experts in the field are well equipped to transform these tools as a sustainable and safety oriented touch point to directly benefit society.

(The above is a transcript of the presentation rendered at the Autodesk University 2015 Event held in Mumbai on 7 August 2015. The presenter, is Mr Amit Sharma, Executive Director & COO of Tata Consulting Engineers Ltd.)

 

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