Digital construction: how data helps create industrial facilities


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Digital solutions can reduce the costs of an industrial company during construction by 20%. We tell you what technologies are used today to optimize construction and what it will look like in 10 years

About the experts

Sergey Tkachenko, Deputy Director for Asset Development of the Polar Branch of Norilsk Nickel

Dmitry Izotov, head of technology development in the construction of the innovation vertical of Norilsk Nickel

Robert Urmancheev, project manager for the development of Norilsk Nickel’s construction management platform

Why do metallurgists need digitalization of construction?

Construction is not our main activity. We are engaged in the production of non-ferrous and precious metals. At the same time, the company is implementing a large-scale investment program, according to which CAPEX (capital expenditures) amount to about $35 billion until 2030. At the same time, the investment program includes the construction of not only industrial, but also residential, as well as social facilities under the Norilsk renovation program.

Any company with such a CAPEX faces the challenge of effectively managing costs. It includes optimizing the budget and reducing project implementation time, as well as increasing the transparency of construction and installation work management.

It is clear that each project is individual. But if we take average indicators, the introduction of digital tools into the construction process can reduce the implementation time and cost of the project by about 20%.

Development and industry: difference in approaches to digitalization

Large construction holdings are systematically forming their own information platforms for managing facilities. We also rely on the implementation of a similar solution, but tailored specifically to the specific tasks of an industrial company, and not a developer.

Digital solutions in development are primarily aimed at reducing costs and speeding up processes through project typification. In industry we are always faced with unique projects.

In general, the digitalization of construction in the Russian industrial sector is at an early stage. Until now, construction management often relies on outdated methods: specialists either keep everything in their heads or use Excel. More advanced companies are implementing project management solutions like Primavera, Grand-Smeta or 1C. They allow you to digitize specific management tasks.

Mining enterprises are introducing digital solutions, but most of them are aimed at optimizing specific tasks. There is no supplier of a single comprehensive solution that would take into account all aspects of an industrial company’s activities.

At the same time, in the process of adapting solutions for the digitalization of construction, the industry faces a number of difficulties. For example:

there is a shortage of qualified personnel in the industry with knowledge in the field of digitalization and construction;

For maximum effect, digital solutions need to be implemented at all stages of construction, and many contractors and designers are not ready to digitalize their processes.

Digital platform and shared data environment

Norilsk Nickel does not develop its own digital solutions in the field of construction, but rather applies and tests existing ones on the market, adapting them to its own needs.

Thus, modules from Primavera have long been used for maintaining a calendar and network schedule of construction and installation work and from Grand-Smeta for working with documentation. In addition, we are now testing the Construction Services Platform (CSP) and the digital system from Osmocode. These are Russian IT solutions.

The construction of a capital facility involves many interacting subjects, a huge workflow, and a large amount of data that needs structuring. IT solutions allow us to create a common data environment and improve the quality of management decisions.

PSS and Osmocode have various modules that can be used within a single construction management platform.

Firstly, the digital platform gives builders of industrial facilities the opportunity to work with a BIM model (Building Information Model). It is created at the design stage, supplemented as the project progresses, and makes it possible to detect spatial and geometric collisions even before the start of construction, as well as deviations from the design documentation during construction.

Secondly, the modules for the electronic general work log and approval of project documentation make it possible to digitize document flow and significantly speed up the exchange of data between all project participants: customer, designer and contractor.

We tested these systems at renovation sites in Norilsk, including during the construction of residential buildings and the design of a clinic and school. Our future plans include testing at production sites.

Computer vision, lasers and drones

Creating a shared data environment and transparent exchange of information between all participants in a construction project is an extremely important process. In the future, it will create a basis for data processing, for their analysis using Big Data and AI, the formation of work models and the effective operation of facilities.

In addition, we now use a number of other technologies during construction.

Computer vision and AI. The systems check in real time whether workers have special clothing and monitor emergency situations. For example, when a person lies down, runs across the site, works under a load, etc. This allows you to monitor construction safety and reduce the number of occupational health and safety violations.

In the future, such systems will help control how many workers are in a certain area, as well as evaluate the progress of work for operational project management.

Analytics based on laser scanning. The system quickly scans all already constructed surfaces of the object, clears them of noise (construction waste, personnel), compares the result with the design BIM model and shows all deviations and inconsistencies.

The technology is characterized by high speed and accuracy: even 100 people could not carry out such a number of measurements in a short time and catch all the deviations. Thanks to the system, inconsistencies can be corrected at an early stage. For example, deviations in the reinforcement cage that can be easily corrected before the concrete is poured, or deviations in the slab that interfere with the installation of production equipment. The later such inconsistencies are discovered, the more difficult, time-consuming and expensive it is to correct them.

Drones. They are needed to monitor objects and structures, to control the movement of soil and the volume of excavation work.

What will construction look like in the future?

Over the next ten years, the entire construction life cycle could change dramatically.

Thus, most of the design process will be automated. Solutions with access to Big Data, BIM data, geographic information systems, digitized GOSTs and SNiPs (building codes and regulations) will be able to generate photorealistic visualizations, build digital models and make calculations after simple text requests from a person like “I want to build a house with large windows on the street Lenin for 100 million rubles.”

In addition, design documentation, verified for compliance with the requirements of construction legislation, will be issued automatically, and elements of digital models will be immediately sent for production. At the same time, thanks to the formation of an effective shared data environment, human participation will be reduced to a minimum.

At construction sites of the future, digital control technologies based on laser, sound and machine vision will also be widely introduced. Finally, new technologies for 3D printing and robotization of construction processes will appear.


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