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Engineering into the future

Posted by Attrax Administrator
Posting date:11/15/2019 9:57 AM
15 November 2019

“…be yourself! Atkins is a company that invests in its people and encourages diversity and individuality. Use the application process to show off your skills, your values and what makes you unique.”
–– Matthew’s advice to new applicants

#InsideAtkins recently spoke to Digital Specialist, Matthew Jefferies. Here’s what he had to say about working at Atkins and his view on our digital future:

How long have you been at Atkins, and how did you come to be here?

I’ve been at Atkins for just over 3 years now. I joined following on from college as an Apprentice Project Manager. The decision to not go to university was difficult to make but looking back it was definitely the right decision for me and I wouldn’t change anything now!

What motivates you at Atkins?

I’m motivated by the challenge of doing things better. I hear the phrase “We’ve always done it this way” a lot and I take that has a challenge to show there are new and different ways of working that can offer more value. Our industry has come a long way in recent years but many of our processes, tools and systems are becoming static and could really benefit from being integrated with the digital technology available to us now.    

What was your apprenticeship application process like? What advice would you have for others?

It was my first proper interview process, so I was quite nervous throughout. The recruitment team were supportive and encouraged us to be ourselves which really helped. I’d give the same advice to all applicants – be yourself! Atkins is a company that invests in its people and encourages diversity and individuality. Use the application process to show off your skills, your values and what makes you unique. 

What do you do as a digital specialist?

I find solutions to problems that project teams experience throughout delivery and use digital to facilitate this. I work closely with project managers to make sure we are adding value in the right areas and engage with the digital network across Atkins to share best practice and pull pockets of excellence into the spotlight so that we can all benefit from the hard work that goes on around the business. 

Why should we be excited about digital transformation?

It will have an impact on us all in some way or another! The technology we adopt as a business and industry will have an impact on how we work with design, construction and in consultancy. It will enable us to work faster, with more accuracy and deliver a high-quality output that our clients are able to do much more with. The advancements we make through digital engineering in the built environment will influence how we live our day to day lives whether that’s through smart motorways, smart cities or the digital railway. There is no escaping its impact and to me, that’s pretty exciting! 

What will be the biggest data challenge as the world changes over to smart technology? 

I think the security and ethical considerations that come with data generated through smart technology will present a real challenge as it’s something that is completely new to most businesses and organisations. Data is becoming more valuable and can vary in sensitivity, as a result there are many laws and guidelines in place that businesses will be expected to adhere to, in order to ensure the data is managed, protected and used to the correct standard. If it isn’t, then it poses a significant reputational and legal risk to the organisations looking to utilise this data.     

What are some of the most exciting things you’ve been working on? From the smallest to the biggest and the most challenging!

The smallest has been utilizing the Office 365 Power Platform to automate some simple processes with Flow and visualise project data in a more dynamic way through Power BI. Although relatively simple to do, it adds a lot of value to the project and we’ve been able to walk colleagues through the process which has encouraged them to try it themselves.

The biggest has been supporting the initial stages of an internal project looking to implement a global project management system. The aim is to enable consistency in how we manage and deliver our projects as well as the data they generate to provide powerful insights into performance. I’m excited to see the project delivered as it promises to offer huge value for our business.

The most challenging has been developing a digital tool kit for project managers. Although there is the potential to add value in this space, there are many underlying principles, standards and habits we had to overcome. We worked closely with a group of forward-thinking project managers to develop tools and solutions that complement existing processes and provide real benefits without disrupting the principles of project management

What is your digital vision for the future?

My digital vision is that it becomes business as usual – digital becomes so engrained in everything we do that it is just best practice. 

The example I like to use is a project manager has no real sight of their project performance until they’ve engaged with the team over email, calls or checked the various trackers on the project. The future is being able to access live project data directly from source, with predictive analytics forecasting future trends and artificial intelligence providing real time insights on the impact to the project – culminating in the project manager being able to make informed decisions driven by accurate project data accessible anywhere, anytime.

What are some digital challenges companies will face moving into the future?

Making sure their people have the right skills and access to resources they need. There is upskilling and training required across the industry in order to keep up with the expectations of clients, the software we’re adopting, and the standards being mandated. This will require significant financial investment.

I also think the amount of options available to companies and the sheer volume of discussion around digital could present a challenge as it becomes difficult to navigate and understand what is best or even just relevant to your business.

How is the construction industry using technology in new ways?

Digital Twins have really become a dominant theme this year in the industry and promise immense value, there is a lot of investment in this space to ensure this value is realised. Digital Twins are simply digital replicas of real-world infrastructure, which enable the application of technology to address challenges in the physical world. As our population grows and climates change, the need for digital twins continues to grow and Atkins are at the forefront of this development.

Technology is also being used to enable 4D and 5D BIM by attaching schedule and cost data to 3D model components, this offers value during the construction phase of a project as it allows the team to visually rehearse the construction activities through a time line. From this, they’re able to identify clashes in the schedule, asses the critical path, mitigate risks and then visualise progress and cost performance in the model.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to do what you do?

My advice would be to always keep solving the problem in front of you and create your own network of like-minded groups or individuals. Through this, you’re able to pick up and contribute to lessons learnt, case studies, share pains, benefits and everything in between – all of which is invaluable information as you look to digitally transform your project, team, business and industry!


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