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Advancing Infrastructure

Advancing Infrastructure

Industry experts and global thought-leaders shared best practices and defined the future of infrastructure project delivery and asset performance at the ´Year in Infrastructure 2016´ conference in London, showcased by Bentley Systems. SUMIT BANERJEE takes a look at the proceedings.

Did you know that Exxon Mobil Corporation of the USA holds the distinction of being numero uno in the top 500 global list of Infrastructure Owners, with $251,605 million in terms of value of assets? Or, for that matter, Verbund of Austria (an electricity distributor) brings up the rear of the list at 500th position, with $10,018 million of infra assets?
Of interest to us, will be that the highest rank-holder from India is our unobtrusive Indian Railways, at 109th position, with assets worth $36,000 million in value, followed by the likes of ONGC, Reliance and NTPC.

This updated list for 2016 was released by Bentley Systems at the launch of the event ¨Year in Infrastructure¨ in London on 1st November. Only 28 per cent of all these global infra assets are owned by public bodies, while a staggering majority of 72 per cent are owned by private entities, which speaks volumes about the success of Public-Private Partnerships and that of private investments in the infra sector the world over. And, just in case some of our readers are curious about the sectoral break-up, a hefty lion´s share constituting 47 per cent by value of these assets are reportedly in Public Works and Utilities, followed by Industrials and Natural Resources contributing 38 per cent and remaining 15 per cent belonging to Commercial/Facilities.

The release of this well-researched report is Bentley Systems´ contribution by way of sectoral knowledge and comparative information to Infra Interest Groups and stakeholders concerned with progress and changes in global infrastructure businesses. It was rather surprising to see that the second largest railway network of the world, Indian Railways, is placed much lower than the transport company of just one city, London Transport, (ranked 95th) in depreciated value of assets owned. One way to explain away this apparent incongruity would be to ask for valuation of assets after application of PPP (purchasing power parity) when converting cost of assets to US dollars, since cost of acquisition of assets may be considerably lower in India due to lower labour costs. But the other view could also be that this relative higher position of London Transport vis-a-vis Indian Railways is truly reflective of the lack of investments in our railway assets to upgrade, renovate, renew or rejuvenate them, over the years.

Every year, Bentley Systems Private Limited organises this ¨one of its kind¨ event, to showcase the increasing use of digital technology in planning, visualising, designing, optimising, collaborating, managing, and monitoring of infrastructure projects of all sizes and shapes, colours and hues. As they say, the event aims to further the cause of ¨advancing infrastructureö, and also celebrate outstanding applications of ¨state-of-the-art¨ software technologies in both asset creation and asset management, by recognising such efforts through the ¨Be Inspired¨ awards.

Best Practices
To quote from the company´s message, ¨Bentley sponsors this premier event and recognises award-winning Be Inspired projects from users in the world of infrastructure design, construction and operations. Year in Infrastructure nominations and presentations explore the intersection of technology trends and business drivers, and how emerging next practices are shaping the future and value of infrastructure delivery.¨

This year, there were more than 300 entries from 80 countries all around the world, in all of 18 diverse categories (such as Asset Performance, Project Delivery, Land Development, as also Mining, Manufacturing, Utilities, Rail and Transit, Roads, Government, Water, etc.,) of which 54 were shortlisted as finalists, from which the jury would select the winners.

The occasion really belonged to the innovative users of advanced software platforms in infrastructure projects; one of the keynote speakers, David Epp from Microsoft, rightly said, ¨We make the instruments, you make the music¨.

Nine entries from China and four from India had made it to the list of finalists. The shortlisted Indian competitors are Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation/AECOM for Dholera Project Planning, ONGC for Life Extension Studies of Fixed Platform Structures, NJS Engineers India Pvt Ltd for JICA assisted Ganga Action Plan and GE India Industrial Pvt Ltd for RO#3 and ZLD System at Tuticorin. The great news is that the entry of ONGC made the final cut, and won the award in the category of offshore structures. We may cover some of these projects in greater detail in our forthcoming issues.

Starting from basic designing software tools to Building Information Modelling (BIM) to much more advanced geospatial applications and then higher level applications integrating all data and enabling multi-location multiple organisation collaborations and decision support, the wide range of technology toolkit available today can make life much easier for all stakeholders, for example, infrastructure asset owners, developers, contractors as well as operators and citizen-users, throughout the lifecycle of the assets. Interesting new software products such as OpenRoads, ProjectWise Connect Edition and AssetWise Connect Edition etc., were launched during the event.

Boosting Project Delivery
An interesting topic, among many parallel sessions, was coordination between EPC contractors and project owners for improving project delivery. As we know, project delivery continues to be our Achilles´ heel in India. So, the presentations made and strategies outlined by Shell and British Petroleum, professing a total shift from document-centric design/construction management to a data-centric approach, made sense.

Another unusual point that stood out was the heightened concern around residual life assessments and life extension of older infra assets in developed countries like USA, Japan and UK, which are otherwise quite saturated with all kinds of infrastructure facilities.

Therefore, software tools to manage all aspects of an asset´s (like a bridge, or a railway track, or a flyover, or a dam) health are becoming popular, and several research papers were presented on this subject.

Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems, rightly underscored the extension of product range from BIM (Building Information Modelling) to APM (Asset Performance Modelling).

We have been told that the reputed consulting company McKinsey has found the construction industry to be a laggard in deployment of digital platforms and information technology, when compared with all the other sectors of industry and commerce, globally speaking. So, there seems to be a great opportunity for improvement ahead for the construction/infrastructure sector, more so for us in India. In that context, INFRASTRUCTURE TODAY is proud to be a part of this great initiative for ¨advancing infrastructure¨, and is very happy to be associated with this global event as sponsors.

The author is Chairman, Editorial Advisory Board, ASAPP Info Global Group

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