Building Efficiency Across DBO (Design, Build, Operate)

by Matthew Sprague   |   February 4, 2022

How to Apply Technology to Streamline the Entire Asset Life Cycle

The construction industry has an efficiency problem. Projects that exceed their budget or their timeline are common — and despite advances in productivity in many other sectors, construction lags behind. In fact, McKinsey & Company identified ways that the industry could follow the example of other sectors to increase productivity by 50-60% — highlighting the enormous potential for improvement.

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It’s not for lack of trying. Many construction organizations have turned to technology solutions to address these problems, but the tools on the market are generally misaligned with the dilemma they face. Each tool tends to be focused on a distinct issue, leaving construction companies to assemble a mishmash of one-job tools siloed for specific uses. This patchwork approach just makes matters worse, creating inefficiencies when larger issues within the project workflow arise.

What the industry needs now are tools that holistically approach the full design, build and operate (DBO) phases of an asset’s life cycle. Owners need solutions that help projects move forward smoothly from their earliest conceptual stages to their operations phase with robust collaboration, communication, transparency, data-sharing and organization.

The friction between design, build, and operate can be removed by using tools that better integrate between stages and deliver a holistic view of the asset life cycle.

Design. Build. Operate. Data

How to Use Data to Meet the DBO Challenge

From planning and design to operations and maintenance, each phase of the DBO life cycle comes with different tasks and requirements, which necessitates dedicated tools. When those disparate tools are aligned, organizations can anticipate the needs of later stages earlier in the project and enable smooth transitions between each stage. Solutions in each DBO phase should feed into the success of the next to ensure on-time completion of the larger project.

The successful handover of data is the key to this process; the stakeholders in each stage must have full access to organized, up-to-date data that defines where the project needs to go next. And without smooth data handoff, delays and other difficulties arise much more frequently.

For example, an architect or engineer typically executes planning and design without receiving input from those who will be constructing the project. Frequently, the contractor who receives the designs will find issues with the logistics of building the project as drawn. The contractor then works with the architect or engineer and the project owner to make and approve design modifications.

After the project is completed, the owner takes over operations and management; however, if the owner doesn’t have access to the information they need to properly maintain the asset, problems will arise. What’s more, without efficient data handoff built into the process, owners may not receive the necessary information to improve upon the DBO process for their next project.

This friction between design, build, and operate can be removed by using tools that better integrate between stages and deliver a holistic view of the asset life cycle. An integrated system might look like this:

Design: A cloud-based design-collaboration solution that integrates multiple engineering file formats from Trimble, Autodesk, Bentley and ESRI models to produce a true digital twin of the project, thereby improving productivity and reducing rework.

Build: An advanced digital construction management system could enable better oversight of cost, business processes, documentation and performance to increase transparency and improve project outcomes.

Operate: A public asset management and permitting solution that is based on a geographic information system (GIS) could empower communities to organize, manage and maintain their infrastructure.

With interconnected DBO solutions, owner organizations gain insight into performance at any phase of the DBO life cycle. Stakeholders can now get involved as early as possible in the project to create a more efficient process and a more buildable model from the start.

With New Opportunity Comes Urgency

Recent infrastructure investments worldwide have created urgency around the need to take a more holistic view of construction project management. The U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan are among the countries that have announced intentions for infrastructure spending. In June 2021, Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed on a new initiative to support global infrastructure investment, which the Biden administration named “Build Back Better World (B3W).”

In the U.S., the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will rebuild many of the country’s roads, bridges and rail infrastructure assets, among other goals. Notably, the BIL will force public agencies to do more with their resources, prompting urgent modernization of their DBO processes to deliver projects on time while reducing waste. Infrastructure agencies have the opportunity to receive funding for such projects but will only be able to do so by increasing efficiencies and streamlining workflows, which will require adopting new tools to ensure successful and timely execution.

The change is badly needed: According to a McKinsey & Company study, capital projects managed by owners of large capital improvement programs averaged a 40% cost overrun from their original project management baseline. These large capital projects also suffered from schedule delays of six to 12 months on average, not accounting for the effect of COVID-19, which has increased delays. The study also found that only 5.4% of projects met the authorized cost and schedule originally planned.

Construction Team

By leveraging digital transformation for capital projects, firms can adopt and implement advanced construction management systems to maximize interoperability, improve productivity, manage complexity, reduce delays and cost overruns, enhance safety, and improve quality. Owners will be able to build on their productivity gains to scale their organizations effectively — using the same internal resources — to meet the increased demands brought about by infrastructure funding.

For example, collaborative DBO tools allowed a freight rail company to involve multiple individuals in each stage of replacing a double-track railroad bridge. Such a complicated project — which included the design of a temporary “jump-span” to allow train traffic to continue during demolition and construction — required a tight integration of stakeholders during bid, design, fabrication, erection and bridge closure. With coordination in place, the project was completed on time, with the bridge closure totaling 34 hours and ending nine hours ahead of schedule.

In addition, a statewide public agency has used technology to launch a public works modernization program to streamline the construction process, eliminate paper-based processes, and improve accountability for a $1.5 billion project. And another statewide agency has integrated tools to create a sustainable asset management program for critical infrastructure.

Next Steps for Connecting Technology

Construction companies may already have some key elements of connected, technology-enabled DBO in place. Reach out to your architect or engineering partners to see what solutions they can bring to your process and how those can be consolidated with other tools in your toolbox.

If you’re in the market for a new solution, consider learning more about the Trimble Construction One, which digitally transforms project delivery and asset resilience through modernized technology for the design, build, and operate lifecycle of sustainable infrastructure.

Benefits realized include:

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Expect to do more with existing resources, maximize productivity, and deliver confidence through Trimble solutions that connect construction at every stage.

Trimble provides end-to-end solutions for construction management and also offers consulting services to assist organizations in aligning technology to enable smoother workflows. Trimble’s agile suite of tools are focused on integrating the various project stages into a comprehensive view.

Key Topics Covered: Construction Lifecycle, DBO

About the Author

Matthew Sprague
Sr. Product Marketing Manager
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