ALLPLAN’s Key Cloud-based Workflows

Cloud technology has completely transformed the way construction projects are delivered. For many, the cloud has become an essential tool. However, what more could cloud technology do for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry? Nigel Rees, Product Director Cloud Services at ALLPLAN, provides an insight into how the cloud is changing and what benefits new cloud-based workflows will bring.

Why should AEC professionals be using cloud-based workflows?

The clear disadvantage of working solely on a desktop is that you work in some level of data isolation. By synchronizing that data into a cloud environment, you make it instantly accessible for other people, project members, or disciplines to use for creating their own deliverables.

In terms of security, we have processes and procedures in place to ensure better data integrity and maintain that integrity as it passes from one discipline to the next, as there’s less manual intervention. Whilst that may seem obvious, it is still quite relevant.

Besides easy file sharing, what other benefits does the cloud offer?

Contractors were one of the very early adopters of the cloud, because they could see the collaboration opportunities. There’s a very real problem in our industry in that the as-built product doesn’t always conform to the 3D model. So, if you are partway through a project, it’s very important that you’re able to report on the discrepancies being seen in the constructed project and feed that back to the design teams. The repercussions of those changes may be quite serious — it might need some elements to be re-designed, for example, or perhaps the change can’t be accommodated.

Therefore, it’s crucial that those discussions can happen quickly because they are time-bound and require approvals, and the cloud-based workflows help to facilitate that. This workflow — which is enabled by the cloud as a transfer mechanism to a single source of truth — wasn’t available before; instead, we used to rely on communication tools such as email. Email is great, but emails can get overlooked and missed; workflows based around technologies on the cloud help avoid this by providing information instantly.

So, what is the next step in terms of cloud-based solutions for the AEC industry?

What we are trying to achieve now is improved data flows between more traditional software so that these users have a route into the newer and emerging technologies. This means that we can integrate with them and develop a stronger partner ecosystem around desktop software. Achieving that between desktop solutions has traditionally been quite difficult, because a bespoke solution is required every time between each set of tools. Our approach is to synchronize and harmonize that data all within one cloud-based data platform, which is easily accessible by all the different tools. And of course, over the last 12-18 months, that has become far more relevant because we’ve grown as a group and are supporting multiple different workflows.

How do you see these cloud-based workflows evolving for improved project delivery?

One of the most useful developments is supporting different working methods. We can bring together BIM models, 2D drawings, and even non-graphical documentation into the cloud platform to give our customers a choice, allowing them to work in the way that they want to. Bringing the 2D and 3D worlds easily together — that will become even more seamless in the future. The benefit is that we can check the 2D drawing against the 3D model and query any discrepancies.

In the near future, this will become automatic by bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning into this process. We will be able to take a set of drawings and load them into the cloud platform where an algorithm will determine which drawing belongs to which part of the 3D model and determine if it matches — all without any human interaction. Whilst there is still a requirement to have 2D deliverables, this has advantages for many parties — imagine being able to quickly compare 2D as-built plans to a 3D model and highlight any discrepancies.

Another benefit of being able to incorporate documentation is it allows us to include data from documents such as the BIM execution plan (BEP). Incorporating the BEP sets the workflow and work processes for everyone who’s engaged in the BIM project. Yet it also means that before a line has even been drawn in a CAD program, we have quite a data-rich environment from the start. And this provides other benefits when you think about the building lifecycle management — being able to take information from tools like DRofus and BIMQ through to the design in Allplan and then into operation with tools from companies such as Spacewell. Cloud technologies makes keeping this golden thread of information intact throughout the different project phases and through different tools much easier.

Keeping project information together sounds much like a digital twin. How will the cloud support digital twins in the future?

We talk a lot about digital twins — for buildings, infrastructure, and bridges. But we want to do more than this and look at the wider infrastructure industry — including things like substructures and subsurface activities like utilities or metro projects. Here, we can help improve the workflows too. By bringing together data from different sources and providing systems to analyze and predict future behavior, we are in a great position to better understand the lifecycle behavior of infrastructure projects and build services that will ultimately lead to a more sustainable future in construction.

What recent developments have there been in terms of ALLPLAN’s cloud offering?

We have recently expanded our workflows with the base support of the BCF API. With this API, we can expand our reach to different software packages with minimal effort — which will be useful for things like issue management. For example, if you want to synchronize live issues from Solibri to Allplan, there’s no need to log into another tool. All you have to do is log into the project, create an issue in Solibri, and it will automatically appear as an issue in Allplan, or vice versa. So, the process is managed in the cloud first and then the issues are delivered to both sets of software, whilst keeping them live synchronized. And this is only the first step; this opens the door for other workflows to be developed as well.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in AECbytes sponsored articles are those of the sponsor and do not represent or reflect the views of AECbytes.

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