In addition to investing in solutions and technology, the firm is also committed to upskilling staff and has appointed a Digital Construction Manager in Saudi Arabia
ALEC is one of the biggest contractors in the region and as part of its ongoing drive to embrace digital construction technologies with the aim of boosting project efficiency and quality, it recently rolled out a four-year digital construction strategy. In an exclusive chat with Middle East Construction News (MECN), Andy Boutle, Head of Digital Construction at ALEC says the strategy aligns with its 2026 mission statement, and has several short-term goals for 2022.
“Our main strategic goal for 2022 was to achieve the BIM Kitemark certification as per the latest international standard, ISO 19650. I’m delighted to share that after a very successful assessment/audit in June, ALEC have been awarded the Kitemark certification from BSI,” he reveals. Boutle joined ALEC in February of this year.
“This quality mark will help us to drive best practices for information management across all our projects, giving clients assurance of our capabilities and approach, whilst supporting and upskilling our supply chain. For me, the true value of the Kitemark certification is its requirement for year-on-year auditing to evidence how the processes and resources aligned to the standards are being put into practice, thereby ensuring accountability and continuous improvement.”
In June 2022, Big Project Middle East announced that its Digital Construction Summit will take place on 14 September 2022 – registration is free for construction industry professionals. The magazine also announced that it is organising the first edition of the ME Digital Construction Awards on 25 October. Nominations are now open.
Asked about some of the main initiatives and technologies the contractor is keen to implement as part of its digital construction drive, he adds, “We’ve brought two significant technologies into our software stack as part of a standardisation/refinement initiative. The first is Revizto, a collaboration technology which connects 2D, 3D and coordination issue management – given the size and complexity of the projects that ALEC delivers, this has proved to be best in class for these capabilities.”
“Linking back to the previous question, we have also been busy implementing Morta, a cloud-based database for developing online, dynamic resources (documentation) to act as an information hub, and single source of truth on our projects. All of our ISO 19650-2 aligned templates are built in Morta, and we can start to automate processes such as connecting information delivery plans to CDE solutions to monitor/track and report. Morta is also impressively scalable and I’m working with some of our other departments to explore how we could extend its benefits to their operations as well,” he says.
Leveraging digital construction has proven to have a number of wide ranging benefits and in terms of recent success stories for ALEC, Boutle explains, “In addition to achieving the Kitemark certification which I discussed earlier, a recent achievement that pops to mind is how through automating a previously manual activity on one of our current projects, a member of my team has now saved five person-hours per week, allowing them to focus more effort into other tasks. This may sound very minor, but it’s the incremental gains when added up that make a difference, and this one is repeatable.”
While digital construction solutions and technology can certainly provide tangible and measurable benefits, an important piece of the pie is training and upskilling people, so they can best leverage the tools the company has invested in.
Discussing how ALEC is managing this part of the equation, considering its people are also involved in projects on a day to day basis, Boutle responds, “Great question. One of the goals of our digital strategy through 2022 is to commence roll-out of Operam Academy e-learning courses to 100 of our staff members by the end of this year. The syllabus is built around the principles of information management according to ISO 19650, it is very well put together and allows learners to drop in and out of modules to fit the learning around their day job.”
“We will tailor the courses by function, so the most relevant content is provided based on the learner’s role. We are also launching a number of short, high-level but accessible videos to help build a core understanding – the first of which was launched a couple of months ago and can be viewed here.”
As part of its digital construction drive ALEC has grown its talent pool in recent months; MECN recently learnt that industry veteran Craig Garett has joined the firm in Saudi Arabia as Digital Construction Manager KSA. Garett’s experience includes stints at Joseph Engineering Services, Bentley Systems, Buro Happold and several other firms.
Commenting on Garett’s role with the firm in Saudi Arabia, Boutle remarks, “Craig is our Digital Construction Manager for KSA, and is the ESA BIM lead on the Qiddiya Water Theme Park Project. I’m delighted Craig has joined the team as he brings a wealth of experience. Having worked in the region for several years, he is very knowledgeable about the dynamics and nuances of the markets in the UAE and KSA.”
Speaking to Garett about his role in the Kingdom and his thoughts about returning to the market, following several years in the UAE, he says, “It’s exciting – both to be back in Saudi Arabia at this point when the country is undertaking some of its most iconic megaprojects, and to do this as a member of ALEC, which is bringing its establish expertise in the field to address the unique challenges and requirements of the Saudi market.”
“It’s clear that the ambition of the Kingdom’s construction sector can only be met through the utilisation of cutting-edge digital technologies so taking on the role of Digital Construction Manager for Saudi Arabia is especially relevant and exciting to me.”
Wrapping up with some of his immediate goals in the Kingdom, he responds, “As ALEC works to establish its track record as a construction leader in Saudi Arabia, my immediate focus is would be on the successful delivery of the Qiddiya Water Theme Park, which will stand as our calling card, demonstrating our ability to deliver the most ambitious and prestigious projects in the Kingdom.”