In this second decade of the 21st century, we lived in an extraordinary age where technology and information were being created at an exponential rate.
However, the 10 trillion euro/annually construction industry, still faced, and in many cases lost the battle, to many of its old foes. These foes range from collaboration and communication issues, sustainability, stagnant productivity levels, low profitability, low technology adoption and R&D investment, lack of skilled workforce, among others.
During the last decade, one of Sweco’s top initiatives has been to focus its efforts in building effective internal R&D teams, and external partners that were spread throughout the Sweco business areas, communicated and helped each other, and focused on studying and developing technology to support Sweco’s business units within its multiple business areas.
The focus for these teams during the last 2 decades has been the automation of design processes. How could repetitive work be replaced by automation, tools and processes.
For example, in the software Tekla Structures, which has now been used by about 1700 Sweco employees, these teams have developed over 400 hundred power tools that automate parts of the design process. Since 2014, when we started measuring the usage of these tools, they have been used, more than 12 million times within the company.
In summary, these teams study how technology is affecting the business environment and then develop actions and processes that aim to inspire and change Sweco before the changed business environment imposes those changes to Sweco.
Nowadays, and more and more in the future, these changes will be coming faster and faster. Many of these changes are quite disruptive in nature and have the potential to be quite disruptive to some of our businesses.
These development units are not normal software development units, like one would expect to find in a Software company. These units are multifaceted and interdependent teams, where many of its members work directly in Sweco’s civil and architecture assignments, close to Sweco’s core business and its clients.
These teams are therefore composed of system integrators rather than the typical software engineers. These 2 types of professionals distinguish themselves by the sub-fields of the software engineering area they work with. Usually the typical software engineer specializes and focus on a specific subset of field/s within the field, he works in a vertical way, while the system integrators work on multiple fields, in a horizontal way, where their main focus is to combine different technologies, often from different software engineering fields and create solutions to solve specific, often smaller problems, in an agile way.
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, we hope to use the knowledge and the networks we created during the first 2 decades to support our business units in planning and designing the communities and cities of the future. We will also continue our development journey that aims to improve the construction industry design processes allowing our industry to reinvent itself and be ready for future changes that will come to the business environment.
Ricardo Farinha, Director of Technology, Sweco