“Industry must embrace technological progress to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. Innovations like Digital Engineering and Design for Manufacture and Assembly will be fundamental to delivering a higher quality, more sustainable built environment for future generations.”
These words come from Anna Stewart, Group Chief Executive at the engineering and construction company Laing O’Rourke. They perfectly sum up the expanding role of technology in her business, and many others besides.
In asset-intensive industry sectors, the promise of connectivity should be difficult to ignore. In sectors where project-based working – long-term and ad hoc – is the norm, there is significant potential value to be derived from an “always connected” approach. And in industries where partnerships with other organisations are essential to delivery, connectivity is proven to create efficiency and effectiveness.
This is the opportunity that presents both the utilities and the built environment sectors. The opportunities, while great, come at a time of significant upheaval – economic volatility, dramatic demographic change and increased pressure on natural resources to name but three challenges faced.
That’s why at Fujitsu we make the case for an ‘Always Connected’ approach to business. It is through this approach that infrastructure is connected, assets such as devices, machinery, meters, tools and equipment interact; information sharing across field workers unlocks complexity; and intelligent data insight drives decision-making. Traditionally, these two sectors have spent modestly on technology. Some, although not all, have been reluctant – or remain unconvinced of the case – to merge operational technology with information technology. The ‘Always Connected’ model makes the strongest case yet to reconsider this approach.
The backdrop to the technology case is economic, political, environmental and societal pressure that these organisations face. An intense burden on margins, coupled with environmental and regulatory imperatives are the norm. In the realm of utility and built environment sector, some companies have still to fully exploit the potential of technology.
Yet, rather than present an obstacle for inaction – or an excuse for inertia – these pressures should provide the impetus for change. In an ‘Always Connected’ model, the goal should be falling operational costs, rising customer expectations, greater back office efficiency and increased opportunity to explore new business models. For the organisation, its employees, partners and customers, there is much to gain.
For broad societal benefit as well as those that directly affect individual businesses, it is time to explore digital connectivity as a driver of change. Why? Because connecting assets, intelligence and the workforce drives operational excellence. Inaction is not an option.