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Bentley Systems: Building in the smarts

Bentley Systems is helping to deliver next-generation technologies, helping companies to immediately optimise their project delivery capabilities. Image: WGI.

Roads & Infrastructure Magazine hears from Bentley Systems’ Rob Malkin, Senior Regional Director, ANZ, and Stewart Smith, Solution Architect, on what the future of technology, sustainability and project delivery could look like for the sector.

Bentley Systems’ Rob Malkin, Senior Regional Director, ANZ, and Stewart Smith, Solution Architect, are both passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to digital transformation and tailoring solutions for infrastructure projects.

Smith and Malkin have 55 years’ worth of accumulated industry experience between them. As a result, they both view change as a natural progression, rather than something that should be feared or avoided.

According to them, it’s Bentley Systems itself that’s contributing to change by further pushing the boundaries globally when it comes to the development of infrastructure engineering software.

This includes asset performance, structural analysis, building and bridge design, geotechnical engineering, reality and spatial modelling, and more.

Due to its reputation and stature in the sector, Bentley Systems is regarded as a caretaker of infrastructure intelligence, described as an essential aspect that must be incorporated into future infrastructure development. But what is infrastructure intelligence? Smith explains. 

“For me, it’s about leveraging the capabilities and systems that we have now to improve project delivery and asset performance. It’s about how you can bring all those ecosystems together to analyse and use data during the design, construction and operation and maintenance phases,” Smith says. 

“Infrastructure intelligence can form an important part of a company’s quality assurance processes by being able to deliver quality that’s driven by data. It’s a big plus, being able to analyse and make good decisions at important stages of design and construction. It can help to identify things that could potentially happen, such as reducing risks and making sure you can satisfy project costs and timelines.” 

Rob Malkin, Senior Regional Director ANZ. Images: Bentley Systems.
Rob Malkin, Senior Regional Director ANZ. Images: Bentley Systems.

Malkin says leveraging this data, right from the early engineering concept drawings through to operations management, is now an essential component of asset maintenance, performance and preservation.

“The asset is going to live for 50, 100 or even 125 years, so more of the cost is going to be associated with its operation and not the time in design. So having inputs around vibration, people movement, capacity and more is important,” Malkin says.

“You take the Auckland Airport, for example, where they’ve been using Bentley solutions. Now they’ve got a roadmap of what the airport, parking, hotel and everything might look in 45 years based on the last 20 years of population growth, and they can forecast the increase in demand for the airport. They can go and acquire land 20, 30 or 40 years ahead of time as their design and plans to expand the site continue to evolve. It’s bringing together rich intelligence and visualisation by using that imperative data.”

Evaluating such data enables users to take the past and use previous data to be better prepared for the future. Such technologies can also contribute to increasing the overall safety of a worksite by replacing staff in potential high-risk areas with drones, for example, to carry out maintenance and condition reports.

Greater sustainability outcomes are another benefit of incorporating infrastructure intelligence. 


 

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“Resilient infrastructure is at the forefront and is a big focus for us when developing technology. It means people can make the right decisions at the right time to provide the best outcome for a project. Resilient infrastructure also plays a key role in increasing the sustainability of urbanisation around the world,” Malkin says.

“Recently another storm hit Victoria with flooding in the north. We have an open solution that can incorporate other software and other analysis packages to make the best-informed intelligent infrastructure that helps people plan for the unplanned. Where other vendors might lock their systems, we’re open to absorbing that information and taking that data.”

Just one example of this technology is Bentley’s iTwin Platform. This purpose-made technology enables users to create, visualise and analyse digital twins of infrastructure assets.

These digital twins can be constantly updated and synchronised to ensure all project stakeholders are on the same page. Streamlining design changes and client communication boosts not only project timelines, but also a company’s bottom line.

Engineering, geospatial and operational data can all be centralised, while also incorporating real-world conditions to predict future conditions for inspections, reporting, and insights. This is achieved using AI and ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning, respectively).

Malkin says this is just one example of Bentley’s innovative digital applications, and one of many that utilise the latest AI technology. 

Inspiring the future 

Bentley is also going beyond just promoting its products to educate users on the fundamental need for technology, such as digital twins, CAD modelling and visualisation, as well as construction management. As part of this push, Bentley also has multiple programs set up with universities in Australia, aiming to create greater and earlier exposure to such technologies in the hope of giving the next generation an early understanding of how these technologies can best be optimised. 

“These STEM programs are paramount for us because as more mature and experienced people retire, that knowledge transfer can be lost. The younger population may not have the same experience with or adaptability to these applications. With remote working, people are no longer there physically to help. Back in the day, you’d sit around an elder engineer; now, you sit around the laptop,” Malkin says.

“For us, educating the next generation of students means the world is going to be better and more adaptable to future change, helping them make more informed decisions.”

Stewart Smith, Solution Architect – Bentley Systems.
Stewart Smith, Solution Architect – Bentley Systems.

Smith says aspects such as project delivery, infrastructure intelligence and sustainability will suffer if this knowledge transfer is not completed.

“The younger generation are the future. Speaking as someone who has been in the industry for some time, we have a responsibility to mentor them and give them as much knowledge as we’ve learned in our lifetimes,” he says.

Despite these challenges, both Smith and Malkin have positive outlooks for the future, saying there’s plenty of opportunities and solutions in development to counter skills shortages, as well as financial and resource constraints.

“What really excites me is the digital transformation that’s underway,” Smith says. “Technology is evolving, especially at Bentley. We’re starting to bring these developments to the market on big projects, allowing project teams to work quicker, easier and less segregated. We’re allowing all of that in an infrastructure cloud environment.”

“When I first started, I was working off a drafting board. It used to take me several days to produce a single drawing. Now, people can do that in a matter of hours.”

Australia is at the forefront when it comes to the adoption and development of the technologies, says Malkin.

“Australia adopts technology much faster than most. I’d even go as far as to say that the country is just as innovative, if not more than the United States, which is still very legacy orientated. We use technology better probably because of the tyranny of distance. We use it to really elevate our capabilities way beyond what some people might think,” he says.

Smith agrees. 

“We use 3D modelling, we use digital twins, we started using the cloud way before most other nations did,” he says. “I’ve travelled around the world, and Australia is known as having the innovators that are willing to adopt new technologies and see where it leads.”

Malkin adds that its companies, like Bentley, that are helping to forge this path ahead.

“Within Bentley, we’ve got a whole ecosystem of solutions,” he says. “We’re listening to the market and looking at international trends, not only now, but also into the future. We’re bringing that to the forefront.”  

“I envision Bentley as an organisation that caters and enhances people’s day-to-day decision making and quality of life for the better.” 

This article was originally published in the April edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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