3 ways General Contractors can prepare to meet new digital demands

PostedDaniel Kalnins

Asset owners are placing more pressure and onus on contractors for a digital twin. They recognize the value it can deliver across the design, construction and operations phases, and it’s becoming more common for a digital twin to be a requirement included at the contract stage.

This is against the backdrop of an industry that has been notoriously slow in technology adoption. It was ranked second from last in McKinsey’s Global Institute industry digitization index, which examines sectors across the economy through the lens of digital assets, digital usage, and digital workers.

It is certainly the perception that our sector is still lagging and is yet to experience its ‘Uber moment.’ But perhaps that is not too far away. Due to COVID-19, three years of construction tech growth and adoption have been compressed into a much shorter period.

As an ex-contractor and now Head of New Build at Willow, Daniel Kalnins draws from his unique experience to share three ways general contractors can prepare and equip themselves to meet new digital demands.

1. Agree on the destination

If you haven’t delivered a digital twin before, the starting point can feel overwhelming. With the industry changing so quickly, it’s been difficult for owners and contractors to know precisely what the digital requirements should be and why. This has led to confusion for both parties.

Kalnins recommends, “Agreeing on the vision, outcomes and data requirements early in the project gets everyone on the same page. Engaging with a specialist digital twin advisory service can provide significant value at this stage. They can shine a light on data requirement blindspots and right-size the project to make it affordable and achievable. We have examples where we’ve helped owners reduce their digital requirements by 80% and still achieve everything they needed to. This is all new to our industry, and unless you’ve done it multiple times, it’s difficult to get right the first time.”

Planning your digital twin before construction begins allows you to start building your digital thread — a continuous, unbroken, all-encompassing repository of information that grows with your asset, from concept to design, construction to handover, operations, and even end of life.

“In the past, there just wasn’t the expectation that contractors needed to hand over anything smart. That’s changed. Asset owners, portfolio managers and operations teams want a complete record of their asset’s construction, and they need this information in an ordered and managed digital format on day one.”

2. Have a single gateway

Managing architect, engineering, and contractors (AEC) teams comes with unique challenges once construction is underway. Lack of real-time information or inconsistent data makes monitoring your supply chain and progress challenging. This usually results in missed targets which can negatively impact your budget, schedule and reputation.

Having a common platform, like a digital twin for progressive completion, means your project can avoid time spent on:

– Hunting down project data for asset registers connected to 3D models & drawings
– Resolving conflicts between stakeholders, especially during commissioning
– Rework and its associated costs

Kalnins is not surprised these activities cost the industry an estimated $31.3 billion annually.

“A large-scale construction project like Investa’s 60 Martin Place saw us validate 71,848 digital assets within the building. To imagine doing that without a digital twin is almost incomprehensible. Trying to accurately track of all those assets and the relevant information and data has been, until now, physically impossible.”

A single repository for all project information and data enables everyone involved, from the board to the technical teams to

– Find, view, and update information and files
– Explore the relationship between digital assets of 3D models, asset registers, and building components
– Gain quick access to information that is traditionally difficult to retrieve
– Reduce key-person risk

Given the slow uptake of technology in the construction industry, it’s easy to assume that subcontractors and those in the supply chain would be hesitant to use a common platform, but that’s just not true, according to Kalnins.

“In our experience, most are already collecting data and using an online system or platform. The benefit of using a digital twin like WillowTwin™ is that it doesn’t mean additional work for the AEC teams. Our recent partnership with Procore, for example, demonstrates how WillowTwin™ easily links to a program already in use, and their data can be shared to the digital twin in just a few clicks.”

3. Provide progressive validation

Typically, for owners and contractors to progressively check and close out digital deliverables, they have to wait for a batch and complete at the end of construction. This can result in issues only becoming known late in the piece, adding time and cost to a project.

“In a typical construction project, there is limited quality assurance happening for digital outputs, for example as-builts, and oversight on progress of data and 3D models. Data could be out of date by the time it’s submitted.”

Providing progressive validation to owners throughout the project provides peace of mind and empowers contractors with real-time insights into a project’s completion status.

WillowTwin™ has the functionality to break down project status by discipline, supplier, or project zone for even richer insights, enabling minor adjustments to be made so a project can stay on track.

Contractors can also utilize this same technology to automate manual tasks such as

– Checking and auditing of 3D models and data
– Validate asset registers and data fields
– Managing quality and compliance of data and reporting geometry, documentation, data, design, and construction activities

Easy-to-understand project dashboards enable owners and contractors to review high-level progress and compliance on selected KPIs, quickly pinpoint compliance issues and review maintainable assets all in one place, removing the need for multiple platforms and systems.

With a digital twin, construction and handover become simpler and more effective

Willow’s combined solution of software and digital engineering services enables you to plan and create an affordable digital twin. Avoid construction waste, have control and transparency over your project data, and achieve a fast and smooth handover on day one.

Benefit from working with a technology partner that understands general contractors. Our specialists have held these roles in previous careers or have years of experience working alongside them on projects of all sizes. We know the problems you face and can show you how they can be more easily solved.


If you’ve been asked to provide a digital twin and want to avoid the cost and time stresses of figuring it all out yourself, book a WillowTwin™ demo.

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