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‘Next Evolution in Construction’

In conversation with Richard Humphrey, Vice President – Construction at Bentley Systems

Construction Business News ME spoke with Richard on the future of construction and how Bentley Systems solutions are providing a more efficient and effective way of doing construction projects.

Richard Humphrey is vice president of construction product management at Bentley, focused on delivering construction solutions. He has more than 20 years of high-tech marketing and product management experience, most recently as the vice president of marketing at B2W Software, where he drove marketing strategy for heavy civil construction products.

Photo: Richard Humphrey, Vice President – Construction at Bentley Systems

Delivering successful solutions

Bentley’s construction offering revolves around SYNCHRO Construction. SYNCHRO is Bentley’s purpose-built construction management platform that addresses a broad range of construction workflows—from preconstruction planning through construction execution. The goal is to help construction firms win more projects and improve their delivery and profits by helping more easily and affordably plan and manage people, materials, and equipment. SYNCHRO is specifically tuned to enable heavy civil and infrastructure projects overcome problems that have generally not been well addressed by software vendors.

“Our users want to know how they can take all the design information coming from products—including Bentley’s design authoring applications, Bentley’s ProjectWise, engineering document management system, or other design authoring solutions—and aggregate that data into one place. SYNCHRO provides that one place to manage all that data and create a construction model. SYNCHRO 4D manages models very well, leading 4D/5D construction modeling solution on the market. Our users leverage it to win projects by pulling in that siloed data.”

“Our users look into how they can come up with the best preconstruction plan in terms of cost and schedule, optimizing these plans in one model-based environment (or non-model based if the model data is not available). They can  create the plans, visualizing and simulating them to avoid errors and optimize in a virtual environment so that mistakes are not made in the field. Then, they move that plan into the next phase, which is how they can optimize the delivery and ensure that they remain in control of the project.”

“Our other SYNCHRO products are SYNCHRO Control for project management and SYNCHRO Field for field management. These applications offer document controls, model viewing, schedule collaboration, and task management, such as issues, RFI observations, daily logs from the field, as well as business analytics, project performance analytics, dashboards, and reporting,” explained Richard.

“SYNCHRO pulls in data from the pre-construction phase, and our field application enables users to pull in data from the field using a mobile experience that provides access to all the data,” added Richard.

Whether they are using documents or models, the information is delivered in an easy user interface, which they can use for daily logs, time and material tracking in the field, and progress and status tracking, and quality and safety inspections.

Bentley added SYNCHRO to its portfolio through an acquisition, and recently acquired E7 that enhances what SYNCHRO Field does. E7 focuses on superintendents and field staff who drive operations and ensure that clients can capture project performance in the field.

With SYNCHRO, Bentley targets all industry segments, but are especially focused on the heavy civil infrastructure space. Specifically, heavy civil (horizontal) infrastructure construction projects have many of the same problems and processes as vertical building projects but in a different context (linear/spatial): environmental conditions and surprises (versus more controlled building environments); projects can’t disrupt surrounding infrastructure from operating; complexity in spatial logistics and resource management; and projects that often need to meet public requirements for transparency, sustainability, and accountability.

“We have added some significant capabilities to SYNCHRO that address specific problems that our users face on their infrastructure projects. We focus on spatiality logistics and managing the equipment and resources to effectively deliver projects using 4D and 5D modeling. SYNCHRO is the only solution that can split up linear models into work areas and turn specific model objects into constructable components to accommodate project phasing and means and methods without having to revert to the original design authoring tools.

Across SYNCHRO, all data is geospatially referenced, which is critical to managing the spatial logistics inherent in infrastructure projects. Note that these unique capabilities are also helping our building and industrial plant users,” said Richard.


Allegiant Stadium

Mortenson | McCarthy used SYNCHRO’s 4D components to design a complicated stadium project and integrate all of the data. By integrating the model formats into one aggregate model, Mortenson | McCarthy could organize and coordinate the capabilities of SYNCHRO to make the project possible. SYNCHRO help them optimize the design and deliver the project on time to meet the start of the 2020 NFL season.

Next Evolution in Construction

The construction sector is one of the last industries to digitalize its workflows (only ahead of hunting/agriculture) per McKinsey. The industry is transforming slowly from automating task-based workflows to 3D/4D/5D model-based workflows (BIM), a change that has been in the works for the past decade. According to a recent Dodge Data report, 34% of civil infrastructure construction firms and 57% of vertical building construction firms are using model-based workflows. This statistic indicates that the transformation to model-based workflows is still in progress and there is a disparity between industry segments. It is significant that the civil sector is behind, given the impending infrastructure spending bill in the United States.


On horizontal projects, owners and construction firms have the same issues related to cost, budget, and risk, and also follow roughly the same process flow as buildings. The difference is the context in which the projects are completed—the linear and/or spatial context in which workflows occur. This context is also the source of complexity, making managing equipment and resource logistics the key to success. Heavy civil projects are notable for their large scale, their need to deal with existing conditions, fewer subcontractors, and production often being defined by moving materials (earthwork, concrete, asphalt). So, how are these differences being addressed and what is the outlook for the U.S. civil construction sector?


The next phase of this technology evolution is from static BIM models to live digital twins that connect the 4D/5D model to real-time data from the construction sites. This phase enables greater transformation of workflows with significant increase in efficiencies and project insights, which enables faster data-driven decisions to keep the project in control in terms of cost, schedule, and quality.


In the construction software and technology market, there is a noticeable uptake in technology among construction firms. More construction firms are going digital to automate workflows and, in some cases, transform their workflows to drive greater efficiencies, collaboration, and project insights. VDC, BIM, mobile project management applications, and the use of the Internet of Things is on the rise.


“There are, however, gaps in the uptake depending on geography and industry segment. For example, most of the investment in digital technologies has been focused on solving the complexity associated with delivering vertical/building projects. Also, we now see specific countries driving standards for digital construction, much like the U.K. BIM standards,” said Richard.


Software companies, such as Bentley, are building construction platforms that enable construction firms to scale how they work depending on the data that they have access. SYNCHRO Construction is the Bentley construction platform that enables a broad set of workflows to be delivered either in 2D workflows or scales to a 4D/5D design-build digital twins. They reduce the barrier to construction firms leveraging a solution that can be used on all projects—independent of whether they will deploy BIM or digital twin processes on a job.


The key is that the digital twin is one more significant step to construction realizing significant benefits from technology-driven workflows that provide the ROI/value needed for the entire industry to cross the current digital chasm. Workflows that are being transformed today with the digital twin include:

  • 4D model-based planning during pre-construction through production planning
  • 5D model-based estimating and cost management
  • Automated operations – machine automation and prefab
  • Field data capture, including progress tracking, site monitoring, and quality and safety inspections

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