Why are we still building our digital future on paper?
In the digital age, it seems remarkable that many critical functions are still involved – passing documents and spreadsheets between stakeholders and departments – and nowhere is this more apparent than in the data center construction industry, where a recent study from Turner & Townsend found that only 29 percent of the sector has moved to integrated digital solutions. How can it be that in the bleeding edge of technology, our construction processes are stuck in analog?
We’re in an era where the data center industry is building multiple facilities simultaneously to meet the exponential growth in demand, and each of those buildings is becoming larger in scale and more complex in scope.
More and more feedback data points are being collected, particularly to ensure that parties meet their commitments to sustainability. Yet with metrics kept in PDFs and Word documents, that information is siloed. Successful best practices are lost, and mistakes on-site can easily be replicated on another. Put another way, we’ve got access to a helicopter, but we’re not flying high enough to see over the top of the maze.
A new approach to data center construction
The question we need to ask is ‘How can data center construction programs improve their communication and collaboration?’
The answer lies, of course, in digital solutions. By adopting a conjoined digital approach to managing data center construction, all stakeholders across multiple sites can see a 360-degree view of the entire process – no more silos, no more waiting for manual collation, and everything is accessible in real-time. This approach reduces risk and improves quality by providing access to comprehensive and timely data.
By bringing together all this data, we can run side-by-side comparisons of different design prototypes. Whether that’s two or twenty, we can see what works best and is most efficient for the business, its clients, and the road to a carbon-neutral future.
Evolving data center construction
Construction has not necessarily advanced digitally at the same speed as other industries. It is critical that we demonstrate the potential efficiencies and return on investment that digitization brings, to ensure construction doesn’t become the weak link in the expansion of the data center industry.
By standardizing working practices, we can also consolidate the entire supply chain down to the fine details, such as ensuring every part of the site uses the same light bulbs in the same light fittings. It seems trivial, but when multiplied at a hyperscale level, the bulk purchase of such components and consumables represents huge cost savings.
Change doesn’t only come from within, however, and with myriad standards, regulations, and targets being set at local, regional, and even international levels, digitization also gives every stakeholder access to the most up-to-date documentation, enabling them to work in compliance with ever-changing requirements in a rapidly evolving world.
All of this means ending a culture of long, tedious meetings to align parties involved in the build. Everything is on hand and updated in real-time, leaving skilled professionals to do what they do best. For business, that means individuals and teams are accountable for their actions through a fully traceable audit trail, raising standards, rewarding innovation, identifying development needs, and advancing the overall quality of output.
Enabling digital transformation
Schneider Electric offers end-to-end solutions for data center providers. When we acquired RIB Software in 2020, it was in part because we understood the synergies between our offering and the possibilities presented by digital transformation in the sector.
RIB has created an ecosystem that lets that helicopter mentioned above soar – making engineering and construction projects more visible, efficient, and sustainable – creating a “single source of truth.”
RIB SpecLink collates all possible metrics surrounding construction projects, enabling stakeholders across multiple locations to collaborate on a single platform. This enables coordinated specifications and brings consistency to working practices.
Now, as sustainability and ESG reporting become increasingly critical, RIB CostX brings a new simplicity to carbon accounting, utilizing BIM & 2D takeoff, allowing multiple carbon estimators to work together and see how changes in design can impact carbon cost in real time.
Combined, SpecLink and CostX create a powerful ecosystem for hyperscale construction, offering unparalleled digital-first management that raises standards and decreases risk. At a time when the entire labor market is struggling to recruit, we can’t ignore the efficiencies offered by digital transformation.
We’ve already seen amazing results for customers using RIB SpecLink and RIB CostX, and as needs evolve, so will our products, with updated software builds pushed straight to devices, reducing the headache of deployment. Together, the RIB platform offers a holistic approach to data center design and build, sharing success and preventing error, all in a fraction of the time.
RIB’s purpose statement is clear – ‘to make engineering and construction more efficient and sustainable.’ The data center industry should always lead from the front. We represent the future, and it’s up to us to bring the future to all facets of our process. If we aren’t leading the charge to modernize, who will? To learn more about data center digitization, visit RIB Software.
About the Author: Graeme Burton is a veteran technology journalist with more than 25 years of experience in technology, information management and banking journalism. He has worked at Sunday Business newspaper, Computing, ComputerWire and Computer Weekly, among many other publications. As a freelance journalist, he has also contributed to a number of supplements published by The Times, and Euromoney’s Trade Finance magazine.