Exclusive Interview with Mr. Steve Cockerell, Industry Marketing Director, Road and Rail, Bentley Systems

Context: With the COVID-19 has imposed challenges on how organizations around the world are continuing their operations, many companies and project owners have utilized digital solutions during this period to do business operations and to get connect with each other.

Seeing this, we reached out to Bentley Systems team for an exclusive insight into this and the impact of the pandemic on the Bentley System’ business operations globally and in India.

Mr. Steve Cockerell joined Bentley Systems in 2002 and works as part of a team delivering knowledge and expertise to its users across the transportation industry. In his role, Cockerell leverages his 25 years of industry experience in helping develop and maintain Bentley’s position as the leading supplier of software and services to the world’s infrastructure community.

Most recently, Mr. Cockerell was involved in the launch of Bentley’s OpenRail solution, which through its holistic approach from planning to performance, incorporates systems engineering methodologies to provide compliance and assurance over time, and leverages digital context, components and workflows, through a Connected Data Environment.

Interview Insights :

Rail Analysis: These are uncertain times, what has been the impact of the pandemic on the infrastructure sector and economy at large in your perspective? How about the impact on the Bentley System’ business operations globally and in India?

Mr. Steve Cockerell: Bentley recognizes that COVID-19 has imposed challenges on how organizations around the world are continuing their operations, and most have been forced to quickly pivot to remote working and social distancing. Bentley supported our users as they transitioned to safely working remotely or from home without losing productivity.

Our software is well suited for working in a globally dispersed environment, and we provide many ways for Bentley users to collaborate, check things in and out, and get things done in a variety of situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we are prepared for a situation like this and all our support teams are working business as usual. Our systems enable our entire workforce to work remotely, and our colleagues can manage and maintain our hosted environments from a remote location. Bentley’s focus is to allow infrastructure engineering work to be done,whether in an office or remotely, with uninterrupted access to our software.

Rail Analysis: Your company has always endorsed a “Digital First” strategy which is now the new “Default”? In your viewpoint, was this always expected to happen anyway or did the pandemic usher in this change?

Mr. Steve Cockerell: That’s an interesting question and I think this global change is being driven by several different factors.

The first factor is population growth and rapid urbanization. Currently, around 55% of the world’s population lives in cities, but the United Nations predict that this number will grow to an excess of 68% over the next 30 years. The second factor is climate change. The fact that we are all dealing with COVID-19 right now doesn’t mean that this massive challenge has gone away. Organizations are working very hard in response to carbon neutral targets, set at a government level, on new projects and throughout the operations phase of their infrastructure assets. The last factor is the back drop of tighter budgets, shorter deadlines, and fewer skilled people, which are challenges that all organizations are facing at varying degrees.

With all this going on, one could be forgiven for thinking that the infrastructure community has an impossible task on its hands, but we’re a tenacious group of people. Since the first railways were built, the professionals working in the rail and transit industry have always focused on improving it to be the safest, fastest, and smartest means of moving people and goods. Why should now be any different? But the fact is, the world is changing. We’re living in an ever-more connected world, one where we’re creating and consuming more data, and it can be both a blessing and a curse.

If I look back 30 years to when I first started working in the industry, I’ve seen similar digital transformations, triggered by CAD and hardware advancements. There was ashift from workstations to PCs, and from desktops to servers, mobile technology, and cloud services. Almost in parallel, the way that we design, build, and operate our infrastructure has changed, including how our decisions are made. We’ve moved from what we were doing on paper in 2D—with a reliance on drawings and printed reports—to 3D, 4D,and even 5D modeling,with the inclusion of cost and carbon calculations as an integral part of the decision-making process. Today, we are at the point where more decisions are being made on the data itself, and where many organizations see it as their most valuable asset.

Top left illustrates a 3D model of a retail operation created using OpenBuildings Station Designer. Bottom left shows 2D
floor plans that are then imported into LEGION Simulator (right) to test two scenarios. Examples shown are at
occupancy rates of 75% (top) and 25% (bottom) to comply with social distancing requirements.

When you ask if this change was always expected to happen or did the pandemic usher it in, I think that change in our industry is inevitable. It is the constant, if you like. Every rail organization is under pressure to improve its level of service, safety, and reliability, as well as to achieve it despite all the challenges that they face. Working smarter and embracing the opportunity that technology provides is the only way to succeed. Many organizations that we work with have realized it already and are implementing new technology and reimagined “digital workflows” as part of a wider digital transformation of their businesses. At Bentley, we say that they are “going digital,”as I don’t think anyone truly knows today where technology might take us tomorrow.

Rail Analysis: How has your company adapted to the challenges of continuity of existing projects during and post lock-down , in terms of adapting your solutions further so that your customers can use them from their home offices or minimizing the requirement for physical meetings ? 

Mr. Steve Cockerell: I don’t think that anyone was completely ready for the impact of COVID-19, but a lot of the organizations using Bentley software were perhaps better prepared than others. When you consider that many of our users are multinational engineering consultants and contractors engaged on global projects, working as a distributed team was already part of their normal business processes. Perhaps, many organizations could react faster due to already having good collaboration technology, whether it was generic IT solutions, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or more focused engineering information management platforms,such as our ProjectWise and AssetWise applications. Access to these types of software for engineering, construction, field-based digital workflows, and multidiscipline collaboration literally meant that team members could pick up essential hardware—laptops, screens, or tablets—and continue their normal business activities remotely while progressing project work or maintaining their assets.

It’s fair to say that we have seen certain geographies deal with this disruption better than others, where perhaps office-based internet connectivity is a higher quality than in employees’ homes. I also think that certain government organizations were not as well prepared as the private sector for remote working. Perhaps there wasn’t as strong of a work-from-home strategy in place due to internal policies surrounding the security of data and/or hardware. The positive side, however, is that due to the nature of those types of organizations, there are a lot of processes with checkpoints and gates to ensure that progress could happen if the unexpected occurs. With the unprecedented situation that we all find ourselves in, I think that we have seen a can-do attitude that can cut through many existing bureaucratic obstacles. This shift has enabled things that would not have been entertained under normal circumstances, or would have taken a long time to be approved, to happened very quickly.Some things that might have taken years have happened in a matter of weeks.

We at Bentley have accelerated our work to assist organizations that were not as well prepared for remote working of their teams. Project Wise 365—Bentley’s instant-on, 100% cloud-based solution for faster, higher-quality infrastructure design collaboration—wasn’t available to everyone prior to COVID-19. We had launched it back in October at our Year in Infrastructure Conference in Singapore. But when the pandemic hit,we quickly realized that the market needed a solution to help teams remain productive while working remotely and, as a result, we opened up full access to our Project Wise 365 cloud service.

ProjectWise 365 enables an immersive, web-based 2D/3D hybrid review environment, designed
to help teams streamline coordination and resolve issues faster.

We have also waived subscription fees through September 30, 2020, so that any project participants forced to work from home due to the pandemic can connect and collaborate with team members via their web browser. Your readers can find out more about this, and our wider response to the challenges of working from home, at www.bentley.com/en/workingfromhome.

Rail Analysis: Many companies and project owners have utilized your digital solutions during design and construction of projects in India . Can you share with us the updated footprint of Bentley Systems in the Indian market for Solution Implementation, BIM Advancement and other solutions in the railway and metro Sector in India ( including metro projects, rail projects and stations ) ?

Mr. Steve Cockerell: Bentley’s solutions cover the entire life cycle of rail projects, ranging from planning, design, construction, and operations and maintenance. Our building information modeling (BIM) solutions have been implemented for the National Capital Region Transportation Corporation’s RRTS project, Delhi Metro’s Phase-4 Project, and the Bangalore Metro for underground works.We also have seen our solutions implemented on Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited’s construction works, along with an ongoing BIM-enabled project information system using Bentley’s Project Wise for high-speed rail design.

Rail Analysis: What has been your experience working with on the Nagpur metro project ? How are the nuances of the Indian market different from Global market ?

Mr. Steve Cockerell: Our experience with Nagpur Metro and Pune Metro has been excellent. Any implementation of new technology, especially when it incorporates the entire project ecosystem, requires strong leadership, which was provided by Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited’s (Maha Metro) managing director Dr. Brijesh Dixit. Bentley is proud to have provided his team with the specialized support that it needed throughout the project.

Bentley played pivotal role in helping to implement Maha Metro’s digital project management system using 5D BIM that was integrated with an enterprise resource planning solution. Its 5D BIM approach has already proven to be effective on Nagpur’s 25-kilometer-long metro system in just 50 months, saving an estimated 10% of the detailed project report cost.

Maha Metro Leads the Way with OpenRail CDE

An additional benefit includes Maha Metro working smarter as a result of its digital asset management system, enabling a reduction in the number of staff per kilometer of railway needed to operate and maintain it.

There are lot of similarities between the Indian market and its approach versus the global marketplace, but perhaps the biggest difference is India’s BIM maturity. While western markets may be ahead in this respect, India is very much on that journey. Across the rail and transit industry, we already see organizations digitally transforming the way that they work to deliver different and improved outcomes. We saw this kind of transformation happen with Maha Metro in Nagpur and Pune, and they are setting an example for others to follow.

Rail Analysis: New metro, high speed railway and station redevelopment projects are in the pipeline. Any insights you would like to share with new project owners in India to further fine tune their requirements and expectations in this space? COMBINED WITH 7. Any other insights you would like to share with our readers?

Mr. Steve Cockerell: Previously, I spoke about change in the rail industry, how organizations are implementing new technology and reimagined “digital workflows” as part of wider digital transformations. At Bentley, we believe that the next big digital disruption in our industry will be digital twins.

Taking center stage over the next year to 18 months, and enabled through our iTwin technology, digital twins will rapidly advance BIM to enable organizations to converge their engineering, operational, and information technologies in a portal or augmented and immersive experience, providing increased context and insight for more informed decisions. Bentley’s digital twin capabilities are already enabling organizations to visually immerse teams in the decision-making process, as well as run various analytics to predict and produce different and improved outcomes across the entire lifecycle of rail infrastructure assets.

On capital projects, digital twins can provide a risk-free way of simulating construction, logistics, and fabrication sequences; optimize design for passenger flows; or visualize emergency evacuations.Through consuming data from continuous surveys, photogrammetry, LiDAR, and Internet of Things-connected devices, owners can track changes to their assets during operations and enable the people maintaining them to do the right work, in the right place, at the right time.

Specific examples include Skanska Costain STRABAG Joint Venture, which currently uses Bentley technology for its work on High-Speed Two in the United Kingdom. Its digital twins approach means that their multi discipline team can better visualize the design and run analytics that lead to earlier detection and resolution of clashes, avoid rework, save time, and minimize delay.Their approach has enabled the team to increase data quality to 98% when, typically,it might have been as low as 20%. Construction simulation has reduced planning time by an estimated 30%. To date,the approach and its digital portfolio has accounted for over GBP 3 million in savings on the project.

OpenRail Enables Skanska Costain STRABAG JV

Another organization using a similar digital twins approach is AREP, a subsidiary of the French national rail owner operator SNCF. Its team uses Bentley’s pedestrian simulation software to ensure that station and platform designs not only correspond to different safety standards, but also meet the ongoing needs of their users. Video simulations of different design scenarios show team members and stakeholders how to enhance the experience for station users, while also maximizing the commercial opportunities for businesses within them.

From my point of view, digital twins are already rewriting the rule books on industry best practices, and they will facilitate a digital revolution in the design, build, and operations of our rail and transit networks. As such, I think project owners and the supply chains that support them should expect and plan for digital twins to be part of going digital in rail around the world, including in India.

This Interview will be a part of our September 2020 MagazineSubscribe to our Magazine Today!