Digital twins

May 1, 2019

Lee Jones, head of manufacturing operations at NBS, reflects on the partnership between the manufacturing and construction sectors during his career

When I left school, I was lucky enough to become an apprentice. Not the Lord Sugar kind, but a mechanical engineering apprentice. The type who combines hard work at college with mastering tea brewing and learning hands-on skills in a real working environment.

Being given the time of day by experienced individuals is something I’ll always be grateful for. Looking back, it feels like only yesterday, but the reality is that over two decades have passed by. Reflecting on what has been achieved in the sector during those 20-odd years, it’s clear that we’re well in the midst of a Fourth Industrial Revolution – and it’s about time.

Historically, the construction industry has been very slow to adopt change – something that always frustrated me during my time working for manufacturing firms, especially when I looked at how sectors such as automotive were advancing, as they fused digital and mechanical technologies. And yet things were still effectively being built the same way they had been for centuries in the construction sector.

There’s no doubt that construction and manufacturing are complex industries; imagine if everyone that bought a car had it delivered to their home in thousands of parts over a number of months and then had to assemble it on their drive, sometimes in unfavourable weather. It would be chaos, and they would most likely have to employ an expert to assemble their vehicle at home, with the cost quickly becoming unaffordable. Yet this is how the construction industry continued to operate for a long time.

Change is finally happening. Digital technologies now allow us to design buildings and infrastructure more efficiently and more sustainably. The process of designing construction projects more efficiently by utilising BIM has recently had a large impact on the construction sector, something I’ve witnessed during my time at NBS.

NBS is a tech company based in Newcastle. It has been delivering construction specification solutions since 1973, and today our core business revolves around digital technology provision. We’ve been leading the way with the NBS National BIM Library, which connects manufacturers with other construction professionals by creating digital twins of manufacturers’ products, referred to as BIM (building information modelling) objects.

BIM models utilise 3D CAD modelling, but the intelligence or data are contained within them – by using this data, software can be scheduled more accurately and report on efficiencies in ways never before accessible to the many. It prevents mistakes and helps create a safer build and structure.

NBS has been helping to connect the manufacturing sector to the construction sector for a long time, and the NBS National BIM Library – alongside our latest cloud-based specification tool, NBS Chorus – brings this support fully into the digital age, helping to keep the North East on the map as digital leaders.

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