Processes transform, people adapt, says Lendlease

  • Global Architecture, Engineering and Construction firm talks a mean digital
  • Has digital plan with one year targets, revised annually to give flexibility

Lendlease uses tools such as AR & VR to help train its talent.

CHANCES are you would be surprised if a company in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector was talking about innovation and digital, but Lendlease is not just any AEC company.

With 13,000 employees across Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas, the Sydney headquartered company that was founded 61 years ago is already seven years into its journey in becoming a digital ready company.

It also helps that, in Tony Lombardo, it has one of its youngest CEO in history, “one who understands the impact and value of technology and digital,” notes Richard Kuppusamy, regional digital integration manager for Asia. 

With strong support from the C-suite over the years, today, Kuppusamy is proudly able to say that everyone at Lendlease today feels they are empowered to act and think innovatively and come up with new ideas. Further encouraging this behavior, Lendlease funds internal ideas as well that aim to deliver results in the field, “from new business processes to inventing tools that help us at construction sites.” The company ethos is that every idea has merit. 

While it is not common for people to think of construction from a safety point, yet this is critical for Lendlease, where safety is a core value. And it sees the possibility of leveraging on digital processes and technology as a key driver to delivering better safety. “We constantly think about how we can deliver and manage projects in a safer manner and to use. Leveraging on technology to deliver better quality and safety in our work also means that you automatically get better productivity. They go hand in hand,” he says.

Moving out of their comfort zone into a digital journey was not a structured journey guided by any roadmap. “Government’s do that,” says Kuppusamy (pic, right). As a large development and construction company operating globally, Lendlease recognized that theProcesses transform, people adapt, says Lendlease pace of digital adoption in the industry would differ from country to country. Recognising that technology changes rapidly as well, it set up a digital plan with one year targets and revised annually. This gives it the flexibility to adapt and execute course corrections each year.

This is important as Lendlease has learnt in its journey that biggest challenge in moving to become digital is mindset. As Kuppusamy observes, processes can transform but people adapt.

As a result, he feels that any digital transformation process need both a bottom up and a top down approach. It needs people who truly believe digital transformation is a necessity, who will bite the bullet and take the pain, believing that a better outcome will emerge. “It’s a challenge in the first few years,” he reflects. “There are no instant wins. And we have gone though that, to become a more productive organization.”

Part of its digital process has been to train and retain its people. “At the end of the day, that’s what makes it all work, one’s people having the right skillset. “Digital transformation,” explains Kuppusamy, is not about how much tech LendLease provides. “At the end of the day, you still need humans to operate things.”

Which is why, Lendlease believes there is very much a place for the over 50 crowd. “Technology does not replace experience,” he insists pointing out that Lendlease has discovered that in order to understand and run BIM (Building Information Modeling) well, a person actually needs the skills of a Master Builder a term that he says started drifting away from the sector in the 90s and 2000s.

But the technology Lendlease is building actually reinforces the notion of the Master Builder, a term coined to describe someone who got their hands dirty, who understood how buildings were built, could do the drawing and picture what a building would look like in his head. “You cannot replace that with tech. We have to augment their experience.”

They key in relation to staff upskilling is about aptitude, he believes. “You have to find those willing to learn where that desire transcends age.”

Having this right desire to learn is especially critical to Lendlease as the company has already started to use Augmented Reality with its 3D models. But the use of this is not reserved for the smartest, most experienced or most senior.

The key to success in digital transformation, Lendlease believes, is to get the technology out of the hands of the specialists to everyone. Broad usage of the tech is key to its diffusion and widespread adoption to the extent that is becomes normal.

While in the past, you needed specialists and specialised software with a powerful computer to view an image in 3D, today the key elements of this can be shown to a worker pouring concrete who can pull out his phone and make a check.

This is a process change and to get people to accept this and discover that they can use it with a very short learning curve will help get them on board. “AR has that potential,” stresses Kuppusamy. To make people realise how they can benefit. “The use case is important, not the fact that it is a shiny new tech.”

And it is use cases such as in KL that sees Lendlease apply a drone at its TRX project where a 3D model is stiched together in a technique called photogrammetry.

Clearly the AEC world, with drones, pilots, laser scanning, Augmented Reality and BIM, is moving rapidly into the digital world, with companies such as Lendlease leading the way.

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