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Wood’s automated delivery aims to design solutions faster to create simplicity, repeatability and ease of maintenance

  • Posted on March 10, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 6 minutes
Wood’s automated delivery

Wood is a global consulting and engineering company on a quest to unlock solutions across the energy and the built environment markets. Global rapid advancement in technology is driving the need for more efficient and effective ways to design, build and operate assets. Wood thrives on exploring new ways to harness digital innovation, unlocking the power of data to optimize cost, improving performance, and delivering on the clients’ ultimate goals. The company sees automated delivery differentiating their solutions in the market.

Working with Avanade Innovation, Advisory and Digital Innovation Studio, Wood is creating a groundbreaking prototype for an automated templated design solution for metering systems and well heads, which quantifies the mass or volume of oil and gas produced as it is sold to a buyer along the supply chain. These specialized, high-precisions systems are critical for accuracy. While it traditionally takes weeks to create a design basis for these systems, the automated delivery solution uses data science and machine learning to identify and leverage past engineering designs, break down drawings into separate components that can be incorporated into other designs and, within minutes, create a design basis for a specific scenario.

To learn more about how industry innovation is driving the company’s business strategies, I spoke to Darren Martin, Chief Technology Officer at Wood.

Thor: As clients emerge from COVID-19 and are responding, resetting or renewing their business, where do these new solutions fit in to address current and future challenges?

Martin: At the start of 2020, our teams had lined up a great set of innovations to drive value in the business. However, COVID-19 made us really think about our innovation portfolio, and we split it into three priorities. In certain aspects, we absolutely had to keep going full steam ahead because they enabled connectivity amongst our workforce. We also have a lot of people that are building assets. During the early part of COVID-19, we had factory items from Europe that we were taking to Canada, and we had to do a lot of the assembly work and factory acceptance testing remotely using a Microsoft Teams capability embedded in a hard hat with a camera and eye-operated visor screen. We also needed to connect some of our engineering and field services people across the world to build essential infrastructure that has been powering society during this pandemic. For us, it was important to make sure that we doubled our efforts on those technologies, maintaining real-time connectivity with crucial assets and the people who operate them.

Thor: You recently participated in Avanade’s annual Innovation Contest. Can you describe your experience and what you learned working with Avanade?

Martin: We're on a journey at Wood to solve some of our own and our client’s biggest challenges. It is important that we drive programs to accelerate and automate some of the repetitive tasks that are associated with designing, building and operating. We have a lot of entities that we need to build in a complex asset that are completely repeatable, so we set the challenge for the hackathon with Avanade to figure out how we could achieve a master builder concept. How could we get to an automated design process for those less complex, more repeatable design use cases? And how can we use artificial intelligence and data analytics to adapt that perfect design for those bespoke client requirements rather than reinventing the wheel.

Thor: What kind of solutions emerged from this process and how will you apply them to your business moving forward?

Martin: First, I just want to thank everybody that was involved in the hackathon. We were really humbled by how many people in Avanade got behind our challenge, and we had some talented teams. It was hard to choose the best team to represent team Wood at the hackathon, but we were really excited when those teams won. We gave you a real challenge: how do we reduce the cost of repeatable design? We saw a way forward by working with Avanade to create a master builder capability that allows us to automate design so that we can effectively feed a requirement in and it will produce a solution where about 50-70% of the hard work is done. Then we can get our great designers on top of that output to finesse the last 30% and make it perfect for the client’s need. We want to productionize that capability. We can do this without the technology, but we can do it faster and better for the client if we have the technology.

Thor: As a digital innovator, what value do these emerging technologies offer to make you more resilient to future challenges and how are they helping to improve your employee and customer experiences?

Martin: The most important thing for us to get right is the balance between keeping our people safe and designing, building and operating things in a more sustainable way – where can we use technologies to enrich that experience. When some technologies are first introduced, they can be quite threatening to the workforce. But if you can gain more market share through innovation, I think there is a lot of exciting work that our people can then focus on.

Degrees of automation can take some of those more repetitive or harmful activities into a safer environment and potentially allow things to run more autonomously and more efficiently. We must find the right appetite and the right commercial model to balance what is more appropriate for humans to do versus what you start automating. If we look at the previous industrial revolutions, there has always been that tension. But we want the productivity, so we are at that phase of looking at the best applications of technology.

Thor: What advice do you have for companies that are looking to take that next step in business innovation?

Martin: Resiliency is important and not taking ‘no’ for an answer. As a leader, you may have many setbacks but leading your team and being authentic and open and helping your team understand what's working, what isn't and how we might overcome it is important. But overall, what I would say is focus on value, focus on those things that are going to make a difference and don't necessarily respond to the things that you're being told to do; focus on challenging the instructions of the requests and be really clear on where value can be achieved and how to achieve it. And do it in partnership with your clients and do it in partnership with your ecosystem.

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