How saving time can lead to making money
Adrian Culliney hopes helping engineers to reuse designs from previous projects will pay off
Adrian Culliney: “Instead of developing software for content creation, there was an opportunity to help them reuse content.”
The Irish construction industry may have suffered a cataclysm since the property bubble burst in spectacular fashion in 2008, but that downturn has also led to a burst of entrepreneurial innovation from architects and engineers.
One such innovator is Adrian Culliney. After beginning his career as a structural engineer, the Mayo native changed focus and began to concentrate on software for the industry, looking to provide solutions for some of the common frustrations he had faced.
Initially, he focused on software tailored for designing high rises but, as he puts it, “the way the economy was going, there weren’t too many high rises going up”. So following feedback from fellow engineers, Culliney realised that an enduring problem for firms was reusing element designs from previous projects.
This was despite the digital files created by engineering software, searching for specific elements, such as beams, by criteria such as weight, material and the forces they must resist.
“Instead of developing software for content creation, there was an opportunity to help them reuse content,” explains Culliney. “And the reason we were saying that was because of how components are so repetitive in the industry.
“You’d think there was already a system in place for that, but it’s complicated by the number of variables – it’s not just geometry but also the forces that this element is supposed to resist. The widely-used digital files don’t easily allow for searching by these criteria.”
While engineers can recall some of the elements they worked on, medium or large engineering firms have a vast repository of designs that are currently going unutilised because of the difficulty in searching for relevant elements.
The time spent searching old files in the firm’s database isn’t worth it for the 45 minutes or so it might take to design an element from scratch.
Culliney’s solution is TruePivot, a rather ingenious service that leverages cloud storage and dramatically more powerful big data processing power to strip out the relevant data from a firm’s digital files, parsing that data and using a big data-searching algorithm to make it searchable.
Manifold benefitsThe benefits, Culliney says, are manifold. While people are terrible at managing data, TruePivot eliminates the need for individuals to tag and file different designs.
In addition, the vast knowledge capital that an engineering firm currently stores in its archive of digital files becomes instantly useful.
“If you have 50 engineers at a firm working for 10 years, that’s 500 man years of designs that can be utilised, rather than the limited number of designs that someone can hold in their head as a reference point – it’s a different order of magnitude,” says Culliney.
Furthermore, the efficiencies are not merely in terms of design. With predictive analytics TruePivot can better solve the value versus efficiency problem that structural engineers face at all times – balancing budgetary concerns with structural efficiency.
Assessing the most efficient balance between concrete or steel usage, say, can be made considerably easier with the power of big data analysis, making for considerably greater environmental efficiencies too.
As for how TruePivot works in practice, it leverages Amazon’s fast-evolving cloud and data-processing services – in many senses, this is a solution that was waiting for the technology to catch up with the vision.
“We go in and over the course of a night or a weekend, upload all historical files, run the parsing on all that – that data becomes the library.
“Then every file the engineers save goes into that library, and every time a file is saved it gets referenced against that library. The historical value is the files they are not currently getting access to now, and that’s only going to accumulate over time.”
Culliney says the idea has been about two years in gestation, and TruePivot now has a team of four working out of the Digital Hub.
The firm recently acquired its first large firm as a client, is in negotiations with investors and is involved in co-authoring a study with the Structural Engineering Department of DIT on Time Savings Derived from Design Reuse’’.