Fearing cyber attacks is no longer a valid reason to put off digital transformation plans says Supratim Mukhopadhyay, one of Hexagon PPM’s senior directors in the Asia Pacific region.
In a warning to Australia’s engineering and construction industries, he suggests it might be the reason to digitalise sooner rather than later. Hexagon is a leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions that provides technologies for urban and production ecosystems in more than 50 countries around the world. Hexagon’s PPM division takes unorganised data and turns them into digital assets that enable smarter design, construction, and operation across the asset life cycle.
With a slew of new infrastructure projects in Australia already announced or fast-tracked due to the pandemic, the economic recovery from COVID-19 is likely to be infrastructure-led and a critical reason for engineering and construction businesses to refresh their approach this year.
Infrastructure is more connected and autonomous than ever before, and revised procurement requirements for these projects will likely leave businesses behind that do not have strong digital assets and automated processes to manage large-scale projects. With increased requirements for collaboration between project partners, shared access to data sources and shorter timeframes for delivery, businesses with stronger digital assets can stand out from their competitors.
According to Microsoft, back in 2018 three in every five businesses throughout the Asia Pacific region delayed their digitalisation plans due to a fear of cyberattacks. Fast forward to 2020 and a McKinsey survey revealed that the pandemic has propelled the region’s businesses digitalisation forward by four years on average compared with the rate of growth across the previous two years.
“It looks like our region is picking up the pace with digital transformation thanks to the pandemic, however, our engineering and construction industries are still lagging behind others when it comes to digitalising their wider business processes,” said Supratim Mukhopadhyay, Hexagon’s Director of Pre-sales in the Asia Pacific region.
“Digital transformation is far more than just enabling your frontline workers with iPads. True transformation takes all your sources of information, captures them in a digital format, and brings them together so everyone can benefit. The information is aligned with smarter processes and automation to help increase transparency, distribute responsibility and improve productivity across the business,” said Mukhopadhyay.
A business-wide digital transformation also helps safeguard against cyberattacks, rather than increasing vulnerability. Cyberattacks on businesses have been on the rise, and they are getting more and more sophisticated. Recently they have even targeted weaknesses in the Operational Technology (OT) of infrastructure, which is concerning for companies working across large-scale projects or critical infrastructure.
In February in the US, hackers remotely accessed a water treatment plant at a small city in Florida, briefly changing the amounts of lye in drinking water. While this attempt was caught before it could have done real harm to the city’s 15,000 inhabitants, the higher levels of sodium hydroxide could have led to some serious illnesses.
Strong automated monitoring processes and sensor networks can help to isolate and prevent these style of attacks before they ever have an impact. In evaluating the potential for loss of life, damages, remediation and other threats to business continuity across any project, a strong digital business with PPM in place can mitigate these risks and maximise project value.
In 2020, Hexagon acquired PAS, a leader in OT cybersecurity which specialises in protecting the technology that controls physical environments. PAS teams work with organisations to ensure the integrity of their OT environments from their sensors right the way through to the cloud. Sitting alongside Hexagon’s PPM suite which takes unstructured data and turns it into digital assets, the joint proposition brings a much-needed security boost to large-scale or critical infrastructure.
Aside from increased security and transparency, there is a range of benefits to introducing PPM solutions business-wide, particularly in the engineering and construction sector. These include improving safety by reducing the room for human error behind most accidents, improving project delivery insights and connecting offices with the field to give true visibility into a project.
“For businesses in the sector with our PPM solutions in place, we can typically see a saving of around 30 to 35 per cent during the design phase of projects. In the construction and commissioning phase we often see up to 15 or 20 per cent productivity gains,” said Mukhopadhyay.
From a cybersecurity perspective, PAS Cyber Integrity™ is the only software product on the market that gathers complete configuration information on proprietary industrial control systems and uses this data to detect changes and trigger investigatory protocols automatically. As a result, compliance and operational efforts can be reduced by up to 90 per cent.