‘Bentley will continue to invest heavily in India’

‘Bentley will continue to invest heavily in India’

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Infrastructure has a huge potential in India and Bentley is confident that the country is making tremendous progress in this area. Malcolm S. Walter, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Bentley Systems, tells us how the company plans to contribute in India’s growth story…

Malcolm S. Walter
Malcolm S. Walter
Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President
Bentley Systems

Infrastructure has a huge potential in India and Bentley is confident that the country is making tremendous progress in this area. Malcolm S. Walter, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Bentley Systems, tells us how the company plans to contribute in India’s growth story…

Sustainable Infrastructure has been a key focus area for Bentley. Can you elaborate on it?
Infrastructure sustains our world. As an interface between people and our planet, infrastructure provides the facilities, services, and installations needed for society to function and to maintain the well-being of its people. Infrastructure also helps manage our natural resources, improve the quality of our air, soil and water, develop clean sources of energy, and protect society and the environment from harm. In short, infrastructure maintains a balance between the demands of a growing, economically thriving global community and the capacity of the environment to meet those demands.

Bentley provides innovative software and services for the enterprises and professionals who design, build, operate and sustain the world’s infrastructure. Sustainability is multi-faceted, including not only developing infrastructure in an environmentally responsible way, but also in operating it. Bentley addresses both aspects as the world leader in providing software for the entire lifecycle of infrastructure. We are further committed to sustaining the professions that make infrastructure possible. It is a commitment demonstrated through the breadth and depth of our applications and professional services, our innovative subscriptions, and our fostering of best practices through, for example, our blended learning offerings and our Be Communities professional networking site.

Infrastructure has a huge potential in a developing country like India. How is Bentley well-positioned to support this sector in India?
Bentley is extremely well-positioned to support India’s transformation from developing to developed economy. Infrastructure – in particular, better-performing, intelligent infrastructure – is an absolute necessity for India to move forward and achieve its national ambitions. Infrastructure provides many services – everything from transportation to water distribution, housing, communications, health, education and so on – that a thriving economy depends upon to keep growing. Bentley offers software for planning, design, engineering, construction and operation of all classes of infrastructure including roads, bridges, rail, buildings, utility networks, process plants and campuses. Bentley has continued to invest heavily in India, and in terms of total number of Bentley colleagues, India is second only to the U.S.A. Bentley has made strong headway in the country in many addressable markets that deploy geospatial technology including central government agencies, state government agencies, local government agencies, water utilities and civil engineering firms. India remains a focus territory for Bentley, and the company will continue to invest substantially in this region.

One of the challenges in developing countries like India is that the adoption of IT hasn’t been as advanced as in other countries. How do you deal with this challenge?
India embraces information technology as avidly as any other country in Bentley’s experience – you only have to look at the huge number of engineers that India produces. The challenges that the country faces are perhaps most closely linked to governance and the vision needed at a national and state level to be able to plan infrastructure holistically. The countries that are most likely to advance at the quickest pace are those that can plan infrastructure ambitiously and execute well, and India is making tremendous progress in this crucial area.

What are the other major challenges facing sustainable infrastructure in India?
As it is in countries around the globe, the key challenge to sustaining infrastructure in India is to work smarter, together, rather than simply working harder, which everyone is already doing. We define working smarter as leveraging information modelling through integrated projects for higher-performing, intelligent infrastructure. Let me explain.

For an information model to be useful, it must be comprehensive both in breadth and depth. In other words, it must include all the disciplines that come together on any infrastructure asset, and contain sufficient information about each component of the asset to enable all project stakeholders to understand what it is and how it will perform.

With this comprehensive information model, project teams can simulate the performance of the asset before it is built, ensure it will perform in accordance with design intent and maximise its useful life. Bentley takes a ‘federated’ approach to information modelling since the model is comprehensive and contains information from a wide variety of sources. This approach is best typified by Google. Google maintains a database of indexes, and when asked a question, it provides a list of answers in 0.2 seconds. Rather than importing all the contents into a single database, Google simply searches and tags it. Then, when asked a question, it returns links to the source documents, no matter where it is or what it is. That’s the approach to information modelling we take at Bentley.

This brings us to the challenge of integrated projects. Today’s infrastructure projects are almost always large and complex involving hundreds, if not thousands, of engineers, designers and architects spread across multiple geographies. Managing engineering information in this context is hard. Bentley helps our users address this challenge with our ProjectWise collaboration and work-sharing platform. Used by 75 per cent of Engineering News-Record’s Top 100 Design Firms, ProjectWise is the tool of choice for securely managing engineering information content of all types – again, in a federated environment.

Integrated projects also require versatile content reuse facilitated by information mobility with data integrity throughout the various phases in the lifecycle of infrastructure. With an appropriately built information model, portions of it can be reused in the next phase. For example, the structural model can be sent to the steel fabricator for automatic production of steel at the manufacturing site instead of at the construction site. Rebar can be cut and bent to specification automatically at the manufacturing site, and DTM’s can be loaded into machine controlled land graders using GPS for precise grading, exactly as intended. This facilitates just-in-time construction and empowers very high returns on investment. Moreover, data can be handed over from construction to operations so that the asset management systems can be populated automatically with accurate asset information – a huge savings for asset owners.

For this integration to occur, data must be freely exchangeable and that means strict adherence to standards – both industry and de facto standards like PDF, DGN, DWG, PDS, and Esri. At Bentley, we have a long tradition of supporting standards of all types. It goes hand in hand with our federated data approach.

Integration of data through the project also suggests that information must be freely exchangeable to a wide variety of people and data types. Bentley supports all types of plotters and fabrication and construction equipment. One of the most interesting sharing platforms we support is that of mobile devices – for example, providing the ability to share portions of the data model on an iPad. With an iPad on a construction site, users can inform the construction process or perform on-site inspection. Bentley’s iPad apps allow for the redlining or markup of construction files and documents. Once checked into ProjectWise, these redline comments are immediately routed to the design professional who needs to take the necessary action. It’s a 360 degree, closed-loop feedback process all facilitated with an iPad.

The final challenge is to produce intelligent infrastructure, which results from comprehensive information modelling in an integrated project. The key here is the ability to extend the benefits of information modelling throughout the lifecycle of the asset, particularly during the operations and maintenance phase. Unlike the highly iterative design phase where a file-based approach to information management is taken, a component-level approach is required during the operation phase with detailed and accurate information about every item comprising the asset including location, cost, maintenance records, changes and details about who did what and when. Using Bentley’s AssetWise platform for operations information modelling, owners can have visibility of their asset information and the ability to confidently manage change, thereby ensuring the asset performs as intended over its maximum useful life.

By working smarter, together, it is now possible for infrastructure professionals in India – as well as around the globe – to design and build more intelligent infrastructure. These assets will operate as intended, change as required, perform well in the face of adversity, and sustain themselves long into future. Given the demands and constraints of today’s economic and environmental climate, nothing less is required.

What is the market for 3D GIS in India and what’s going to be your strategy for its promotion in the country? Also, how do you intend to integrate the already existing system in 3D environment?
3D GIS is already playing an important role in both cities and utilities. While 3D City GIS is still in its infancy in terms of implementation, the technology for its execution is now there. Cities like Montreal, Paris, Quebec, Toronto, Hamburg, Berlin, and more are already using it. The really good news is that the very same technology people who used to execute 2D geospatial workflows can use 3D workflows because Bentley’s GIS products are inherently 3D – be it desktop products like Bentley Map or our enterprise GIS platform, Bentley Geospatial Server, or our GIS-based utility network design and management environments. There is no need to have a ‘throw-the-switch-to-3D’ mentality. 2D and 3D will exist side by side for a long time. The progress of 3D GIS has more to do with the speed at which workflows and users’ skills progress to embrace 3D than the availability of the technology itself.

Talking about power sector, nuclear power plants are said to be the next big thing in India. I believe you are already working with Nuclear Power Corporation of India. What kinds of capabilities are you offering in this segment, esp., keeping in mind the recent Fukushima, Japan incident?
The legal operation of a nuclear facility is based on the agreed licence guided by the government and industry regulations to ensure safe operations of a facility. The inability to comply within the operating licence and regulations has significant cost implications to the company, and could have safety implications to workers and the community. Nuclear facilities take great care to ensure they have governance policies in place for compliance.

Following Fukushima, societies are bringing increasing pressure on the global nuclear industry to provide transparency and ensure safety is the highest priority. While nuclear industry leaders collaborate and work diligently to meet this demand, the need to provide an accurate account of events in a dynamically changing world and ensure the information shared is trustworthy has never been more important. Embracing advances in information technology, the practice of configuration management (CM) is now gaining widespread recognition as a solution to meet these high integrity information demands. Leading nuclear industry associations, including IAEA, INPO, EPRI and ANSI/NIRMA, have all produced CM guidelines for those organisations wishing to avoid expensive mistakes of the past and ensure information is trustworthy.

Bentley’s AssetWise, which is based on CM principles, delivers a suite of applications that has been developed to comply with regulatory requirements and industry best practice guidelines. Bentley will be speaking on this crucial topic at the upcoming World Nuclear Association’s India International Nuclear Symposium, being held February 21-23, 2012, in New Delhi.

You have been associated with the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, for the Future Cities India 2020 programme since 2006. How has the response been so far, and what are your plans for increasing its awareness in the country?
We were associated with the Department of Science and Technology and operated ‘Future Cities India 2020’ for four years. We have, however, changed our focus to post-secondary schools, where the students are closer to selecting a profession. Our educational programme, which we call Be Careers Network, cost-effectively provides students with the same software used by architects, engineers, constructors and geospatial professionals on commercial projects. It also makes available blended learning in that technology as well as professional networking to help students secure jobs upon graduation. In 2010, we gained 40 additional post-secondary schools in the programme in India, and at the end of November 2011, we have 71 additional schools. Though we no longer are involved in Future Cities India 2020, we continue to grant scholarships for student work through our student design competition. Currently, we are soliciting student submissions for our 2011-2012 competition, which is due on March 6, 2012. In 2011, a student from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) received a scholarship for his project addressing a real-world sewage situation in Amravati.

What is your future strategy for India?
Bentley’s strategy for India is to continue to invest heavily in an economy that has shown remarkable growth over the last decade – growth that will continue to accelerate and enable India to become one of the largest economies in the world. This investment will include further sales, marketing and professional services resources to serve the Indian market, as well as product development resources.