Q&A: Discussion with OhSung Kwan, Head of Digital Engineering

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We live in the age of digital disruption and we need bold digital and technology leadership more than ever. Leading this change requires knowledge, imagination, a new way of thinking, an appetite to reinvent and the courage to defy convention.

In this series, we celebrate our team of digital and tech experts and visionaries spearheading the development and delivery of our cutting-edge solutions for smarter work and better lives in Asia Pacific (APAC ).

For this feature, we caught up Oh Sung Kwan, our Head of Digital Engineering, who has received high praise from customers, contractors, suppliers and has now been invited by industry think tanks to look into digitalization in industry. OhSung talks about the relevance of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and its benefits, as well as how digital broadcast technologies are driving innovation in the digital world.

Tell us about yourself and what excites you most about your role.

I am a certified civil engineer from Seoul, South Korea. I have had the good fortune to work across the world on numerous projects and programs for nearly three decades. I am passionate about digital engineering tools and their capabilities and have successfully deployed solutions and products in this space since 1995. When I started my career my goal was to successfully lead the digital transformation of ‘a major program to meet the requirements of the client using my skills, experience and ideas, while strengthening the skills of all its stakeholders.

I am currently working on the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (TWRP) – a major infrastructure project helping to close the water loop for Singapore. This is a unique, complex and multidisciplinary project for the design and construction of industrial and domestic wastewater treatment plants. The client had very ambitious plans to implement BIM 6D, and the journey to date has been a collaboration with all stakeholders involved in the project. As a result, we have achieved an industry-leading digital transformation. It’s fair to say that I was able to achieve the career goals I set at the start of my career on this project.

It’s always exciting to be in a field that is constantly pushing the boundaries of technology. It’s even more rewarding to be able to use my skills and experience not only to deliver something iconic, but also to help teams and projects develop their digital capabilities.

You’ve been with Jacobs for more seven years. How has digitization changed the way you work over the years? Can you share some examples?

I have been working in digital engineering for over 26 years – during this time I have seen more and more projects and teams embrace digital transformation. In the beginning, digitization in our industry was mostly about graphics and graphics. Today, it is the information model as a whole. Much of this is about data and how it is managed, stored and accessed. As a result, the demand for data engineers, data analysts, and database managers is increasing. Tools have come a long way, and so have hardware. Customers and entrepreneurs are better educated and informed. Project participants examine the entire landscape of georeferencing information, project information models, and digital twins to create the digital engineering metaverse. It’s mind-boggling to think of where the industry will be 26 years from now.

Jacobs is at the forefront of adopting and adapting digitization. This not only allows us to get a head start in providing service to clients, but also allows managers like me to support and cultivate improved capabilities within delivery teams.

What are the benefits of implementing BIM and what types of projects are suitable for implementing BIM?

As the industry quickly embraces digital ways of working, the interaction between information sources is becoming more and more crucial. At the root of it all is one source of truth. This is where the information model comes in. Within a project, the Information Model (BIM) provides a much better interface, interaction and interoperability between engineering disciplines during design. This extends to the delivery phase of construction when information collaboration is required between the client, the consultant and the contractor. It further enables a seamless transition to the Asset Information model during the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) phase – a critical requirement for the customer as they prepare for the digital transformation themselves. Adopting a project information model also increases the efficiency of non-technical and non-graphical outputs such as schedule, cost, and O&M data.

Simply put, information modeling dramatically improves project delivery and asset management. Therefore, all projects requiring technical design will benefit from the implementation of BIM.

Digital disruption can be a doorway to new opportunities. How have emerging digital delivery technologies / tools helped drive innovation in BIM?

The main digital disruption entering the market is digital twin and cloud-based digital delivery management platforms. These emerging technologies and platforms make digital production accessible to all stakeholders. You don’t need the computer-aided design (CAD) draftsman or BIM coordinator to access the information you need. Moreover, since non-graphical information is also integrated into these tools, all stakeholders can access the data they need with a much more user-friendly interface. It also enables better collaboration between customer, entrepreneur and consultant data, which lends itself to better information exchange and promotes innovative delivery methods. We have deployed such a platform at TWRP, and it has undoubtedly improved the management of collaboration and delivery.

Tell us about an exciting project you’ve worked on or are working on?

Each project I have participated in has been unique and exciting in its own way. I have worked on commercial / high rise buildings, airports, oil and gas factories, subways, roads and highways, nuclear power plants, shipyards and water / wastewater treatment plants.

The TWRP project is also unique in that we are making huge strides on the digital delivery side. This was an ambitious schedule to complete the tender based on a template of 18 different major work packages, covering 75 installations. The number of data points and the associated complexity in multidisciplinary model files make the digital management of outputs very complex and difficult for existing hardware and software. Therefore, an integrated and innovative approach to working was needed both within the company and between parties, including software vendors. The resulting successes not only impact within the company, but also across the industry in Singapore – we have been invited by some of the industry think tanks to participate in initiatives to standardize practices. digital engineering in various industries so that others can replicate them. success. The recognition and positive momentum is the result of a forward thinking client, strong leadership from the Jacobs project team, and a collaborative environment among stakeholders of the program at large. These ingredients make the TWRP project an exciting project to work on.

BIM helps bring cutting-edge building design to life. What are the top three skills needed to become a successful BIM professional?

I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in construction management. I have also held design, construction and project management positions during my career. All of these strengthened my knowledge of engineering and project delivery, which in turn helped me become a better digital engineer. Understanding and experience of basic engineering, design processes, design management, construction delivery, information management principles, design for safety and requirements regulations certainly help to become a good professional in digital engineering.

But above all, one of the critical skills required is an attitude of adaptation to new ways of working. It requires a level of flexibility and openness to break away from traditional tools and processes and embrace technology to deliver better service and product.

People would be surprised to know that …

I have worked with over 60 different BIM tools during my career including the design and development of software such as Knowledge Management Databases, Project Information Management Systems (PMIS), SharePoint and the mobile construction management system. People may also be surprised to know that pushing the limits of digital engineering capabilities is my hobby too!

What did you learn last week?

For most of my career, I have traveled for work. This meant that I unfortunately couldn’t spend a lot of time with my wife and family. I have been away from home for long stays over the past seven years. Fortunately, my wife was able to join me this year in Singapore. So, I am learning the life of a couple again!

If you’re not in the office, what would we likely find you doing?

During my stay in Dubai, you will probably find me somewhere in the desert. I loved the quiet of being there so I made frequent visits to remote places outside of town.

In Singapore, you are likely to find me at a bowling alley.

I also volunteer my time to help people learn new software and tools related to digital engineering. I love to teach and share my knowledge with others.

What do you love most about being a part of #OurJacobs?

I love the projects we do and the contribution we make to helping clients solve some of the world’s most complex problems. During my time at Jacobs I also had the chance to meet some great people from the US, UK and now Singapore. Some have also become very good friends. I also appreciate the opportunity to teach digital engineering to the whole Jacobs family around me – it’s great to see the “never too late to learn” attitude. The Singapore leadership team has also been very supportive in truly cultivating digital transformation at all levels.


Join the #OurJacobs team

What motivates you motivates us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable.

We are always looking for dynamic and committed people to join our team. Bring your passion, ingenuity and vision. Let’s see the impact we can create.

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