Future Forward: Infrastructure Technology Ready for Another Leap Forward
This particular interview was recorded by Todd Danielson, the editorial director of Informed Infrastructure. You can watch a video of the full interview above or by visiting bit.ly/3DW5S7N.
Technology means everything to Sam Hendrick. It’s his passion and why he calls himself a “technologist” even though his official title is “senior consultant” with Bentley Systems.
“For me, technologist is somebody who’s immersed in any given technology,” he explains. “My world is all about the software.”
Time for Another Evolution
With a career that began in the 1980s, Hendrick has seen a lot of change in the infrastructure industry. He believes there have been several moments of booming technological advancement between periods of adoption and settling so the technology can be used without too much disruption. He also believes another moment of advancement is upon us.
“I think that jump is going to be transitioning away from the 2D world and moving fully into 3D,” he says. “Virtually designing it, sending it out to bid, and then having it constructed and maintained with a 3D model.”
Hendrick notes that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law from 2021 will help jumpstart a technology shift due to the large amounts of long-term funding and requirements to use technology to work “smarter” through automation.
“I think they’re going to be moving to virtual design construction or a VDC model, BIM and BDC (building, design and construction),” he explains. “We’re getting ready for another shift.”
Don’t Forget the Users
Hendrick has faith that the technology is ready for the next evolution, but it will be some of the users who will face the most difficulty. He cites the current challenges in hiring and maintaining a capable workforce as the baby boomer generation retires. Fortunately, he believes the next generation is in better position to adjust to the latest technological advancements.
“I think the boomers are preventing [a shift to 3D] from happening because they grew up on the drafting table, they grew up with 2D, they grew up with ‘send out a pdf, send out a print,’” adds Hendrick. “People now are coming into the workforce knowing Minecraft and playing Halo, so they’re better prepared for working in the 3D world.”
He also believes companies and firms need to pay more attention to training and transitioning workers to new technologies and workflows.
“You can change your software, your workflow, and you can write up the document for the process, but if people aren’t educated or feel comfortable doing it, it fails,” warns Hendrick. “Don’t forget about the educational component and the users.”
Hendrick recalls a specific example where a high-level executive decided to go in a technology direction without consulting the users it would impact. It failed and cost the company millions of dollars as they threw out the new implementation and went back to what they were doing before. To avoid similar failures, Hendrick recommends finding technology “champions” and incorporating users in research and development as well as technology deployment.
“You’re winning people over, and they feel part of the process as opposed to being the last person in line, getting whatever’s left,” he adds.
The Children Are the Future
As a final tip, Hendrick reminds us to embrace change—the one true constant—and have an open mind to technology. He even has advice for potentially concerned parents of gamers.
“If their child is playing Minecraft, don’t stress too much about it because that is preparing them in a way for modeling in 3D and the logic that comes along with those programs,” he explains. “It is their world, and it will be their world. It may not be their parents’ world, and they may not understand it, but find the balance with your kids. The same is true for companies.”