Simon Crowhen, sales manager for Geomatics at Topcon Positioning Ireland, discusses the latest responses and trends from the recent Insights survey, as it is announced that participant Maria O'Neill of Naturgy Ireland has won the prize of an Apple Watch SE worth €300.
Maria O'Neill, a participant in the latest Insights survey published in the Engineers Journal, and a trading analyst at Naturgy Ireland, has scooped the prize of an Apple Watch SE worth €300, courtesy of Topcon Positioning Ireland.
"I always find that the Insights surveys are very informative, even when I don't win a prize," said O'Neill. "Hearing from other fields of engineering helps the industry as a whole and it's useful to get the full picture of where my career can take me, as well as the incredible work engineers are doing to improve society.
"One thing I think is worth highlighting from the 2021 salary report is the 15% difference in median salary between men and women in the three to five years of experience bracket. This strikes me as particularly odd given women's median starting salary is 2% higher than men's.
Maria O'Neill, trading analyst at Naturgy Ireland
"Given how many more women are joining the field and how many extremely talented and hard-working women engineers I know personally, that's something I would like to see improve in the next few years.
"Separately, my interest in engineering and Engineers Ireland began while I was in secondary school. There was a day-long challenge for the STEPS programme with other budding engineers in collaboration with ESB International. At that stage I already knew I wanted to go on to do engineering specifically focused on renewable energy. We had a challenge to design a wind turbine with KNEX and I was hooked.
"I kept up with the STEPS programme and, in fifth year, attended supplementary maths tutorials on Saturdays in Clyde Road. These were a great head start for my Leaving Cert.
"I began studying engineering in UCD in 2014 and kept my Engineers Ireland membership up all the way through, moving to graduate membership when I finished my master's in electrical energy engineering in 2019.
"I'll have been working as a trading analyst, with a focus on product development, for energy supplier Naturgy for two years this June. I took that path as I was interested in the energy market and how I could apply my experience with power systems engineering to energy trading.
"I have found it to be a very interesting and engaging field of work and my training as an engineer has been invaluable to me in an energy market where renewable energy plays such a significant role."
Responses and trends
Meanwhile, Simon Crowhen, sales manager for Geomatics at Topcon Positioning Ireland, discussed the latest responses and trends from the Insights survey.
In the Insights survey, a lack of waste management planning is coming in, in terms of responses, at the highest figure of 24%, with lack of skilled workers in second place at 23% – how would you respond to the significance of these figures?
The industry has always generated waste materials and wasted resource caused by reworks. It is rightly an area of concern and it is closely linked to the issue of skill.
Waste can be managed with the right tools. Using modern methods of construction (MMC) and harnessing the potential of digital technologies will help reduce wastage in all forms, but especially with regards to skill.
A lot of wastage is unavoidable because it stems from the lack of skills our industry contends with – an unskilled worker is less likely to get it right first time or efficiently, meaning overuse of materials and potential reworks in future.
For example, with prefab housing, digital allows a really clear workflow. Everything is built accurately offsite and the process is monitored throughout, as well as these modular structures being faster to construct – saving time and workforce hours.
'Using modern methods of construction and harnessing the potential of digital technologies will help reduce wastage in all forms, but especially with regards to skill.' Simon Crowhen, sales manager for Geomatics at Topcon Positioning Ireland
Poor skills are a problem for us all on many levels. It is vital that the industry works together to upskill our people so we can deliver excellence in our work and help to tackle key issues like material and resource efficiencies.
A total of 80% say it is up to the construction industry to change... would you agree? What changes do they need to make? What about other stakeholders? What about the role of government? Also, what about timelines, ie, what medium- and long-term targets would you set for change to take place by?
Unfortunately, our sector produces lots of physical waste; it’s our responsibility to change working habits to be more efficient. We all need to play our part in protecting the planet, and we should all want to play that part, too. That spans everything from cutting material waste to reducing our carbon footprints.
MMC provide opportunities to improve sustainability efforts in the construction process, but also in the quality of the final product.
External bodies like stakeholders and the government can mandate changes and push us to improve, but really it should come from us as an industry – we should all be striving to work responsibly and deliver excellence.
The Ireland 2040 National Development Plan mentions reducing carbon as one of the priorities and it is a good starting point. But I believe that the single most impactful thing the industry can do is to embrace new technologies.
'External bodies like stakeholders and the government can mandate changes and push us to improve, but really it should come from us as an industry – we should all be striving to work responsibly and deliver excellence.'
Tech has the potential to transform the way we work, generating higher-quality builds with less waste and fewer reworks, and help us to accelerate recovery following the global pandemic.
Industry collaboration scores 45% in the Insights survey while the upskilling of workers comes in at 42%. What sort of collaboration do we need to see? What is Topcon doing in this area. Does it cross borders? The upskilling of workers receives quite a high score, who should fund this – companies, the EU, governments?
The shared benefits afforded by working collaboratively are considerable and it is high time we stopped keeping one another at arm’s length and started working together. With open-book data policies and best practice sharing we can all learn and improve, bringing the sector forwards, together.
Topcon enables collaboration via data sharing – using the same data across all of the site to all facets – improving quality and reducing mistakes. Cloud-based solutions like SiteLink3D v2 and MAGNET Enterprise make data more accessible and it becomes much easier to keep everybody on site (and in the office) on the same page.
Tech informs better decision making and ensures the construction process runs smoothly. Good tech is user-friendly and simple to operate.
'Topcon enables collaboration via data sharing – using the same data across all of the site to all facets – improving quality and reducing mistakes.'
At Topcon, we aim to build intuitive technology that empowers teams by making processes simple, ensuring more of the workforce feels empowered in making better informed decisions.
In the Insights survey, BIM scores 37% while data analytics scores 22%... BIM is critical nowadays ... how does Topcon fare in this field? Regarding data analytics; machine learning; robotics; AI – these areas are also critical to the sector?
BIM is a core element of modern construction. Using data alongside robotic instruments, for example, is a huge advantage because it raises the end product to a higher level.
Topcon has MAGNET Project software to look at mass haul solutions on projects that can hugely improve their logistics and material handling by optimising this across the whole project. Once again looking to reduce time wastage and the associated reduction in CO2.
Topcon has helped the industry move from paper plans to digital drawings on loggers. With the increase of robotics, GPS and machine control, digital has the potential to become the norm across all elements of how we operate and the benefits of adopting this tech can be huge.
'Topcon has MAGNET Project software to look at mass haul solutions on projects that can hugely improve their logistics and material handling by optimising this across the whole project. Once again looking to reduce time wastage and the associated reduction in CO2.'
A total of 82% say not enough emphasis being put on digital tech...this is a very high figure and perhaps a reflection of a rapidly evolving sector rather than anything else, would you agree? What is Topcon engaging in with regard to digital and smart tech?
One way of putting a higher emphasis on tech is by ensuring it is available to all. Our Robotic Total Stations (RTS), layout navigators and GPS units are user-friendly and intuitive to break down the barrier that there is a perceived difficulty to adopting digital. This smart tech is evolving all the time, but it isn’t new.
Construction is still catching up with other industries in terms of digital adoption. In farming, for instance, automated systems have been used for a long time.
They’ve seen the productivity benefits and continued to invest because typically the project team is on the ground, using this tech day in and day out, but with so many different teams operating on just one project in construction, it has naturally been a slower uptake.
'Our Robotic Total Stations (RTS), layout navigators and GPS units are user-friendly and intuitive to break down the barrier that there is a perceived difficulty to adopting digital.'
Digital adoption in construction is continuing to gain momentum, but only by collaborating and sharing best practice can we really put the spotlight on how much technology can enhance our workflows and performance.
Robotics; BIM, Autocad; project management; machine learning; data analytics have all been listed as the main areas that staff would wish to train in. What developments are you engaged in within this field. Are there any other courses – especially CPD related ones – that you would like to see being offered by Engineers Ireland?
There is no denying that there is a skills gap in construction. Our focus is on levelling the gap through technology. Part of that is supporting tertiary level institutions with our education partnership programme (EPP). We teach them about current practices so they know how to use the processes and tech on the sites they will be on in the near future.
At Topcon, we are also working with partners like Design Engineer Construct (DEC) to expand the reach of our involvement on the educational side, into secondary level educational institutions. It is important we open the eyes of the following generation to the possibilities of a career in our industry before they get to making important decisions about their next step in education.
Apprenticeships remain important – they’re a huge opportunity for us as an industry to ensure the next generation has the relevant experience. We all need to invest in training to create the best workforce we can.
It is not just about the next generation, though. Businesses across the industry should be committed to upskilling existing workforces and CPD should be a key component of everyone’s role.
'There is no denying that there is a skills gap in construction. Our focus is on levelling the gap through technology. Part of that is supporting tertiary level institutions with our education partnership programme (EPP). We teach them about current practices so they know how to use the processes and tech on the sites they will be on in the near future.'
So many CPD courses exist, from intensive online studying to quicker editorial-led quizzes to learn about the latest developments in the industry or refresh the memory. It’s important that we, as an industry, encourage our people to be curious and feed their enthusiasm to learn.