Create momentum for innovative engineering solutions

IIn the real world, breakthrough innovations rarely happen by chance or luck; they’re best built steadily from years of experience and structured collaboration, according to global engineers and scientists SRK Council.

In today’s digital world, there are many opportunities for smart apps, gadgets and inventions. The real challenge, however, is to embed continuous improvement into a company’s workflow – so that staff and customers can build on past experience and achievements for a smarter future. According to SRK Consulting Managing Director Vis Reddy, the company has been recognized for many years for technical innovation; now it takes the process up a notch.

“As a global network, SRK has always believed in the power of collaboration – especially across disciplines and regions of the world – and the digital age has offered tools to enhance this,” Reddy said. “With the organization now spread across 45 offices around the world, it’s not always easy to take full advantage of all the experience on offer.”

[L-R]: Tracey Drew, senior environmental scientist and head of the company’s data services department; Vis Reddy, Managing Director and Xanthe Adams, the Principal Engineer who launched the Innovation Workshops at SRK Consulting.

For about six years, the company has been actively consolidating its efforts to further embed innovation through systematic collaboration across practices and countries. In South Africa, this includes regular innovation workshops, which in recent years have embraced online communication. These platforms have also enabled greater international engagement, networking, sharing of ideas and innovations across continents.

“A lot of these discussions focus on value opportunities in collecting, analyzing and sharing data across the organization,” he said. “The projects we engage in often generate large amounts of data to process, but sharing the results and lessons learned can be of great benefit to colleagues in similar fields in other offices.”

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He pointed to the increasing pace of work enabled by constantly improving software and computing power, and that customer expectations were continually evolving to expect faster results. The speed itself, however, was only an advantage; the most important aspect of automated processes, for example, was to provide more time and better data on which analysis could be performed.

Tracey Drew, senior environmental scientist and head of the company’s data services department, which also provides strategic innovation support, noted that a company’s success in innovation can be reflected in its ability to solve traditional problems and accelerate business activities, processes and skills. . How technology is adopted should also enable a change in the way people work and the opportunities they have to deliver new solutions.

“Among the forums we use to share ideas and promote innovation in our day-to-day business life are our lunchtime pitch events,” Drew said. “This is an informal lunchtime event where a presenter shares their experience, invention or useful idea as a learning opportunity for others – inspiring feedback and collaboration.”

According to Xanthe Adams, the Principal Engineer who pioneered the Innovation Workshops at SRK and an expert in Digital Transformation: Water, many of our innovations developed by the company’s engineers and scientists make more productive work processes, while the best ones help implement or even improve industry best practices.

“Data science is an increasingly important foundation for much of our work, enabling us to develop effective and innovative solutions that customers can rely on,” Adams said. “Using modern sensors to help generate more accurate and reliable data, for example, allows us to take the next step in developing smart solutions with better results.”

Water monitoring is an area that can contribute significantly to South Africa’s water challenges, and technology is opening the door to new ways to manage and protect this precious resource. She said the remote water monitoring process is well developed and sensor data can now be streamed wirelessly for real-time analysis.

“The real innovation comes from leveraging the Internet of Things into a complete system that addresses a customer’s water risk,” she said. “If a pre-designed data source and algorithms can be applied to real-time chemical analysis of a stream, for example, it might be possible to alert the owner of the actual source to unacceptable levels of certain chemicals. chemicals.”

Larger volumes of accurate data – or “big data” – are also becoming vital where historical data is no longer a reliable guide to the future. With climate change, for example, it is no longer sufficient to rely on the last century of rainfall data to determine bloodlines when designing civil or other structures near natural waterways, a Reddy said.

“When determining appropriate design parameters for decades to come, we need to rely much more on climate and precipitation patterns from the past five years to identify new trends,” he said. “That means we need the tools to extract all possible clues from the most recent data, which often requires new methods and technologies.”

SRK’s reputation for quality research, integrity and independent advice has laid the foundation for working closely with customers to push the boundaries of technology, Drew said.

“Innovation is most effective when it can underpin or accompany a practical solution for a customer or an industry,” she said. “As SRK continues to build its own internal innovation channels and forums, we anticipate even more constructive contributions to both actual customer projects and broader industry practices.”

Jennifer C. Burleigh