Transforming Lives Through Technology

By Mel Sim

Gamuda isn’t just transforming lives through its construction and development projects; it’s also looking within to enable its talent for the future through digital excellence. We speak to John Lim Ji Xiong, Lead for the Gamuda Excellence Transformation (GET) unit, to learn more about the initiatives in place.

It goes without saying that technology has made a huge impact in our lives, even more so now in view of the pandemic. It is effectively so ingrained in our everyday that it is hard to imagine life without it.

However, what we need to constantly remind ourselves is that even with the best of digital tools, without the bright minds behind them, technology would not be where it is today. And of course, as the saying goes, no man is an island so without these bright minds coming together to brainstorm and collaborate, digitalisation would not be what it is now.

This is precisely the message behind Gamuda Excellence Transformation (GET), a unit in Gamuda that was instituted in 2020 to elevate digital excellence by driving innovation and partnerships across teams. The unit comprises of the company’s best digital and data experts to collaborate with all business units to improve the construction giant’s digital engineering landscape and catalyse innovative opportunities. Think of it as a community of like-minded individuals who want to see technology transform the day-to-day work at Gamuda and work closely to chart new ideas for future projects.

“With the many grassroots innovation successes in the past few years, the company saw the need to provide a space for tech savvy talents to thrive. Digital engineering has also been a key requirement by clients across the world for megaprojects because they are also keen to see the advancement of the industry,” explains John Lim Ji Xiong, Head of GET.

The unit is driven by four key pillars. Digital Engineering Governance, which is to develop Gamuda’s technology landscape and talent pool; Data Excellence, which involves innovating processes in the company and creating digital growth opportunities; Digital Empowerment, which works at creating innovative leaders and empowering them to innovate; and finally, Community, which is to provide a steady pipeline of innovative talent and ideas. For more details on GET, watch this video.

Tech Construction
Why the need for technology in an industry like construction? For starters, the industry itself is one of the least digitalised industries in the world but in recent years, the creation and adoption of construction technology has created many new synergies and success stories. “We have seen great success in various grassroots innovation activities such as the Autonomous Tunnel Boring Machine, drone surveying, building information modelling and more. Some of these have won prestigious international innovation awards. Recognising the potential, we aim to catalyse our staff and change the industry narrative by being an innovation powerhouse in construction,” shares Lim.

Gamuda itself has made tremendous stride in this area. “Our novel Autonomous Tunnel Boring Machine has made it possible to use Artificial Intelligence algorithms to control the operation of tunnel boring machines. This achievement has been hailed as a significant milestone in the history of tunnel boring and is recognised by two tunnel innovation awards. It was in fact developed in house by our young engineers in Malaysia so truly, it is an achievement for the country as well,” says Lim.

Other technological breakthroughs for the company include spearheading the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the region (Gamuda is among the first in the region to adopt BIM LEVEL 2 for a project of MRT’s scale), going fully digital with paperless site forms through rugged tablets distributed on site, and extensively using drone surveying on projects to capture 3D images of the site. With all these in place, it’s obvious that employing technology in the industry is the way forward, and Gamuda having these in place makes it a leader and forward-thinker in the industry. “This has also translated into the wider industry having to adopt and upskill,” says Lim.

The message is clear: With innovation, new ideas and new methods can be birthed, and that’s exactly what GET aims to do – innovate. “Digital innovation provides obvious advantages. Digital platforms enable stakeholders to work together and eliminate the risk of miscommunication and rework. It results in transparency where cost and progress can be easily tracked to ensure the project is executed on time. Through automation, man hours spent on work can be reduced. Digitised data can also be kept securely for future reference. And of course, it provides us with insight where data can be mined for analysis,” says Lim.

The concept of innovation itself is so broad so how does it fit in a corporate setting like Gamuda’s? Where does it start and where does it end? “Innovation starts with many ideas. Ideas are narrowed down through selection and ranking to pick the best ones. Then these ideas are developed through structured programmes that include design thinking workshops as part of our Business Innovation Programme (BIP). This enables us to de-risk the innovation process by involving our subject matter experts in the process. Finally, it is the execution of the idea using regular sprints to track progress,” explains Lim.

What’s on the list of innovation for GET? At the moment, Lim says the unit is focusing on construction technology and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) technology. “We pick what to focus on based on the needs of our projects, trends in the industry, ideas of our staff as well as the technical feasibility of executing the idea. Right now, we believe there is great potential in this space,” he says.

New Minds Needed
Of course, for the unit to achieve all of this – again, bright minds need to come together to collaborate. Therefore, Gamuda is on the lookout for “brave, bright young graduates who are not afraid to fail, who are imaginative, who are willing to try and constantly experience, and who have worked on interesting projects in the past,” explains Lim.

To attract these individuals, especially STEM graduates who would normally not consider working in the construction industry as it is perceived to be backward, Gamuda is changing the narrative through the various things it is doing in GET. Lim’s take on why this is the industry for the future? “Construction offers a unique environment due to the inherent challenges that enable greater opportunities, growth, leadership and strategic thought to be developed. It is also a large untapped industry with huge potential for change.”

Want to learn more about GET and what it does? Get on its platform here where you can read about new ideas and even join in on events, activities, and challenges.

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