11 september by Jasper Schmeits
"We are not an IT specialist, we are not a drone specialist, and we do not drill boreholes ourselves. So what do we do?
Understanding ‘the question behind the question’ and coming up with the best solution is our strength!"
Jasper Schmeits, Innovation Manager at Tauw
It is 5 August 2016 and I have an appointment with my new colleague, Morrisson Kramer, who has sent me the following information:
I see that you will be back in Deventer on Monday; why don't we have a cup of coffee together?
I take a quick look at his background on LinkedIn; data systems, system engineering, virtual reality and BIM. I am immediately interested by virtual reality, but find the other topics less relevant. We enjoy the sunny weather as we stroll through Deventer and talk in more detail about our daily activities. Morrisson explains what he does and I proudly tell him about one of my projects: a visual description of a research location based on publicly available data and data specifically gathered for the project.
We are using a Conceptual Site Model (CSM) to identify the knowledge gaps in this soil survey. Not only does this help clarify what we need to do next, it is also useful when explaining the situation to stakeholders (contracting authorities, residents and other interested parties) whose knowledge of soil ecology is less well-developed. I have noticed that one particular process has to be repeated almost every time: you retrieve large amounts of data from different systems first, store that data and then correlate it to create a visual image. My added value as a soil consultant only comes into play when interpreting that image. How can pollution spread and what knowledge gaps do we need to investigate? Unfortunately, this activity only accounts for 20% of the time. Most of the time is spent visualising all the available data.
This inspires Morrisson and he immediately asked me to send him some examples. He needs to understand how I produce models of this type more clearly, but already has ideas about how the process can be optimised. We arrange a try-out session to put his ideas to the test and, in just half an hour, he creates images of three-dimensional buildings, displays cross-sections and presents things ‘live’ that I normally have to spend hours working on. I am an immediate convert!
Now it’s time for lobbying; persuading the right internal stakeholders and gaining their support, presenting the idea to the “old hands” - soil specialists with long-standing experience in the industry, finding the most suitable method, arranging investment budgets, approaching customers, etc. All
the different elements are essential, but good examples prove to have the greatest effect. Instead of just presenting ‘the idea’, we succeeded immediately in demonstrating added value for soil specialists and customers.
I am proud of the rapid improvement that 3D CSM has brought about in terms of the speed and quality of the process. The use of 3D CSM should become part of every soil consultant's training; it facilitates the correct implementation process. Soon, we won’t be able to do without it anymore and it gives us the opportunity of focusing on creating added value. I challenge this team to think about the possible applications of 3D CSM; ideas that will allow us to deliver added value (identify knowledge gaps) in a virtual world, or in combination with machine learning in a way that transparently lets us present the process for identifying knowledge gaps.
We are the party that analyses the background to all these specialisms (drones, boreholes, etc.) in order to resolve ‘the question behind the question’. Our strength lies in combining all these different inputs to create a final product that has added value for our client. So we do not have to be an expert drone specialist, we only need to know when deploying a drone can be helpful. The trick is to combine the right professional disciplines.