Partnership with Bechtel Bridges Technology Pathway toward Greater Innovation

A demonstration of virtual reality for safety and emergency response training
From left: Russell Hamley, President, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Greater Houston, Ruben Mariduena, Bechtel, Brian Holtkamp, UH Researcher

The University of Houston College of Technology Construction Management (CM) Department hosted a UH-Bechtel Research and Development mixer at the University of Houston Hilton Hotel, on May 10 where ten applied research projects were showcased to sixteen major engineering and construction, oil and gas, and transportation companies. Initiated in 2016 by the Department of Construction Management, the Industry Innovation Partnership program accelerates applied research and commercialization with industry partners. This event provided the opportunity to show the positive impact of successful collaboration.

An information session showcase and forward-looking technology demonstrations included drones for outdoor mapping, site monitoring; augmented reality for project planning and training, voice-based smart construction information system, simulations for transportation, the latest practices in Lean Six Sigma, robotics, supply chain optimization, and intelligent security. A multi-disciplinary team of UH researchers from the Colleges of Engineering and Natural Science and Mathematics joined with the CM Department to collectively demonstrate the power of innovation through multi-disciplinary teams.

“While research and development can benefit our industry partners, the university is positioned advantageously to train our graduate students as future industry innovation leaders,” said Dr. Lingguang Song, interim chair of the Construction Management Department. “We are deeply appreciative of Bechtel’s involvement and support.”

Simulation Research Initiative – College of Technology and Bechtel Q&A

Ira Samm, Bechtel’s EPC value integration lead, presented inspiring information technology trends and ideas to pilot and scale for implementation in future projects. Steve Spoljaric, procurement innovation team leader at Bechtel Oil, Gas, & Chemicals along with Ruben Mariduena, simulation specialist at Bechtel Oil, Gas, & Chemicals, presented the simulation research, MonteMod and MonteTwin, conducted with UH faculty Dr. Lingguang Song and Dr. Ahmed Senouci, and researchers from the industrial engineering and mathematics departments at UH.

COT: How would you describe the simulation research initiative?

Bechtel: Effective module transportation planning is both an art and a science. Bechtel’s Engineered Logistics ™ initiative envisions a scientific quantitative approach to enhance the current planning practice primarily based on expert judgement. MonteMod was built to provide the opportunity for considering risk factors and other operational issues during the planning stage. It can be used as a calculator to estimate project time, cost, and risk, as well as an optimizer to optimize the project plan and resource allocation. In the second phase of the R&D effort, the team also develop a real-time tracking and forecasting tool, MonteTwin, to help managers better predict project outcomes using current and historical performance data.

COT: What benefits can the simulation research offer to Bechtel’s clients?

Bechtel: This simulation tool will transform how we plan for module transportation projects, and more importantly, it will help Bechtel to generate more reliable project plan. With this tool, Bechtel engineers can conduct virtual experiments to evaluate different transportation plans, and further refine them for an optimal plan balancing time, cost and risk performance. An added benefit is the ability to communicate visually with clients through three-dimensional graphics, all before actual operations. This “test-run” capability is otherwise impossible to achieve. Expert judgement along with this simulation-based planning can improve on-time deliveries, and thus offers tremendous savings to clients.

COT: Why is this a good time for an engineering procurement, and construction team to embark on this kind of project?

Bechtel: Decisions in module transportation during early planning or front end engineering (FEED) phases are essential to the viability of a project execution plan and ultimately to the project success. This effort is timely especially for the current business climate: low profit margins, increasing modularization, remote jobsites, dependence on global supply chain, and limited transportation resources. Missing a delivery or installation window can be catastrophic to project schedule and can cause millions or even hundreds of million dollars of financial loss.

News about the research was published in Breakbulk and

A global engineering, construction, and project management giant, Bechtel ranks highly among the most respected companies worldwide. Since the late 1800s, the company has completed more than 25,000 extraordinary projects throughout 160 countries, on all seven continents with operations through four global businesses: Infrastructure; Nuclear, Security and Environmental; Oil, Gas & Chemicals; and Mining and Metals.

The Bechtel Future Fund is designed to accelerate the pace of innovation. Through it, the company seeks out new, game-changing ideas from colleagues, partners, suppliers, customers, and the world at large to improve engineering and construction processes, quality, and safety.