We are looking at a system where we can laser scan the built asset, and use artificial intelligence to check if all the assets match the model. So if, for instance, the fire stops are not in the right places, that will quickly be flagged.”
Wimpenny acknowledges that clients do not always see the benefits of BIM, from a quality, FM or whole-life operational perspective.
“We are quite fortunate in the BAM group to have the whole project life cycle represented – property, design, construction and FM – and that does influence our digital strategy,” he says.
This “overarching view” of the sector is a key USP for the group, Wimpenny believes, and is reflected in graduate training. “They get to see all parts of the business through secondments,” he explains. “People have historically stayed in one business, now we might send them across to the Netherlands. We’re trying to bring through people who are comfortable talking about digital to customers at all stages of the life cycle.
“This is important because we want long-term, collaborative relationships with our clients, such as with Argent at King’s Cross. Digital makes it easier to collaborate – working in a virtual environment, making adjustments to models, which allow you quickly to see the cost implications.”
A conundrum for all construction companies is that, while young recruits come into the business digitally literate, many in the existing workforce are not. BAM is trying to address that through a formalised mentoring system, where the digital skills of younger generations are matched up with technical knowhow of established workers to share knowledge. “Mentoring has always been there informally, but we’ve recognised it needs more structure because of the speed of change,” says Wimpenny.
Wimpenny expects more digital skills to come into the industry from outside construction. “I can see more roles emerging for data analysts – if the attitude is right, we can train the necessary technical construction skills,” he says.
Casting the recruitment net wider is also, Wimpenny adds, an important part of BAM’s Brexit safety net strategy. As is boosting diversity. Wimpenny set up BAM’s diversity steering group three years ago, hiring a consultant to provide a “useful” external insight. “Since then, we’ve run unconscious bias training, introduced ‘blind’ CVs for all recruitment, and last year we supported Pride,” he says.
BAM has decided not to set gender quotas. “A nice ‘problem’ we have is that people tend to stay here a long time, so it is harder to get women in to senior roles – the opportunities aren’t there,” Wimpenny explains. “However, more female recruits are coming through at graduate trainee level and among apprentices.”
Diversity in apprenticeships
BAM focuses its recruitment on apprentice-ships, and since the levy changed two years ago, Wimpenny says it has “allowed us to develop bespoke training, more connected to what we do, than generic industry schemes”. He also sees it as the best way to boost diversity; the company currently has 18 women in apprenticeships, around a fifth of the total, and the CEO says the “proportion is progressively going up”.