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The Future of Architecture and Engineering: A Q&A with AJCE Secretary General Yoshi Yamashita

Yoshi Yamashita
YoshiYamashita
Secretary General
Association of Japanese Consulting Engineers (AJCE)
In an industry centered around innovation, the question always remains – what’s next?  To help answer this, we’ve launched a series of blog posts exploring the past, present, and future trends in architecture, engineering, and construction consultancies. Over the next few months, follow along with us as industry leaders share their thoughts. In this post we spoke to Yoshi Yamashita, Secretary General of the Association of Japanese Consulting Engineers (AJCE), headquartered in Japan. Yoshi is a trained civil engineer and works to enhance the status and competence of private Japanese consulting engineers through his work at AJCE. Q: What do you think is the most significant trend that will impact the future of the AEC industry in your region over the next 5 years? A:  Keeping the economic growth rate up--which is linked to budget on public works In Japan, the maintenance and renovation of social infrastructure from the past 50 years of development will be a significant project. Strengthening alliances and development through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). In Japan, there is a decreasing trend of young professional engineers’ participation in our industry, coupled with the aging of tenured engineers. Q: How do you see the current role of AEC firms shifting, what do you think is causing that shift, and how must AEC firms react to survive? A:  From domestic to global. The demand and capacity of the domestic market is limited, though the domestic market is safer and easier in terms of long term survival. This makes AEC firms act protectively and conservatively. It’s important to remember that escaping from challenges cannot guarantee success in international markets. While the domestic market is in good condition, AEC firms should invest in business development in the overseas market – human resources, tools and systems (and know-how), experience, and investment. To be successful, AEC firms need a specialist’s advice, alliance with overseas firms, development through M&A, etc. Q: Knowing what you know today, are there things you would or could have done differently to prepare for or react to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? Are there things that you are doing differently now because of the GFC? How have you evolved your processes or policies post-GFC? A: This is a difficult question. We should train ourselves to distinguish if we are doing or going to do something beneficial to people, not for money. However, proper service remuneration is necessary to keep firms sustainable and to gain rewarding future opportunities for young engineers. Q: What is the biggest challenge you are currently tackling within your firm or association? A:  Consolidation with related associations to better represent our industry to the client and to society. This will also create business opportunities. Education and capacity building of young professionals who can compete in the international market. Involvement in political decision making processes--this is a very tough challenge. Q: How has your office environment changed, and how is your firm continuing to evolve your workplace environment, procedures, and technologies, to accommodate the evolving demands of the incoming millennial workforce? What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc.? A:  The effort of our association (AJCE) is to promote the opportunity of capacity building for young professionals and business development of member firms through an exchange program with overseas FIDIC Member Associations. FIDIC tools and trainings are used to facilitate challenges. Business development or deployment in domestic and international markets are basically in the hands of each firm. CEO’s policy and strategy are key to success. Association’s support on this matter is limited. To become a stakeholder is one of the most important objectives in future. Government has been leading and controlling the infrastructure market in Japan. To get out of this difficulty, we must expand our business overseas and increase competence of professionals. How? Education in school and firms (English proficiency, international way of thinking, more exchange with foreign people, business debates, risk awareness, integrity, etc.), alliance with FIDIC Member Associations, training of young professionals in foreign firms or through overseas projects, successful mergers and acquisitions (M&A), etc. Above all, motivation, seriousness, middle-long term strategy, and a financial perspective from CEOs are deemed to be the most essential factor. Author’s note: These answers are my personal opinion, and thus do not represent the opinions of AJCE. This post is part of a question and answer series with global industry leaders on the future of the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries.

The Future of Architecture and Engineering: A Q&A with STD-företagen Managing Director Magnus Höij

Magnus Höij
MagnusHöij
Managing Director
Swedish Federation of Consulting Engineers and Architects
In an industry centered around innovation, the question always remains – what’s next?  To help answer this, we’ve launched a series of blog posts exploring the past, present, and future trends in architecture, engineering, and construction consultancies. Over the next few months, follow along with us as industry leaders share their thoughts. In this post we spoke to Magnus Höij, Managing Director of the Swedish Federation of Consulting Engineers and Architects (STD-företagen) headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. Magnus joined the Swedish Federation of Consulting Engineers and Architects in 2014. He was previously editor-in-chief for several publications, including Computer Sweden and Internet World, covering topics on IT and online services. He has great interest in the technology, marketing, organization, and personal skills needed to make a successful business and has penned several books on IT and business. Q: What do you think is the most significant trend that will impact the future of the AEC industry in your region over the next 5 years? A: Globalization and digitalization will probably be two the trends that we will talk a lot about and that will have big impact for our industry. The processes and legal frameworks will be increasingly global, which will lead to a global market for expertise and knowledge. Digitalization will not only help us work more efficiently, we will be able to construct new things and we will be able to participate in the dialogue with customers and other constructors in the building process even more than today. Q: How do you see the current role of AEC firms shifting, what do you think is causing that shift, and how must AEC firms react to survive? A: The need for innovation in the world of construction and infrastructure is huge. As companies, we need to meet this need with a higher degree of new and provocative ideas, based on our deep understanding of the technological framework. But we also need to bring in new perspectives from not only engineers, but also architects, behavioral scientists, statisticians, political analysts, etc. in order to tie these trends and insights together. Q: Knowing what you know today, are there things you would or could have done differently to prepare for or react to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? Are there things that you are doing differently now because of the GFC? How have you evolved your processes or policies post-GFC? A: I wasn’t in this industry at that time. However, I think that our industry is working with issues that could in many ways be needed to avoid this kind of crisis. A good infrastructure is a foundation of a modern society. Without it, the society is more vulnerable. Our ability to tell that story to politicians and decision makers will also determine how well we will manage the next financial crisis. Q: What is the biggest challenge you are currently tackling within your firm or association? A: Our ability to adopt to the rapid changes in the marketplace. Our companies are quickly becoming both more global, crossing borders to other industries and facing challenges from totally new players in the market. As an organization, we need to keep up with these changes, understand the new landscape, and try to lead the way for the industry in to the future, not be dragged there. Q: How has your office environment changed, and how is your firm continuing to evolve your workplace environment, procedures, and technologies, to accommodate the evolving demands of the incoming millennial workforce? What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc.? A: The most important part of taking care of younger staff is about leadership. We must make sure that each and everyone can find his or her best way to contribute. Teamwork is so important in the modern work life. That could, in part, be done by adding new tools, hardware, physical planning of the office, work hours, etc. But everyone is unique in so many ways, that each leader must be able to adapt to each situation. Investing in leadership skills is priority 1, 2, and 3. This post is part of a question and answer series with global industry leaders on the future of the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries.

The Future of Architecture and Engineering: A Q&A with CESA Manager Wallace Mayne

Wallace Mayne
WallaceMayne
Manager
Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA)
In an industry centered around innovation, the question always remains – what’s next?  To help answer this, we’ve launched a series of blog posts exploring the past, present, and future trends in architecture, engineering, and construction consultancies. Over the next few months, follow along with us as industry leaders share their thoughts. In this post we spoke to Wallace Mayne, Principal Engineer and Manager of Contractual Affairs for Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA). As manager, Wallace provides assistance to member firms and clients relating to new legislation surrounding procurement and contracts as well as other legal matters affecting CESA. Wallace is a trained civil engineer and has worked on the City Council of Johannesburg as well as the Water Institute of Southern Africa. Wallace holds a Bachelors and Masters in Civil Engineer as well as an MBA from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Note: The latest Biennial Economic Capacity Survey (BECS) compiled by CESA for the period January-June 2015 provides an overview of the engineering sector and forms the basis for most of the answers provided below. Q: What do you think is the most significant trend that will impact the future of the AEC industry in your region over the next 5 years? A: The most significant trend impacting the future of the South African AEC industry is the poor state of the national economy. The economy has a very low growth rate (between 1.5-2.5%) and may take 5 years or longer to recover. The low growth rate/depressed economy is exasperated by the problems that have beset public sector procurement. The public sector accounts for 57% of the fee income of CESA member firms. Problems include: Procurement irregularities/ corruption (including award of tenders to middlemen who ‘on sell’ the tenders to competent AEC firms) Discounting of fees (average level 25%), Mismanagement of budgets (slow release of projects into the market-place), Relegation of quality standards for firms and a focus on Price and Preference (an award of preference points for achieving transformation e.g. black ownership, training spend, etc.) Slow or non-payment by clients (by both Public and Private Sector, but especially Private Sector) Another major trend (threat) impacting our sector is the diminishing number of experienced engineers in our sector Q: How do you see the current role of AEC firms shifting, what do you think is causing that shift, and how must AEC firms react to survive? A:  Regarding the shifting of the current role of AEC firms and what might be causing that shift: The true role of consulting engineers (planning, design and monitoring) has not significantly altered except in the sense that: Firms have had to struggle for work and focus on business principles in addition to technical expertise The majority of Public Sector clients have an acute shortage of managers with technical expertise and where possible/permitted the firms are assisting the clients in this regard Firms are assisting clients in arranging finance for their projects e.g. Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), approaching development banks, arranging loans Considering how AEC firms must react to survive (and how they have reacted): Consolidation of firms (bigger firms ‘buying up’ smaller firms’) Entry of multi-national firms into South Africa to merge with the bigger South African firms Firms are looking for work elsewhere, beyond South Africa borders, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, where 24% of the total fee income was derived Many firms are forming joint ventures with and developing wholly black-owned firms to boost their preference points in the public sector procurement process Smaller firms are cutting back on training, mentoring, and coaching investment as these are no longer affordable in the current environment of ‘tight/very low margins’. Q: Knowing what you know today, are there things you would or could have done differently to prepare for or react to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? Are there things that you are doing differently now because of the GFC? How have you evolved your processes or policies post-GFC? A: This is a difficult question to answer as the effects of the GFC were largely countered by massive investment in the construction sector required for the staging of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa. The effects of the GFC were not felt until after the World Cup event. In South Africa, the construction sector is familiar with the 'boom/bust’ nature of the sector and is well-geared to making changes to accommodate these economic phenomena, so it was ‘business as usual’. CESA has not adopted any special processes as a result of GFC. Q: What is the biggest challenge you are currently tackling within your firm or association? A: CESA is focusing on addressing the following challenges in the sector: Improving the public sector procurement system e.g. separation of construction procurement process from the procurement of standard goods and services process, the inclusion of quality in the procurement system. Effective reporting of procurement irregularities Slow progress of identification of engineering work currently ‘sitting’ with the Competitions Commission. Cannot outlaw non-qualified people undertaking engineering work until approved Q: How has your office environment changed, and how is your firm continuing to evolve your workplace environment, procedures, and technologies, to accommodate the evolving demands of the incoming millennial workforce? What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc.? A:  CESA has recently undergone changes in executive leadership and at the moment is focusing on “working better and smarter” (like a well-oiled machine): In getting the basics update e.g. organisational structure, job descriptions, performance contracts, profit-centres In meeting/serving the needs of its members e.g. newsletters, events, advisory services, representation Raising industry awareness of the Association e.g. interacting with clients, organising conferences and meetings Ensuring its sustainability (financial and relevance) e.g. budgeting and cost controls What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc? Collaboration – interacts with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), built environment professional groupings, other voluntary associations Efficiencies – no major changes Work/life balance – have not considered this aspect Technologies – no changes envisaged, have modern IT and Office Equipment This post is part of a question and answer series with global industry leaders on the future of the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries.

The Future of Architecture and Engineering: A Q&A with ICT Group Chairman Kiran Kapila

Kiran Kapila
KiranKapila
Chairman
ICT Group
In an industry centered around innovation, the question always remains – what’s next?  To help answer this, we’ve launched a series of blog posts exploring the past, present, and future trends in architecture, engineering, and construction consultancies. Over the next few months, follow along with us as industry leaders share their thoughts. In this post we spoke to Kiran Kapila, Chairman and Managing Director of Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrats Pvt Ltd (ICT Group) headquartered in New Delhi, India. Mr. Kapila is a chartered civil engineer, Chairman of the International Road Federation, Co-Chair of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and Member of the FIDIC Executive Committee. Mr. Kapila has strived to advance civil engineering and serve the ‘public good’ throughout his long and successful career. Q: What do you think is the most significant trend that will impact the future of the AEC industry in your region over the next 5 years? A: The future of the AEC industry in India will be governed by the consulting opportunities available, the procedure for the selection of consultants, the capacity building of personnel, a commitment to quality and competitiveness for all selections, and the streamlining of payment procedures. Q: How do you see the current role of AEC firms shifting, what do you think is causing that shift, and how must AEC firms react to survive? A: AEC firms must work to get policy issues adopted for all jobs with preference to Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) or at least Quality and Cost-Based Selection (QCBS) for the selection of consultants. This will ensure due weightage to quality in selection and appropriate compensation for the services rendered. Whichever institution plays a dominant role in this regard will attract good experienced firms to work for them and deliver projects of high quality. Q: Knowing what you know today, are there things you would or could have done differently to prepare for or react to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? Are there things that you are doing differently now because of the GFC? How have you evolved your processes or policies post-GFC? A: Post GFC, the overall opportunities available globally are reducing. To adjust, firms are reducing their staff strength, but at the same time trying to retain their capabilities through multitasking or collaborating with other firms through joint ventures or mutually beneficial collaboration in order to retain their market share. Q: What is the biggest challenge you are currently tackling within your firm or association? A: The biggest challenges facing our firm are: The burden of service tax, wherein a firm has to pay service tax, even if payments have not been received from clients. The retention of skilled manpower with limited opportunities available. The task of enlarging the scope of rendering services through partnership, etc. Q: How has your office environment changed, and how is your firm continuing to evolve your workplace environment, procedures, and technologies, to accommodate the evolving demands of the incoming millennial workforce? What considerations and changes are you making regarding collaboration, efficiencies, work/life balance, technologies, etc.? A: The office environment is moving towards automation, with the prevalence of IT, internet, software applications, etc. This ensures  our work force is fully up-to-date with the available technological solutions, in particular, with regard to the environmental sustainability. In addition, we are chartering new partnerships for enhancing skills in areas where in-house capabilities are not adequate. This post is part of a question and answer series with global industry leaders on the future of the architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting industries.