Q&A Dec 17, 2021

Q&A: Talking with OhSung Kwan, Digital Engineering Lead

Digital Engineering Lead OhSung Kwan talks about the power of digitalization, the importance of BIM and how digital delivery technologies help foster innovation in organizations.

Meet OhSung Kwan

We’re living in the era of digital disruption and we need bold digital and technology leadership now more than ever before. Leading this change demands knowledge, imagination, new thinking, an appetite to reinvent and the courage to challenge conventions.

In this series, we're celebrating our team of digital and technology experts and visionaries, spearheading the development and delivery of our technology-forward solutions for smarter working, and better living in Asia Pacific (APAC).

For this feature, we caught up with OhSung Kwan, our digital engineering lead, who has won accolades from clients, contractors, vendors and has now been invited by the industry think tanks to look into digitalization in the industry. OhSung talks about the relevance of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and its benefits, as well as how digital delivery technologies promote innovation in the digital world.

Tell us about you and what excites you the most about your role.

I’m a certified civil engineer from Seoul, South Korea. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across the globe on many projects and programs for almost three decades. I’m passionate about digital engineering tools and their capabilities and have successfully deployed solutions and products in this space since 1995. When I started my career, my goal was to lead the successful digital transformation of a major program to meet the client’s requirements using my skills, experience and ideas, while at the same time upskilling all its stakeholders.

I’m currently working on the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (TWRP) project - a major infrastructure project contributing towards closing the water loop for Singapore. It’s a one-of-a-kind, complex, multi-disciplinary design and construction project of treatment facilities for industrial and household wastewater. The client had very ambitious plans to implement 6D BIM, and the journey to date has been a collaborative one with all stakeholders involved in the project. As a result, we’ve delivered an industry-leading digital transformation. It’s fair to say that I’ve been able to reach those career goals I set at the start of my career on this project.

It’s always exciting to be in a field that’s constantly pushing technology boundaries. It’s even more fulfilling to be able to use my skills and experience to not only deliver something iconic but also help teams and projects build their digital capabilities.

You’ve been with Jacobs for over seven years. How has digitalization changed the way you work over the years? Can you share some examples?

I’ve been working in the digital engineering space for over 26 years - during that time, I’ve seen more and more projects and teams embrace digital transformation. In the early years, digitalization in our industry was mainly about graphics and charts. Today, it is about the information model in its entirety. A huge part of that is data and how it’s managed, stored and accessed. Consequently, the demand for data engineers, data analysts and database managers is increasing. The tools have come a long way, and so has the hardware. Clients and contractors are more educated and informed. Project participants are looking at the entire landscape of georeferencing information, project information models and digital twins to create the digital engineering metaverse. It’s mind-blowing to think about where the industry will be in 26 years from now.

Jacobs is at the forefront of adopting and adapting digitalization. It allows us to not only be one step ahead in providing services to clients but also enables managers like me to support and cultivate improvement in capability within the delivery teams.  

What are the benefits of implementing BIM and what kind of projects are suitable for BIM implementation?

As the industry rapidly enters into digital ways of doing work, the interaction between sources of information becomes more and more pivotal. Underlying all this is a single source of truth. That’s where the information model comes in. Within a project, the information model (BIM) ensures a much better interface, interaction and interoperability between the engineering disciplines during design. That extends to the construction delivery phase when information collaboration is required between client, consultant and contractor. It further enables seamless transition into the asset information model during the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) phase – an essential requirement for the client as they prepare for the digital transformation themselves. Adopting an information model on projects also builds efficiency in the non-engineering and non-graphical outputs such as schedule, cost and O&M data.

Simply put, information modeling drastically improves project delivery and asset management. Therefore, all projects which require engineering design will benefit from the implementation of BIM.

Digital disruption can be a doorway to new opportunities. How have emerging digital delivery technologies/tools helped foster innovation in BIM?

The key digital disruption entering the market is a digital twin and cloud-based digital delivery management platforms. These emerging technologies and platforms make the digital output accessible to all stakeholders. You don’t need the computer-aided design (CAD) drafter or BIM coordinator to access the information you need. Not only that, since the non-graphical information is also embedded in these tools, all stakeholders can access the data they need with a much more user-friendly interface. It also allows better collaboration between client, contractor and consultant data, which lends itself to better exchange of information and promotes innovative ways of delivery. We’ve deployed such a platform at TWRP, and it has undoubtedly changed the collaboration and delivery management for the better.

Tell us about an exciting project you have worked on or are working on?

Every project I have been involved with has been unique and exciting in its own way. I have worked on commercial/high-rise buildings, airports, Oil & Gas plants, metro railways, roads and highways, nuclear power plants, marine shipyards, and water/wastewater treatment plants.

The TWRP project is also unique in that we’re making huge strides in the digital delivery side of things. It was an ambitious timeline to complete model-based tendering of 18 different major packages of work, covering 75 facilities. The number of data points and related complexity in the multidisciplinary model files makes the digital management of outputs highly complex and challenging for existing hardware and software. Therefore, an integrated and innovative work approach was required both within the company and between parties, including software providers. The resulting successes are not only having an impact within the company but also within the industry in Singapore- we’ve been invited by some of the industry think tanks to input into initiatives to standardize digital engineering practices across various industries so that others can replicate these successes. The recognition and positive momentum are the results of a forward-thinking client, strong Jacobs project team leadership and a collaborative environment between the wider program stakeholders. Those ingredients make the TWRP project an exciting project to work on.  

BIM helps bring cutting-edge building design to life. What are the top three skills needed to become a successful BIM professional?

I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in construction management. I’ve also worked in design, construction and project management roles during my career. All of these have strengthened my awareness of engineering and project delivery, which in turn has helped me become a better digital engineer. Understanding and experience in basic engineering, design processes, design management, construction delivery, information management principles, design for safety and regulatory requirements certainly helps to become a good digital engineering professional. 

But above all this, one of the critical skills required is an attitude to adapt to new ways of working. It requires a level of flexibility and openness to break away from traditional tools and processes and embrace technology to deliver a better quality service and product.

People would be surprised to know that …

I have worked with over 60 different BIM tools during my career, including software design and development such as knowledge management databases, Project Information Management Systems (PMIS), SharePoint and Mobile Construction Management System. People may also be surprised to know that pushing the boundary on digital engineering capabilities is also my hobby!

What’s something you learned in the last week?

For most of my career, I’ve been traveling for work. This meant that I couldn’t, unfortunately, spend much time with my wife and family. I’ve been away from home for long stints during the last seven years. Fortunately, my wife has been able to join me this year in Singapore. So, I am learning about married life all over again!

OhSung Kwan

If you aren’t in the office, what would we most likely find you doing?

During my time in Dubai, you would most likely find me somewhere in the desert. I loved the calmness of being out there, so I made frequent visits to remote locations outside of the city.

In Singapore, you are likely to find me at a bowling alley. 

I also volunteer my time to help people learn new software and tools related to digital engineering. I love teaching and sharing my knowledge with others.

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?

I love the projects we do and the contribution we make towards helping clients solve some of the most complex problems around the world. During my time with Jacobs, I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet some great people from the U.S., U.K. and now Singapore. Some have become very good friends as well. I’m also enjoying the opportunity to teach digital engineering to the entire Jacobs family around me – it’s great to see the attitude of “never too late to learn.” The Singapore management team has also been very supportive towards truly cultivating digital transformation at all levels.

Join #OurJacobs team

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable.

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision.Let’s see the impact we can create, together.