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Does digital mean the end of paper: Vincent Nyambayo

Is there still space for the hand-written site notebook in a digital world?

vincent nyambayo

Vincent Nyambayo is principal geotechnical engineer and innovation hub leader at Atkins

For many decades, a site notebook has been the faithful and versatile companion of engineers and geologists for recording site information, to-do lists and observations. A paper notebook is flexible and can be adapted to many situations – freehand sketches and conceptual models of field observations, for example.

But it has disadvantages: it gets wet in the rain and may not get fi led with other project records, so that vital information can be lost. 

Digital technology can overcome these problems. Digital technology, working to the requirements of building information modelling (BIM), can bring together information from many sources and formats in one place that is readily accessible using the latest collaborative apps. The information can be shared quickly and reliably between site and office on multiple platforms. 

This is a laudable giant leap by our industry, but we need to proceed with caution. New technologies come with new challenges that need to be addressed and overcome. Businesses need to design methodologies and procedures that ensure the provenance and accuracy of the data before it can be used on projects. This requires investment, but the rewards are worthwhile. 

Recognising and acknowledging the new generation of graduates is adept in the use of digital data, and that the skill is an asset in digital engineering. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of experienced practitioners to ensure the requisite business management systems (which include a BIM execution plan) and training are effective, to reduce the exposure and risk of using unassured data.

There are compelling reasons to embrace the new digital technology and leave behind paper-based methods. But we must be alert to the risk that the hasty and premature use of invalidated data could easily result in abortive work costing significant losses of time and money before errors are identified.

  • Vincent Nyambayo is principal geotechnical engineer and innovation hub leader at Atkins

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