The summit once again addressed important issues relating to the Defence Estate and has become an important forum in which stakeholders are able to share ideas and discuss common issues of concern.

The forum provided an opportunity to hear from key Defence Estate and Infrastructure Group (E&IG) and industry leaders and a number of themes ran through the day’s events, primarily the importance of digital engineering and innovation in infrastructure projects.

A packed schedule
From early morning to early evening delegates were treated to a schedule packed with interesting and diverse speakers and this year the event was made possible by a wide range of sponsors, which included Laing O’Rourke and Tetra Tech & Coffey (platinum); and Aecom, Aurecon, Downer and Jacobs (gold sponsors).

The morning session was chaired by Laing O’Rourke’s defence sector lead, Mike Rinaudo and, after a lunch break, Josef Baukes, defence account manager for Tetra Tech & Coffey presided over the afternoon’s events.

Among the many individual speakers and panel discussions, keynote addresses were delivered by Fidel López Soria, managing director and CEO of Broadspectrum Australia; Greg Ihde, vice president of Aecom USA; Michael McCleod and George Mifsud from the Indigenous Defence Consortium; and Tim Allard, who is the national operations manager for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).

A view from the top
The welcoming address was delivered by the Deputy Secretary of the E&IG, Steve Grzeskowiak, who provided delegates with an overview of the progress made in his organisation’s journey towards what he described as an integrated, customer-centric approach to service delivery.

He said the group spends around $4.5 billion of taxpayer’s money each year, largely on building infrastructure and providing services and noted that capital investment in the estate over the next decade will amount to $26 billion. In this regard he warned industry to prepare for a ‘massive increase’ in the amount of infrastructure work in the near future, with a long list of projects in the pipeline.

The E&IG have now begun to deliver the Garrison Estate Management System (GEMS) in Queensland and the ACT and it will be completely rolled out across the country by the end of next year.

“It will provide a single source of data so we can make better decisions about managing the estate,” Grzeskowiak said.

International experience
Deb Godinet, Head of Estate, delivered the leading international address and Infrastructure for the NZ Defence Force, who said one of her major challenges is to invest in the right infrastructure at the right time, as her organisation also grapples with an ageing estate.

Godinet said the genesis of the transformation and regeneration of the Defence Estate in NZ is grounded in fresh thinking that has already delivered tangible value.

“Continued success on that journey will only be possible through a culture of collaboration, underpinned by our core cultural values,” she told delegates. “It has meant a step change in our operating model for the provision of a broad range of estate functions necessary to enable the regeneration; the drivers for both changes being to ensure that we invest in the right infrastructure at the right time, a smarter spend and a better utilisation of assets.”

Digital engineering, innovation and STEAM’
Arguably the most common theme throughout the day’s presentations was the need to embrace innovative and disruptive technologies to provide efficiencies throughout the lifecycle of the Defence Estate.

Examples of this were discussed in several presentations, including a look at the use of disruptive technology in various construction projects around the world by John Hainwsorth, digital leader – build environment at Aurecon. Highlighting technologies such as the use of virtual reality in construction projects, he told delegates that technology is changing at a rate and businesses cannot afford to take their eyes off it.

An entertaining presentation by Professor Andrew Harris, engineering director at Laing O’Rourke added to this. He said that what used to be referred to as Building Information Modelling (BIM) is now known as digital engineering and that 3D modelling is the central source of information. However he cautioned that the arts discipline should be included in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) principle, adding creativity.

“It shouldn’t be called ‘STEM’, it should actually be ‘STEAM’,” he said explaining why Arts was needed in the mix to be able to communicate the other educational areas effectively.

Caring for the environment
One of the major challenges facing Defence at the moment is the problem of cleaning up poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have leached into the environment from several bases, including Oakey and Williamtown, where they have been widely used in fire-fighting foam between the 1960s and 1990s. The issue is not just one for Defence (many major airports nationally are in the same situation) but they seem to be the lead organisation in responding to the issue nationally.

In his opening address Grzeskowiak said that his organisation is currently running 18 environmental investigations around the country, covering a total area only fractional smaller than that of Singapore.

“It’s a really interesting issue that’s very political at the moment and occupying a lot of our time,” he said.

On the positive side of the environmental debate, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Tim Allard provided delegates with an insight in the very successful work being done in co-operation with Defence done to protect native fauna in the Yampi Sound training area in north-west Australia.

In his closing address Grzeskowiak told delegates that the five major talking points for him throughout the summit were the ongoing need for collaboration between Defence and industry, the importance of innovation and disruptive technologies, continued customer focus and the need for incremental improvement, the understanding of ‘Big Data’ and the importance of participation in the space by indigenously owned companies.

“Big Data will be a theme for me once we have the work on GEMS over the line and indigenous participation will remain a strong theme for as long as I’m in this role,” he said.

This article first appeared in the November 2017 edition of ADM.

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