Meet Digital Innovation Leader at Arup, Andrew Maher, whose role is focused around revolutionising the way we work, day-to-day. Alice Blackwood reports
November 20th, 2012
A qualified architect and Arup’s Digital Innovation Leader (across Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore), Andrew Maher’s is a broad-ranging role that supports the company’s mission for research and innovation (R&I).
With the Pause Digital Festival (8 – 11 November 2012) kicking off, and Maher co-hosting an Arup-led workshop , we took the opportunity to speak with Maher about what digital innovation means to Arup, and how those outcomes have benefited the company’s many workplaces.
Arup’s R&I areas span everything from foresight groups (looking 20– 40 years into the future to tackle broad-ranging themes such as retail and poverty), to university-led research and technical R&I.
Here, Maher’s digital innovation research focuses on the short-term future – “looking at what we can learn from projects, what’s happening in the industry around digital tools and techniques, and how we can transfer that across to other parts of the business,” he says.
The themes Maher works with revolve around ’big data’, and developing interfaces and programs which can transform the way Arup’s team can work.
These include interactive reporting apps for workers to use on-site during project inspections.
The outcome of an initiative such as this is focused on efficiency and accuracy, with workers entering vital data while out on site, rather than doubling their workload with site visits followed by data entry (once back at the office).
“It’s thinking about how they work, about engaging with new interfaces and making things that are fun to do,” explains Maher.
At the press of a button, the report pops up and is then synced into a larger database, facilitating trend insights and more general overviews.
Reflecting on the short-term nature of his research and outcomes, Maher says: “If we take a narrow view of innovation and we say innovation is applying ideas successfully, then the wonderful thing [about my role] is having an idea, testing it quickly and seeing people put it into use, observing how it improves their efficiency and job.”
Other recent initiatives, spearheaded by Maher’s digital innovation strategies, include an Office Real Time System (devised in collaboration with a number of Arup departments, and rolled out on a 6 week timeline). Support the company’s sustainability commitments, the monitoring system allows staff a real time overview of paper photocopied and printed, flights taken when and where, and other insights by which they can measure their enviro-conscious performance.
The unintended consequence – and a positive one at that – is that once Arup’s contacts and clients discover these innovative digital systems, they want to use them as well.
It’s an exciting opportunity for new business, and for Maher a challenge that takes his work to a whole new magnitude.
Many thanks to Pause Digital Festival for facilitating this interview with Andrew Maher. Pause Fes ran 8 – 11 November 2012 in Melbourne.
Pause Digital Festival
Pasuefest images: © MelbourneDSLR
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