From 3 weeks to 1 day: How robots are reducing the time spent analysing what’s under our feet

August 7, 2018

Understanding what’s under the ground before anything is built, or understanding the quality of your established assets, is an essential part of any successful engineering and asset management.  It’s something that typically involves huge data sets that must be manually analysed, interpreted, and reported on.  From identifying the availability of utility services, to identifying the areas required for inspection, this is a highly manual process often taking several weeks to generate the right insight.  The rather clunky term of Robotic Process Automation is changing all this. 

It’s something never before used in engineering and at SNC-Lavalin we have been busy building an army of bots.  In fact, we now have the biggest army of bots in the industry and it’s set to keep growing.  Bots do the administrative work of extracting data maps and working through the data faster than any human could.  They work 24/7, managing the entire workflow themselves from client request through to the final insights.  And most importantly, this frees up our teams to solve intellectual challenges for clients rather than carry out administrative tasks.

So, how does this work in practice?  Historically bots, or robots, are pictured as 3D physical objects that perform task such as replacing humans on production lines, automatically hoovering our houses and acting as physical security guards.  But bots are also intangible – they can be computerised things that crawl through data, making sense of it based on a series of rules without changing the way of working.  

If you take the case of identifying where utility services are located on a potential build site, it would previously have taken 40 people 3-4 weeks to manually review maps of the area and interact with the various utility providers to generate the information.  With bots working through the data an average site area can be reviewed and reported on in just one day – they see the same information as a human would see, but they can simply process it much faster.

But I’m sure you are wondering whether this is unique to SNC-Lavalin?  Yes, we are the first to deploy bots in this way, but in this case, it’s really the number of bot activities that matters.  The more activities a company’s army of bots do, the faster they can turn the work around, and these armies grow incrementally, so whoever’s is the largest now will always have the biggest number of bots.  And that’s us.

So, next time you hear someone talking about robots, it’s hopefully useful to know that these are not inventions designed to take away jobs in our industry – they are simply freeing up people’s time – and they are not always physical beings as they are portrayed in the movies.  In our case they are a virtual army that means the service you get from us in relation to analysing ground or asset data is delivered considerably faster yet with the same degree of accuracy.  To find our more please do drop me a line at and I would be more than happy to have a chat.

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