Mark Thorley: Hi Ryan, thanks for joining me today. Could you tell us about your role at Autodesk and what you’re working on.
RMcM: Sure. I’m Ryan McMahon, General Manager of an incubation team at Autodesk with a focus on solutions specifically for Industrialized Construction. We are not in either the AEC division, nor the manufacturing division. We are one of three incubation efforts really charged with pushing the envelope and doing innovative things that don’t fit into traditional development.
MT: What else can you tell us about the other incubators?
RMcM: Sure. The first and probably most mature incubation effort is Autodesk Tandem, our digital twin solution, which is led by Bob Bray. They are looking at how we can create a digital twin for buildings that can ultimately be handed over to the building owner so they can operate that way. It is making sure we capture, at the building scale, the full details all the way through to ‘as-built’.
The second is called Project Workshop, our extended reality set of tools, focused on design of buildings. Nic Fonta leads that group.
Autodesk Informed Design is the third group focused on IC. When you look at all 3 together, they are targeted at new trends and opportunities that Autodesk feels are important to pursue.
MT: I guess this is different to how Autodesk has approached things in the past?
RMcM: It is one vehicle for innovation as our product teams are innovating all the time, but the incubation teams unlock a lot of the traditional constrains of being in a larger organization and really lets these groups act as if they were true start-ups. We report to an incubation board that provides guidance and helps us stay on track but we typically have more freedom than traditional product development avenues at Autodesk.
MT: In relation to your team and the focus on Industrialized Construction, what is the general thesis from Autodesk around the work you are doing?
RMcM: The notion is that the future of the AEC industry is industrialized. If you want to build faster, more reliably, with improved sustainably and fewer errors, we have to manufacture our buildings in a factory. We also have to do them repeatably, where we can optimize processes, so we should look at the components and treat them as if they are products, meaning a productization of the industry. Then ultimately, we have to design buildings with more of these flexible configurable products so that we can accelerate and make better decisions at the beginning of the design process; to design with certainty.
MT We obviously agree there’s a huge opportunity with Offsite construction. In your view, what are the initial things the industry can do to move in the right direction?
RMcM: We are seeing many companies understand that the only way they can improve efficiencies is through scale, recognising that building their products in a factory, to support many different building projects. That really gets you started if you simply move your process to a manufacturing environment where you can apply workflow and where you can use a different workforce. All these kinds of things begin to make significant impacts.
The next step is that as tools get better connected, hopefully we get to the point where as you’re doing design work, the information about those predesigned products flows through the process and nobody has to do the engineering on it as well. All of a sudden, your design work flows all the way through to manufacturing in a much more seamless way.
Autodesk and KOPE
MT: So million dollar question. With all that in mind, what are the main reasons Autodesk invested in KOPE and what are the main opportunities to collaborate.
RMcM: Yeah, well for one… you guys rock. Ha, I think you guys have a well aligned point of view on the industry, where its going and why it’s going there. You have some novel capabilities around how you can approach productization and these building products we have been discussing. Like how do we take complex assemblies that go in a building, decompose them into smaller manufacturable components that can then be used to drive the rest of the process.
Your ideas around the marketplace, getting suppliers to make their particular products and assemblies publicly available and allowing architects to discover, modify within the rules and integrate them into their projects aligns perfectly well with the directions we are going.
As a team, you have a long standing history with Autodesk and have always delivered exemplary results that have been very impactful within our organization. So in that sense, right mindset, right technology, right team, we’re in.
MT: Thank you Ryan. Maybe lets end on some final thoughts around your work and your aspirations looking forward a couple of years.
RMcM: I think what success looks like for our team and our relationship with KOPE is that we begin to demonstrable change in the way the industry approaches building design. That we see many, many customers saying ‘hey wait a minute, we need to actively design from a catalog of well defined components’ and that we have seen hundreds of projects delivered with this kind of methodology.
Beyond that, with the notion of productization, it fuels a lot of opportunities around outcome-driven design. When you take a kit of parts that can be computed on, you can provide more information to the designer, early on in the process. You can give them information about materials, so you can do cost, you can do carbon and if you can do that more accurately at design time, you’re only gonna see better designs, better performance, sustainability and reliability. That’s what we feel the upside is.
MT: Thanks again Ryan. We are very excited about the future and working with you to solve some of the biggest issues in our industry.