The difference between crisis prevention and a performance edge boils down to perspective

In times of crisis, the media and the general public focus on the most trivial of things because action is usually being taken in the background to ensure that the things which really matter continue to work as ever. Were this not the case, the pressing questions the length and breadth of the country would be why electricity and gas were no longer flowing, whether the water quality was sufficient, when which production lines might come to a standstill and which tunnels were still open. It is the underlying infrastructures for all of these that the population and the key industries, and ultimately also the world of finance, have to be able to unconditionally rely on. These critical infrastructures are currently experiencing stress tests the likes of which have never been seen before – a global stress test which is showing the authorities and businesses what has proved its worth and where there are still real weaknesses which need to be eliminated.

Highly efficient engineering service providers such as DMT assist the operators of critical infrastructures with planning, construction and operations. And there also has to be reliable expertise and performance in the case of regional, national or even global crisis scenarios such as industrial accidents, threats to the power supply or COVID-19. It goes without saying that such service providers have to have the appropriate more in-depth experience and must meet demanding minimum requirements. The benchmark is set high for engineering service providers in the area of critical infrastructures in order that resilience be comprehensively guaranteed. Planning, safeguarding and further developing such infrastructures have been DMT’s bread-and-butter business ever since the company was founded.

Critical infrastructures call for special performance criteria

As well as purely technical expertise, many other requirements are made of us in order to guarantee maximum reliability of the lifelines of society and of sensitive business areas. The portfolio of services has to be broad enough for a service provider to be in a position to handle the key and crisis tasks at all times.

This makes expert and equipment redundancy an additional criterion. After all, extreme cases tend to arise out of the blue and do not take their cue from the availability of individual engineers or specialist equipment. Our portfolio as a group is so extensive that we are able to provide the necessary services in any situation without having to draw on the services of third parties.

The greater a service provider’s capital base or the larger their employee headcount and the greater flexibility they have in terms of equipment availability, the more predictable the reliability and resilience of the critical infrastructures. As this has to be ensured globally and simultaneously in many areas these days, everything hinges on a service provider being within easy reach. This does not, however, necessarily have to mean physical proximity. On the contrary – in some cases, such as with the COVID-19 protective measures, it’s a question of being able to be there remotely and help remotely. So that’s the safeguarding of systems and operations in times of crisis covered.

Due to system complexity, functioning infrastructures additionally call for a long-term view and long-term business relations. Forward-looking planning based on as much experience as possible is what’s needed. At the same time, however, there needs to be a willingness among the industry players to change in order for everyone to benefit from innovations. Here, the greatest potential currently lies in the engineering service providers’ digitalisation expertise. After all, it is the quality and degree of digitalisation that determine which options can be exploited and where communication can be further optimised.

Ultimately, these criteria result not only in reliably functioning infrastructures, efficient crisis prevention and crisis intervention. In addition, this leads to the performance edge that companies seek and which society is striving for with regard to the efficient use of energy. And the driving force here is Engineering Performance.

Resilience matters, both in the short and long term

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted all kinds of process vulnerabilities. To offer companies and countries around the world better support with maintaining important systems and assets right now, we have launched an additional online resource comprising all the useful engineering services. This offers a comprehensive array of engineering and consultancy services for assistance in the areas of energy, transport, health, water and infrastructure.

Anyone around the world who does not know who they should turn to in order to solve their problems can seek dedicated advice here. Our customers and partners are, of course, already familiar with this service and also use it, but it is now being made available to anyone and everyone.

Many of the services within the package can be performed remotely – a factor which is proving its worth more so now than ever in view of the acute need for action and the numerous travel restrictions which are currently in place. This ensures that customers have global access to expert technical advice and information and can swiftly rely on active support with important systems and resources. In our core business, this relates to power plants, power lines, production facilities, mine shafts, healthcare facilities, waterways, motorways, bridges, tunnels and structures in general. There is not enough space here for an exhaustive overview of the services provided, and this can therefore be found here

New technologies mean higher targets can be achieved

Our targets as a provider of critical infrastructure services are not actually based on maximum profits and damage limitation – we see the bigger picture. It’s about safeguarding the state and everybody’s future. Everything hinges on whether, in addition to safeguarding basic services, sustainable technologies can also be developed and further developed.

In the interests of the urgently needed energy transition, for example, we have focused heavily on energy supply security in recent years and have massively expanded our power line construction expertise. System security, business continuity and contingency planning are likewise top priorities around the world. A number of distribution network operators have consequently opted to place the entire engineering and construction management at all service stages of power line construction in the hands of DMT. From the ground investigation to activation, everyone involved has their sights set on the same thing, namely achieving security of supply which is unparalleled in its soundness.

This has clearly been successful, going by the largest offshore wind farm in Europe located in the North Sea. The green electricity generated there is carried all the way to southern Germany by power lines which were likewise constructed with the assistance of our Civil & Mining Engineering division. What’s more, state-of-the-art underground cables mean the views of Germany’s countryside are not impaired – this is the gratifyingly invisible part of our success.

Additionally, future fields such as hydrogen storage and the potential of geothermal power will very much be the focus of attention once again in view of climate change. The markets are currently changing in these areas accordingly, and the expertise of highly specialised engineers and researchers in the area of critical infrastructures will therefore be sought after. Progress made in major technological steps will be the formula that more and more companies will endeavour to find. The major oil and gas companies have, of course, already recognised this and likewise see these areas as their future fields. And these companies are also increasingly drawing on the expertise of our DMT consultants. Be it feasibility studies and due diligence reports or implementation support, major enterprises and banks rate these consultants’ independent reports and expertise highly. After all, we are talking about massive financial risks here if future opportunities are to be exploited. Critical infrastructures can therefore not afford to feature any vulnerabilities.

These days, major weaknesses and also major strengths in the development and operation of secure infrastructures are to be found in the degree of digitalisation. The vast majority of industry players in almost every market are facing challenges here which can now hardly be overcome single-handedly. For this not to be necessary, we have built up our expertise within the company’s own DIGITAL ACADEMY together with the TÜV NORD GROUP in recent years, which everyone can now benefit from. Companies of all sizes and projects of all kinds can consequently be brought up to the necessary degree of digitalisation, be it a new level of monitoring, the implementation of remote communication and predictive maintenance, the optimisation of internal processes and workflows together with customers or efficiency increases founded on digital project files and collaboration platforms.

The primary focus is solutions for sustainable progress

The COVID-19 pandemic will indisputably have an impact not only for a long time to come, but also in many different areas. Having the parameters in place for an intact supply and logistics infrastructure is therefore especially important for the sense of security of each and every one of us. But to guarantee this in the long term, sustainability standards will have to be effected which have temporarily slipped out of focus in many places while this crisis is being tackled. Only through ecological progress can further causes of critical situations be averted in the medium and long term.

What DMT has learnt in its more than 280 years of business is that new opportunities arise with every new insight, with every deeper experience and with the business-minded ability to consolidate knowledge in such a way that innovative solutions present themselves. Before the crisis, this was valued above all as an instrument for process optimisation and investment safeguarding. But it is now presenting itself to many as a prudent part of a future-proof sustainability strategy and as a means of achieving crisis-proof infrastructure systems. It is all simply a question of perspective. And in our understanding of ourselves, it is always Engineering Performance.

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A critical infrastructure is any system, function or asset which plays such an important part in a country’s security, economy, public health or public safety that absolute reliability is a top priority. For this to be achieved, a critical infrastructure must be continuously monitored on the basis of multiple parameters in order to prevent disruptions to normal operations and to ensure that the important infrastructure continues to function even in the event of errors, disasters or outages.

 

This story was committed to paper at the time when the whole world was in the grip of the coronavirus and the extent of its innumerable impacts could not be even remotely estimated.


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