Digital engineer: A new indispensable role on the job site

Every company needs a digital transformation. No company should do it alone.

SIGNAX has sponsored this post.

The digital engineer becomes the center of all data processes. (Image: SIGNAX.)

The digital engineer becomes the center of all data processes. (Image: SIGNAX.)

Global trends and data-driven development in different industries dictate the need for permanent change and finding ways to be more effective for stakeholders and project participants. This is reflected in many types of business through new technologies, new collaboration processes, new org charts and new roles. Some old roles are no longer needed; new ones come to the fore. These new roles often replace a list of people in the previous workflow. Making information and processes digital makes it possible to do more with less time and resources.

The digital engineer is one of these new heroes.

What is a digital engineer?

Much has been written about innovations in design and office collaboration in construction, but now is the right time for these advances to reach the job site. Digital engineers are the center of competence for digital technologies and using BIM on site. They cooperate with design and project offices, make implementations, train employees and also perform new functions that are needed at a specific site. Typically, one digital engineer is assigned to each site.

In previous years, this role may also have been known as a VDC manager or BIM coordinator for construction. But responsibilities, authorities and most importantly, expectations for performance improvement are much higher for digital engineers. They become the center of all data processes. Their main metrics are not only doing everyday routines but also making general construction processes better.

Why a digital engineer is so important

A digital engineer becomes the leading innovator at a construction site. They immerse themselves in the on-site processes and offer the most effective solution. They are helpers for the team, and they develop the team: it is essential to change the team’s minds about, and increase the general understanding of, the technologies being used — obtaining the trust that these technologies can do part of a human’s work.

The digital engineer often assists the project manager and participates in all meetings. With the help of actual construction BIM models, they show a visual picture of the site, make simulations, calculate volumes, provide up-to-date schedules and become the first helper in decision-making. They also take the necessary measurements from the 3D model during the meeting. It was impossible 15 years ago, inconvenient ten years ago and not so fast five years ago, but it is natural now with advanced mobile and cloud technologies.

One of the main things that digital engineers can do is unite the teams that are working remotely. A digital depiction of the site has become accessible anytime for all managers, and it doesn’t matter where they are. Modern monitoring services such as Photo 360, drone survey, laser scanning and AR/VR provide visual clarity of the issues raised, a common understanding of these issues and a quick solution.

SIGNAX INSPECTION offers remote construction visual control and BIM to as-built comparison. (Image: SIGNAX.)

SIGNAX INSPECTION offers remote construction visual control and BIM to as-built comparison. (Image: SIGNAX.)

How to find a digital engineer

Two places to find a digital engineer are the construction industry or IT departments. This person must have the proper fundamental education, either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Young specialists are usually faster for everything new, but it is also a good career opportunity for existing engineers. Typically, this requires experience participating in real projects in design or construction. It’s much easier to change workflows and establish a new effective structure of digital interaction when you previously worked inside the old one and know all its problems and challenges well.

At the same time, digital engineers should understand which modern technologies provide real profit on a construction site. They need to be fast learners of new solutions, have a broad outlook of the existing software/services and be able to see the trends with emerging technologies. An IT background will be crucial as they will need to interact with the local IT team, vendors, IT consultants and service providers.

A promotion to being the digital engineer on site can be a step up for BIM coordinators in the design office. They may already have a passion for automating processes and can get new motivation for self-realization on site where the level of innovation is much lower. The same is applicable for most active office engineers. They may be tired of routine and seek to lead new internal corporate projects. Digital construction implementation can be one of those projects.

Another variant is to outsource a digital engineer. Consulting companies have started to provide a digital engineer for hire. The main advantage in this case is that you will get not only expertise but also the experience from wins and losses on other projects. Innovative people know that many questions have no answer until you try. Not every company can afford to try on a hot project. SIGNAX is one company that offers this digital engineer service.

List of responsibilities

Let’s break down the responsibilities of a digital engineer, including core things used by leading companies today. At the same time, the choice of technologies (BIM uses) always depends on the project and its goals.

  • Checking BIM data from design companies. Digital data on site can work if we are confident in its quality and completeness. A digital engineer checks clashes and needed parameters of elements according to the corporate classification system (WBS, CBS, etc.).
  • Volumes calculation from the model. This can be used for budgeting or construction schedule creation. All these operations don’t need the work of cost and procurement engineers anymore. The calculations can be made in online mode and dramatically reduce the human factor.
  • Merging schedules and BIM models (4D). 4D came to the construction industry many years ago but schedules were usually made by design companies. As the general contractor has a financial incentive for being on time, it is much better to manage the schedule directly on site.
  • Site management using the construction BIM model. This includes the calculation of works done, completed and accepted. The precise numbers are always in the system and can be used by project managers and the supervision team. You can easily see the progress of any date and pay contractors for the exact amount of work.
  • Photo 360, laser scanning and drone surveys on site. These are good examples of obtaining digital data and are priceless for reducing the time and increasing the quality of construction work. It helps to have a clear understanding of the current status and the history of the process. Photogrammetry helps in all kinds of engineering tasks.
  • Development of as-built model and operation stage digital twin of the facility. A project can have many changes since it was first designed. Digital operations also need up-to-date data. It’s much easier to collect data during construction. Digital assets can increase the cost of the facility.
Mobile technologies start playing a great role in construction projects. (Image: SIGNAX.)

Mobile technologies start playing a great role in construction projects. (Image: SIGNAX.)


The construction industry is on a path to improvement. Moreover, each company has the goal of paperless construction in the near future. Digital technologies must play a significant role in this process. Companies need reliable guidance to deal with working with and managing the data, changing the workflows and the culture of digitalizing for every project stakeholder. This has led to the digital engineer becoming indispensable and a leader in providing the valuable collaboration on the project site.

Visit SIGNAX to learn more.

About the Author

Peter Manin is the International Director at SIGNAX and is responsible for all aspects of business development and product awareness. He holds a Master’s Diploma in Computer science, a Ph.D. in Simulations, and more than 15 years of industrial experience. He actively participated in a list of iconic projects in residential housing, healthcare, nuclear power plants, and oil & gas. Peter was a regional technical leader at Autodesk in the mid-2010s. Now, he is a recognized expert in BIM and digital construction, researcher and evangelist in data-driven technologies and digital twins, participant in key international conferences, and author of more than 40 scientific articles and publications on industrial and business issues.