Preparing for 2030: Meeting the Challenges of the Global Infrastructure Dilemma Today

The world is changing. And perhaps for the first time in the history of this planet, these changes are occurring at a compressed rate never experienced before, now with a record number of people dependent on an aging infrastructure and new strains on agricultural output.

To me, there is no question what we must do next: We must find a way to meet these needs and improve the world we live in, and we must start now.

Growing Pains

The world’s population hit the 1 billion mark back in 1804, then 123 years later the 2 billionth person was born. However, it only took 33 more years to reach 3 billion people, in 1960. Today, we are on the brink of 7 billion, with 2 billion more projected by 2030.

This rapid increase in population has led to a global infrastructure dilemma, putting tremendous pressure and demand on the current infrastructure to house, transport, and feed all these people.

The Roads Frequently Traveled

Infrastructure deficits to our bridges and roads cause major problems in our daily lives, ranging from the annoying inconvenience of a lengthy commute to safety concerns and even economic burden. For example, take a look at these findings from the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board:

  • In 2014, traffic congestion wasted 6.9 billion hours of motorists’ time and consumed approximately 3.1 billion gallons of gasoline
  • Motorists had to pay over $100 billion in additional auto repair and operating costs annually, due to damage and wear resulting from substandard road quality and road hazards
  • Poor road infrastructure led to an increase in traffic fatalities by seven percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the American Society of Civil Engineering

The Future is Now

Our company, Topcon Positioning Systems, designs and builds precision equipment and solutions for global surveying, construction, agriculture, civil engineering, and more. Our goal is to drive productivity and efficiency in infrastructure and agriculture to help companies around the world meet the demands of a growing population.

However, top of mind for us at Topcon is how to address the immediate worldwide infrastructure dilemma that we face today, which will continue to increase if we fail to act. What can we do now to offset these challenges? More specifically, how can we do so at reduced costs and produce results more quickly and safely?

In a little over 10 years, we will be among the expected 9 billion people living on our planet. More housing, roads, and food will be needed and the need for new infrastructure is already at an all-time high today.

But it should be sharply noted that the way we previously built infrastructure is no longer capable of meeting all our needs. Topcon foresaw the need to change what we do and how we do it, and created innovative solutions to produce results more quickly, accurately, and safely — and in most cases, at reduced costs and lower environmental impact.

At the Intersection of Infrastructure and Technology

I like to say that we at Topcon are obsessed with how to implement technology, in an industry where every project, every job site, and every team is different. One size could never fit all. That’s why collaboration matters. Working with our partners and customers truly helps us drive innovation to meet such needs. Quite frankly, without collaboration, our chances of success are drastically reduced.

We collaborate and innovate our way using disruptive technology to make building for tomorrow less expensive, and to expand our infrastructure to deal with the growth of the human race today. This is a must-do for us.

We have reached a crossroad where we now live in an incredible age of digital transformation and have the means to make changes aided by modern technology, technology that didn’t even exist five years ago or the likes of which we’ve never seen before. We have new technology to aid in the building of a sustainable, smarter infrastructure faster that is on the ground right now.

Embracing a new digital system produces a significant reduction of cost, saving money before, during, and after the building cycle, as well as increasing worksite and workforce safety.

Working with SAP

We needed to make an impact worldwide to scale what we do and what can be done to meet the demands of population growth. To do so, we knew we needed to expand our international business. We needed to become an intelligent enterprise.

Using SAP S/4HANA Cloud, we were able to standardize our business processes and unify our subsidiaries in nine countries. As a result, we were able to roll out business practices more quickly, increase procurement and sales efficiency, and gain previously unavailable insight into the marketplace, all of which helped us achieve our goal of accelerated growth at lower cost.

And it is, in part, due to our successful relationship with SAP that Topcon is working toward meeting these global infrastructure demands through disruptive technology and innovative solutions, enabling companies to work smarter and faster in order to create sustainable infrastructure and agriculture to help address these critical necessities for human life.

Together with SAP, we are changing the way people are building infrastructure around the world right now. Because 2030 will be here before we know it.

Ray O’Connor is president and CEO of Topcon Positioning Systems, an SAP customer and designer, manufacturer, and distributor of precision measurement and workflow solutions for the global construction, geospatial, and agriculture markets.

To learn more about the innovative solutions that Topcon has brought to the infrastructure and agricultural industries, visit Topcon on the SAPPHIRE NOW showroom floor, in the Digital Core neighborhood.