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Discovering the challenges of a modern construction site

How to improve productivity at a modern construction site? The Keko team with various backgrounds explored the potential and brought together developers, researchers, UI experts, tech companies and construction staff from small and large enterprises with a lot of time spent in different type of events and discussing and testing the ideas between the parties. The process yielded over a dozen new concepts for construction data collection, data sharing, tools and materials tracking, remote management, productivity measurement and site communication.

6.7.2021

The power of ecosystem development and intelligent construction

A modern construction site faces many challenges. There are multiple parties involved: main contractor, suppliers and their sub-suppliers, customers, planners and regulators to name a few. Various kinds of materials need to be ordered, delivered, inspected, stored at site and moved in time to the right workplaces. Tools and machinery need to be rented, used and returned. All this within a tight Takt-Time production schedule while maintaining strict budget and safety measures. As every building or site is one-of-a-kind however, factory-like production efficiency and scalability are difficult to attain – with a significant amount of working time consumed by unproductive tasks. As a result of all this complexity, the construction industry continues to suffer from low productivity and profitability.

Unlike in many other verticals, where complexity is being solved by the introduction of new digital systems and communication tools, the construction industry is lagging behind and the demand for a coordinated solutions is high. Even though workers are equipped with multiple gadgets: phones, tablets, laptops, walkie-talkies, safety-buttons and helmet cams – wearables for all possible purposes, the focus is on solving individual tasks in their domains. The users need to cope with a dozen similar systems for different functions, and data is often scattered across different systems. As for the networks, many site managers are still left with the only option of using public network service for their site’s communication needs, which is insufficient. Anssi Haavisto, Team Leader at YIT, the largest construction company in Finland and a significant North European urban developer echoes this concern: “With the help of new technology, we need to ensure that the basic construction work occurs as efficiently as possible.”

Embracing the challenge, the KEKO ecosystem targeted a practice-driven approach applying modern research and problem-solving methodology to explore the issues. KEKO brought together developers, researchers, UI experts, tech companies and construction staff from small and large enterprises. A lot of time was spent in hackathons, online UX interviews, developing concepts, discussing and testing the ideas between the parties.

The process yielded over a dozen new concepts for construction data collection, data sharing, tools and materials tracking, remote management, productivity measurement and site communication. To validate the concepts in a real production environment, YIT gave the teams access to their construction site in the city of Tampere. The YIT crew even developed a new concept for an adaptive site communication network by themselves. Amazing what kind of results can be achieved when you work as an ecosystem.

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How new data and wireless networking infrastructure can unlock site productivity

Requirements for site communication and data management continue to increase and the only option is to integrate them with the construction process. This starts with site planning and continues throughout the lifetime of the site and beyond. Construction site networks are a good example, as they need dynamic private wireless networks, which are reliable and flexible to adapt to the site’s changing needs. Communication and data management infrastructure will be an integral part of the site and managed by one entity. Critical operation data, plans and models supporting the construction process can be maintained at the site securely at the network edge and on a single platform, backed by cloud instances – and shared with all site actors and workplaces without delay on the latest digitally connected equipment.

Kirsi Leppä

Senior Manager, Enterprise Solutions Applications program Nokia Cloud and Network Services