Authors / Photos: Philip Luger, Katharina Holicz, Jacqueline Raab
Over the past decades, the construction industry has used the same set of methods and processes to run its business. Most companies still rely on manual work and old-fashioned technologies which have not improved in efficiency in the recent past. As a result of the 20th century digital revolution, the entire construction industry is currently forced to rethink and adapt its business processes. Due to current market trends, the industry is facing key challenges in global competition, cost transparency and environmental responsibility. Leading global players are therefore investing in research & development (R&D) to optimize time efficiency, reduce labor costs and automate existing manual processes. In connection with these objectives, the leading construction companies and developers in the field of electronics and software were invited to this year’s seminar The Future of Construction Processes to present the activities and solutions which they currently employ to improve their operational business.
Future Issues for Construction
One of the most well-known industry players with a history of more than 150 years is the com-pany DOKA. Its products are used on almost every construction site where concrete structures and manufacturing are necessary. In addition to training, after-sales support and its standard formwork services, the company offers formwork planning based on visualization tools (mobile apps running on tablets and smartphones). One key development is Concremote, which is used for direct communication between the relevant stakeholders on a construction site. It is a sensor solution and technology which links the formwork to a digital information system that allows the construction team on site to get real time data on the current concrete status/conditions. Sensors are installed directly on the formwork construction to measure key performance indica-tors. This solution helps reduce construction cycles and effectively reduces operating costs as well. The company STRABAG has identified the following three focal points for change in the construc-tion industry: sustainability, new technologies and productivity. To improve sustainability, STRABAG has made the commitment to reduce construction waste by reusing and recycling old materials. Furthermore, it is developing new technologies to make materials such as asphalt more flexible and durable, for instance by adapting existing noise barrier systems with moss to bind fine particulate matter. These innovations will lead to noise reduction and less air pollution. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality are also core technologies which will increase efficiency and automation in the future. PORR, as one of the leading road construction companies in Austria, is applying new technologies to digitalize its business processes. Today, PORR uses a digital building process optimization tool to run its projects more efficiently than in the past. PORR applies the tool at the opening stages of resource planning and construction site preparation and also utilizes it to communicate on site and to coordinate various stakeholders at the same time. A very important function is the documentation of relevant milestones and working steps. The tool is also used by the construc-tion manager for running audits and for identifying specific parameters which can be referred to in future projects.
Future Issues for Construction Management and Operation
The company ACHT Ziviltechniker GmbH helps companies to work with BIM solutions, especially in the field of steel structures and complex engineering projects. BIM (Building Information Modelling) is used to draw relevant project data together: various data chains are consolidated in one place, with great improvement to the dissemination of information and reduction of human error. Professor Wilhelm Reismann spoke about these issues in his lecture Data Chains and Quality. Especially in complex projects, different companies must cooperate and have the incentive to share and work collaboratively on data. Before data is made digitally available, one of the most important steps is to check the data quality and perform regular updates that reflect the latest status.
Also highly relevant to efficiency in the construction business is the use of Lean Construction Management (LCM). Drees & Sommer is one of the leading pioneers in the LCM business. Accord-ing to its model, lean site management consists of three major steps. Step 1 takes place in mod-erated workshops and focuses on defining the working areas and analyzing the relevant pro-cesses of the construction stages. In the next step, the different construction sequences undergo detailed process planning. The result is a takt-time production plan with various so called trades trains, that gives an over-view of the processes by area and trade (six-month perspective). The final step entails detailed planning in which every workflow is visualized and prepared for execution and control. The de-tailed planning gives a four week preview on a daily basis. It is updated daily and adapted to performance on site. This means that all processes can be optimized and the information flow is monitored.
Developments in the Construction Industry
Modern data monitoring is not just monitoring. Encompassing data evaluation and analysis, as well as documentation and reporting, it is a useful tool for steering and optimizing construction processes. For example, it is used for supervising drainage systems, retaining and support walls, buildings, dams, tunnels etc. In the seminar The Future of Construction Processes, the company eguana GmbH presented its data management system. Its web-application creates a digital record of production data and transmission is performed in a user-friendly manner on modern end devices. By digitizing the flow of information, eguana provides solutions to save time, minimize data losses and largely avoid human error, even while adapting more quickly to changed client demands. The software company Insite IT develops software solutions for material tracking and construc-tion site management for large construction sites. The aims are to have relevant information available at any time, minimize search and standing times, document deviations and increase quality of processing for large projects. This is made possible by Insite LMS (Logistics – Materials – Site Management) Software, which is a mobile app for scanning barcodes, RFID tags, GPS posi-tioning and image documentation. The application fields for this software are global logistics, site logistics and site management. The main benefits of using Insite LMS Software are access to real-time information at the push of a button, working in a paperless process and the flexible and detailed documentation of all materials onsite. Insite LMS Software massively reduces working hours and allows consistent traceability of all the materials on construction sites. With tablets and other state-of-the-art technologies, companies maintain an overview of large-scale projects all around the world. WIENERBERGER, one of Europe’s leading building material producers, presented their new solu-tions in building construction. Prefabricated brickwork is an efficient and economical innovation in construction which will become increasingly important in the future. Prefabricated elements are free of weather constraints during manufacturing and also reduce construction time and manpower, thereby saving considerable labor costs. Additionally, the computer-based technolo-gy provides accurate wall elements for an entire building. Further to innovative products and solutions, WIENERBERGER has announced a strategic part-nership with Fastbrick Robotics Ltd (FBR Ltd), an Australian company focusing on robotic con-struction. In 2018 it completed the Hadrian X construction robot that performs optimized brick block work.
Excursion Smart Site Aspern
On May 29, 2019 we participated in an excursion to the Smart Site Aspern, where we were guided through Seestadt Aspern. The report provided here gives more information about this event:
Future Issues for Design and Engineering
Christoph Eichler from ODE Ltd held a lecture explaining the main differences between open and closed BIM. Afterwards Frank Mettendorff and Peter O´Brien presented an overview of the com-pany group FCP.VCE and their experience with BIM-based projects and digitalization on site in the past few years. Since 2011, they have realized many projects with BIM, including ÖAMTC Headquarters, U2/U4 Metro Station Pilgramgasse and ÖBB Lehrlingsheim St. Pölten. During the building execution, however, they encountered some problems with the model-based constructions. They called it the 2D-3D Tango, which describes the constant switching between 2D and 3D presentations during the project phases. Among other issues, this involves a tremen-dous waste of time, increasing planning costs. Moreover, the 2D flattening process is a substantial source of error because it reduces the quality of the planning. These are just two of the reasons why the company group is starting new pilot projects with the aim of achieving complete model-based constructions. With the BIM-Ready building container it is possible to get just one model instead of multiple drawings. As all the information is in one place, required data can be identified very quickly. The BIM model is linked to the MS Project construction time plan of the building firm and additionally offers the possibility of quantity control.
The future of planning at FCP.VCE includes such topics as machine control, structural monitoring, augmented reality and virtual reality.
Research at the IBPM
In the final lecture of the seminar, Prof. Goger gave a concluding overview of the issues which were mentioned in the course of the seminar and additionally spoke about his digitalization studies. Prof. Schranz presented the new research center ZDB. The assistants of the research field Construction Processes and Methods took this opportunity to outline their ongoing IBPM projects:
The seminar The Future of Construction Processes gave solid insight into current developments in the construction industry. Exchange among participants made it possible to answer questions about the latest innovations in construction processes, as well as challenges in current research, and indicated that digitalization can lead the way towards improving existing conditions on con-struction sites.