Disruption key focus for GCC's construction tech suppliers

Construction Week speaks with construction technology suppliers that say that the industry needs to look into digitising standard processes to improve productivity

Hilti recently launched a new asset management system, Chabert says.
Hilti recently launched a new asset management system, Chabert says.

Despite project scopes growing more ambitious, the construction sector’s productivity and adoption of the latest technologies continue to lag behind those of other sectors.

Having made this observation, Denis Branthonne, chief executive officer and founder of Novade Solutions, notes that the construction industry is “ripe for disruption”, telling Construction Week: “Mobile and cloud technologies can revolutionise site processes by saving time and paper, thus boosting productivity.”

Branthonne adds that Novade, understanding the benefits that technology could bring to the industry, aims to digitise standard site processes.

He elaborates: “[The Novade] platform offers a variety of modules to address different project needs. One of the most popular is Novade Quality, which digitises defect checking, quality controls, and rectification processes.

“We are seeing a lot of traction also with Novade Safety to digitise key processes, such as site inspections, work permits, and non-conformance and near-miss reports. Meanwhile, Novade Maintenance allows users to manage scheduled inspections and repair jobs by technicians in the field in real time. All these modules are connected to each other and can be used on multiple projects.”

While the company is headquartered in Singapore, Branthonne says that its products are used in building, real estate, and infrastructure projects not only in Asia but also in Europe – and will soon be in use in the Middle East.

“We are aiming to enter the Middle-Eastern market in 2018,” he reveals.

Unlike Novade, Hilti already has a presence in the region, where it is said to be enjoying strong demand for its construction technologies and products.

Edouard Chabert, marketing head for the GCC at Hilti Emirates, says that 2017 has, so far, proven to be a good year for the company, adding that the UAE is “currently the most dynamic market”, and one that constitutes around 35% of the company’s total business in the GCC.

Giving specifics on Hilti’s market performance, he continues: “Our tool business is growing at a strong double-digit pace, with [demand exhibiting] a clear shift from corded tools to battery-actuated tools.”

The latter, he points out, offer a similar – if not better – performance than corded tools, but are safer and easier to use.

“We launched, at the end of 2016, the Hilti BX 3-A, which is a battery-actuated direct fastening tool. It is five to six times faster than any traditional light anchoring application and delivers 80 joules of impact energy without any propellant,” Chabert says, noting that the product offers customers a fast and safe way to carry out daily on-site applications.

Hilti is reportedly set on increasing its market share in the region, and one way it is trying to achieve that is by focussing on services and software products.

“We have also just launched our new On Track asset management solution, which lets companies track assets on their sites, from small assets, such as hand tools and protective gears, to large ones like vehicles,” says Chabert.

In a paper titled Technology and its Impact on the Construction Industry, Steve Cockerell, industry marketing director at Rail Bentley Systems, highlights the same point made by Branthonne about the construction industry’s lethargic adoption of new technologies.

He says: “The increasing need for significant and accelerated digital transformation of business activities, processes, and competencies makes ‘business as usual’ no longer a viable option. It’s about new ways of doing business and, in the construction industry that means a new way of delivering and advancing infrastructure.”

Elaborating on how the industry can exploit new technologies that have made their way into the market, he talks about what has been done so far: “Some examples of our industry going digital include traditional survey techniques that are rapidly giving way to new ones, such as laser scanners and digital cameras.”

Citing a couple of Bentley products as an example, he adds: “Bentley’s ContextCapture software, introduced in 2015, enables engineers and designers to generate a detailed reality mesh – a navigable 3D model with fine, photo-realistic detail and precise geometric accuracy – from digital photographs.

“Bentley’s OpenRoads ConceptStation consumes this data and takes preliminary design to a new level, modelling not just how the road looks but how it behaves and [what it] costs, enabling designers to understand financial implications early in the process and to explore multiple scenarios in search of a preferred solution.”

Cockerell further points out that technology should not only be an enabler for innovation, but should also “enable engineering professionals to explore different scenarios in search of optimal solutions”.

He concludes: “Going digital is about providing open and live access to engineering models, beyond design and into construction and operations, and is about connecting workflows.”

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