The industry needs to work for the productivity and customer satisfaction!
Construction industry veteran Jari Valo has been working at NCC for almost four decades. In his work, he saw early on what digitalization could bring to the industry and already in the 80s would have brought television screens that share information to construction sites. At that time, he was not yet taken seriously, but NCC has a long tradition of digitalization, in which Valo has been strongly involved. At NCC, digitalization is divided into two areas: digitalization of business management and digitalization of construction site projects. Visibility reports, data warehouses, analyses, and other business information have supported the decision-making of company management for 20 years, and digitalization came to NCC's sites 10 years ago when the flow of information began to be improved with the help of mobile devices.
"We see that the digitalization of construction sites takes place in three waves. In the first wave, all information relevant to the project in question is made available to the people working on the site in a passive form. In the second wave, applications supporting construction site operations will be produced, and in the third wave, a stronger integration will take place, where, for example, the widespread adoption of GTINs enables the tracking of materials," Valo characterizes.
GTINs play a key role in terms of industry productivity
According to Valo, GTINs are a key tool in the digitalization of the construction industry, and they affect the industry's productivity and sustainable development.
"The GTIN might even be a revolutionary thing in terms of productivity in the construction industry, because with it we have constantly up-to-date information about the immaterial status of construction materials and products, i.e. for example when and where they were made, and about the physical status, i.e. where the material is, whether it is attached and admitted."
Valo compares the construction industry to retail, where product monitoring is at a completely different level than in the construction industry - but not at the level he thinks the construction industry should aim for:
"If we buy, say, a 60-cent can in the grocery store, we can find out who made it, in which shift, for which production batch and from which raw materials. Thanks to traceability, we know everything that has happened to the can until it reaches the checkout. The construction industry is different in that this information chain should continue throughout the entire use of the building and for the property owner," he describes.
Valo says that he has thought a lot about what is the change driver that makes the construction industry more efficient and productive. He tells an example of an engineering company where they hoped for better product quality, but the change was achieved by focusing on speed - quality is too abstract a concept, but speed inevitably required planned and high-quality work.
"We need to identify the driver with which we can get through the change in the construction industry. In my opinion, it could be the digital controllability of material flows. With its help, we can reduce waste of time, waste of materials, errors, uncertainty and frustration on construction sites."
Valo sees that effective digital monitoring of materials also affects the comfort of construction sites and can be the answer to the resource problem plaguing the construction industry.
"When there are fewer useless piles and broken discarded materials on the construction site, and when all the materials go roughly on time to their right places, the construction site becomes a neater, cleaner, more controlled place, more like an industrial process. Then the construction project becomes a significantly more attractive and human workplace. And when it's more fun to work, the work becomes more productive, and the quality improves."
The industry needs to work for its productivity and customer satisfaction
In Valo's opinion, the digitalization of the construction industry and the large-scale use of standards requires industry-level consensus and the strong commitment of all stakeholders. The use of GTINs is currently being promoted under the leadership of the Digitalization group of the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT. Valo hopes that this will get the industry's critical mass moving and key stakeholders to cooperate.
"This requires joint coordination of structures and processes in our industry. In that work, construction companies as well as wholesalers, subcontractors, design agencies and customers must be involved. As a large operator, we at NCC can help smaller operators to join in, but a single operator cannot, and should not, make a change alone, but we must unite."
Valo states that the standardization and digitalization of the industry requires courage to invest from the operators, and he sees nothing wrong with a joint effort. Each operator's own systems would rather cause chaos, and that is not in the interest of the industry's customers.
"We are now perhaps too afraid of competition legislation and information exchange. Yes, in my opinion, the industry can make information technology platforms to develop the industry's productivity and customer satisfaction."
The next step requires commitment from the actors
Valo sees that a joint statement related to the use of GTINs in the construction industry could be made as a kind of starting declaration, after which the industry's standardization can be seriously moved forward. He suggests that after this, the industry could organize a big startup seminar on the subject, where it could be decided on how to organize around the issue.
"We need to get companies to commit to this work by tying up both resources and time. We need a core group with sufficient knowledge of construction processes, software, and hardware. This locomotive can be an association, or a limited company financed by large stakeholders such as construction companies and wholesalers - it remains to be seen. In any case, we at NCC are very interested in the standardization of our industry and I see that it could be the right winning bet in the quality output, productivity, customer satisfaction and sustainable development of the construction industry", sums up Valo.