Everybody in construction is talking about digitalization. Markku Moilanen, Executive Director at Ramboll Group, says that it’s just one facet of the industry’s change: “The way we think about design and consulting as businesses could soon become obsolete. Value chains will be reconfigured and new businesses will enter the market.” Existing companies must change, and Ramboll is willing to meet the challenge.
Digitalization in the industry
Digitalization, from Ramboll’s point of view, covers three topics: BIM, automatization, and AI. BIM as a replacement to traditional CAD is becoming business as usual. BIM as a means of collaboration is still evolving. Ramboll uses modeling to distribute work globally, for example to their service center of 300 employees in India.
Some challenges remain; models from different disciplines don’t always match and they predominantly serve the design phase. “We’ve brought BIM to the construction site. Next, we’re introducing it to facilities management,” says Timo Hautakoski, Director of Sales and Marketing.
Automatization and AI
BIM is an enabler of automatization. Many routines that designers do today will be automated. Markku mentions an example from their UK team. They’ve completely automated the design of highway gantries. An engineer can now design a complete gantry in a few minutes, instead of hours or even days. Automatization does not end in structural design. “We’ve seen automatization in medical and juridical services. The same solution providers could very well enter consulting,” Markku envisions. Timo reminds that Ramboll already uses a bot to do basic F&A transactions.
Artificial intelligence goes further than design automation: it can learn. Markku believes that AI will progress faster than we’ve anticipated. Tech giants like Google pour huge sums of money into developing AI. Coupling AI with BIM, IoT, and construction robotics can create something revolutionary. “We’re testing new technologies in pilot project in Helsinki where we collect IoT data, well-being information, and air quality data,” says Timo.
Disruption is an opportunity
To Markku, disruptive technologies are an opportunity, not a threat. “Consequently, we’ll see the arrival of new roles and professions, for example that of a BIM coordinator. Some job functions will disappear, but that has happened throughout history. We have to be vigilant, especially in education,” he says. He mentions Slush and ReCoTech as great forums for cross-breeding ideas and finding new ways to collaborate with startups. “We want to work with startups that want to both understand our business environment and create wow experiences for the users.”
Ramboll has a long history in continuous development with academics and clients. They also systematically engage employees in innovation. Currently, they invest especially in digitalization and sustainability. Their Livable City concept aims at creating better cities for people. In addition, they study smart mobility, drones, and other technologies. “We want to invest in development to increase our company’s value in the future, just like any tech investor would,” says Markku.
Data connects the players
The real estate and construction industry is made of a myriad of players and processes. The thing that connects them is data. Ramboll is launching a new service that uses big data and provides value to all the participants of the building life cycle. “We learned about the pain points of property owners. Property yield and user satisfaction were on top of the list,” says Timo Hautakoski.
Ramboll accumulates a lot of data over the life cycle of a property, but a big portion of it remains unused. By adding data from open sources, they can provide a new service platform. “At ReCoTech, we’re looking for startups to partner with. They can refine and enrich the data with their technologies.” Ramboll has recruited their first ever Chief Data Scientist and a Partner Manager to start building the new ecosystem around their platform.
This article by Aarni Heiskanen first appeared in ReCoTech Review, November 30, 2017.