Features

KONE is Shaking Up the Industry with BIM

KONE supplies elevators, escalators, autowalks and maintenance and modernization solutions. I sat down with Kenneth Flannigan to discuss how BIM is changing KONE and what it means to the industry.

Kenneth Flannigan KONE
Ken Flannigan

KONE operates in over 60 countries, has around 1.3 million units in service, and moves over one billion people per day. The company’s mission is “to improve the flow of urban life.” Kenneth Flannigan is the BIM Solution Owner for the company. He acknowledges that even though KONE provides equipment and software innovation, in this day and age that’s not enough.

“We’re a critical path item. How innovative are we if we’re not working on every single project in a shared 3D environment, like our customers?” Flannigan asks.

KONE serves both indirect and paying customers. It works with influencers like architects and with general contractors, builders, and construction managers. It also has a life-cycle relationship with building owners, which is evidenced by the fact that over 30% of the company’s sales come from maintenance.

It’s Time to Move to Modeling

Flannigan admits that companies in KONE’s market are a bit behind when it comes to utilizing BIM. He emphasizes, however, that KONE has taken determined steps to implement BIM and is now using the technology successfully in a few large projects. He mentions 110 North Wacker in Chicago and A’DAM in Amsterdam as examples of extensive use of BIM and 3D modeling.

“We can shoehorn BIM into so many things, including our four supply lines and 40 some-odd front lines that are not just manufacturing but also installing and servicing – real boots on the ground stuff,” Flannigan observes.

He notes that it’s hard in his business to outsource BIM – you have to have professionals who both know a company’s equipment and can operate in a BIM environment.

Bringing BIM to the Front Line

Choosing the right elevators for a building is not a straightforward issue. The components in a mass customization model theoretically allow one supply line to provide a staggering 100 billion combinations.

“Everyone’s trying to address that issue, but what most people aren’t trying to address in our industry is how do we use BIM models to do something more efficiently on-site? How do we improve the construction process?”

Flannigan notes that having a BIM model of elevators or escalators is not enough. He wants to coordinate and communicate in 3D as many mechanical and structural engineers are already doing. He wants to make sure that customer solutions engineers on every front line become BIM experts, working in the local language and as close to the customer as possible.

A Life-Cycle Opportunity

The primary focus of KONE’s efforts with respect to BIM is on construction coordination.

The owner side of the business is also moving in the same direction, albeit at a bit slower pace.

Flannigan thinks the company will hand over the same kind of information as they do today after project completion, but as a model in a virtual container. The model feeds into connected IoT systems as well as facility management systems. Modeling will save on life-cycle costs for owners; for example, by cutting down on time spent on service calls, a task KONE performs about 70,000 times a day.

Traditionally, a service technician arrives on a large campus with little information – just the broken elevator’s number and some alert information. Finding the exact location of the problem elevator can take up 50% of the service call time. With BIM, the information needed to find and access the elevator can be readily available.

How to Support the Decision-Makers

In order to improve the construction process, KONE needs to understand better how project participants, especially architects, make decisions about elevators and escalators. Having worked as an architect, Flannigan knows that architects have to make accurate decisions with little information. In many cases, they just copy and paste something from a previous project.

KONE has been running decision-journey-mapping workshops with architects all over the world. It turns out that they often make important decisions before KONE or its competitors are even involved in the project, decisions that can have a huge impact on the constructability and cost of the elevator. Sometimes architects and contractors require solutions that are impossible to achieve with the highly regulated equipment involved.

Support the decision journey and the configuration of elevators requires both software solutions and consulting. KONE provides an online service that allows the customer to chat with an engineer. This is especially useful when the customer needs one-off, nonstandard solutions. KONE often prefers to guide customers to a standard solution, but customized options must always be available, Flannigan believes.

Towards a Collaborative 3D Environment

BIM is an elemental component of what KONE offers. The company is developing into a 3D collaborative environment in which all participants communicate by means of models, not documents.

The market seems to be ready for this shift, and not just for huge projects, as Flannigan points out: “We have increased these numbers about 110% year over year. We’ve seen growth in the requests for BIM and for 3D coordination. We’ve seen a spike in customers wanting three- dimensional models instead of 2D documents.”

But KONE is not stopping there. The company has started doing 4D simulation for tasks like equipment routing, site logistics, and steel construction sequencing. Flannigan states that the company insists on doing simulations that solve very specific problems, not the “Hollywood-style,” whole building 4D simulation in which ”trucks roll on site.”

KONE wants to involve customers in the development of the new ways of working. “We have to be extremely flexible in order to follow whatever they’re expecting from us,” Flannigan concludes.

You can connect with Ken Flannigan on LinkedIn.

Title image: A’DAM elevator shaft (Depositphotos). The other photos are courtesy of KONE.

About the author

Aarni Heiskanen

Aarni Heiskanen, Construction Innovation Agent, is hailed as a Top 100 influencer in construction. Aarni has been a pioneer in computer-aided design, he has co-founded a business software company, and worked as a certified management consultant. At present, he runs AE Partners, a communication firm. Aarni holds a master's degree in architecture.

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