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Higher quality, safer, and more cost-effective construction

Author: Sakari Pesonen
Published: 7.3.2019

Is the simultaneous implementation of quality, speed, safety, and cost control on a construction site an impossible equation? Not in our opinion – it is possible, but the realization of the equation requires a change in traditional construction methods and the adoption of new ones. Digitalization offers a new cavalcade of opportunities to streamline and unify working methods to move towards a safer and more efficient construction project.

The construction project of Capella apartment building in Kalasatama, Helsinki was our pilot project, which focused on the most painful problem areas of construction: quality, safety, and cost control. As part of the project, we collected the main points of our lessons below:

1. Improve your planning

The entire construction project starts with planning. Especially when new ways of working or combination of different solutions are implemented in the project. Thus, a new kind of planning is also required. Automated data collection in projects enables a more efficient, higher-quality, and safer solutions through plan improvement. Well planned is better done.

2. More efficient ways of working: takt produktion

One of the most significant factors in improving work efficiency and safety is the change in rigid and slow practices. The first time we piloted factory-based takt production was at the Capella construction project. Takt production refers to a conveyor belt-like production method. Unlike in a traditional industry where the product moves forward on a conveyor belt, in the construction industry, the elements and people move around the product.

The methods in takt production differ from the traditional methods of construction and housing construction. In takt production, the work is done in smaller batches and in parallel, apartment at a time. For example, the floors are installed in the entire apartment building at once, before moving on to the next stages of work. However, in takt production, the floors are installed on an apartment-by-apartment basis. Once the materials are installed in one apartment, the same procedure will take place in the next apartment. At the same time, the next stages of work can start in the apartment where the floors have already been installed.

Using takt production in Capella construction project led us to a situation where we had a different subcontractor working on each floor. Thanks to systematic management, an interactive culture between the subcontractors was created. This way errors could be located and corrected immediately. The interactive culture among the construction site prevented the duplication of errors and avoided time consuming and costly repairs. Interactive culture taught us to organize and schedule work more efficiently than before.

In addition to efficiency and quality control, takt production can be used to improve the safety of construction sites. Using takt production in the Capella project, we found that these new practices improved construction site logistics so that there were fewer unfinished jobs and shifts to and from the site. With better logistics, the risk and number of accidents decreased.

3. Information flow with digital tools

When cleverly harnessed, digital tools can make a significant contribution to the smoothness of a construction project. A smooth flow of information is one of the cornerstones of a successful construction project. Digital tools can be used to structure and visualize the information moving on the construction site into information that benefits each link in the construction project. The Capella project utilized Sitedrive where the project tasks were broken down into detailed areas. The open database, Open Data Platform, enabled a real-time monitoring of the entire construction site and its progress for everyone.

In addition to smoother information flow, digital tools can be used to monitor conditions. When we understand better the condition of both the construction site and the employees, work on the construction site can be optimized and the working conditions and employee safety can be improved. At Capella, we used our Fira Insite tool for real-time site condition monitoring, which collected and visualized information generated by sensors installed in each apartment about temperature, humidity, and pressure variations in the apartments. For example, the drying of structures was monitored by real-time condition monitoring, which made it possible to create a more efficient and faster drying plan. The purpose of monitoring the conditions of employees was to ensure, among other things, that the need for hydration was adequately reminded and monitored.

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