Monitoring the situation on a construction site involves many challenges relating to transparency and information flow. Fira is aiming to resolve these issues through a variety of means, including digitalisation. The company worked with Digia to create a real-time overview that collates information from different systems into a single display, thereby increasing transparency on construction sites.
The smooth running of a construction site often depends on many factors: there are usually dozens of other operators on site in addition to the main contractor. In order to keep all this under control, work supervisors must know whether all the various work stages are progressing according to schedule or whether there are any delays. Site monitoring involves managing all kinds of things, such as schedules, weather conditions and quality assurance.
“Monitoring the situation on a construction site often involves a great deal of manual work, and a lot of the information is kept in people’s heads rather than being openly available. However, running a successful construction site is very much about working together and coordinating the work being carried out by different parties,” says Kasperi Koivu, a project manager at the Fira construction company.
Fira has been harnessing digitalisation to address challenges relating to information sharing. Although the company had already conducted a few one-off pilots, it was now time to build a more permanent solution.
“We’ve already piloted a few different options on individual construction sites. But instead of ad-hoc pilots, we now wanted to build a more permanent solution for monitoring construction sites – one that we can use on all of our sites.”
What we did
What we used
- Microsoft Power BI
- Google Cloud Platform
We’ve been particularly pleased with Digia’s expertise, and everything has gone very smoothly. Our extensive collaboration has covered everything from establishing the data platform to creating the reporting solution.
Tommi Vihervaara, Head of Data, Fira
From retrieving information to viewing information
In early 2020, Fira began working with Digia to build a real-time site overview that would collate information from Fira’s various systems into a single display. These data sources included Fira’s own schedule management system (Fira Sitedrive), its quality assurance system and its access control system. The overview also displays data from sensors that are monitoring factors such as humidity and temperature.
“The same information used to be available in separate systems, but the overview brings it all together. To quote our work supervisors: instead of having to manually go through the data and collate it in a spreadsheet, they can go from searching for the information to seeing the information on the site office screen,” says Tommi Vihervaara, Head of Data at Fira.
“In practice, all construction sites have several large screens, so there’s no need to go digging for information – it’s always visible to everyone. We’ve also sought to make all the displays clear and intuitive, so that any passerby can understand what they’re seeing,” says Koivu.
Koivu says that many people on site benefit from the real-time overview.
“The main target group consists of work supervisors and foremen. Our goal was to create an overview that will help them solve problems in their daily work,” says Koivu.
“Certain important parts of the overview have also been displayed in the staff facilities, such as a breakdown of work for the next three weeks by contractor.”
Koivu says that people on the pilot construction sites have been happy with the new real-time overview.
“We’ve received good feedback about the overview from pilot construction sites. People are actively keeping abreast of the situation and consider the overview to be a valuable addition to their working day.”
Cloud enables fast progress
The real-time overview quickly went from idea to reality. The fact that the majority of Fira’s systems were already located in the cloud helped a great deal.
“The overview was a prime example of how this kind of pilot – one that will genuinely facilitate work supervisors’ everyday work – can be quickly carried out in such a short space of time. Fira has long been utilising the cloud, which enabled us to implement the solution quickly,” says Vihervaara.
The solution has been implemented on Microsoft Power BI, and utilises Google Cloud Platform tools for data storage and integrations.
Both Koivu and Vihervaara say that cooperation with Digia has been very smooth.
“We’ve been particularly pleased with Digia’s expertise, and everything has gone very smoothly. Our extensive collaboration has covered everything from establishing the data platform to creating the reporting solution,” says Vihervaara.
Data utilisation also requires standardised operating methods
The real-time construction site overview is just one example of how Fira wants to harness the data generated by its operations.
“Data utilisation plays an important role in running our basic operations. For example, financial and project management data has long been central to our business and is continually used in operational management. And we also aim to store data from almost all of the systems related to our various processes,” says Koivu.
In addition to routine management, data is also being utilised to improve productivity.
“Compared to other sectors, the construction industry is often lagging behind in terms of productivity. Digital solutions will help us bridge this gap. However, simply collecting data is not enough – we also need to establish standardised working methods and practices,” says Vihervaara.
Different operating methods also pose challenges when it comes to creating a site overview. If the overview is to be widely introduced on different construction sites, the data must be standardised and comparable.
“One of the challenges involved finding a smart way to digitally model the construction process and working methods on different sites so that it would remain suitably straightforward while still providing genuinely valuable information. One continual challenge is working out how to develop processes and operations on construction sites so that the site will become more efficient and generate higher-quality and comparable data,” says Koivu.
“The biggest and most important job will be to work out how to ensure that all future projects fit the same mould. This will come down to day-to-day management and how we are able to change our working methods. The addition of a digital dimension will hopefully lead to a variety of benefits in our everyday activities,” says Vihervaara.