Paving the way for successful construction technology adoption within large General Contractors

Oct 6, 2021 | Blog

Some organizations seem to have that ‘secret sauce’ that helps them to be exceptionally effective in their technology adoption efforts.

In the quest to improve efficiency, General Contractors are placing an increasing emphasis on adopting new technologies to help them achieve their goals. There are many variables that can influence, not only the speed of adoption, but also the level of penetration achieved within the organization: large organizational structures that span wide geographies, well-established workflows and routines, and the diversity of cultures and projects.

Our partners in the APAC region have been extremely successful in getting new technologies widely adopted throughout their organizations. What is it that has made them so successful? The answer may surprise you.

2021 Asia Digital Construction

On the 3rd day of the recent Asia Festival of Digital Construction, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion entitled “Leveraging 360° photo capture technology to boost existing processes in APAC”. I had a great time chatting with Yuji Doi who is the Innovation Manager at Kajima and David John Gibbs [aka DJ] who is the Digital Engineering and Compliance Manager at Gammon Construction.

Kajima Corporation is not only one of Japan’s largest general contractors, but also one of its oldest. Founded in 1840 and headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, they provide various services including engineering, design, construction, and real estate development. Kajima constructs most of the types in construction, such as railways, power plants, high-rise structures, dams, and bridges.

Gammon Construction have their headquarters in Hong Kong and provide engineering design, construction, project management and construction services. They deliver an array of projects from residential and industrial developments to hotels, airports, and tunnels. They have a strong digital focus and are always on the lookout for innovative ways to use technology to improve the way they deliver projects.

During the event, we discussed how each of our partners approached the adoption of new technologies and how they incorporated the use of 360° photo capture into their teams at multiple levels.

The panelists of our session at the Asia Festival of Digital Construction

The panelists of our session at the Asia Festival of Digital Construction

The 360° “Aha!” moments in Japan

The projects that Kajima works on offer very dynamic environments for testing and implementing new technologies. These can be anything from underground railway stations to landslide recovery projects. Many of their projects are horizontal in nature, spanning vast distances that create challenges with site inspections and progress monitoring.

Yuji was aware of how HoloBuilder was benefiting teams that were working on vertical projects. But, he particularly wanted to trial HoloBuilder and test its application on more civil infrastructure projects.

The trials ran very well and Yuji quickly saw the typical benefits that our clients experience, with some of them often amplified due to the horizontal nature of the Kajima projects:

  • A reduced need to try and coordinate travel and site visits for supplemental information, saving both time and money.
  • Some projects were particularly hazardous, so safety was measurably increased due to less time being needed on those sites.
  • Enhanced communications due to increased visibility, helping decision-making both internally and with clients.
  • Having all the photos organized and time-stamped greatly helped the teams with context.

Since we first started working with Yuji, back in September 2018, he has always provided us with great feedback and feature requests. After the trial, Yuji was eager to further implement HoloBuilder into the projects and workflows that Kajima had. However, as Yuji mentioned during the webinar, there were definitely barriers when looking to incorporate ‘overseas’ technologies. We needed to change mindsets, address SaaS security concerns, and navigate language differences.

It was evident to Yuji that we needed to connect with the people in the teams, sympathize with their particular challenges, and demonstrate how HoloBuilder would make their individual jobs easier and more effective.

The Kanto region in Japan — Here we met with Project Managers and other business lines

The Kanto region in Japan — Here we met with Project Managers and other business lines

So we planned a week-long roadshow with Yuji in Japan. We spent time at their headquarters in Tokyo where we met internal teams and stakeholders. Following that, we met with Project Managers and other business units at one of their branch offices and jobsites in the Kanto region.

We ran HoloBuilder trials on the 6 projects that we visited and gave the teams hands-on time with the platform, demonstrating how they could apply the insights into their daily workflows.

It was during this roadshow that everything seemed to click into place for the Kajima teams. “There was definitely an “Aha!” moment, as teams started to consider this technology as being integral to their own roles. Teams saw how it had a direct impact on their work,” said Yuji.

“Thanks to the deep engagement by the people at HoloBuilder, our teams now have the saying that HoloBuilder is like having the whole project in their pocket.”

 

— Yuji Doi, Innovation Manager, Kajima

“Meeting people in person was an essential part of getting acceptance of the product. The teams not only loved the HoloBuilder team but also enjoyed the collaborative efforts in pushing technology forward together. Our teams are now becoming more aggressive in their implementation of new tools,” says Yuji.

Site visit with the Kajima team in Japan

Site visit with the Kajima team in Japan

“Everybody loves a photo”

For DJ from Gammon Construction, it has been a journey. Through his past and present roles, he has been exposed to a variety of project scenarios with the opportunity to use many different technology solutions. At Gammon, he has been successful in implementing solutions across multiple organizational levels.

Gammon wanted to start taking a more proactive approach in the way that they were managing projects, instead of always being on the back foot. HoloBuilder and 360° photo capture immediately caught their eye.

DJ explains Gammon’s use of HoloBuilder including comparing the actual site progress to the BIM model side-by-side

DJ explains Gammon’s use of HoloBuilder including comparing the actual site progress to the BIM model side-by-side

“We are often working with a variety of skills and different appetites for learning. Implementing HoloBuilder was undoubtedly one of the easiest roll-outs I have ever had. Getting buy-in is relatively easy because everyone loves a photo and most people are familiar with Google’s Street View, so it’s very intuitive. The teams love it,” says DJ.

It was great to hear how far-reaching the use of HoloBuilder has been at Gammon. DJ and his team are really pushing the boundaries of 360° photo capture technology for Construction Progress Management with some of their uses including:

  • Payment application facilitation
  • Production of as-builts by the BIM teams
  • Planning and progress reporting
  • Remote site inspection
  • Reducing safety concerns with fewer site visits

Getting to the future

In closing, we spoke about where technology is heading and some of the things that we have to look forward to. Digital Twins, AI, and Robotics were top of the list.

For me, Yuji’s comment epitomizes the balanced, logical approach we should take when reaching for all the benefits that new technologies can bring:

“It’s important to focus on the great future developments like AI and Robotics and keep working to attain them. But it’s equally important to focus on what we can implement now to bridge the gap to the future tech.“

 

— Yuji Doi, Innovation Manager, Kajima

Listening to DJ and reflecting on the time we spent with Yuji and his teams in Japan, I am struck once again by how critically important it is to focus more on the people than on the technology that you want to have adopted. It is always easy to become so wrapped up in the tech that one forgets about who is ultimately going to be using it and thus needs to adopt it into their daily workflow.

There is also a comparison to be made between the adoption of new technologies by large teams that are made up of different cultures, and doing so internally, across multiple departments. Both revolve around getting people on board and embracing the technology. In both cases, it takes a level of understanding and a measure of empathy for individuals and their challenges to effectively implement something new. I appreciate the role that innovation, virtual design, and digitization teams play within the process of getting technologies discovered, validated, and scaled. As Yuji and DJ know, it requires patience and persistence. However, as demonstrated by many of those initiatives, the rewards can be spectacular.

With all the exciting developments in construction technology coming to the fore, the way that we get there will undoubtedly require careful consideration of the humans who will use this tech. I am convinced that we will all be able to enjoy the benefits that technologies such as Digital Twins, AI, and Robotics bring if we follow a human-first approach to adoption.

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