Connected ecosystems expand digitalisation opportunities
Trackunit is a SaaS (Software as a Service) developer operating in the construction industry. With over 500,000 Bluetooth and wireless devices connected to its global network, it is helping to expand the benefits of digital transformation across the construction supply chain. Here CEO Soeren Brogaard reflects on recent technology changes and outlines the ways the industry can realise its digital potential
Recently, I had the privilege to present at the Global IPAF 2021 Summit with Peter Douglas, CEO and MD of IPAF. Although on the surface the 25-minutes on screen was to launch the free ePAL mobile app and digital PAL card, the deeper message was how far we, as an industry, have come along the digitalisation journey.
IPAF is a highly respected construction industry safety standards organisation, which develops internationally approved safety training material and courses for training centres and through e-learning. It trains and certifies operators to safely use equipment, issuing PAL Cards and certificates as an assurance of the user’s capability. Operator’s skills and knowledge are reassessed every five years and the user’s physical licence is reissued.
Like many operations in the construction industry, up until the launch of the digital ePAL Card the process has been time and people intensive, as well as requiring a great volume of physical assets. During our early discussions, Peter Douglas stated that his team calculated that if you stacked the manuals, tutorials, and other assets, printed each year, on top of each other it would reach 130 metres tall. So, you would need an access-platform to get to the top. All those physical assets needed to be distributed and stored, and licences mailed to operators, and that took time and expense.
As with any evolutionary process the object is to increase efficiency, while removing redundant steps. IPAF has a well-oiled process for its logistics, however, transferring the activities to digital, whether in the training centre or on an operator’s mobile, meant it created benefits in several areas. These included reduction in the manufacture and distribution of physical assets, less administration for IPAF, training centres and end customers and direct news feeds for updates on safety, news on equipment or the latest training.
The construction industry is a complex web of ecosystems, and the successful roll out of ePAL has required detailed planning, not only in the product development. Ensuring that future development of the applications the system offers is not a closed loop is essential. Digitalisation of our industry requires continued consultation with a wide cadre of stakeholders, we need to involve country regulators and industry representatives and we need to communicate to all layers of the industry. People need to understand the benefits that new technologies offer, with the reduction in admin tasks more focus can be on actions that help complete construction projects, on time and within budget.
IPAF has stated that ePAL is its commitment to enable collaboration between the operator and the digital construction ecosystem. Developed by IPAF for the industry, the platform is designed to be open and AEMP 2.0 compliant, so it is flexible and works across machine types and fleet sizes.
Considerably more digitalisation is being launched to support construction for safety, track and trace telemetry, analytic capture and these systems are converting almost every action into data for analysis. This data, where appropriate, can be shared and help build the platforms to move construction into the new digital age. Our industry is learning from the knowledge we share with others. Eighty-three percent of digital ecosystems involve partners from more than three industries. While the most successful digital ecosystems have around 40 partners.
To evolve and succeed, we need to collaborate, and it might not be with the obvious partners. Data is being used and shared in new ways. Technology is opening doors to an array of talent who bring new ideas and capabilities, that will positively impact the operators on site, with multiple touch points across the supply-chain to create value for all participants.
Illustrating the positive feed-back the IPAF initiative has already received, Stewart Mardle, of BT, and Chairman of MATS, stated: "The app supports great communication among project teams and the industry as a whole. The ability to share qualification is conducive to better security and a wider delivery of safety advice."
Plugging into the IPAF’s wider ecosystem it is already drawing down possible updates to provide increased capabilities for customers and operators and more efficiency in its own training provisioning. Capabilities such as a digital logbook to automate entries and update operator data. Provision for access control, with RFID tokens, host card emulation, as well as offering individual or group messaging, and machine pre-checks which will integrate with organisations’ telematics systems.
IPAF’s ePAL project is a very exciting development within the construction industry. It demonstrates that ecosystem collaboration provides positive results and creates a forward pathway to extend capabilities and benefits to an even wider audience and potential customers.
I take heart from this in that the evolution of an idea, is creating a better, safer more efficient construction industry.