In the construction industry, business mainly takes place between institutions. Companies are competing for plots of land, not for end customers. People are only seen as demand creators and users; the general belief is that as long as the location is right, properties will sell. This reminds us of the situation of encyclopaedia publishers faced with the spreading of web search engines. Confident in their knowledge of the market accumulated over decades, they did not see any need to personify or digitalise their business. The change came from outside.
Digitalisation enables more efficient construction but it also offers new opportunities for catering to people’s needs. This, along with residents’ desire to have some control regarding their living environment, is an underused resource in the construction industry. Tapping into this, Fira intends to enter the global market with the help of user-centric digitalisation.
Power to the people
We intend to transform the construction industry from business-to-business to people-to-people. We will modernise the business by adding the human aspect to the equation. We will inspire people to adopt and use digital solutions. What does all this mean in practice?
It means that people can influence their living environment, even design an entire building for themselves with the help of digital services.
“The construction industry is not moving in the direction we would like it to. Productivity is still lagging far behind many other industries, and end-users – people – are not the centre of attention. The industry will be facing huge changes, but no one knows what these changes will be, which is fascinating. The business may become increasingly technology-oriented or human-oriented. We focus on the latter alternative, by engaging both customers and construction-industry professionals in the process”, says Seppo Keronen, Director, Innovations at Fira.
The human orientation means introducing new, scalable, user-centric digital services and service concepts to the market. One example of such instruments is Fira’s scheduling software Sitedrive that provides real-time data on the progress and schedule of the construction site. It facilitates efficient information exchange: the client, site management and employees can monitor the progress of work by the hour. In this way, everyone knows whether the right things are being done at the right time. When people know each other – the constructors know the residents, as well as the professionals responsible for the next phase of the project – everyone is motivated to do their work as well as possible.
Digitalisation and human orientation open doors to globalisation in the construction industry. Expansion to new markets by means of traditional construction activities has been challenging, as local operators usually dominate regional markets. The automotive industry has progressed to the mass manufacture of tailored products, whereas the construction industry is still at a point like the time before the arrival of the revolutionary Ford Model T in the world of cars.
Introducing business models and technologies based on joint development, which are proven in other industries, enables us to disrupt the construction industry. We can create platforms on which residents can meet constructors and share their thoughts on good living in direct interaction with the professionals.
Digital services are scalable and they enable a stronger focus on people in construction.
“Today’s construction business ignores the human aspect. The property developer comes and develops the property without sufficiently involving the residents. We want to engage both residents and constructors in the process. And the best thing about this process model is that it can be applied in any country”, Keronen explains.
To support this development, we have launched two significant projects funded by Business Finland (Tekes), totalling approximately EUR 10 million in value. These projects aim at developing various models of cooperation with Finnish and international partners. We are also recruiting new talents, such as people with expertise in artificial intelligence, software and user experience.
The trend is that the construction business and the city of the future are what people want them to be. New technologies will work with people for the benefit of people. The technology already exists, we just need to take it into use in the construction industry.
We are headed to the future together with other operators, and we are open to cooperation with all interested parties. We call this the Building Movement.