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BuildTech Asia 2016 - Smart solutions for on-site productivity

last updated 03 November 2017

The latest run of annual trade show BuildTech Asia highlighted new impactful solutions for the building and construction industry.

20161104 BTA

By Annabelle Liang

The age-old practice of drawing floor plans on paper could soon be history if FINALCAD has its way.

Instead, plans will be virtual, 3D, and full of room for annotations made by architects, developers and contractors.

“We realised that there were many beautiful tools for designers, but people on the ground were using traditional paper-based methods,” said Pierre Vauthrin, Managing Director for Asia in FINALCAD.

“Missing information and miscommunication results in a lot of waiting time. Costs arise when projects are not delivered on deadline,” he added.

So, the company created a live mobile application in 2011, meant to be used by everyone in the building process. Even the tiniest details – such as the dimensions of a door frame – are easily accessed. It also alerts developers to common defects.

Since its inception, the application has been used in over 10,000 projects across 35 countries including Singapore.

It was one of the solutions showcased by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) at the sixth edition of BuildTech Asia, which took place from 18 to 20 Oct.

Held at Singapore EXPO Hall 3 & Max Atria, the region’s leading trade show was organised by Sphere Exhibits and hosted by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority.

Speaking on the show’s opening day, which also marked the start of the Singapore Construction Productivity Week, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong acknowledged the need to power through the current economic slowdown.

To give firms a hand, the government has rolled out S$11 billion worth of projects in the first half of 2016. This is almost double that of the same period last year, he said.

Still, firms have to focus on improving site productivity that has been ticking up by 2% in each of the past two years.

Progressive firms will benefit. For example, a new productivity component has been introduced in tenders for public sector projects, where the government has lowered the price weightage. “We have made headway in our productivity journey. But we are entering a new phase of disruption, which makes industry transformation more urgent than ever,” explained Minister Wong.

To encourage such transformation in the construction industry, ICT solutions that could transform a specific sector could be supported up to 80% capped at $1 million per SME under iSPRINT. SMEs that use proven sector-specific tech solutions will be supported at up to 70%. Harnessing these will boost SMEs’ productivity and help them achieve higher growth. To date more than 8,000 SMEs have benefited from iSPRINT.

“In pre-qualifying relevant smart solutions for SME sectors, we activate the ICM vendors to help SMEs to deploy, train, trouble shoot and onboard the solution to benefit them more quickly and readily. We are glad for the increasing number of vendors who are partnering us to bring ICM impact to the on-site challenges of construction SMEs,” said Andrew Khaw, IMDA’s Senior Director (Productivity Growth through ICT).

Vendors under the Enhanced iSPRINT scheme cater to a range of industry needs. Hubble is a platform that tracks the business output indicators such as revenue per hour and cost per hour, of each employee. For example, Hubble removes the need for time sheets. Firms such as Woh Hup (Private) Limited have been using it to accurately track, store and analyse data.

“Companies no longer have to manually calculate salaries. They can avoid getting uniformed ‘clock-in and –out’ timings that don’t reflect work patterns,” said Esther Ng, Business Development Manager at Hubble.

Another initiative supported by Enhanced iSPRINT is GPS Lands’ LiDAR-based technology service, SG PointCloud. This solution reduces the time taken for survey work from seven days to three. Within that time, customers will receive an up-to-date virtual world on their desktop.

Those looking for more effective project execution through pre-emptive management of conflicts and delays will love Lean PlanDo. The cloud-based application is easy to use and encourages seamless collaboration among stakeholders. It is the brainchild of Lean Station, which was established in 2015.

Even with smart technological solutions in the construction sector, it is important not to forget the basics – internet access. IMDA’s Fibre Ready Scheme allows owners of non-residential buildings to get a subsidy of up to 90% of Wi-Fi installation cost (capped at $300,000).

“WiFi infrastructure is a service provided to tenants. It allows you to connect both individuals and things to the Internet,” said Lee Wan Sie, Director for Next Generation Infrastructure at IMDA.

“In order for smartness to happen, you need buildings to be connected,” she added.

Kenneth Loo, President of The Singapore Contractors Association Limited, believes in leading by example. He is also the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer at Straits Construction.

The association has adopted biometrics for a decade now, he said. It has been using smart solutions for defects for around three years. Last year, it launched a Foreign Construction Worker Directory System to match skilled workers to firms.

“We see merit in using technology to improve productivity,” Kenneth said. “Companies need to see results before adopting a new system. Hopefully, our usage and endorsement will trickle down to SMEs,” he added.

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