Digital transformation

«We connect all construction sites – data is our foundation»

19. April 2021 | Images: Föllmi AG, Sunrise

 

Feusisberg is humming with the sound of excavators and drilling machines. For now, visitors can only see a big, dusty hole in the ground. At the very edge, there’s a red container: the site office. On the surface, it all seems like a run of the mill construction site. But there’s something more going on here. 

It is a cold winter’s day in Feusisberg. The air is clear, the sun is out and the ground creaks underneath our feet. We are visiting the site together with Barbara Kuriger. Construction is underway for the new headquarters of her company, Föllmi AG. The noise of construction machinery can be heard from a distance, and dust rises from the pit. A mighty, red excavator is digging away. Lorries haul away the material.

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The digital future is already upon us today

Barbara Kuriger leads us to a red container towering over the pit. We set foot in the temporary construction site office, where the Head of Administration of Föllmi AG talks enthusiastically of her latest digital project: «We’re equipping all our sites with mobile networks and tablets. This makes us much more flexible and opens up possibilities of mobile collaboration.» 

 

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This vision is already a reality at the Feusisberg site. We walk from the office to the pit with foreman Michael Gübeli. Where a heap of excavated material and the first retaining walls are in place, he shows us 3D construction plans on a tablet. Barbara Kuriger explains the massive advantages this brings: «It sometimes takes days for us to get the paper versions on site. Then, the plans are often ruined by water and dirt.» Michael Gübeli adds that the documents are exchanged instantly – in other words, with immediate updates. Mr. Gübeli can always access the latest versions, while quickly responding to any changes and instructing his construction team accordingly. 

Joining by video

The tablets can also be used for live videoconferences. Partners and employees who are not on site can be included in decision-making processes right away. Any changes are discussed in a straightforward manner and approvals obtained quickly. «Live communication allows us to optimize the planning and delivery of material and equipment,» explains Barbara Kuriger. «It makes it easier for us to see what’s missing and identify any changes to, for example, masses or quantities.»

 

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And that’s not all. Barbara Kuriger is a digital native who sees far greater possibilities still. She has a vision of a digital construction site and has a pragmatic approach to realizing that vision. «We are quickly implementing everything we can do ourselves, without the help of partners or suppliers. Our final goal is completely digitally supported construction, also with the support of so-called building information modeling (BIM).» Ms. Kuriger stipulates that this will still be in the works for some time, because all partners need to digitize their work processes for BIM to function at a site. Today, this is not yet the case. 

 

Virtually simulating construction progress

Föllmi is unfazed by the challenges and keeps investing in digitalization. Among these investments is the training of one employee in various fields of BIM/VDC. «To make sure we are prepared later on,» says Barbara Kuriger with an eye towards the future. Whenever she speaks of the digital future, her excitement is palpable.
 

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IoT will simplify construction logistics

She sees additional digital applications in the Internet of Things (IoT), with machines being connected directly to each other or sensors automatically triggering material or equipment orders whenever they are missing on a site or if something breaks. Augmented reality glasses can expand the various tablet features, for example, by allowing a virtual simulation of construction progress or simplifying quality assurance for construction acceptance.
 

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A temporary solution for seamless connectivity

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Let’s return to present-day Feusisberg, where foreman Michael Gübeli is looking at the latest plans on the tablet together with his site manager. Barbara Kuriger points to the red container and the small antenna installed there. She proudly says: «This innovation, which we’ve driven together with Sunrise, made working with the tablets possible in the first place.» A quick mobile Internet connection is absolutely indispensable for modern construction sites. 

She points to the red excavator that is crushing a large stone with a large drilling attachment, to illustrate the point she is making: Fixed lines would be damaged again and again. «And installing these is rather cumbersome. We can now save valuable time,» concludes Mr. Kuriger. 

Simple, yet effective

We join our hosts as we make our way out of the pit and back to the construction site office, with the next truck being loaded in the background. Barbara Kuriger points to the antenna attached to a side wall on the outside, and says: «This is what makes efficient work at the site possible in the first place.» Strong magnets affix the mobile antenna to the container, making it very easy to install and disassemble. «It is ready for operation in just 20 minutes – and just like that, our office is set up.» 

Föllmi values this flexibility because, in the future, they are planning to equip all construction sites with Internet access in this way. The journey from a paperless construction office to a completely connected construction site sometimes starts with a very simple yet effective step. 

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Here’s how company locations are temporarily connected to one another

Every company has its own unique set of needs for perfect internal collaboration. Companies, for example, need to guarantee communication between their various domestic and foreign locations and secure it through a VPN (virtual private network), allowing access to the cloud as well as from the home office. Or, like Föllmi AG, they need to quickly and simply equip their temporary construction sites with a reliable Internet connection. Internet and corporate network services must be private, secure and efficient.

With Business Connectivity, Sunrise offers bespoke services – using fiber optics, copper or mobile communications, depending on the location. Now, this also comprises the ultra-fast 5G network. The necessary tailored services are configured and ordered in just a few clicks using the web tool. New locations are now connected in a matter of days, without weeks or even months of planning ahead. The modular scope of services can be modified or expanded independently at any time, via the Sunrise Business Portal. 

 

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