Innovation and New Technologies – ALEC
ALEC’s Strategic Project Manager, Severin Tenim, tells Construction Business News ME on how the company is using innovation and new technology to continuously improve the way they operate and consistently challenge the status quo
Innovation and New Technologies
Our vision is to be the Leading Innovative Construction Group. We strive to be leaders in innovative practice through continuously improving the way we operate and consistently challenging the status quo. The use of new technologies will rapidly alter the landscape we currently operate in, and there will be significant benefit if leveraged correctly. Whilst the new technological landscape is exciting, its benefits cannot be fully realised without a culture of clear communication, transparency and collaboration across the entire supply chain, which is a primary focus of ours at ALEC.
Challenges and obstacles to innovation
There are a few challenges and obstacles we face on our journey but the most significant of these is people’s resistance to change, which includes overcoming the “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset that invariably leads to slow & low user adoption. Other challenges include the level of maturity of stakeholders, low margins which lower risk appetite for R&D initiatives, and a large requirement to re-skill and upskill our workforce. From a technological standpoint, many construction technologies are in their infancy and have rapid development cycles which make adoption on live projects challenging. Mature technologies from other industries are inflexible enough for construction projects (which are each unique) and adapting them to our changing environment are equally challenging.
Innovation within ALEC
Innovation is a Core Value at ALEC and a key component in our Company Vision. We have a dedicated Innovation Department who work closely with all our business units and departments on initiatives with a well-structured innovation strategy. There is continuous support from company Leadership and Directors, with innovation KPI’s per department and projects in the pipeline.
Externally we are partnering and collaborating extensively with our Supply chain, numerous universities, government agencies, startups, consultancies, clients and even our competitors. The successes generated through these partnerships are testaments to the power of collaboration.
First and foremost, we are collaborative and open for business!
Whilst the general perception of innovation is that of mass-disruption or transformation, we view it as a combination of three key areas of focus and a “total innovation” approach. Striking the correct balance between initiatives in these areas (core, adjacent and transformational) is key in allowing us to consistently review and assess our progress, whilst fine-tuning our course to fulfilling our vision. Focus topics for these include Information Management and Digitalisation, Modular and Offsite construction, Robotics and Automation, and emerging technologies including 3D printing.
Viewing construction from a macro-perspective, we are acutely aware of the way the world is changing. Key factors affecting our industry in the future will be linked to the rapid increase in population and urbanization, spurring a growth in demand for housing and resources. This in combination with many assets reaching the end of their design life mean refurbishment will become a growing sector to re-invigorate and re-purpose living spaces to cater for this demand. This should not only be viewed from a functional standpoint but requires heavy focus on sustainability, capacity of the current infrastructure networks, and long-term effects on the environment – a passion of ours.
Globally, innovation cycle times are decreasing through the acceleration of technological capability, ease of communication and ability to transfer information. To remain relevant, we realise we need to remain agile and adapt quickly – we cannot keep constructing the way we always have as this operating model is outdated. Our inefficiency renders us susceptibly to disruption from external industries, and all stakeholders in the construction supply chain need to look inward and identify how we turn the industry from one of the most inefficient and wasteful, into one that is ultra-lean, sustainable and generates value at every stage in the process. We need to find ways to attract the best and brightest talent to our industry to assist us in driving and innovating these changes. It is essential we manage information more effectively and improve the overall quality, timing, accessibility and communication thereof.
Highlights and Successes
Internally we have great buy-in and engagement company-wide. Innovation is core to what we do and a key contributor to its success is regular communication and engagement with our people. We are realizing increased user adoption with the number of ideas, implemented initiatives and user awareness all increasing exponentially. Our collaborative network is large and has a growing number of Innovations, POCs and research Initiatives both locally and internationally on multiple fronts. Some key highlights include increasing BIM-to-Field and Field-to-BIM projects, robotics adoption and winning the 2018 MRM Business Innovation Award.