Process optimization solutions offer roadbuilders potential: Dr. Stephan Weller
Process optimization solutions offer enormous potential for roadbuilders. Dr. Stephan Weller, head of software products at Joseph Vögele AG, explains how companies benefit from digital solutions such as WITOS Paving Plus, regardless of the size and number of their job sites.
Dr. Weller, do road construction companies that use process optimization solutions work fundamentally better than those that plan and execute conventionally?
Not necessarily. The benefits of process optimization solutions such as WITOS Paving Plus are indeed great: Just-in-time delivery to the job site enables continuous paving without having to stop the paver. That improves paving quality, and of course the processes are much faster and more cost-efficient. Truck capacity can be optimized and residues avoided, for example. In addition, construction companies can use the data and analyses for self-monitoring, and at the same time as proof of quality. But process optimization solutions alone are of course not the complete answer. They also demand a certain will to change: Companies have to actively rethink their existing processes, identify potential for improvement, and target exactly those areas.
But it's also a question of investment. Are process optimization solutions really worthwhile for every company?
Definitely. Our experience has shown that the cost and effort involved in procurement pays off after just a few days on-site. Construction companies - but also other players involved, such as mixing plants - then benefit quite quickly from the quality improvements, efficiency gains, and greater transparency. And besides, process optimization is often obligatory anyway: Many public tenders stipulate process documentation, or even dynamic logistics and machine control. Digitalization has really taken off in road construction as in other fields. Companies getting on-board now still have the opportunity to introduce and adapt new processes at their own pace.
But contractors on medium-sized or smaller construction jobs, especially, are often unwilling to deploy process optimization solutions. Why is that?
Some construction companies believe that introducing such solutions involves a lot of effort, or they don't yet see a need for active process optimization at their existing sites. That's why we offer our customers three solutions of varying scope: The RoadScan system monitors and documents the paving temperature over a wide area. Companies also looking to record and analyze additional machine and process data can use our app-based system WITOS Paving Docu. This transfers the data online directly to the server. By comparison, the comprehensive WITOS Paving Plus solution allows all processes, from the mixing plant through to paving, to be planned, coordinated and actively optimized in real time.
So WITOS Paving Plus is suitable for large job sites, and WITOS Paving Docu for smaller ones?
No, not necessarily. It depends on what data is ultimately collected, and how actively the company wants to intervene in the construction process. Documenting alone might be enough, even on a large job site. On the other hand, a company running lots of small sites might want to be able to monitor operations in real time, and take remedial action where necessary. So it's not necessarily about size, more a question of approach and requirements. What data do we need to collect ourselves to improve our processes, for example? What are our client's expectations? Those are the questions companies ask themselves before deciding on one solution or another.
And what if companies have sites with differing requirements?
Of course, companies adopting the large-scale WITOS Paving Plus solution don't have to use all its features for every job site. They can just use the WITOS Paving Docu app if that's all they need. Conversely, companies taking a slower approach to adopting software solutions by initially just using RoadScan or WITOS Paving Docu can easily upgrade to WITOS Paving Plus. It's quite straightforward, because - whether the company is using RoadScan, WITOS Paving Docu or WITOS Paving Plus - all the data is organized in one application and database. That means customers don't need to transfer data when switching between the three solutions.
Going back to the question of planning: Road construction is regularly subject to short-notice changes. Isn't a complex solution like WITOS Paving Plus too inflexible?
No. Detailed planning is of course essential, especially for larger job sites. But if, for some reason, plans have to be revised just before starting work on a job site, WITOS Paving Plus incorporates an ad-hoc planning feature. It enables the site manager to plan the job fully on-site on the computer. The planning is not quite as detailed, but it does offer companies the option of using WITOS Paving Plus as a quick and easy ad-hoc solution. Among other benefits, this allows the mixing plant to be integrated into the planning of short-notice jobs.
How does Vögele support its customers in introducing and implementing the system?
Some companies may already be using a range of digital solutions, while for others software-based process optimization is completely new. So we offer the right training to everyone involved in the construction process. In addition, we usually provide our customers with assistance when they are first using WITOS Paving. That is the most effective approach, because many issues only arise during the actual construction process. Of course, WITOS Paving is no substitute for the experience and expertise of the paving team. Our aim is rather to provide users with information that they can apply to make fact-based decisions. Ultimately, our solutions help good paving teams to become even better.