It’s notoriously difficult to keep track of where money is being spent in large government-funded infrastructure projects. But, using SAP software, British construction company Costain and Keytree, a Deloitte company and an SAP AppHaus Network partner, co-developed a solution to the problem.
Recognizing their achievement, the two companies recently received an SAP Innovation Award in the Business Transformation Champion category for their Intelligent Infrastructure Control Center (IICC).
“It’s a well-known problem throughout the construction industry that money being funneled in there is hard to track,” Stuart Clements, head of Keytree’s Design and Innovation team, explains. Huge infrastructure projects across the UK are often government-sponsored and have great budgets, but due to a lack of ability to provide data insights, the specifics of where the budget is going often remains unclear.
The construction industry is no stranger to innovation. But if an innovative process is being introduced on one construction site – for example, a new bridge is being prefabricated and then put together on-site – it is often not possible to leverage that innovation across a wide infrastructure program with many building sites because the necessary insights are missing.
“A lot of processes and data is often held on paper or to be found in the heads of on-site engineers with 20 or 30 years of experience rather than in systems,” Clements explains. By tackling this problem, SAP and Keytree helped position Costain, which is using SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP), at the forefront of innovation in the construction industry.
The SAP AppHaus Partner Network
“Tim Embley, director of Research and Innovation at Costain, wanted Costain to differentiate itself from competitors in the construction industry,” Clements says. Together with SAP, Costain approached Keytree as a potential tech partner that could help position them within their industry as an innovation leader.
The three companies used SAP AppHaus London for workshops and meetings to work out the basics and apply design thinking methodology to the problem. “We conduct our own sessions and workshops independently, but we work closely with the team from SAP AppHaus Heidelberg regarding the best approach to the methodology,” explains Jonathan Maher, director of User Experience for Keytree.
“When the original SAP AppHaus was founded seven years ago,” says Birgit Fien-Schmalzbauer, global head of SAP AppHaus Partner Network, “we quickly came to realize that the demand for innovative work with customers is so great that we chose to have additional SAP AppHaus locations set up by partners from our SAP AppHaus Network.”
Today, 16 of the 21 SAP AppHaus locations worldwide are partner-led. “Besides enabling customer IT departments to use our methodology, this partner network is our most important way to scale,” Fien-Schmalzbauer says.
Creating an Industry Standard for Telematics
The project kicked off towards the end of 2019, using the on-site facilities and tools of SAP AppHaus London until the global pandemic started. In those workshops, the team analyzed the value chain of large industrial infrastructure projects to find out where innovation could be introduced.
“When you engage in this type of project,” Clements says, “you need to focus on where you can show value quickly.” The main question was how to identify productivity and efficiency improvements at a given site and then use the lessons learned from that across the portfolio of infrastructure projects.
The team identified three areas where the data produced could be brought together: telematics, such as the locations of machinery and fuel usage; project data that reveals when the machine is used for which purposes; and commercial data, such as the cost of usage, maintenance, and idle time.
“We understood very quickly that if we could link all this information in one common digital platform it would be a powerful tool for future decision-making on investments,” Clements says.
But almost at once, they were confronted with a problem. “It just seemed too complicated,” Clements says. “Getting Internet of Things (IoT) data streams from a machine into a platform and linking this data to commercial and project data when there are so many different companies providing equipment in that industry, each of which has different standards. Thus far, nobody had successfully faced up to that problem.”
Again, it was a partnership that ultimately helped solve the issue. Aside from Costain, there are two other major companies in the UK that manage construction equipment. Costain had a long-standing business relationship with one of them. “Lynch agreed to provide our project with a live data feed in order to set up an industry standard for telematics,” Clements says.
SAP Business Technology Platform for Fast Enhancements
The next step was to send that data feed to a platform and display it in a dashboard. This is where SAP Business Technology Platform and SAP Analytics Cloud came in. Jack O’Brien, responsible for SAP Alliance at Keytree, points out the value of SAP BTP: “Data integrations happen very quickly and the platform, in combination with SAP Analytics Cloud, allows for very powerful visualizations to show the data insights.”
He adds: “The agility and flexibility of the platform allows for iterations of what has been built, so if, for instance, the markets demand new modular areas or new areas of focus that organizations want to track and measure, we can fairly quickly spin up new functionalities to keep the platform at the forefront of the market.”
There are six modules altogether in the Intelligence Infrastructure Control Center: telematics, carbon footprint, project, commercial, social value, and productivity engine. Of these, the carbon footprint module seems to be resonating most strongly in the market. “Different government bodies are interested in this functionality, so are oil and gas organizations,” says O’Brien. “Interest in the carbon functionality doesn’t seem to be restricted to just infrastructure projects.”
SAP’s Human-Centered Approach to Innovation
The project took 12 months in total, with the telematics module launched first after only four months.
“The energy has been very high because of the nature of the project, which was nimble, agile, and very quick to value,” says Clements. Following SAP’s human-centered approach to innovation was also key for the great outcome. “The people from Costain could showcase the power of the platform to their internal customers as well as to their stakeholders, such as the British Transport Department. This really helped to position Costain and their partners as drivers of innovation.”
“The Keytree team has been critical to the success of the IICC project. They helped us use SAP Business Technology Platform to turn data into real value for the public and the planet,” Tim Embley from Costain says. The relationship between Costain, Keytree, and SAP is being continued. Next steps will include the introduction of blockchain technology to Costain’s supply chain.