Evaluation of applications and systems for more efficient logistics

About the test bed

Test bed host: NCC
Test bed supervisor: Claes Henschel, Digitalisation Project Manager, NCC
Academic supervisor: Martin Rudberg, Professor of Construction Management and Logistics, Linköping University

The NCC test bed project addresses two focus areas:

  • Seamless supply chain: the flow of materials and information to, from and at the construction site and
  • Improved occupational health and safety: introduction of digital safety barriers in high-risk areas

In the first part of the test bed project, applications and systems are evaluated to create efficient logistics and a seamless supply chain. Most suppliers and subcontractors involved in construction projects expect a high level of co-ordination and desire access to the right information for all the active stakeholders involved. In this case, digitalisation and the applications and systems under development have an important role to fulfil.

The main questions at issue for the conducted tests are how digitalisation can act as a catalyst and an enabler for the seamless supply chain, and what development opportunities are created if we have digital representation of the supply chain.

“A catalyst for the seamless supply chain”

Numerous challenges need to be overcome before we can achieve a seamless supply chain. But this also offers numerous opportunities!
The questions at issue in the tests include how sensors, RFID tags and e-standards etc can be used to communicate, collect data, plan, and control the supply chain so that an efficient supply of resources (materials, people, machines, tools) to, and from, the construction site can be created.
It is also important to consider how traceability can be ensured for all types of resource across the logistics process and at the construction site. Materials, tools and machines can be tracked from the manufacturer to their final position in the building “in real time”, which includes the route to and from the construction site as well as on the site itself.

With the support of an efficient digital supply chain, a number of positive impacts on construction can be expected. In addition to improved productivity, the expected benefits are better quality, a safer occupational environment and better prerequisites for industrialised production. As a result, NCC has opted to focus on the order-to-delivery process, handover and traceability at the construction site as well as how digitalisation can create better prerequisites in these areas.

Digital technology to reduce accidents on construction sites

The other question at issue that the test bed project addresses is evaluating whether digital technologies can reduce the number of serious or fatal accidents on construction sites.

Construction is the industry that suffers the most fatalities, workplace accidents and incidents in Sweden. The most common causes of workplace accidents are falls, loss of control of handheld tools, and sudden overexertion. Unfortunately, in addition to common accidents, the construction industry also suffers a number of very serious accidents every year as well as relatively many fatal accidents. At NCC, three high-risk areas have been identified: work at high altitude, work with tower cranes and work with heavy vehicles in busy environments. Since 2007, 90 percent of fatal accidents, serious incidents and serious accidents in the workplace have occurred in these three areas.

There are currently well-established systems, processes and tools that focus on safety culture, attitudes and behaviour whose aim is to create safe occupational environments. Despite this, there remains a need to determine how digitalisation can further improve safety. In other words, the hypothesis being tested is whether new digital solutions can increase the level of safety on construction sites.

One example is fitting staff and equipment with sensors that provide real-time information about different hazardous situations or monitor individual work situations to avoid hazardous situations. In addition, Augmented Reality (AR) can be used to improve occupational environments through a combination of virtual and physical environments. There are also initiatives that use advanced workplace simulations to identify a range of potential risk factors and dangerous situations in advance.
One area of testing that NCC has chosen to focus on is digital safety barriers between people and machines when there is a risk of accidents, especially within the three identified high-risk areas. The digital safety barriers use sensors, cameras and advanced object recognition supported by AI (artificial intelligence) models to provide alerts and notifications to affected staff when they are at risk. The aim of the testing is to evaluate whether these digital aids could prove a significant factor in minimising, and at best eliminating, serious and fatal accidents at each construction site.