So far, digitization has not been an issue in many places in the construction industry. But those who swim against this current grow strongly. One example of this is the start-up Schüttflix, which is now gaining a prominent customer.
Dhe digital platform Schüttflix will in future supply Strabag, the largest road construction company in Germany, with bulk goods. As the FAZ learned in advance, the Austrian construction company is also investing in the single-digit percentage range in the start-up from Gütersloh. Schüttflix brings together available offers from suppliers of all common bulk goods such as gravel, sand or cement on its platform and organizes the transport to the construction site so that builders can order them with a tap of the finger in the company’s app.
The comparability of different offers is a small revolution for the market for bulk goods, which has so far been very regionally fragmented. In addition, invoices and delivery notes are sent digitally directly to the company’s accounting departments, which keeps the construction sites free of paperwork, and deliveries can be tracked in real time.
A six-month pilot phase in North Rhine-Westphalia convinced Strabag, says von Schüttflix. From the beginning of next year, the solution will gradually be rolled out to all around 200 construction companies of the group in Germany by the end of the year, which handle around 5,000 road construction sites each year. The partnership is a “big step towards the digital construction site,” says Thomas Nyhsen, technical director of Strabag’s North Rhine-Westphalia directorate. “Functions such as paperless delivery documentation, live tracking and the upstream price comparison portal make everyday life on the construction site easier.”
400,000 tons of bulk goods delivered
For Schüttflix it is “an absolute milestone” to win a company like Strabag as a customer, says managing director Christian Hülsewig. The partnership does not mean exclusivity, the group will continue to buy from other suppliers. But that goes with the fact that Schüttflix wants to remain neutral in the market despite the minority stake: “We are definitely not going to be Strabag’s purchasing arm.” On the contrary, three other similar pilot projects are currently running with large companies in the construction industry, whose names Hülsewig is keeping a low profile .
In the almost two years that the company has been in existence, Schüttflix has increased its sales by an average of 40 percent each month and is aiming for annual sales of 12 million euros for 2020. So far, the company has shipped more than 400,000 tons of bulk goods. From this Monday, with the expansion of Leipzig Airport, a new major construction site will be added, to which around 60,000 tons of chippings will be delivered. In addition, Schüttflix has also entered into the disposal of excavated earth and similar bulk materials so that the trucks delivering gravel do not have to return empty.
Strabag sees an opportunity in Schüttflix that not many construction companies have seen so far. Because overall the construction industry is finding it difficult to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization. According to a study by the Mannheim economic research institute ZEW, most companies are only at the beginning of a comprehensive digitization process.
The good economic situation in the construction industry, which has persisted for years, seems to have pushed the necessary adjustment steps towards digitization into the background, the authors wrote last autumn. Half of the companies surveyed by ZEW at the time saw no need at all for digitization projects in their company. If so, the investments were limited to the use of simple digital solutions, such as automatic time recording or digital construction documentation. According to the authors, the size of the company is a factor; the use of digital technologies depends on it.
Projections in video glasses
“Since there are an above-average number of small companies active in the German construction industry, this can partly explain the low level of digitization in the German industry comparison,” says the study. Small companies in particular do not have time to deal with digitization. The much-discussed “BIM” shows what possibilities are opening up. The three letters stand for “Building Information Modeling” and refer to a method of networking planning, construction and then also the operation of buildings with the help of software. Ideally, all those involved – planners, suppliers and construction companies – work on a uniform computer model in which changes are immediately visible to everyone so that everyone can adjust to them.
In a further step, the employees on the construction site could then be involved in such a beautiful new working environment. That would mean using projections in video glasses to see exactly where the walls, doors and windows should go. If the planners change something, the workers can react immediately.