Taking construction project management into cloud

Timo Hämäläinen

VisiLean is a mobile application and cloud service that allows engaging workers in planning and following work in construction projects.

A cloud based service that has been developed from ground up – VisiLean has been developed to address the acute need of the industry to improve the production control on construction sites. The main aim of VisiLean is to make it easier to manage construction projects, save costs and accelerate the pace of construction.

The VisiLean service supports lean principles such as pull planning, visual management and continuous improvement and follows the Last Planner workflow, which is becoming more commonplace in construction. The core idea of the Last Planner System® is that those carrying out the work (Last Planners) collaborate in developing production plans. Building Information Modelling or BIM is becoming highly important for construction projects today, and VisiLean is the only solution today that supports cloud based BIM integration with production planning and control for construction sites.

- VisiLean allows the project manager, foreman and workers to follow the progress of construction work and to get a visual image of it in real time, says Bhargav Dave, CEO of VisiLean.

For collaborative planning, VisiLean offers a mobile application which enables employees to communicate about the status of their work stage: for example notifications for starting and completing work or putting an alert for work stoppages.

VisiLean enables real-time communication of information between management and employees as well as subcontractors.  This differs from the traditional way of managing a project, which is based on weekly plans discussed in construction site meetings, post-it notes and excel spreadsheets.

- For instance, if a worker or a subcontractor needs something at a work site, he or she can use VisiLean to inform management about the shortage. This allows the management to immediately react to the situation and correct the shortage, says Bhargav.

According to Bhargav Dave, VisiLean has been made as user-friendly as possible. There are thus only a few buttons on the mobile phone screen that employees can use to report the status of their work.

Different colours are used for different types of notifications, which makes it easier to follow status updates. In the BIM model presented on the computer screen, the construction projects are visible as pins, which can be used to access a view of more detailed information.

Promising market

The idea of VisiLean is based on Bhargav Dave's doctoral work, in which he studied the simultaneous management and presentation of construction process and product data.

The idea for developing a commercial product emerged as a result of an interest shown by construction companies. The market was lacking a solution such as VisiLean.

The Costain company in England and Skanska in Finland have piloted VisiLean in their construction projects.

- The pilots have been good, and the feedback from the users has been used to further develop the service. We are also currently in talks with certain other companies about the use of VisiLean, Bhargav says. 

According to Bhargav, the market looks promising.

- Construction companies are clearly more ready to accept new ideas based on IT technology than still a few years ago. Lean Construction and BIM are gaining more and more foothold. Their benefits are well-documented.

For example, the British Government has decided that a model on BIM 2 level and a working approach based on cooperation must be used in major public construction projects. This requirement will enter into force in 2016. The aim is to decrease the investment costs and carbon dioxide loading of the project by 20 per cent.

Searching for financiers

In addition to Bhargav, the founders of the VisiLean company include his researcher colleague Stefan Boddy as well as Martin Zilliacus, who has worked in developing business activities in the business world. Bhargav has gained practical experience by working as a civil engineer in India and England.

The company advisers and shareholders include two professors, Lauri Koskela and Rafael Sacks.  Koskela was involved in launching lean construction over 20 years ago. Sacks for his part is known as one of the most prominent researcher in the field of BIM and Production Management.

VisiLean has been supported by the TUTL funding of Tekes. The company is currently seeking financiers at the same time as it provides its product for construction companies. VisiLean is available to customers through a monthly or an annual subscription model.

Contact information:

Bhargav Dave