How Oracle Construction & Engineering’s Innovation Lab is encouraging collaboration and providing the gateway to an ecosystem that can support the plan, build and operate life cycle.
Oracle boasts 40,000+ employees across nine industry specific business units. The genesis for Construction & Engineering was the acquisition, over ten years ago, of Primavera, a strategy which has continued with the purchase of Aconex, Textura and Skire - $3bn of acquisitions inside one global business unit. “We’ve focused on having expert DNA to help our customers, not only to solve today's problems, but also look to the future,” pledges Andy Verone, Oracle Construction & Engineering’s Global Vice President for Industry Strategy & Innovation.
Building an ecosystem
“It starts with a secured common data environment and ecosystem,” explains Verone. “We know we can't do everything for every customer, so our ecosystem supports the plan, build and operate life cycle - everything from capital planning, portfolios, risk-management and pre-construction to design coordination, job site mobility and payments. We’re giving our customers the insights they need to more efficiently perform their large capital projects.”
Oracle Construction & Engineering’s Executive Director of Innovation, Burcin Kaplanoglu, recalls the company’s goal was to create an ecosystem capable of looking at the market and evaluating new technologies. “We decided to work with a small group of companies - some start-ups and some more mature - to validate their technology. By working with them and understanding their use cases we’ve taken a different approach,” he says. “Rather than being API-driven, we’ve focused on the problems we need to solve and the companies we can partner with to develop those applications and hardware solutions.”
To support Oracle’s exploration of new tech, the company chose to develop its own Innovation Lab. “We decided to build our own construction site. The Innovation Lab is a platform for integrations and use cases where you can experience solutions in action,” confirms Kaplanoglu. “We asked our customers what they wanted to see…” The site opened in the summer of 2018, since when it has welcomed over 1000 visitors. “Technologies can help our customers deliver their projects, but what we're really focused on is how can we help them improve the process and the skills of their workers.”
Oracle aims to support customers with its own tech stack and via its partner’s solutions. “The Innovation Lab has shown how successful approach this can be with 80% of the technologies that we're working with at the site now commercially available,” reveals Kaplanoglu. “We’re curating how these technologies can work together with input from our customers. Alongside plans to extend the Innovation Lab in Chicago with an indoor/outdoor site space, Oracle is looking at rolling out the concept globally, starting with Europe.
Verone explains that visitors to the lab start the experience in a construction trailer on site, the antithesis of a conference room or corporate visitor centre. “It’s an environment which allows our customers to better explain the problems they face,” says Verone. “It always leads to a second visit from the project managers that are actually delivering projects out there in the world.”
“It's an immersive experience, from wearing your hard hats and the safety requirements of entering the site,” he adds. “We’re really keen to reach out to the educational community across the US and get people excited about this industry again. We open our doors to high schools and universities to show the next generation of constructors and civil engineers that the activities happening on job sites today are very technology driven. Everything from drones, and the potential for 5G to reshape project delivery on site, to IoT, VR and BIM modelling.”
Constructing an ecosystem with trusted partners
Oracle is collaborating with the likes of Bosch, Reconstruct and Triax to develop an ecosystem of solutions to support construction customers. UK-based start-up nPlan uses machine learning technology and a large dataset of construction programs to help understand uncertainty and risk in construction projects. The company’s software makes high-quality predictions that are visualised in an interactive front-end web app and a suite of APIs for contractors, clients, and government organisations around the world in the energy, infrastructure, and building sectors. “They’ve trained their algorithms working with 250,000 schedules for a broad range of contractors,” adds Kalplanoglu. “Based on the data set, they build models for customers to predict what the outcome will be per schedule activity. They’re analysis can help us deliver efficiencies and realise benefits for our customers.”
Oracle Construction & Engineering focuses is focused on creating a connected platform to serve the ecosystem, supply chain and project team network of four key markets: residential & commercial, public infrastructure, energy &resources and industrial manufacturing. “Connecting processes is a must for our clients pursuing plan, build and operate,” says Verone. “We need to connect everything from capital planning through building, execution and assets and facilities management. We’ve got to leverage that data to enhance visibility. Driving adoption is key. No software application in the world is going to be successful unless you encourage adoption from your customers.”
Verone maintains that trust plays an important role in delivering results. “In today's market that user experience has to be positive and very easy for our customers to consume with the security they demand,” he says. “The model management gives our customers a comprehensive integrated platform, a standardised asset register for handover on a scalable platform capable of taking on the biggest infrastructure projects in the world.
The connecting trend uniting all these solutions is data. “Whether we collect it with sensors or humans, we need to find ways to better understand data and use it to predict what’s next,” urges Kaplanoglu who notes three key issues: we either have too much data and not enough ways to understand it; not enough data because areas of work site productivity are not being tracked with automated processes, or much of the data is collected after the fact and lacks the opportunity for real time insights. “This creates an environment where we react,” he adds. “Moving us from, let's check the box when the work is completed to, let's have sensors to track live data so we can actually continue to see the progress without even needing to be on site.”
Building collaboration in 2020
Expanding its engagement with more customers in the physical site environment will continue to be paramount for Oracle and the development of its ecosystem of partner solutions. “We’re not just simulating, we’re learning a lot from the lab and general contractors to help us innovate,” confirms Kaplanoglu.
Oracle is also heavily engaged with global construction organisations such as buildingSmart International (BSI) driving transformation of the built asset economy through the creation and adoption of open, international standards. “We’re playing a role in their work groups,” explains Verone. “It’s helping us validate, what we're doing from customer requests and engagement to our own product strategy and development teams.” To validate the tools that will enable solutions for customers, Oracle is continuing its collaboration with Texas University’s Construction Industry Institute research unit to document and create 16 best practices from an EPC contractor perspective. It’s all part of Oracle’s push to encourage collaboration and integration, and help build a stronger, smarter, and more connected future for the industry.