Late last year, the non-profit, intersectoral Institute for Industrial Management (FIR) at RWTH Aachen organized its tenth Round Table for Supply Chain Management. This time, the meeting was held at our company headquarters in Stolberg.
The title of the event, “Digitization of construction supply chains – a thorny issue”, already speaks volumes about the current state of supply chain digitization in the construction business. More detailed information was provided by speakers Sven Junge of the Institute for Concrete Reinforcement (ISB), Ludwig Florack, a building contractor from Heinsberg, and our own managing partner Heinz Herbort.
In his opening presentation, Sven Junge introduced the audience to Building Information Modeling (BIM) and its impact on the supply chain. BIM is a software-driven method of networking the planning, execution and management of structures and buildings. Junge stressed that while numerous interfaces were already available, they were not yet widely used by the industry and the parties involved in construction projects. In the rebar industry, for instance, increased use of digital interfaces would mean that product information could be exchanged via ABS (general reinforcement interface) data, and delivery notes and invoices could be dispatched with greater ease and convenience.
Ludwig Florack reported on his day-to-day work as a building contractor. He noted that, due to large order volumes, small companies in particular were currently not able to set aside the time and resources required to digitize their supply chains. Nevertheless, his company, being aware of this necessity, is looking into BIM and other digitization projects.
Herbort said that Kerschgens had begun digitizing its bending operations in early 2019 and was currently engaged in talks with customers, planners and structural engineers about how to digitize its collaboration with them. He admitted, however, that this was not an easy task and that in many instances, work was still being done redundantly. Such redundancies – as well as many error sources – could be eliminated, he believes, if existing solutions were used more consistently. In particular, he would like to see industry solutions for QR codes on labels and electronic delivery notes.
The main takeaway from the event was that there is a continuing need for supply chain managers and logistics experts to discuss and share information about new developments, experiences and best practices.