Success through change: Innovation as an integral component of our strategy
The construction sector is changing. This change is being driven by the digitalization and industrialisation of construction, but also by consolidation and internationalisation. We at Implenia are well aware that companies that aspire to long-term success in a changing environment need to change themselves. This is why innovation is one of Implenia’s four strategic pillars.
Never standing still, using change as a spur to action, and systematically promoting innovative solutions – this is all integral to our corporate strategy. We aim to exploit the fundamental changes occurring in the construction industry, as well as new technologies and insights, to the benefit of our customers, our employees and our shareholders. We want to continue sharpening the focus of our innovative capacity by making the right investments and managing our innovation sustainably. The Innovation Hub, which was launched in September 2019, is one of the things that helps us do this.
New technologies: high-tech on site
Implenia has been utilising digital technologies in building construction for a long time, and is now using them more and more in civil engineering too. This is benefiting our customers – and benefiting us as a business. Digital construction has many advantages for both sides: greater transparency, more secure planning, better communication and simpler collaboration. All the data is available to all those involved at any time, and this data can be synchronised and exchanged as required. Digitalization also makes construction more profitable and more sustainable. BIM (“Building Information Modeling”) is used to plan, model and visualise structures digitally, meaning that complex major projects can be planned more effectively and executed more profitably. The process is made faster and more efficient right from the tendering phase. Our ability to digitalize our work and our workflow, and create “digital twins” of planned structures is giving us a clear competitive advantage. Last but not least, BIM is creating a bank of knowledge within our company that will help us optimise future projects and tenders.
We also use two software tools that we developed in-house: TEMP!Riss® and ThirdStep. Both programmes allow us to make three-dimensional calculations, determine temperature and voltage distributions in the hydration of concrete, and simulate thermo- and hydro-mechanical processes for a wide range of building materials.
New construction materials can do more
Implenia wants to be a pioneer – not just in digitalization, but also with regard to the materials and substances that we use every day on our construction projects. We were quick to recognise the potential of innovative building materials – and quick to develop them in-house to the benefit of our customers, employees and shareholders.
One good example is carbon-fibre concrete. Carbon-fibre concrete, which doesn’t need steel reinforcement, is already being used to repair buildings, and its application throughout the building construction sector is set to accelerate significantly in future. This new material facilitates an innovative construction method based on prefabricated elements that just need to be installed on site. Another product developed by Implenia is b.congreen®, a concrete that contains a lower proportion of cement. Its small carbon footprint makes it perfect for sustainable construction. Implenia is also meeting stringent sustainability standards by using concrete made from a high proportion of recycled material on more and more projects.
Furthermore, Implenia is a leader when it comes to timber construction. In Winterthur, for example, the Group has acted as developer and total contractor on “sue&til”, the largest wooden residential building in Switzerland. This 500 metre-long, wave-shaped development contains more than 300 apartments and commercial units, which are now occupied by their tenants and owners. The base of the building is made of concrete, but above that it consists of 250,000 interlocking, prefabricated wooden parts. As well as being very sustainable and contributing significantly to the building’s classification as a 2000-Watt site, this method allows a high degree of prefabrication. The project was executed by Implenia’s own Wood Construction unit, which is also working on other major timber-based projects, including “Krokodil” in Lokstadt, Winterthur, and “Pi” in Zug.
Advantage: innovative materials
New types of concrete provide numerous advantages in terms of, for example, processing, durability and sustainability.
Innovation Hub: because innovation starts with people
Since September 2019, Implenia has been using the “Innovation Hub” systematically to capture ideas generated by employees and to encourage entrepreneurial thinking. Because we know that innovation always starts with people. Our employees lie at the heart of our innovative power; they are the engines of our progress. Their ideas and suggestions for improvements can now be submitted to the Innovation Hub, which subjects proposals to a three-step evaluation process involving internal and external experts. Our innovators receive intensive coaching during this process. As well as being able to use work time to develop their ideas, they have access to a small test budget. If an idea proves itself, it will be piloted and put into practice.
We also use the Innovation Hub to refine the application of existing technologies and access additional expertise through partnerships. In 2019, for example, exoskeletons originally developed for car assembly were used at a construction project in Basel. A weight distribution mechanism allows users to reduce strain when working above shoulder height – a perfect example of making sensible use of technologies from other industries.
We’re pleased to say that the Innovation Hub has been well received in its initial months, with 37 ideas hitting the inbox before the end of 2019.
Implenia Innovation Map
Objectives of Implenia’s innovation strategy
Improve margins and increase revenues
Develop new and lucrative business models and open up new markets
Improve competitiveness in our core business and highlight factors that differentiate us in the market
Surprise customers with unconventional solutions
Press ahead with cultural transformation
Establish a distinctive culture of innovation at Implenia
Motivate employees to think and act beyond their day-to-day work, and increase their levels of satisfaction
Attract new talent and keep current talent
Implenia Innovation Map
The “Implenia Innovation Map” explores relevant megatrends and industry trends to identify opportunities for innovation. It is divided into the following areas: new products and services, new production, new simplicity and new sustainable solutions. We see various opportunities within these areas, including “building-as-a-service” and modular construction, using the “Internet of Things” and artificial intelligence to monitor and maintain infrastructure, and using data to optimise building processes. Implenia is also looking at circular building methods and the utilisation of closed material cycles.