For an industry that’s often seen as slow in adopting disruptive technologies, much effort has been seen recently to digitally transform construction and built environment companies.

FINALCAD is a digital startup that offers a social platform and digital tool app for all those involved in a construction project. The app, which is akin to Instagram + Trello for builders, also has analytics intertwined — capable of letting managers figure out the most common places, times and reasons why inefficiencies and accidents happen.

Since entering Singapore in 2014, FINALCAD has been on a mission to empower construction companies on their digital transformation journey, and has made enough headway to have established itself as a leader in the local built environment sector, having undertaken several high-profile projects, and aiming to build the momentum in other parts of the region.

DigiconAsia speaks to Jimmy Louchart, CEO and Co-founder, FINALCAD about the digital transformation of the construction industry, the exciting projects so far, and what’s ahead for the regional built environment industry:

What is FINALCAD about?

Louchart: We bring ‘digital’ to construction companies.

While ‘digital’ can have a lot of different meanings, what we basically do is to serve the value chain of stakeholders within a construction company. We have three main use cases: mobile apps for people working in the field to handle safety, quality, defects and the site diary;  we serve project directors to manage and follow-up on their projects; and we give meaningful insights to business unit managers — be it a country managing director, a business line global leader, or a group CEO.

In a nutshell, we help construction companies modernize their operations, on-site, and at a company-wide level.

How is the innovation helping the traditional construction sector embrace technology, and level the playing field for construction companies of all sizes in Singapore?

Louchart: The innovation that we’re seeing in the construction sector is helping people embrace new ways of working. This is key for helping the industry move forward, as success in innovation relies primarily on the people using the technology, more than the technology itself.

There are a lot of buzzwords going around about digital transformation in construction: BIM, Construction 4.0, AR, VR, AI, 3D-Printing, robotics. While they’re all levelling the playing field for companies in different ways by making processes more efficient, what’s truly important is that these technologies are simple to use, and that its benefits can be easily communicated to users.

This is why FINALCAD has chosen very simple and pragmatic in our approach to this complexity to ensure that its technology can be leveraged to help the majority of construction companies in Singapore. How do we go about ensuring that something can be available to 100% of construction sites? With smartphones. Since everyone has them, it’s the technology we wanted to leverage to reinvent construction.

The benefits for companies are huge: teams can collaborate in real-time, you don’t need to revisit or fix mistakes that came about from manual work errors, and defects are reduced by up to 60%”. Safety is improved, and quality is delivered at a much lower cost, thanks to automation.

And, since success relies upon people using our technology, we help companies handle the needed changes with their teams, to maximize benefits in a very short time.

Please share some of the latest trends and developments in the Singapore – and regional – construction industry. How is digital transformation taking off in this sector?

Louchart: I could write a whole book about it! We can see that all companies, not depending on their sizes, are willing to embrace digital tools — be it BIM, FINALCAD or other mobile platforms.

Three years ago, this was still a question up for debate, but we’re really seeing the industry starting to move forward. Soon, we’ll see that everyone will use construction software in their operations. Even companies from, say, a $10M turnover, are ready to go digital. It’s also especially true for small- and medium-sized companies — both in Singapore and on a global level. And that’s good news because more than 80% of the global construction industry is made of these small- and medium-sized companies.

What are some examples of projects that have successfully used your technology to improve efficiency in terms of time and cost?

Louchart: FINALCAD can be used across various trades in the construction sector. More than buildings, it can be used for road construction, civil engineering and energy projects. That said, we have successfully handled Sports Hub — a gigantic Olympic stadium — as well as several hospitals, including Changi General Hospital extension, Yishun Community Hospital, Changi Airport T1 and T4, a lot of high towers, a 300,000 square meters hospital, HDB projects.

We’ve also been used in Indonesia, for the Trans Sumatera toll road, and for energy projects within a huge hospital in construction. For some Japanese customers, we help them build car factories in all their overseas operations: Singapore, Vietnam, India, China, Poland and Mexico.

The technology has helped to improve the efficiency of operations in many ways. For example, in the case of manual inspections, FINALCAD has enabled inspectors to perform their inspections digitally — driving increased efficiency of defect management by up to 50%.

In some instances, the inspection and rectification processes were cut down by eight days. During the construction of Changi Airport’s T1, the time saved by adopting technologies to increase efficiency amounts to about S$300,000.

Any plans to expand outside of Singapore?

Louchart: In Asia, our headquarter is in Singapore. We’ve been here since 2014. We already have a footprint in Indonesia, Japan, and India. We’re looking to reach a strong maturity here in Singapore — both with internationally- and locally-developed projects.

This Singapore-first approach means that as we have companies from other Asian countries operating in the country, we will expand our reach to these companies’ markets. We’ve already done this successfully for Japan, and we’re looking to grow in the same way into South Korea, Malaysia and China.