Faster, more efficient, more agile: this claim determines the world of work. But how can this be implemented in the construction industry? The BMS (Building Material Solutions) team at STRABAG is developing a data centre for the Group’s Building Materials Business Unit, to be used by the majority of the 566 building material production operations – from quarries to landfills to asphalt and concrete mixing plants. The first modules were online since June 2019 – made possible by many committed minds and an agile project management method.
Accessing data anytime on mobile devices
The heart of the data centre is a practical web cockpit where all relevant information is processed and visualised. Access is possible at anytime from anywhere, including via smartphone or tablet. The result is more transparency: for example, for the Plant Manager, who can monitor the figures on production, storage and transport of their products at anytime, as well as for the Management, which benefits from reports on approval processes. Thanks to the flexible dashboard, users can decide for themselves what can be seen on their start screen.
Information pool for production operations
The 14 employees of the BMS team work in different countries and know the requirements from actual practice. “Our production operations use different software programs. So far, it has been quite complicated to merge all the information,” explains Gero Mosser, who heads the project together with Günther Zweibrot. “With the new data centre, we are creating a common pool that is automatically fed with data from the programs. This data is now available with a simple mouse click.”
Scrum method in the field of construction materials
In addition to the BMS team, colleagues from different building material units and countries, the in-house IT department and an external software partner are working on the development of the data centre. The special thing about this project is that this is the first time that the scrum process in software development is being used on a large scale in the field of building materials. This method, which has hardly ever been used in the construction industry, provides the framework for project management based on agile principles. “Scrum means development in small, repetitive steps working intensively with the users. That makes it just the right approach to develop a modern web application,” explains Günther Zweibrot.
“Scrum has triggered an enormous enthusiasm in us: it isn’t every day that working together in an international and interdisciplinary team goes so smoothly.”Gero Mosser and Günther ZweibrotDirectors of the BMS team
Implementation is made gradually in so-called sprints. Based on the requirements of the participating users from the operating units, the development team produces a ready-to-use product every three weeks that is evaluated and improved upon.
How to successfully implement the scrum methodology at STRABAG was determined in advance in a research project (see interview with Leopold Leonhartsberger). Günther Zweibrot is impressed by the agile project management: “Lots of people think that scrum teams just do what they want. In fact, the method follows a very strict procedure model. This fits very well with our project.”
The roles in scrum explained
Agile software development using the scrum method functions according to strict rules and in fixed roles. The central functions at a glance:
- The product owner is responsible for the business success of the product. He is in close contact with the users and determines the product characteristics to be developed.
- The scrum master ensures that the scrum rules are kept. This includes regular ceremonies such as “daily stand-ups” – 15-minute meetings where day-to-day tasks are discussed.
- The development team implements the wishes of the users, delivering a finished product in three-week sprints. The product is then rated and reviewed and can be improved during the next sprint.
“The first project using the scrum approach still required a lot of coordinating effort,” says Gero Mosser. But he is fully convinced of the method: “We have many colleagues on board who all contribute their ideas. Above all, the international networking brings a great deal of added value to the project.” And the implementation of all the requirements that are raised is progressing by leaps and bounds – agile, of course, and with the prospect of more.