The construction industry in Finland has been thriving over the last couple of years. “Business is going so well now that there’s a danger of complacency,” says Pekka Metsi, CEO of Granlund. “I see too little organized innovation taking place within the industry. Tools and information management have evolved profoundly over the last 10 to 15 years, but business processes have remained the same. That leaves doors wide open for outsiders to radically change the business.” Granlund, on the other hand, has been at the technological forefront for decades and wants to keep the leading position.
Pekka does not believe that outsourcing innovation is the solution. “If you think that instead of having ideas of your own you let startups do the innovation, you’re not going to get optimal results.” Pekka points out that innovation is like any other business process. You need to have goals, organization, and resources to do it. To prove the point, Granlund has an enterprise-level innovation strategy and implements it rigorously. It has a dedicated innovation team that acquires funding and collaborates with startups.
Pekka says that direct investments in startups are not on their agenda right now. Instead, they can introduce startups to their very extensive client and partner base, and support the commercialization of new technologies. For example, PULSE™, Granlund’s well-being service, uses software developed by a startup.
Construction is local, but proptech is global. Granlund has opened offices in Dubai and Shanghai, and is offering expertise in building energy management and maintenance. Chinese companies are very enthusiastic about technologies such as BIM and IoT, but the reality in building maintenance, for example, is quite bleak. As the cost of labor is going up in China and the economy is not growing as fast as it used to, demand for productivity enhancements and energy efficiency will grow. That creates great opportunities for Granlund. So far, it has served Western companies, but that may change soon.
Granlund’s innovation strategy aims at a building that communicates with the user. “How an individual user experiences the building could be the new performance metric. By measuring and monitoring the users and collecting their feedback, we could understand how to control and maintain building services optimally,” says Pekka. This would require a total overhaul of how the user interfaces with the building. The next step could be applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to let the building anticipate the users’ needs.
Robotization of design will free designers and consultants from routines. Creativity and new ways to create value for customers, wherever they are, will become a competitive advantage, Pekka believes.
Disrupting the Maintenance Business
Teemu Hausen, Business Area Director at Granlund, is planning the launch of a new model for property management. It will reduce manual operations and effectively use real-time data coupled with the best expertise and software tools. “Until now, Granlund has been a consultant and software provider for property owners. Now we want to extend our service to building performance and service management,” says Teemu.
Granlund will not add any service personnel to its payroll. Instead, it will provide an online platform for the management of operations. The needs and feedback from the end user are at the top of the hierarchy.
The new service stands out from the competition, as Teemu explains: “Our promise is to increase the cash flow of a property. We bring our core knowledge to the business.” Granlund will not only provide strategic consulting but will also be responsible for field services in the future. Even the biggest players in the industry don’t master that combination today. “We won’t just react to problems, but dig into the root causes,” says Teemu. This will open new business opportunities for small maintenance teams or even individuals, as the partnership with Granlund will provide access to bigger clients and ease of management.
The article first appeared in ReCoTech Review, published on November 30, 2017.
Author: Aarni Heiskanen, AE Partners