Blazing a new trail: The VisiLean Story
The construction industry is evolving and VisiLean has been playing a significant role in bringing about this change. In the second part of the freewheeling chat, Dr. Bhargav Dave, the CEO of VisiLean, talks about implementing VisiLean, the COVID 19 crisis, the efficient integration of technology in construction — and how it all ties up with his VisiLean story.
We see that feedback plays an important role in the VisiLean story. Could you please tell us about the role it has played?
Absolutely. Feedback is something that drives us. From the word go, feedback has been important. Coming to think about it, feedback began before we thought about the product. It was to solve a set of problems that VisiLean came to be. It was our observations that were used to develop VisiLean. I used a method called design science for my Ph.D. It uses feedback extensively. Again, when the Finnish Government gave us the funding, we had to form a steering committee that would review the development periodically. We accepted critical and creative feedback and refined the product. We collect feedback and work on it meticulously even now. Now our sprint lasts for four weeks, and we try to include as much feedback as possible to improve VisiLean.
Do you think that now, this post-Covid 19 world, is the perfect time for VisiLean?
It is a given that Covid 19 has changed the way we live. How we have worked so far has changed too. We have seen major changes in the construction industry. People are now used to working remotely, managing work virtually, and yes, it is an ideal situation for VisiLean. The mindset is changing. When the restrictions came into play, we went back to the drawing board and developed a radical enhancement to the production management service to plan and track the on-site workforce. This new enhancement could track and assign Workforce to Tasks and Plan out work, Review the Planned, as well as Actual Scenario and provide a Workforce density review. We also incorporated alerts when the number of workers was more than the stipulated numbers. So, yes, now is a great time. There are many uncertainties, so it is challenging, and we are still observing the situation, but the future looks bright.
VisiLean is all about technology coming to ease the problems we face in real life. So, is technology the way forward in construction?
Yes! Absolutely. We are indeed betting on this. This is what we do! The core idea behind using technology is to make things easier. According to me, one should not jump into implementing technology without understanding the problems that you have to solve. At the core of it all is the problem that needs solving. That is the key concern to address. You need to analyse it; see how you can solve it. In our case, we knew where the problem lay. We appropriately addressed the problems. That is the first major step in the right direction. Then comes integration with technology. You need to again analyse how much technology will help you solve your problems and then implement it. You need to design your solution, and then implement it. Technology helps, integration with tech is the key, but this is not the only solution
If I were to go and tell a construction company that VisiLean will solve every trouble they have, I would be lying. What we therefore do is analyse each client’s requirements, and then go back to the drawing board and make the necessary iterations to the product.
While on integration with technology, what are your future plans?
There is a lot of technology coming our way. Reality Capture, which are solutions that help you create 3D models from photographs or laser scans, sensors, and AI are the buzzwords now. We are looking at how we can integrate these emerging technologies to build better visualisations that help site teams execute better. We are concentrating on integrating with tech that will allow us to track things more effectively. Then there is document management, cost management — an array of areas we are working on. Yes, a lot is happening in this area that we are trying to incorporate into VisiLean And we are working on it.
That brings us to your plans for VisiLean.
We are seeing a lot of growth. We are expanding. We are touching the lives of people from the construction industry in over 15 countries now. There will be more to come. We expect to grow more this year. But more importantly, we want to make sure that whatever we are building for our customers helps them address a real problem. It should be something that is the right fit for them. This is the basic tenant we work on. We are minimising the waste in construction sites. We will have to raise investment to scale up, but we are confident of achieving the goals we have set for ourselves.
Circling back to where we began, do you have plans for introducing VisiLean to the Indian construction industry?
The construction industry in India has changed and it has improved a lot from what it used to be at the turn of the century, but much needs to change before we can introduce VisiLean. In India, we follow a very hierarchal order, whereas VisiLean gives more power to the person at the site. VisiLean is all about a more democratic approach. It will disrupt a lot of things. Yes, while we acknowledge that India can be the single largest market, we would prefer to wait a bit more before entering the market. We are still exploring the possibilities. We are waiting.
If not VisiLean, what would you have been doing?
That is not a tough question at all. I enjoy academics, research, and problem-solving. I have put 11 years into research and academics. Moving full-time into VisiLean was tough for me. I was actually and happily working as a researcher, and I would have continued working as a researcher. I had a position at Alto and offers from other universities. Research and academics are my core strengths, I still enjoy teaching. I am a visiting faculty at the university. I would have continued doing that and researching! VisiLean is our baby.
Other than VisiLean and academics, what are you passionate about?
I enjoy spending time with my family. They are my love and life. I have traveled widely, and am passionate about it too. My work takes me places. And I am an amateur photographer. I enjoy reading fiction when I am not catching up on my industry and academic interests. There used to be a time when I used to read fiction more than nonfiction. I still find time to relax with a book or catch a game of football when I am not working.
Read part one of of the interview with Dr. Bhargav Dave here.