This article gives a picture on two recent outreach activities – the visit of Learning Layers partners to the German construction fair NordBau and of the pilot workshop with two craft trade companies interested in working with the Learning Toolbox.
Learning Layers goes to to trade fair NordBau
The annual NordBau fair in Neumünster, near Hamburg, is the biggest sectoral fair for construction industry and craft trades in North Germany. The exhibition halls present products, tools and services whilst the large outdoor areas are filled with heavy machinery by all major suppliers. Bau-ABC is a regular visitor and this event has served as a major opportunity for contacting suppliers and cooperation partners. This time we decided that Melanie Campbell, Kerstin Engraf and I will make a one-day-visit to join the trainers – Mr Grewe and Mr Schütte, who were attending the whole time. We agreed that we three will first explore the exhibition area of ICT service providers and then join Mr Grewe and Mr Schütte with their talks with the suppliers.
We were interested to find out to what extent the ICT service providers were presenting services for construction workers and their supervisors in the construction sites – based on mobile devices. Very few exhibitors were promoting mobile applications – and they also were primarily addressing architects or business managers.
The second part of our visit consisted of short visits and stakeholder talks in the outdoor areas in which suppliers to construction companies were presenting their machinery and equipments. Altogether we visited the areas of several supplier companies: Liebherr, Wirtgen Group, TractoTechnik, Vetter GmbH Kabelverlegetechnik, Tramann + Sohn, Wacker Neuson. The visits had been arranged by Mr Grewe from Bau-ABC and they were part of his normal cooperation with suppliers. This time, however, during most of these visits we had discussions also on the Learning Layers project and in particular on the Learning Toolbox. To us it was important that the colleagues from Bau-ABC had already integrated the promotion of Learning Toolbox (and engagement of their partner companies) to their normal business talks.
Pilot workshops with craft trade companies go ahead
At the same time ITB took further steps in organising pilot workshops with construction companies. The first pilot workshop was planned as follow-up to earlier stakeholder engagement activities of the project. Before introducing workshops with wider participation we agreed to start with a small pilot event. We invited two companies that we interviewed during the initial phase of the project and with which the application partners have good contacts.
The company K is a carpentry company with currently 36 employees. It is involved in the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – LL partner organisation) and in several domain-specific networks. The company has been pioneering with company-specific apps and is in the process of introducing tablet PCs for team leaders. At the same time the company is paying attention to the fact that introduction of new ICT tools will not cause a digital divide in access to information and communication. The company has regular meetings to discuss quality issues (QT-Runde).
The company W is a larger medium-sized company with ca. 430 employers and specialised on pipeline-building. It has most of its staff working on missions in teams of two or three skilled workers. This company has a long-term cooperation with Bau-ABC. The company W has been pioneering with digital pens, mobile offices (laptops with internet access) allocated to teams and with centralised databases. Yet, the company has had mixed experiences with the effectivity of such tools e.g. regarding time used for searches. The company itself has centralised databases and is concerned of knowledge management and confidentiality issues. Concerning knowledge sharing and learning across teams, there are very limited possibilities to provide face-to-face meetings.
In the workshop we presented a general picture on the Learning Layers project and invited the companies to present their own situation assessment on their use of ICT, Web tools and digital media (including use of mobile technologies). Then, we presented a demonstration on the emerging Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a framework for managing web resources and apps with a mobile device. in the next rounds of discussions we were mapping different situations for piloting with the LTB and needs to which it could respond.
For the LL project it was a small but important step forward that both companies found their own entry points to pilot activities. For the company K these were more in the intra-company communication or knowledge sharing and in the network-wide knowledge sharing. For the company W they were in the filtering of different quality guidelines and requirements (provided by different electricity providers or public authorities).
Altogether, both companies agreed to continue the cooperation with the project and to organise further talks and pilot workshops in their companies. So, looking back at the chain of events that have been reported in this series of articles, it is apparent that these most recent outreach activities have brought the co-design activities to the hands of practitioners in the construction sectors.
Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 1, 5/2014